Re: Maximizing results of efforts Re: Mainstreaming

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sat Apr 28 2001 - 19:42:15 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> Basically, Eli, as much as I like and admire
> you, the attitude "Let others worry about the starving people in the Sudan;
> my job is to save them by building a Friendly AI that will produce the
> Singularity" sort of gets on my nerves.

I AM worried about the starving people in the Sudan. And repression in
China. And child abuse and urban poverty in the US. And the work
environment that slowly sucks the life force out of the middle class. And
everyone who isn't as smart or as famous or as important as they want to
be. And everyone, everywhere, every moment of every day, who dies, and
would rather have lived.

I didn't inherit a family business in AI. I didn't fall into this because
it had an easy college major, or because I was curious about AI. I
deliberately set out to ameliorate suffering on the largest possible
scale, and AI is how I chose to do it.

If you can't, on a deep emotional level, see the connection between my
work and the starving people in the Sudan, then this - from my perspective
- is an emotional peculiarity on your part, not mine. Since I *do*
perceive the connection on a deep emotional level, I live free of the fog
of guilt that pervades the First World. There is absolutely *nothing* I
could do that would help the rest of the world more than what I am already
doing. I feel a need to do something about the starving people in the
Sudan and I AM DOING IT; that need is now FULLY SATISFIED. Rather than
striving for "balance" between personal life and altruism, I have decided
to allow my desire to be altruistic to *completely* dictate my life-path.
And, having done so, and for as long as I continue to do so, that desire
is satisfied; satiated; fulfilled.

I think, Ben, that we react to certain problems in different ways. You
see starving people in Sudan and think to yourself: "Is what I'm doing
really helping? Maybe I should just give it all away." There was a time
when I felt guilty on seeing starving people in Sudan, and what I thought
to myself was: "Could I be working a little harder? Am I making the
wrong tradeoff between rest time and work time, or between energy
expenditure and energy recovery?" In other words, I saw starving people
in Sudan and felt guilty - so I worked faster. (Nowadays I'm a bit more
confident that I'm at the right equilibrium, and being guilty does
dissipate mental energy, so I try to implement a policy of only
reevaluating work habits when new information arrives.)

> But this isn't the kind of
> thing for which one can make a logical argument.

*What*? Oh, never mind. (Now, if you were to say, "I'm sure there is a
logical argument for this, but I haven't learned to formalize my gut
feelings," that would be another matter.)

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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