Research directions in AI control

by Paul Christiano Feb 3 2016 updated Mar 4 2016

What research would best advance our understanding of AI control?

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot over the last few weeks. This post lays out my best guesses.

My current take on AI control

I want to focus on existing AI techniques, minimizing speculation about future developments. As a special case, I would like to use minimal assumptions about unsupervised learning, instead relying on supervised andreinforcement learning. My goal is to find scalable approaches to AI control that can be applied to existing AI systems.

For now, I think that act-based approaches look significantly more promising than goal-directed approaches. (Note that both categories are consistent with using value learning.) I think that many apparent problems are distinctive to goal-directed approaches and can be temporarily set aside. But a more direct motivation is that the goal-directed approach seems to require speculative future developments in AI, whereas we can take a stab at the act-based approach now (though obviously much more work is needed).

In light of those views, I find the following research directions most attractive:

Four promising directions

I will probably be doing work in one or more of these directions soon. I am also interested in talking with anyone who is considering looking into these or similar questions.

I’d love to find considerations that would change my view — whether arguments against these projects, or more promising alternatives. But these are my current best guesses, and I consider them good enough that the right next step is to work on them.

(This research was supported as part of the Future of Life Institute FLI-RFP-AI1 program, grant #2015–143898.)