AI and capitalism

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Posted by: stak
Tags: main, mozilla
Posted on: 2023-11-23 09:36:18

(No this is not a post about commercialization of AI)

It occurred to me today that there is an interesting parallel between AI and capitalism. They're both tools that can be used to accomplish things very effectively. And they both have "alignment" issues.

Capitalism provides incentives and a free market, and that can result in extremely efficient action because people are trying to maximize profit. However, left unchecked, this can produce all kinds of negative externalities which are not really what we want. This is the alignment issue - we need to be diligent in "aligning" capitalism so that it incentivizes and produces outcomes that are actually what we want. Primarily governments do this with the use of taxes and subsidies - make bad behaviour (produces negative externalities) more expensive, and make good behaviour (produces positive externalities) less expensive. In my view, this is the primary function of a government (at least in a capitalist society). However, I think most people would agree we haven't yet perfected this part of things, and we still suffer from all kinds of negative externalities.

AI/AGI is very similar - it can produce extremely efficient action, but suffers from an alignment problem in that what it does may not be exactly what we want it to do. Lots has already been written about the AI alignment problem.

My main point here is that we, as a society, haven't even figured out how to align capitalism reliably. Which makes me a bit worried about how we're going to handle AGI. We should probably think hard about why we haven't been able to align capitalism perfectly (e.g. maybe because not all subsets of people want the same thing?) and see if those reasons carry over to AGI as well.

Posted by what? at 2023-11-23 11:04:12
Please realize the following:

There is no "aligning" capitalism.

Capitalism was born specifically and explicitly because past generations of rich people saw that they could get more money for themselves, if they got rid of regulations and control by the people.

The term "efficient" in this context, is corporate propaganda.

What you are describing, a system where we, the people, can exert control over what the system does, is where we came from. That is the past. It has since been dismantled. Under the banner of "efficiency" and "freedom". In reality, it's about money.

For you to say "if only we could align capitalism reliably" ignores the desires of those with power and money, and how they will always use that power and money to push everyone else to the side.

You're talking about a system that explicitly exists to avoid steering from the outside, and then steering it...

And no, your votes are doing no such steering. When has politics ever significantly stopped corporations? Their representatives are questioned by elected officials and they then say "So give us a fine, it has already been calculated into the project expenses".

What you're effectively saying is: if only we could take control away from the rich and powerful.

Good luck with that.
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Posted by stak at 2023-11-23 15:29:05
I understand what you're trying to say, but I don't think you're supporting your argument very well. I also disagree with it on a very fundamental level. You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but your comment hasn't really changed my mind on anything. For opinions as far apart as ours, an async text-based conversation is unlikely to help. Happy to chat more on a more appropriate medium though.
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