Eliezer Yudkowsky
Yudkowsky at Stanford University in 2006
Eliezer Shlomo[a] Yudkowsky

(1979-09-11) September 11, 1979 (age 44)
OrganizationMachine Intelligence Research Institute
Known forCoining the term friendly artificial intelligence
Research on AI safety
Rationality writing
Founder of LessWrong

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (/ˌɛliˈɛzər ˌjʌdˈkski/ EH-lee-EH-zər YUD-KOW-skee;[1] born September 11, 1979) is an American artificial intelligence researcher[2][3][4][5] and writer on decision theory and ethics, best known for popularizing ideas related to friendly artificial intelligence,[6][7] including the idea that there might not be a "fire alarm" for AI.[5] He is the founder of and a research fellow at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), a private research nonprofit based in Berkeley, California.[8] His work on the prospect of a runaway intelligence explosion influenced philosopher Nick Bostrom's 2014 book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.[9]

Work in artificial intelligence safety

See also: Machine Intelligence Research Institute

Goal learning and incentives in software systems

Yudkowsky's views on the safety challenges future generations of AI systems pose are discussed in Stuart Russell's and Peter Norvig's undergraduate textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Noting the difficulty of formally specifying general-purpose goals by hand, Russell and Norvig cite Yudkowsky's proposal that autonomous and adaptive systems be designed to learn correct behavior over time:

Yudkowsky (2008)[10] goes into more detail about how to design a Friendly AI. He asserts that friendliness (a desire not to harm humans) should be designed in from the start, but that the designers should recognize both that their own designs may be flawed, and that the robot will learn and evolve over time. Thus the challenge is one of mechanism design—to design a mechanism for evolving AI under a system of checks and balances, and to give the systems utility functions that will remain friendly in the face of such changes.[6]

In response to the instrumental convergence concern, that autonomous decision-making systems with poorly designed goals would have default incentives to mistreat humans, Yudkowsky and other MIRI researchers have recommended that work be done to specify software agents that converge on safe default behaviors even when their goals are misspecified.[11][7]

Capabilities forecasting

In the intelligence explosion scenario hypothesized by I. J. Good, recursively self-improving AI systems quickly transition from subhuman general intelligence to superintelligent. Nick Bostrom's 2014 book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies sketches out Good's argument in detail, while citing Yudkowsky on the risk that anthropomorphizing advanced AI systems will cause people to misunderstand the nature of an intelligence explosion. "AI might make an apparently sharp jump in intelligence purely as the result of anthropomorphism, the human tendency to think of 'village idiot' and 'Einstein' as the extreme ends of the intelligence scale, instead of nearly indistinguishable points on the scale of minds-in-general."[6][10][12]

Eliezer debating Destiny at Manifest 2023

In Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, Russell and Norvig raise the objection that there are known limits to intelligent problem-solving from computational complexity theory; if there are strong limits on how efficiently algorithms can solve various tasks, an intelligence explosion may not be possible.[6]

Time op-ed

In a 2023 op-ed for Time magazine, Yudkowsky discussed the risk of artificial intelligence and proposed action that could be taken to limit it, including a total halt on the development of AI,[13][14] or even "destroy[ing] a rogue datacenter by airstrike".[5] The article helped introduce the debate about AI alignment to the mainstream, leading a reporter to ask President Joe Biden a question about AI safety at a press briefing.[2]

Rationality writing

Between 2006 and 2009, Yudkowsky and Robin Hanson were the principal contributors to Overcoming Bias, a cognitive and social science blog sponsored by the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. In February 2009, Yudkowsky founded LessWrong, a "community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality".[15][16] Overcoming Bias has since functioned as Hanson's personal blog.

Over 300 blog posts by Yudkowsky on philosophy and science (originally written on LessWrong and Overcoming Bias) were released as an ebook, Rationality: From AI to Zombies, by MIRI in 2015.[17] MIRI has also published Inadequate Equilibria, Yudkowsky's 2017 ebook on societal inefficiencies.[18]

Yudkowsky has also written several works of fiction. His fanfiction novel Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality uses plot elements from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series to illustrate topics in science.[15][19] The New Yorker described Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as a retelling of Rowling's original "in an attempt to explain Harry's wizardry through the scientific method".[20]

Personal life

Yudkowsky is an autodidact[21] and did not attend high school or college.[22] He was raised as a Modern Orthodox Jew, but does not identify religiously as a Jew.[23][24]

