Universal Human Values and Artificial General Intelligence

The field of value alignment is becoming increasingly important as AGI developments accelerate. By alignment we mean giving a generally intelligent software system the capability to act in a way that is beneficial to humans. One approach to this is to instill AI programs with human values. 

However, the research in this field tends to focus on algorithms for maximizing metrics like pleasure or happiness. Much less attention has been devoted to the actual set of values they should follow.

I propose that the evidence from worldwide religions, traditional philosophy, evolutionary psychology and survey research finds surprising agreement on basic human values. Abstracting from this work, I propose a five-tier system of values that can be applied to an AGI. 

Level 1 is the values of life, survival, and persistence. It evolves from a concern for living and reproducing. An agent acts to avoid destruction, seek out energy and pass on characteristics to a future generation. 

Level 2 contains truth, wisdom, and knowledge. It is about agents that value truth and the ability to understand and interact well with their immediate surroundings.

Level 3 is a bundle of three sets of values concerning oneself: freedom, temperance, and growth. These values affect the agent’s internal state and behavior. The ‘self’ in question might be a human being or an AI designed as an autonomous moral agent. 

Level 4 is a bundle of five values: empathy, authority, security, justice, and conformity. These are all concerned with group interaction. They apply to biological fellow beings or to multi-agent AI systems. 

Level 5 contains values for dealing with nature and the surrounding ecosystem as well as the universe beyond. A sufficiently powerful general intelligence could have a terrestrial and extra-terrestrial impact and so needs to be concerned with the larger environment.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

The values are concentric – they start with fundamental metaphysical and epistemological assumptions and radiate outwards to be more inclusive in space, in time, and in variety.

However there are a number of unresolved issues:

  1. Universality – The debate of moral relativism vs. moral universalism in which different values are emphasized or traded off.
  2. Hierarchy – The ranked order of the values in terms of their importance or goal relevance.
  3. Change – Ethics for a transhuman or posthuman society might necessitate alterations due to changes in the nature of humanity or other AIs.
  4. Human centricity – These values are human and created by our unique evolution and societal organizations.
  5. Consciousness – Agents may need to feel – to have qualia – in order to be morally responsible. This does not mean that an AGI cannot act morally.
  6. Implementation – This listing of said values does not describe the mechanisms by which they can be instantiated.

In light of these challenges and opportunities within the realm of value alignment in AGI, the upcoming Beneficial AGI Summit emerges as a pivotal platform. The BGI Summit, with its gathering of leading minds in artificial intelligence, ethics, and related fields, presents an unparalleled opportunity to delve deeper into these unresolved issues.

The universality of values, the hierarchy of ethical considerations, the evolving nature of ethics in a transhuman society, the human-centric viewpoint, consciousness, and the practical implementation of these values in AGI systems – all these topics are ripe for discussion at the BGI Summit. 

This event could mark a significant step forward in our understanding and ability to integrate these complex value systems into AGI, fostering a future where artificial intelligence compliments and enhances human values and ethics. Join me at the BGI Summit to explore these topics. For more information and to register visit bgi24.ai

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