100 episodes

FLI catalyzes and supports research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
Among our objectives is to inspire discussion and a sharing of ideas. As such, we interview researchers and thought leaders who we believe will help spur discussion within our community. The interviews do not necessarily represent FLI’s opinions or views.

The Future of Life Future of Life Institute

    • Technology

FLI catalyzes and supports research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
Among our objectives is to inspire discussion and a sharing of ideas. As such, we interview researchers and thought leaders who we believe will help spur discussion within our community. The interviews do not necessarily represent FLI’s opinions or views.

    AIAP: On the Long-term Importance of Current AI Policy with Nicolas Moës and Jared Brown

    AIAP: On the Long-term Importance of Current AI Policy with Nicolas Moës and Jared Brown

    From Max Tegmark's Life 3.0 to Stuart Russell's Human Compatible and Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence, much has been written and said about the long-term risks of powerful AI systems. When considering concrete actions one can take to help mitigate these risks, governance and policy related solutions become an attractive area of consideration. But just what can anyone do in the present day policy sphere to help ensure that powerful AI systems remain beneficial and aligned with human values? Do today's AI policies matter at all for AGI risk? Jared Brown and Nicolas Moës join us on today's podcast to explore these questions and the importance of AGI-risk sensitive persons' involvement in present day AI policy discourse.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -The importance of current AI policy work for long-term AI risk
    -Where we currently stand in the process of forming AI policy
    -Why persons worried about existential risk should care about present day AI policy
    -AI and the global community
    -The rationality and irrationality around AI race narratives

    You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/02/17/on-the-long-term-importance-of-current-ai-policy-with-nicolas-moes-and-jared-brown/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 Intro
    4:58 Why it’s important to work on AI policy 
    12:08 Our historical position in the process of AI policy
    21:54 For long-termists and those concerned about AGI risk, how is AI policy today important and relevant? 
    33:46 AI policy and shorter-term global catastrophic and existential risks
    38:18 The Brussels and Sacramento effects
    41:23 Why is racing on AI technology bad? 
    48:45 The rationality of racing to AGI 
    58:22 Where is AI policy currently?

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 11 min
    FLI Podcast: Identity, Information & the Nature of Reality with Anthony Aguirre

    FLI Podcast: Identity, Information & the Nature of Reality with Anthony Aguirre

    Our perceptions of reality are based on the physics of interactions ranging from millimeters to miles in scale. But when it comes to the very small and the very massive, our intuitions often fail us. Given the extent to which modern physics challenges our understanding of the world around us, how wrong could we be about the fundamental nature of reality? And given our failure to anticipate the counterintuitive nature of the universe, how accurate are our intuitions about metaphysical and personal identity? Just how seriously should we take our everyday experiences of the world? Anthony Aguirre, cosmologist and FLI co-founder, returns for a second episode to offer his perspective on these complex questions. This conversation explores the view that reality fundamentally consists of information and examines its implications for our understandings of existence and identity.

    Topics discussed in this episode include:
    - Views on the nature of reality
    - Quantum mechanics and the implications of quantum uncertainty
    - Identity, information and description
    - Continuum of objectivity/subjectivity

    You can find the page and transcript for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/01/31/fli-podcast-identity-information-the-nature-of-reality-with-anthony-aguirre/

    Timestamps:

    3:35 - General history of views on fundamental reality
    9:45 - Quantum uncertainty and observation as interaction
    24:43 - The universe as constituted of information
    29:26 - What is information and what does the view of reality as information have to say about objects and identity
    37:14 - Identity as on a continuum of objectivity and subjectivity
    46:09 - What makes something more or less objective?
    58:25 - Emergence in physical reality and identity
    1:15:35 - Questions about the philosophy of identity in the 21st century
    1:27:13 - Differing views on identity changing human desires
    1:33:28 - How the reality as information perspective informs questions of identity
    1:39:25 - Concluding thoughts

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr 45 min
    AIAP: Identity and the AI Revolution with David Pearce and Andrés Gómez Emilsson

    AIAP: Identity and the AI Revolution with David Pearce and Andrés Gómez Emilsson

    In the 1984 book Reasons and Persons, philosopher Derek Parfit asks the reader to consider the following scenario: You step into a teleportation machine that scans your complete atomic structure, annihilates you, and then relays that atomic information to Mars at the speed of light. There, a similar machine recreates your exact atomic structure and composition using locally available resources. Have you just traveled, Parfit asks, or have you committed suicide?

