Post to Julia Wise – Introduction to Effective Altruism
How effective a measure is money?
What about measuring outcomes directly?
What about Linear vs Exponential outcomes?
Economic systems increase money output at about 3% per year compounding (a slow exponential).
Information systems are increasing output at around 100% per year compounding, and are having an ever greater effect on manufacturing output.
If we could put ten years of lineal development into a system that would produce an exponential output of a 2 week doubling time, then logic would require that we devote all charity to developing that system for anything that couldn’t be solved universally in less than 12 years with substantially less effort.
Once you create a fully automated manufacturing system capable of creating efficient solar cells, copies of itself, and anything else you tell it to copy, and it takes two weeks to complete a full copy, then within two years you can produce one for every person on the planet, and have a lot left for any really large scale manufacturing required.
Any known effective technology can then be universally distributed in minutes.
Surely all altruistic resources are best devoted to the development of such a system.
The problem, is that humans evolved in savannah type environments, where most things were linear in nature, and our brains developed to be very good at linear projection, and not at all good at projecting exponentials.
It takes a lot of training to learn how to effectively project exponentials.
It takes a lot of enquiry to see that money is fundamentally a measure of scarcity multiplied by utility.
If something has zero scarcity (universal abundance) then anything multiplied by zero has a zero output.
Thus money undervalues things which are abundant and over values things which are scarce.
There is no monetary value on oxygen in the air, yet it is arguably the single most important thing to any of us.
The logical meta outcome of the first order abstraction of this is that markets cannot be incentivised to actually deliver universal abundance of anything. There will always be huge meta incentives at every level to put in place barriers to universality to maintain monetary value (arguably all that any Intellectual Property laws are – including patent, and copyright – just barriers to universal abundance present only to maintain a monetary system that has passed the peak of its social utility, and is now exponentially creating more threats than it delivers utility and security).
So effective altruism requires of us that we look carefully at exponential technologies, and at technologies and modes of thought that can deliver the greatest outcome over the shortest possible time.
Money is one of the worst possible measures one can imagine using.