Effective Altruism

Effective Altruism

Eliezer Yudkowsky
July 24 at 6:37am

I think there is another level entirely available here.

My wife and I have given $300 a month to UNESCO for many years. It is targeted to those who most need urgent survival goods.
At the same time I am running my business (as I have been for 29 years).
At the same time I am engaged in many different organisations at many different levels. I chair one national, one regional and one local organisation, and secretary for two others, and treasurer for two others (3 of which are registered charities) and involved in many others (including here, Lifeboat, MIRI and KurzweilAI, London Futurists).
I attended the 25th Foresight Conference in PaloAlto 4 years ago.

I have very intentionally engaged in many different types of organisations over a very long period, with the explicit intention of: building a practical understanding of how these organisations work, building networks of trust relationships, building theoretical understanding of the major classes of interactions between these systems.

My primary objective has been to develop effective models for creating social, political and technical systems that actually deliver a sufficiently low risk environment that individuals will actually have a reasonable chance of living a very long time once we develop the technology to deliver indefinite biological life extension (the express intention of Calico and SENS and many others – I am no longer the lone voice in the wilderness I was 41 year ago).

It seems clear to me that in this respect, market based valuation has reached the end of its social utility and now poses more problems than it solves. And it is a really complex topic, involving many different instances of several different classes of complexity, and to a reasonable first order approximation it resolves as follows.

All markets are based in scarcity. Anything that is universally abundant has zero market value – if you doubt that, just consider oxygen in the air, arguably the single most important thing for any human being, yet of zero market value due to universal abundance (zero scarcity). The flip side of that, is that no market based system will ever of its own internal incentive structure deliver universal abundance of anything. Certainly markets deliver abundance for the few, I am one of those few – we own our house, our toys (boats, cars, pianos, computer etc), our business, our farm – all freehold – all starting from poverty. And that is not true universally, and never will be in anything that even remotely approximates a free market system. Universal abundance of anything has zero market value, and therefore, viewed in the systemic landscape of attractors and modulators, is a very tall hill – asymptotically approaching infinity.

So I am very clear that I live in the current reality of markets and capitalism.
I am also very clear that we need to develop key societal values that are beyond the values of the market.

It seems clear to me that the values of life and liberty of sapient individuals must be placed above profit at every level of the decisions structures of our society (which includes every corporate boardroom). And all individuals need to be held accountable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of actions.

It seems clear to me, that the most powerful way to progress such a systemic change is to create a set of automated technologies that are able to use sunlight as a power source and local rock as raw material and produce a set of goods and services (including the production and maintenance of themselves, clean water, fresh food {largely organic fruits and vegetable}, secure shelter, communication and transport networks, and healthcare). If it takes a month for such a system to duplicate itself, then within 4 years we can deliver one to every person on the planet, and we have a post capitalist infrastructure in place. If it takes 8 years to build the first one, we can deliver a post capitalist society in 12 years.

In terms of greatest influence on the possibilities delivered to the greatest number of people over time, I have no shadow of reasonable doubt that delivering on the production and distribution of such a set of technologies is the most effective form of altruism possible.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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