    Would you step into this machine? Is the person who emerges on Mars really you? Questions like these –– those that explore the nature of personal identity and challenge our commonly held intuitions about it –– are becoming increasingly important in the face of 21st century technology. Emerging technologies empowered by artificial intelligence will increasingly give us the power to change what it means to be human. AI enabled bio-engineering will allow for human-species divergence via upgrades, and as we arrive at AGI and beyond we may see a world where it is possible to merge with AI directly, upload ourselves, copy and duplicate ourselves arbitrarily, or even manipulate and re-program our sense of identity. Are there ways we can inform and shape human understanding of identity to nudge civilization in the right direction?



    Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -Identity from epistemic, ontological, and phenomenological perspectives
    -Identity formation in biological evolution
    -Open, closed, and empty individualism
    -The moral relevance of views on identity
    -Identity in the world today and on the path to superintelligence and beyond

    You can find the page and transcript for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/01/15/identity-and-the-ai-revolution-with-david-pearce-and-andres-gomez-emilsson/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 - Intro
    6:33 - What is identity?
    9:52 - Ontological aspects of identity
    12:50 - Epistemological and phenomenological aspects of identity
    18:21 - Biological evolution of identity
    26:23 - Functionality or arbitrariness of identity / whether or not there are right or wrong answers
    31:23 - Moral relevance of identity
    34:20 - Religion as codifying views on identity
    37:50 - Different views on identity
    53:16 - The hard problem and the binding problem
    56:52 - The problem of causal efficacy, and the palette problem
    1:00:12 - Navigating views of identity towards truth
    1:08:34 - The relationship between identity and the self model
    1:10:43 - The ethical implications of different views on identity
    1:21:11 - The consequences of different views on identity on preference weighting
    1:26:34 - Identity and AI alignment
    1:37:50 - Nationalism and AI alignment
    1:42:09 - Cryonics, species divergence, immortality, uploads, and merging.
    1:50:28 - Future scenarios from Life 3.0
    1:58:35 - The role of identity in the AI itself

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 2 hrs 3 min
    On Consciousness, Morality, Effective Altruism & Myth with Yuval Noah Harari & Max Tegmark

    On Consciousness, Morality, Effective Altruism & Myth with Yuval Noah Harari & Max Tegmark

    Neither Yuval Noah Harari nor Max Tegmark need much in the way of introduction. Both are avant-garde thinkers at the forefront of 21st century discourse around science, technology, society and humanity’s future. This conversation represents a rare opportunity for two intellectual leaders to apply their combined expertise — in physics, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy and anthropology — to some of the most profound issues of our time. Max and Yuval bring their own macroscopic perspectives to this discussion of both cosmological and human history, exploring questions of consciousness, ethics, effective altruism, artificial intelligence, human extinction, emerging technologies and the role of myths and stories in fostering societal collaboration and meaning. We hope that you'll join the Future of Life Institute Podcast for our final conversation of 2019, as we look toward the future and the possibilities it holds for all of us.

    Topics discussed include:

    -Max and Yuval's views and intuitions about consciousness
    -How they ground and think about morality
    -Effective altruism and its cause areas of global health/poverty, animal suffering, and existential risk
    -The function of myths and stories in human society
    -How emerging science, technology, and global paradigms challenge the foundations of many of our stories
    -Technological risks of the 21st century

    You can find the page and transcript for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2019/12/31/on-consciousness-morality-effective-altruism-myth-with-yuval-noah-harari-max-tegmark/

    Timestamps:

    0:00 Intro
    3:14 Grounding morality and the need for a science of consciousness
    11:45 The effective altruism community and it's main cause areas
    13:05 Global health
    14:44 Animal suffering and factory farming
    17:38 Existential risk and the ethics of the long-term future
    23:07 Nuclear war as a neglected global risk
    24:45 On the risks of near-term AI and of artificial general intelligence and superintelligence
    28:37 On creating new stories for the challenges of the 21st century
    32:33 The risks of big data and AI enabled human hacking and monitoring
    47:40 What does it mean to be human and what should we want to want?
    52:29 On positive global visions for the future
    59:29 Goodbyes and appreciations
    01:00:20 Outro and supporting the Future of Life Institute Podcast

    This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.

