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A Google search for "using world quality as a free variable when optimizing for other purposes" yields... 0 results.

Though a search for "I don't care about the world" yields a respectable 58,600,000. If -cup is introduced in the search query, the result drops by 10,000,000 or so.

In somewhat related news, I'm starting to doubt my own heuristic.

A Google search for "save the world" yields 11,000,000 results. A search for "harm the world" yields 242,000. Also, the top results for the latter are framed as cautionary tales, rather than normative instructions, or communities for how to accomplish the malignant goal.

Saving the world is a very commonly expressed sentiment, which is why compiling a list of people who want to save the world seems a little redundant to me. A list about people who have saved the world might be a tad more useful.

As far as I know, an infinitesimal amount of the world population consciously sets out to be evil, or to do harm to the world. It's more a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I'm pretty sure there have been many studies about this, though I'd have to dig for them again. Perhaps someone else can post them.

Neither the stated desire nor the action implies donating to charities. Even you have admitted to this in the past.

I thought your claim might be based on the replies to your HELP! I want to do good thread. In that case, I thought I should point out that no equivalent "HELP! I want to do bad" or "HELP! I want to be completely benign" threads were ever created.

One could easily verify your claim by making such posts, and counting the replies. If one wanted to be really accurate about it, one could also go through the post history of the respondants, to be sure they're not just being contentious, but truly ill-intentioned.

Extending the survey to the population at large would be similarly trivial. One could tell people on the street about a one-question survey, and if they decide to participate, alternate between: "Do you want to save/improve the world?" and "Do you want to harm the world?"

(This might be a fun exercise for the Toronto LW group, now that I think about it. Both to find the answer out for ourselves, and to get people thinking about the subject. Because thinking often precedes action. Or at least it should... )

Darwin lived before Darwin too. Or before Darwinism, at any rate. An epistemic rationalist should explore and be prepared to question even the most established premises.

Obviousness? Exposure to at least one person who has declared their disinclination to save the world?

Point taken. The list likely won't include everyone. :-)

I interpreted the original statement as "the list won't include a significant majority", because of the context it was given in. Perhaps Giles can chip in and say whether I was mistaken.

But equally clearly, the list [of people who want to save the world] will not include everyone.

What are you basing this claim on?

Looks like if you want to save the world, you've gotta accept that you're going to lose some karma.

Seems like the stakes have lessened somewhat. Socrates lost his life doing similar things.

There are domains that I've found through trial and error (mostly error) that I really have no aptitude for.

How long did you try and err while testing out these domains? K. Anders Ericsson, known as the world's foremost expert on expertise, has come up with the benchmark of 10 000 hours, or 10 years, which is said to be the time it takes to achieve world-class expertise in many domains.

I suspect that so-called aptitude refers mainly to habits and skills picked up during early childhood, perhaps accidentally, which we don't remember learning, as early childhood memory is notoriously flawed. An early start towards those 10 000 hours, perhaps.

There probably are a few genetic quirks, such as syntesthesia, which might help within certain fields, such as mathematics, but from what I've read (and experienced), the notions of aptitude and talent are likely rooted in false beliefs and mistaken self-theories. Stanford's Carol Dweck has done much important research on this topic.

I think your modesty is unwarranted. :-)

Meetups have the potential to lead to a lot of updating, positive feedback loops, and other real benefits for the attendees. I suspect that very few comments on this site, even the higher rated ones, can match them in that regard.

A little positive feedback and appreciation for the organizers has the potential to go a long way, so that they have some additional payoff for continuing to deal with the tedious logistics.

Plus, karma stands for a thousand different things already. Adding one more meaning to the list doesn't make much of a difference with such a conflated concept.

You would be right if the people at SIAI were so much cleverer than me than I would have literally nothing to contribute to their cause except money. I don't believe this is the case.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by cleverness, but the folks at SIAI probably have more expertise than you in the "saving the world" domain, at least for now, if your own activities thus far have been limited to donating. Of course, there may be things that you haven't told us yet.

But even if your expertise is currently limited in this particular domain, this does not mean that you won't be able to catch up, or even surpass the SIAI people at some point. But it might take a while. Are you aware of this, and are you ready for that kind of commitment?

Also, I trust them, but I don't yet trust them anything like 100%.

It sounds like you are not ruling out the possibility of trusting them 100% at some point. What are the necessary conditions that must be met for this to happen?

Declaring your intention to do good is an excellent way to start. However, I'd like to know what "good" means to you, and whether it reconciles with my conception of "good", before I formally declare my allegiance. I'm looking forward to hearing more in subsequent posts.

One possible path towards improving the world may be to identify people who have already accomplished that goal within their lifetimes, examine their approach, and possibly improve on it. What people would meet this criteria for you?

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