December 11, 2023

There is currently no known indefinitely scalable solution to the alignment problem. As AI progress continues, we expect to encounter a number of new alignment problems that we don’t observe yet in current systems. Some of these problems we anticipate now and some of them will be entirely new.

We believe that finding an indefinitely scalable solution is likely very difficult. Instead, we aim for a more pragmatic approach: building and aligning a system that can make faster and better alignment research progress than humans can.

As we make progress on this, our AI systems can take over more and more of our alignment work and ultimately conceive, implement, study, and develop better alignment techniques than we have now. They will work together with humans to ensure that their own successors are more aligned with humans.

We believe that evaluating alignment research is substantially easier than producing it, especially when provided with evaluation assistance. Therefore human researchers will focus more and more of their effort on reviewing alignment research done by AI systems instead of generating this research by themselves. Our goal is to train models to be so aligned that we can off-load almost all of the cognitive labor required for alignment research.

Importantly, we only need “narrower” AI systems that have human-level capabilities in the relevant domains to do as well as humans on alignment research. We expect these AI systems are easier to align than general-purpose systems or systems much smarter than humans.

Language models are particularly well-suited for automating alignment research because they come “preloaded” with a lot of knowledge and information about human values from reading the internet. Out of the box, they aren’t independent agents and thus don’t pursue their own goals in the world. To do alignment research they don’t need unrestricted access to the internet. Yet a lot of alignment research tasks can be phrased as natural language or coding tasks.

Future versions of WebGPTInstructGPT, and Codex can provide a foundation as alignment research assistants, but they aren’t sufficiently capable yet. While we don’t know when our models will be capable enough to meaningfully contribute to alignment research, we think it’s important to get started ahead of time. Once we train a model that could be useful, we plan to make it accessible to the external alignment research community.

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