I am looking for advice on whether I should do what I've outlined below (is it valuable or generally a waste of time) and, if so, how I should go about doing it. If there is support for something like this, I may apply for funding and do this sometime during Q4 2023. 

  • Go to a frequented environment in NYC (e.g., Time Square; I use NYC because I live close to this city and presumably would be the one doing the actions I'm describing)
  • Bring a notepad / clipboard and don an official or professional appearance (e.g., a suit)
  • Bring a sign with some message akin to:
    • "Quick, Paid Survey About Humanity"
    • "$10 for 10 Minutes, Survey"
    • "Questions About Our Future"
  • Bring a camera w/ tripod and other necessary recording equipment, maybe a mic
  • Being recording short interviews (~3-10 minutes). 
  • For person 1 to ~100:
    • Ask if they'd be willing to answer some questions about humanity (3-10 minutes) for $10 and be recorded on video
    • Record person speaking, and then ask some or all of the following questions or those similar to the following:
      • If you had 10 billion USD to help the world, how would you spend it?
      • What are the most important problems for humanity to address right now?
      • What might be the important problems for humanity to address in 2050?
      • What are the most important issues for the USA right now? 
      • If you had to send a short message to humanity in 2100, what would it be? 
      • Rank these in terms of how risky them seem (have these on the clipboard):
        • [nuclear war], [space weather / collisions], [climate change], [pandemics], [artificial intelligence], [global conflict]
      • How are you altruistic, and how altruistic should people be? 
      • What does this picture [pale blue dot] make you think about?
      • [Maybe some question about human enhancement / treatment via gene-editing]
    • Ask some or all of the following demographic questions
      • Where did you grow up? 
      • How much school have you received?
      • Are you happy? 
      • How wealthy do you consider yourself?
      • What ethnicity or race do you consider yourself?
    • Pay individual $10 USD and thank them for their time

General Goal / Motivation: I think action-sequence would be an interesting window into what a sample (biased, out of convenience) of "ordinary" Westerners have to say about the near and long-term future of humanity. If a verbal survey like the one I have outlined above is done well, I imagine that it could serve as a gateway for the people questioned and for those who watch it (if posted to YouTube, LW, EAF) to think more about humanity's future and as a gauge of what some Westerners believe are humanity's most pressing issues. I am unaware of anything like this that may have been done, but think there is some value to it; on this point, I am interested in hearing your take.


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3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:17 PM

 What does this picture [pale blue dot] make you think about?

This one in particular seems unhelpful, since the picture is only meaningful if the viewer knows what it's a photo of. Sagan's description of it does a lot to imbue so much emotion into it.

Thank you for your input on this. The idea is to show people something like the following image [see below] and give a few words of background on it before asking for their thoughts. I agree that this part wouldn't be too helpful for getting people's takes on the future, but my thinking is that it might be nice to see some people's reactions to such an image. Any more thoughts on the entire action sequence?

For the person who strong downvoted this, it would be helpful to me if you also shared which facets of the idea you found inadequate; the 5 or so people I've talked to online have generally supported this idea and found it interesting. I would appreciate some transparency on exactly why you believe the idea is a waste of time or resources, since I want to avoid wasting either of those. Thanks you.

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