AIES: Human-AI collaboration, social science approaches to AI, measurement and justice

Specifying AI Objectives as a Human-AI Collaboration Problem, Anca Dragan

Dragan describes some problems with self-driving cars, like this example of a car giving up on merging when there was no gap. After adding some more aggressive driving tactics, researchers then also had to add some courtesy to moderate those. One odd outcome of this was that when the car got to an uncontrolled intersection with another, the car would back up slightly to signal to the other driver that it could go first. Which actually worked fine! It mostly led to the other driver crossing the intersection more quickly (probably because they felt confident that the self-driving car wasn’t going to go). …….except if there’s another car waiting behind the self-driving car, or a very unnerved passenger in the car. It’s a challenge to work out what robots should be optimising for, when it comes to human-robot interactions. Generating good behaviour requires specifying a good cost function, which is remarkably difficult for most agents.

Designers need to think about how robots can work in partnership with humans to work out what their goals actually are (because humans are often bad at this). Robots that can go back to humans and actively query whether they’re making the right choices will be more effective. This framework also lets us think about humans as wanting the robots to do well.

Social Science Models for AI
Invisible Influence: Artificial Intelligence and the Ethics of Adaptive Choice Architectures, Daniel Susser

This talk focused specifically on individual (rather than structural) issues in AI ethics. It drew on behavioural economics, philosophy of technology, and normative ethics to connect a set of abstract ethical principles to a (somewhat) concrete set of design choices.

Draws on an understanding of online manipulation as the use of information technology to impose hidden influences on another person’s decision-making: this undermines their autonomy, which can produce the further harm of diminishing their welfare. Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge discusses choice architecture: the framing of our decision-making. We act reflexively and habitually on the basis of subtle cues, so choice architecture can have an enormous impact on our decisions. Adaptive choice environments are highly-personalised choice environments that draw on user data.

What kind of world are we building with these tools? Technological transparency: once we become adept at using technologies they recede from conscious awareness (this is kind of the opposite of how we talk about transparency in a governance context). Our environment is full of tools that are functionally invisible to us, but shape our choices in significant ways. Adaptive choice architectures create vulnerabilities in our decision-making, and there are few reasons to assume that the technology industry shaping those architectures are trustworthy. However, manipulation is harmful even when it doesn’t change people’s behaviour because of the threats to our autonomy.

Reinforcement learning and inverse reinforcement learning with system 1 and system 2, Alexander Peysakhovich
napm9jrWe might think of ourselves as a dual system model: system one is fast, effortless, emotional and heuristic, system two is slower and more laborious. We often need to balance short-term desires (EAT THE DONUT) against longer-term goals (HOARD DONUTS INTO A GIANT PILE TO ATTRACT A DONUT-LOVING DRAGON). [Note: these are my own examples.]

How do we deal with this? We need to have good models for understanding how irrational we are. We also need to balance these two systems against each other.

Incomplete Contracting and AI Alignment, Dylan Hadfield-Menell and Gillian Hadfield

Problem: there’s a misalignment between individual and social welfare in many cases. AI research can draw on economic research around the contract design problem. Economists have discovered that contracts are always incomplete, failing to consider important factors like the expenditure of effort. Misspecification in contract design is unavoidable and pervasive, and it’s useful for AI research to learn from this: it’s not just an engineering error or a mistake. Economic theory offers insights for weakly strategic AI. Human contacts are incomplete, and relational – they’re always shaped by and interpreted by the wider context. Can we build AIs that can similarly draw on their broader context?

Then our talk!