January 2019 Newsletter

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December 2018 Newsletter

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Announcing a new edition of “Rationality: From AI to Zombies”

 |   |  News

MIRI is putting out a new edition of Rationality: From AI to Zombies, including the first set of R:AZ print books! Map and Territory (volume 1) and How to Actually Change Your Mind (volume 2) are out today!


Map and Territory                   How to Actually Change Your Mind


  • Map and Territory is:
  • $6.50 on Amazon, for the print version.
  • Pay-what-you-on Gumroad, for PDF, EPUB, and MOBI versions.
  • How to Actually Change Your Mind is:
  • $8 on Amazon, for the print version.
  • Pay-what-you-on Gumroad, for PDF, EPUB, and MOBI versions (available in the next day).

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2017 in review

 |   |  MIRI Strategy

This post reviews MIRI’s activities in 2017, including research, recruiting, exposition, and fundraising activities.

2017 was a big transitional year for MIRI, as we took on new research projects that have a much greater reliance on hands-on programming work and experimentation. We’ve continued these projects in 2018, and they’re described more in our 2018 update. This meant a major focus on laying groundwork for much faster growth than we’ve had in the past, including setting up infrastructure and changing how we recruit to reach out to more people with engineering backgrounds.

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MIRI’s newest recruit: Edward Kmett!

 |   |  News

Prolific Haskell developer Edward Kmett has joined the MIRI team!

Edward is perhaps best known for popularizing the use of lenses for functional programming. Lenses are a tool that provides a compositional vocabulary for accessing parts of larger structures and describing what you want to do with those parts.

Beyond the lens library, Edward maintains a significant chunk of all libraries around the Haskell core libraries, covering everything from automatic differentiation (used heavily in deep learning, computer vision, and financial risk) to category theory (biased heavily towards organizing software) to graphics, SAT bindings, RCU schemes, tools for writing compilers, and more.

Initial support for Edward joining MIRI is coming in the form of funding from long-time MIRI donor Jaan Tallinn. Increased donor enthusiasm has put MIRI in a great position to take on more engineers in general, and to consider highly competitive salaries for top-of-their-field engineers like Edward who are interested in working with us.

At MIRI, Edward is splitting his time between helping us grow our research team and diving in on a line of research he’s been independently developing in the background for some time: building a new language and infrastructure to make it easier for people to write highly complex computer programs with known desirable properties. While we are big fans of his work, Edward’s research is independent of the directions we described in our 2018 Update, and we don’t consider it part of our core research focus.

We’re hugely excited to have Edward at MIRI. We expect to learn and gain a lot from our interactions, and we also hope that having Edward on the team will let him and other MIRI staff steal each other’s best problem-solving heuristics and converge on research directions over time.

As described in our recent update, our new lines of research are heavy on the mix of theoretical rigor and hands-on engineering that Edward and the functional programming community are well-known for:

In common between all our new approaches is a focus on using high-level theoretical abstractions to enable coherent reasoning about the systems we build. A concrete implication of this is that we write lots of our code in Haskell, and are often thinking about our code through the lens of type theory.

MIRI’s nonprofit mission is to ensure that smarter-than-human AI systems, once developed, have a positive impact on the world. And we want to actually succeed in that goal, not just go through the motions of working on the problem.

Our current model of the challenges involved says that the central sticking point for future engineers will likely be that the building blocks of AI just aren’t sufficiently transparent. We think that someone, somewhere, needs to develop some new foundations and deep theory/insights, above and beyond what’s likely to arise from refining or scaling up currently standard techniques.

We think that the skillset of functional programmers tends to be particularly well-suited to this kind of work, and we believe that our new research areas can absorb a large number of programmers and computer scientists. So we want this hiring announcement to double as a hiring pitch: consider joining our research effort!

To learn more about what it’s like to work at MIRI and what kinds of candidates we’re looking for, see our last big post, or shoot MIRI researcher Buck Shlegeris an email.

November 2018 Newsletter

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MIRI’s 2018 Fundraiser

 |   |  News

Update January 2019: MIRI’s 2018 fundraiser is now concluded.








Fundraiser concluded

345 donors contributed

MIRI is a math/CS research nonprofit with a mission of maximizing the potential humanitarian benefit of smarter-than-human artificial intelligence. You can learn more about the kind of work we do in “Ensuring Smarter-Than-Human Intelligence Has A Positive Outcome” and “Embedded Agency.”

Our funding targets this year are based on a goal of raising enough in 2018 to match our “business-as-usual” budget next year. We view “make enough each year to pay for the next year” as a good heuristic for MIRI, given that we’re a quickly growing nonprofit with a healthy level of reserves and a budget dominated by researcher salaries.

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2018 Update: Our New Research Directions

 |   |  MIRI Strategy, News

For many years, MIRI’s goal has been to resolve enough fundamental confusions around alignment and intelligence to enable humanity to think clearly about technical AI safety risks—and to do this before this technology advances to the point of potential catastrophe. This goal has always seemed to us to be difficult, but possible.1

Last year, we said that we were beginning a new research program aimed at this goal.2 Here, we’re going to provide background on how we’re thinking about this new set of research directions, lay out some of the thinking behind our recent decision to do less default sharing of our research, and make the case for interested software engineers to join our team and help push our understanding forward.

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  1. This post is an amalgam put together by a variety of MIRI staff. The byline saying “Nate” means that I (Nate) endorse the post, and that many of the concepts and themes come in large part from me, and I wrote a decent number of the words. However, I did not write all of the words, and the concepts and themes were built in collaboration with a bunch of other MIRI staff. (This is roughly what bylines have meant on the MIRI blog for a while now, and it’s worth noting explicitly.)  
  2. See our 2017 strategic update and fundraiser posts for more details.