    • 1 hr
    FLI Podcast: Existential Hope in 2020 and Beyond with the FLI Team

    FLI Podcast: Existential Hope in 2020 and Beyond with the FLI Team

    As 2019 is coming to an end and the opportunities of 2020 begin to emerge, it's a great time to reflect on the past year and our reasons for hope in the year to come. We spend much of our time on this podcast discussing risks that will possibly lead to the extinction or the permanent and drastic curtailing of the potential of Earth-originating intelligent life. While this is important and useful, much has been done at FLI and in the broader world to address these issues in service of the common good. It can be skillful to reflect on this progress to see how far we've come, to develop hope for the future, and to map out our path ahead. This podcast is a special end of the year episode focused on meeting and introducing the FLI team, discussing what we've accomplished and are working on, and sharing our feelings and reasons for existential hope going into 2020 and beyond.

    Topics discussed include:

    -Introductions to the FLI team and our work
    -Motivations for our projects and existential risk mitigation efforts
    -The goals and outcomes of our work
    -Our favorite projects at FLI in 2019
    -Optimistic directions for projects in 2020
    -Reasons for existential hope going into 2020 and beyond

    You can find the page and transcript for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2019/12/27/existential-hope-in-2020-and-beyond-with-the-fli-team/

    Timestamps:

    0:00 Intro
    1:30 Meeting the Future of Life Institute team
    18:30 Motivations for our projects and work at FLI
    30:04 What we strive to result from our work at FLI
    44:44 Favorite accomplishments of FLI in 2019
    01:06:20 Project directions we are most excited about for 2020
    01:19:43 Reasons for existential hope in 2020 and beyond
    01:38:30 Outro

    • 1 hr 39 min
    AIAP: On DeepMind, AI Safety, and Recursive Reward Modeling with Jan Leike

    AIAP: On DeepMind, AI Safety, and Recursive Reward Modeling with Jan Leike

    Jan Leike is a senior research scientist who leads the agent alignment team at DeepMind. His is one of three teams within their technical AGI group; each team focuses on different aspects of ensuring advanced AI systems are aligned and beneficial. Jan's journey in the field of AI has taken him from a PhD on a theoretical reinforcement learning agent called AIXI to empirical AI safety research focused on recursive reward modeling. This conversation explores his movement from theoretical to empirical AI safety research — why empirical safety research is important and how this has lead him to his work on recursive reward modeling. We also discuss research directions he's optimistic will lead to safely scalable systems, more facets of his own thinking, and other work being done at DeepMind.

     Topics discussed in this episode include:

    -Theoretical and empirical AI safety research
    -Jan's and DeepMind's approaches to AI safety
    -Jan's work and thoughts on recursive reward modeling
    -AI safety benchmarking at DeepMind
    -The potential modularity of AGI
    -Comments on the cultural and intellectual differences between the AI safety and mainstream AI communities
    -Joining the DeepMind safety team

    You can find the page and transcript for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2019/12/16/ai-alignment-podcast-on-deepmind-ai-safety-and-recursive-reward-modeling-with-jan-leike/

    Timestamps: 

    0:00 intro
    2:15 Jan's intellectual journey in computer science to AI safety
    7:35 Transitioning from theoretical to empirical research
    11:25 Jan's and DeepMind's approach to AI safety
    17:23 Recursive reward modeling
    29:26 Experimenting with recursive reward modeling
    32:42 How recursive reward modeling serves AI safety
    34:55 Pessimism about recursive reward modeling
    38:35 How this research direction fits in the safety landscape
    42:10 Can deep reinforcement learning get us to AGI?
    42:50 How modular will AGI be?
    44:25 Efforts at DeepMind for AI safety benchmarking
    49:30 Differences between the AI safety and mainstream AI communities
    55:15 Most exciting piece of empirical safety work in the next 5 years
    56:35 Joining the DeepMind safety team

    • 58 min

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