CHAI (a multi-institution research group based at UC Berkeley) aims to shift the development of AI away from potentially dangerous systems we could lose control over, and towards provably safe systems that act in accordance with human interests even as they become increasingly powerful.
Artificial intelligence research is aimed at designing machines that are capable of intelligent behaviour to successfully achieve objectives. The long-term outcome of AI research seems likely to include machines that are more capable than humans across a wide range of objectives and environments.
But if these new machines and systems are more capable than humans — and intrinsically unpredictable by humans — it stands to reason that some could result in negative, perhaps irreversible outcomes for people. In The Precipice, Toby Ord — one of the leading experts on the risks facing humanity (and a cofounder of Giving What We Can) — argues that powerful but misaligned AI is the biggest threat to humanity’s survival this century.
CHAI aims to reorient the foundations of AI research toward the development of provably beneficial systems. Because the meaning of “beneficial” depends on the properties of humans, this inevitably includes elements from the social sciences in addition to AI.
Currently, it is not possible to specify a formula for human values in any form that we know would provably benefit humanity, if that formula were instated as the objective of a powerful AI system. In short, any initial formal specification of human values is bound to be wrong in important ways.
Therefore, much of CHAI's research efforts to date have focused on developing and communicating a new model of AI development, in which AI systems should be uncertain of their objectives, and should defer to humans in light of that uncertainty. This way of formulating objectives stands in contrast to the standard model for AI, in which the AI system's objective is assumed to be known completely and correctly.
CHAI also works on a variety of other problems in the development of provably beneficial AI systems, including:
CHAI’s work so far has involved research, field-building, and thought leadership. It has:
For more information about CHAI’s recent work, see its latest Progress Report.
We previously included CHAI as one of our recommended charities because the impact-focused evaluator Founders Pledge conducted an evaluation highlighting its cost-effectiveness. Other indicators of its cost-effectiveness are its impressive research output and the fact it has received funding from an expert impact-focused grantmaker, Open Philanthropy.
We’ve since updated our recommendations to reflect only organisations recommended by evaluators we’ve looked into as part of our 2023 evaluator investigations; while we expect to soon look into Founders Pledge as part of this more in-depth evaluator research, we haven’t yet. As such, we don't currently include CHAI as one of our recommended programs but you can still donate to it via our donation platform.
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