A major announcement today: the Open Philanthropy Project has granted MIRI $500,000 over the coming year to study the questions outlined in our agent foundations and machine learning research agendas, with a strong chance of renewal next year. This represents MIRI’s largest grant to date, and our second-largest single contribution.
Coming on the heels of a $300,000 donation by Blake Borgeson, this support will help us continue on the growth trajectory we outlined in our summer and winter fundraisers last year and effect another doubling of the research team. These growth plans assume continued support from other donors in line with our fundraising successes last year; we’ll be discussing our remaining funding gap in more detail in our 2016 fundraiser, which we’ll be kicking off later this month.
The Open Philanthropy Project is a joint initiative run by staff from the philanthropic foundation Good Ventures and the charity evaluator GiveWell. Open Phil has recently made it a priority to identify opportunities for researchers to address potential risks from advanced AI, and we consider their early work in this area promising: grants to Stuart Russell, Robin Hanson, and the Future of Life Institute, plus a stated interest in funding work related to “Concrete Problems in AI Safety,” a recent paper co-authored by four Open Phil technical advisers, Christopher Olah (Google Brain), Dario Amodei (OpenAI), Paul Christiano (UC Berkeley), and Jacob Steinhardt (Stanford), along with John Schulman (OpenAI) and Dan Mané (Google Brain).
Open Phil’s grant isn’t a full endorsement, and they note a number of reservations about our work in an extensive writeup detailing the thinking that went into the grant decision. Separately, Open Phil Executive Director Holden Karnofsky has written some personal thoughts about how his views of MIRI and the effective altruism community have evolved in recent years.