3 min read

Moving to AI safety

Kicked up some dust this year, some was settled

It's been an eventful year! I quit my job, tried to start a company, had a summer fling with freelancing (it was awesome), and did a ton of soul searching. It's also been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster: lots of stress, lots of confusion, lots of fun (from New England sunset boat rides to laser tag in a castle). The year's not over yet, so there's still time for curveballs, but it looks like some dust is finally settling.

The dominating consequence of my soul search was the conviction that AI safety is the most important thing I can work on right now. I spent the better part of the last 6 months exploring how rapid AI development will transform our world, and the world in turn kept smacking me in the face with how wide the cone of possibilities was. Unfortunately, not all outcomes are positive – I now believe that this is the most perilous century for humanity, with AI being the primary driver.

The hype around AI – that it could solve cancer, poverty, conflict, disease, even aging and death – massively accelerates its development. To be clear, AI safety shouldn't be conflated with the belief that approaching Reedspacer's Lower Bound is inherently bad. I hope we cure all disease! I hope we get functionally infinite prosperity! I am so on board with solving death! It would be tragic if we never achieved safe artificial superintelligence.

But hype breeds recklessness. Almost all of our forecasted extinction risk this century comes from AI – many times more than from nuclear war, climate change, and bio-risk combined. And development goes on accelerating anyways. I want all the great things that AI promises, I just think we can get them for a better price.

So what's next for me? I'm excited to work towards a safer future with Timaeus, a brand spankin' new technical AI safety research org. I'm hopping on board to help scope out a new field of interpretability research as a research assistant/engineer for at least the next ~6 months. I'm also frantically cramming Spanish for the AI Futures Fellowship in Mexico City early next year, where I'll hopefully develop a broader base of knowledge, meet brilliant people, and eat far too much food.

The future is unclear

I think more people should spend time thinking hard about AI. Whatever consequences you think there will be, it seems hard to get away from the conclusion that they'll be transformative in some direction. But sensemaking about AI is really hard, especially if you don't have a technical background. Even as someone with the relevant background, I spent months highly confused about the right path to take and still feel fairly uncertain. We can and should at least still strive to be directionally correct though, and voting for safe policies is just as critical as technical research (if not more).

Finally, I think this is the ~correct direction (or a correct direction) for me to be moving in right now, but it's all pretty nuanced, and I'm always open to more perspectives. Please reach out if you're curious or have thoughts you'd like to share. Don't be a stranger, odds are I'd love to chat – everyone who's let me talk their ear off so far can attest to that.