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Kawoomba comments on Do Earths with slower economic growth have a better chance at FAI? - Less Wrong

30 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 June 2013 07:54PM

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Comment author: Kawoomba 12 June 2013 08:39:37PM 27 points [-]

To stay with the lingo (also, is "arguendo" your new catchphrase?): There are worlds in which slower economic growth is good news, and worlds in which it's not. As to which of these contribute more probability mass, that's hard -- because the actual measure would be technological growth, for which economic growth can be a proxy.

However, I find it hard to weigh scenarios such as "because of stagnant and insufficient growth, more resources are devoted to exploiting the remaining inefficiencies using more advanced tech" versus "the worldwide economic upswing caused a flurry of research activities".

R&D, especially foundational work, is such a small part of worldwide GDP that any old effect can dominate it. For example, a "cold war"-ish scenario between China and the US would slow economic growth -- but strongly speedup research in high-tech dual-use technologies.

While we often think "Google" when we think tech research, we should mostly think DoD in terms of resources spent -- state actors traditionally dwarf even multinational corporations in research investments, and whether their investements are spurned or spurred by a slowdown in growth (depending on the non-specified cause of said slowdown) is anyone's guess.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 13 June 2013 02:50:03PM 3 points [-]

For example, a "cold war"-ish scenario between China and the US would slow economic growth -- but strongly speedup research in high-tech dual-use technologies.

Yes - I think we'd be in much better shape with high growth and total peace than the other way around. Corporations seem rather more likely to be satisfied with tool AI (or at any rate AI with a fixed cognitive algorithm, even if it can learn facts) than, say, a nation at war.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 June 2013 08:47:14PM 6 points [-]

R&D, especially foundational work, is such a small part of worldwide GDP that any old effect can dominate it.

(Note: I agree with this point.)

Comment author: roystgnr 13 June 2013 03:23:29PM 2 points [-]

There are worlds in which slower economic growth is good news, and worlds in which it's not.

Indeed. The question of "would X be better" usually is shorthand for "would X be better, all else being equal", and since in this case X is an integrated quantity over basically all human activity it's impossible for all else to be equal. To make the question well defined you have to specify what other influences go into the change in economic growth. Even in the restricted question where we look at various ways that charity and activism might increase economic growth, it looks likely that different charities and different policy changes would have different effects on FAI development.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 14 June 2013 07:21:44AM 1 point [-]

So how would working to decrease US military spending rank as an effective altruist goal then? I'd guess most pro-economic-growth EAs are also in favor of it.