[link] Innocentive challenge: $8000 for examples promoting altruistic behavior

by dvasya1 min read20th Dec 20117 comments

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A challenge recently posted on Innocentive seemed to me like something that may interest many LWers: "Models Motivating and Supporting Altruism Within Communities", with a grand prize of $8000. To quote from the challenge:

We are interested in looking at novel concepts from nature, business, or other areas that may elucidate the dynamics that help promote and maintain altruistic behaviors.

Further details are available on innocentive.com. I think that it would be a nice opportunity for our LW decision theory experts.

[For anybody who decides to participate: the links I provided contain a referral string so that, in case you win a prize, I can match your donation to the SIAI with the same fraction of my referral award ;) Please use them to register.]

 

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In case anyone else wondered, the deadline is 1/25/12.

(Which I, after some thought, managed to parse as 25th of January, 2012. Darn, Month/Day/Year has to be about the most unintuitive date format you can find.)

(Which I, after some thought, managed to parse as 25th of January, 2012. Darn, Month/Day/Year has to be about the most unintuitive date format you can find.)

It's how we say it. In conversation one says "January 25th, 2012" not "the 25th of January, 2012".

In conversation one says "January 25th, 2012" not "the 25th of January, 2012".

Depends on the country.

Those interested in the psychology of the subject may wish to read Batson's Altruism in Humans.

I'm confused. What does it mean to "promote altruistic behaviors"? Do they value people being helping, instead of just/mostly people being helped?

My $8,000 idea is: "Listen to Robin Hanson's advice before passing a law or ratifying a constitution." Not that he said anything specific about the subject, but the reason I say that is that I had just read this:

Fiercely industrious, the new migrant workers knew that one thing might prevent them from creating profitable homesteads from the rainforest: the discovery of uncontacted tribes, whose land is protected from development under the Brazilian constitution.

As a result, frontiersmen who first came across the Akuntsu in the mid-1980s made a simple calculation. The only way to prevent the government finding out about this indigenous community was to wipe them off the map.

I certainly could have told them that would happen, but this was an easy one...

This example is to illustrate my confusion: what does it mean to maximize altruism (the intent or process) rather than outcomes? The most well-meaning clause in a constitution led directly to genocide of the group it was supposed to protect.

I am still not able to capture the "altruistic behaviors" part of the contest. More specifically: What is considered as an altruistic behavior? How does the site describe it? Is there a geographical notion? Is there is a timeline? How many dimensions are we allowed to explore this? Is altruism restricted to the Homo Sapiens?

I have more to follow, but in essence this notion is a bug that I am attempting to understand, both from the contest perspective and from the generic perspective.

EDIT: 'Grammatical' and 'Spelling' errors.

There's a full description with all the details on the website. Quoting (highlighting is mine):

Situations where someone is dependent on someone else to help manage everyday life are very common. We can see these situations in bringing up a child, in the support of individuals with functional disorders, support of family members with special care needs, and in the care of elderly relatives. The care demand varies case by case, but when the dependency increases the burden of the carer increases as well. It is a situation where you cannot choose, you have to handle the consequences of the development. For the carer it is often time consuming, expensive, and stressful and affects the quality of life for everyone involved. Family members are not always able to support each other as much as is needed. We are interested in looking at novel concepts from nature, business, or other areas that may elucidate the dynamics that help promote and maintain altruistic behaviors.

Due to the burdens of being a caregiver, it requires an act of selflessness to move someone to become one, and to achieve the desired outcome, different kinds of resources must be activated. We believe there are existing systems in nature, business, and other areas that may elucidate the dynamics that help promote and maintain altruistic behaviors and that also utilize resources in an efficient way. The goal is to design scenarios for potential systems where care giving is encouraged and underutilized resources are mustered.