FLI February, 2019 Newsletter

In this special two-part podcast Ariel Conn is joined by Max Tegmark for a conversation with Dr. Matthew Meselson, biologist and Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard University. Dr. Meselson began his career with an experiment that helped prove Watson and Crick’s hypothesis on the structure and replication of DNA. He then got involved in disarmament, working with the US government to halt the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and developing the Biological Weapons Convention. From the cellular level to that of international policy, Dr. Meselson has made significant contributions not only to the field of biology, but also towards the mitigation of existential threats.

Part 1: From DNA to Banning Biological Weapons with Matthew Meselson and Max Tegmark

In Part One, Dr. Meselson describes how he designed the experiment that helped prove Watson and Crick’s hypothesis, and he explains why this type of research is uniquely valuable to the scientific community. He also recounts his introduction to biological weapons, his reasons for opposing them, and the efforts he undertook to get them banned. Dr. Meselson was a key force behind the U.S. ratification of the Geneva Protocol, a 1925 treaty banning biological warfare, as well as the conception and implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty that bans biological and toxin weapons.

Part 2: Anthrax, Agent Orange, and Yellow Rain: Verification Stories with Matthew Meselson and Max Tegmark

Part Two focuses on three major incidents in the history of biological weapons: the 1979 anthrax outbreak in Russia, the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam, and the Yellow Rain controversy, and the Yellow Rain controversy in the early 80s. Dr. Meselson led the investigations into all three and solved some perplexing scientific mysteries along the way.

You can find all the FLI Podcasts here and all the AI Alignment Podcasts here. Or listen on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

More February Highlights

The tenth episode of our AI Alignment Podcast series features Joshua Greene, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, in conversation with host Lucas Perry. Greene’s current research focuses on understanding key aspects of both individual and collective intelligence. For those of you that are new, this series covers and explores the AI alignment problem across a large variety of domains, reflecting the fundamentally interdisciplinary nature of AI alignment.

AI Alignment Podcast: The Byzantine Generals’ Problem, Poisoning, and Distributed Machine Learning with El Mahdi El Mhamdi

The ninth episode in the AI Alignment Podcast series features El Mahdi El Mhamdi, who pioneered Byzantine resilient machine learning. The Byzantine Generals’ Problem and associated issues in maintaining reliable distributed computing networks is illuminating for both AI alignment and modern networks we interact with like Youtube, Facebook, or Google. By exploring this space, we are shown the limits of reliable distributed computing, the safety concerns and threats in this space, and the tradeoffs we will have to make for varying degrees of efficiency or safety.

On February 1, a little more than 30 years after it went into effect, the United States announced that it is suspending the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Less than 24 hours later, Russia announced that it was also suspending the treaty. It stands (or stood) as one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia, and its collapse signals the most serious nuclear arms crisis since the 1980s.

You can find a short video summary of this article here.

March 28 – 31, 2019  |  1440 Multiversity  |  Learn more

FLI is collaborating to host the Augmented Intelligence Summit, an event that will bring together a diverse group of experts to build a plausible, aspirational vision of an AI-filled world of 2045. The event will take place March 28 – 31, 2019 near Santa Cruz, CA. Attendance is by invitation or application. If you love thinking about how to create a good future, learn more about the event and apply here.

What We’ve Been Up to This Month

Jessica Cussins Newman and Richard Mallah participated in the Global Governance of AI Roundtable and World Government Summit held in Dubai. The Roundtable brought together governmental, business, civil society, academic, and other leaders in AI from around the globe to discuss the most pressing global implications of AI technologies.

Ariel Conn gave a talk and did a Q & A on AI safety research for Tech 2025.

FLI in the News

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