An ‘in­stru­men­tal strat­egy’, ‘in­stru­men­tal goal’, or ‘sub­goal’ is an event E that an agent tries to bring about in or­der to bring about some other goal G. If you want to drink milk, then you need to drive to the store; in or­der to drive to the store, you need to be in­side your car; in or­der to be in­side your car, you need to open your car door. Thus ‘be in­side my car’ and ‘open my car door’ are in­stru­men­tal goals or in­stru­men­tal strate­gies.

In con­ven­tional philos­o­phy, an event is said to have “in­stru­men­tal value” if it is use­ful for ac­com­plish­ing some im­plied other set of goals, as dis­t­in­guished from “ter­mi­nal value” which is un­con­di­tional on fu­ture events. Since in VAT we have re­served the word ‘value’, we can’t use that ter­minol­ogy here.

  • Use a Bayes net for­mal­ism to ex­plain why some for­mu­la­tions of ex­pected util­ity make the key idea more or less trans­par­ent.


  • Instrumental convergence

    Some strate­gies can help achieve most pos­si­ble sim­ple goals. E.g., ac­quiring more com­put­ing power or more ma­te­rial re­sources. By de­fault, un­less averted, we can ex­pect ad­vanced AIs to do that.