Academic publications

See also


  1. ^ Or Solomon


  1. ^ "Eliezer Yudkowsky on “Three Major Singularity Schools”" on YouTube. February 16, 2012. Timestamp 1:18.
  2. ^ a b Silver, Nate (April 10, 2023). "How Concerned Are Americans About The Pitfalls Of AI?". FiveThirtyEight. Archived from the original on April 17, 2023. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  3. ^ Ocampo, Rodolfo (April 4, 2023). "I used to work at Google and now I'm an AI researcher. Here's why slowing down AI development is wise". The Conversation. Archived from the original on April 11, 2023. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  4. ^ Gault, Matthew (March 31, 2023). "AI Theorist Says Nuclear War Preferable to Developing Advanced AI". Vice. Archived from the original on May 15, 2023. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Hutson, Matthew (May 16, 2023). "Can We Stop Runaway A.I.?". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Archived from the original on May 19, 2023. Retrieved May 19, 2023. Eliezer Yudkowsky, a researcher at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, in the Bay Area, has likened A.I.-safety recommendations to a fire-alarm system. A classic experiment found that, when smoky mist began filling a room containing multiple people, most didn't report it. They saw others remaining stoic and downplayed the danger. An official alarm may signal that it's legitimate to take action. But, in A.I., there's no one with the clear authority to sound such an alarm, and people will always disagree about which advances count as evidence of a conflagration. "There will be no fire alarm that is not an actual running AGI," Yudkowsky has written. Even if everyone agrees on the threat, no company or country will want to pause on its own, for fear of being passed by competitors. ... That may require quitting A.I. cold turkey before we feel it's time to stop, rather than getting closer and closer to the edge, tempting fate. But shutting it all down would call for draconian measures—perhaps even steps as extreme as those espoused by Yudkowsky, who recently wrote, in an editorial for Time, that we should "be willing to destroy a rogue datacenter by airstrike," even at the risk of sparking "a full nuclear exchange."
  6. ^ a b c d Russell, Stuart; Norvig, Peter (2009). Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-604259-4.
  7. ^ a b Leighton, Jonathan (2011). The Battle for Compassion: Ethics in an Apathetic Universe. Algora. ISBN 978-0-87586-870-7.
  8. ^ Kurzweil, Ray (2005). The Singularity Is Near. New York City: Viking Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-03384-3.
  9. ^ Ford, Paul (February 11, 2015). "Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence". MIT Technology Review. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Yudkowsky, Eliezer (2008). "Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk" (PDF). In Bostrom, Nick; Ćirković, Milan (eds.). Global Catastrophic Risks. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199606504. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 2, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Soares, Nate; Fallenstein, Benja; Yudkowsky, Eliezer (2015). "Corrigibility". AAAI Workshops: Workshops at the Twenty-Ninth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Austin, TX, January 25–26, 2015. AAAI Publications. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  12. ^ Bostrom, Nick (2014). Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199678112.
  13. ^ Moss, Sebastian (March 30, 2023). ""Be willing to destroy a rogue data center by airstrike" - leading AI alignment researcher pens Time piece calling for ban on large GPU clusters". Data Center Dynamics. Archived from the original on April 17, 2023. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  14. ^ Ferguson, Niall (April 9, 2023). "The Aliens Have Landed, and We Created Them". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on April 9, 2023. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  15. ^ a b Miller, James (2012). Singularity Rising. BenBella Books, Inc. ISBN 978-1936661657.
  16. ^ Miller, James (July 28, 2011). "You Can Learn How To Become More Rational". Business Insider. Archived from the original on August 10, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  17. ^ Miller, James D. "Rifts in Rationality – New Rambler Review". newramblerreview.com. Archived from the original on July 28, 2018. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  18. ^ Machine Intelligence Research Institute. "Inadequate Equilibria: Where and How Civilizations Get Stuck". Archived from the original on September 21, 2020. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  19. ^ Snyder, Daniel D. (July 18, 2011). "'Harry Potter' and the Key to Immortality". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  20. ^ Packer, George (2011). "No Death, No Taxes: The Libertarian Futurism of a Silicon Valley Billionaire". The New Yorker. p. 54. Archived from the original on December 14, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  21. ^ Matthews, Dylan; Pinkerton, Byrd (June 19, 2019). "He co-founded Skype. Now he's spending his fortune on stopping dangerous AI". Vox. Archived from the original on March 6, 2020. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  22. ^ Saperstein, Gregory (August 9, 2012). "5 Minutes With a Visionary: Eliezer Yudkowsky". CNBC. Archived from the original on August 1, 2017. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  23. ^ Elia-Shalev, Asaf (December 1, 2022). "Synagogues are joining an 'effective altruism' initiative. Will the Sam Bankman-Fried scandal stop them?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  24. ^ Yudkowsky, Eliezer (October 4, 2007). "Avoiding your belief's real weak points". LessWrong. Archived from the original on May 2, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021.