OpenWorm and differential technological development

by John_Maxwell 1 min read19th May 201430 comments


According to Robin Hanson's arguments in this blog post, we want to promote research in to cell modeling technology (ideally at the expense of research in to faster computer hardware).  That would mean funding this kickstarter, which is ending in 11 hours (it may still succeed; there are a few tricks for pushing borderline kickstarters through).  I already pledged $250; I'm not sure if I should pledge significantly more on the strength of one Hanson blog post.  Thoughts from anyone?  (I also encourage other folks to pledge!  Maybe we can name neurons after characters in HPMOR or something.  EDIT: Or maybe funding OpenWorm is a bad idea; see this link.)

I'm also curious on what people think about the efficiency of trying to pursue differential technological development directly this way vs funding MIRI/FHI.  I haven't read the entire conversation referenced here, but this bit from the blog post sounds correct-ish to me:

People doing philosophical work to try to reduce existential risk are largely wasting their time. Tyler doesn’t think it’s a serious effort, though it may be good publicity for something that will pay off later. A serious effort looks more like the parts of the US government that trained people to infiltrate the post-collapse Soviet Union and then locate and neutralize nuclear weapons. There was also a serious effort by the people who set up hotlines between leaders to be used to quickly communicate about nuclear attacks (e.g., to help quickly convince a leader in country A that a fishy object on their radar isn’t an incoming nuclear attack).

Edit: For some reason I forgot about this previous discussion on this topic, which makes the case for funding OpenWorm look less clear-cut.