The Two Faces of AI Alignment. Misaligned Models and Misaligned Agents | by Max Hilsdorf | Jul, 2023

Misaligned Models and Misaligned Agents

Max Hilsdorf

Towards Data Science

Image adapted from Tara Winstead.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer just a buzzword; it is a rapidly evolving field where intelligent systems are becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives. From recommendation algorithms on Netflix to automating creative workflows with ChatGPT or Midjourney, AI is transforming various aspects of our world. However, this remarkable progress also presents significant challenges, with AI alignment being one of the most critical issues to address.

AI alignment is the process of ensuring that AI systems operate in a way that aligns with what humans consider desirable behavior. It’s like trying to teach a toddler to behave appropriately — just as you’d want the child to understand and respect your values, we need to hold AI systems to the same standard. However, as it turns out, we’re not always as good at this task as we think — neither for toddlers, nor for AIs.

Generative AI models like ChatGPT or Midjourney have been caught generating biased, offensive, or harmful content. These systems learn from the data they are fed, and if this data contains biases or harmful patterns, the system may unwittingly replicate them. The same applies to self-driving cars. While they hold the potential to save lives by reducing accidents caused by human error, there are some major ethical hurdles to overcome before we put the lives of ourselves and our loved ones into an AI’s hands.

AI alignment is even more critical in the discourse about the potential threat of AI achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI), i.e., human-like intelligence generalizable to any kind of task. Just one year ago, AGI seemed like an unattainable sci-fi story to most data scientists, including me. Now, here we are, only a few months after the release of ChatGPT, with accomplished AI figures leaving big tech research teams, testifying for AI regulation in front of the U.S. Senate, or speaking up for a 6-month halt in the development of new AI systems.

Whatever opinion you may have about these figures or their arguments, it seems inevitable to delve deeper into the topic of AI…

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