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When you say that it pays off, is the main benefit just the pleasure you get from having lots of friends and social interactions, or are there actually substantial tangible benefits? Do you think you could reproduce all the tangible benefits with an extra $10K/year of income, or is it worth a lot more than that? I am curious because I have often felt like people who are good with people and know a lot of people should have a substantial advantage over someone like me, who is terrible with people. But then in practice I don't really see it.

I have suffered from social anxiety continuously and depression off and on since childhood. I've sought treatment that included talk therapy and medication. Currently I am doing EMDR therapy which may or may not end up being helpful, but I don't expect it to work miracles. Everyone in my immediate family has had similar issues throughout their lives. I feel your pain. Despite not being perfect and being in therapy, I feel like my life is going pretty well. Here is what has worked for me:

Acceptance: Not everyone can be or should be the life of the party. Being quiet or reserved or shy is a perfectly acceptable way to live your life. You can still work on becoming comfortable in more social situations but you are fine right now. There are plenty of people who will like you just as you are, even if you social skills are far from perfect. Harsh self-judgement can make anxiety worse and lead to procrastination and depression. What I try to do as best I can is to just do whatever I feel like in the moment, and just let the world correct me. I try not to develop too many theories about how the world will react to me since I know from experience that those theories will be biased and pessimistic.

Decide what you want from the world: I guess this is somewhat generic life advice, but it has really worked for me. I decided fairly early on what I wanted to get from the social world. I wanted 3 things.

  • marriage
  • children
  • a good career

Deciding those things, I plugged away at getting them. I was completely incompetent at talking to women but with some help from e-harmony I found one who I was able to be comfortable with and who liked me. We got married 6.5 years ago and we have a 2 year old daughter and another child on the way. Professionally, I found a career that involves a minimum of politicking and no customer interaction. And yet it is both intellectually satisfying and highly remunerative. Even though neither my home life nor my professional life are perfect, achieving my basic life goals has given me a deep feeling of confidence and satisfaction that I can use to counter feelings of anxiety and depression as they come.

Each step I took along the path towards my goals gave me more confidence to move forward, but that confidence wasn't necessarily automatic. I have to periodically brag to myself about myself because otherwise I will naturally focus on my failures and weaknesses and start to feel like a loser. You should be very proud of your accomplishments in college. Most people could not do what you have done. Remind yourself of that. Feel good about yourself.

I think that LWers assign a much higher probability to a FOOM scenario that most people. Most people probably wouldn't assign much value to an AI that just seeks to maximize the number of paperclips in the universe, and continuously attempts to improve its ability to make that goal happen. Someone could build something like that expecting that its abilities would level off pretty quickly, and be badly wrong.

Another idea: One of the great anti-utilitarian movements of our time has been the anti-vaccine movement. In that vain, how about setting up an anti-bed net advocacy group to argue that the children of Africa are being poisoned by chemical laden bed nets, and a charity that will collect and dispose of bed nets that are currently in use in Africa. I'm sure there must be a celebrity that would endorse such a charity. Snookie hasn't been doing much lately!

I have to say i don't get why so many of the comments on this are negative. Surely, if there was a completely legal way to inflict great harm on humanity for only $1Million then there are a ton of people/groups with the desire and resources to do those things. The idea that anyone with the desire to implement these things will learn about them first on LessWrong seems ludicrous to me.

Anyway, here is an idea:

  1. Offer a $1Million prize for a working self-improving paper-clip maximizing AI. I think that this is very unlikely to produce anything, but since it is a prize you don't have to actually pay it out until someone builds a UFAI that destroys the universe. If no one seems to be working on it, you can always rescind the prize and move on to another evil scheme. I guess the downside would be if somebody accidentally made a friendly AI while trying to win the prize.

Gold mining. Adding marginal ounces of gold to world supply adds very little utility because gold can be pretty much endlessly reused and there is plenty of it around that has already been mined. Central banks of fiat currencies sit on many years supply for no particularly good reason. Meanwhile, the industry consumes $billions annually of real resources (like fossil fuels and capital equipment) and produce pollution and environmental damage.

That's a good question. What if it turned out that laughing maniacally after committing an act of villainy was the healthiest of all? Would that change people's views about altruism?

Like actually for free? Not many. Almost everything either requires me to be exposed to ads or to purchase something to be able to consume it. There is a free newspaper where I live, but that has ads. To access the internet I need to buy some sort of device and then pay someone for access to the internet. I can get internet for free in certain businesses or public places (libraries I guess), but in the case of libraries they are supported by tax dollars and the cost is part of GDP. For businesses, providing free wifi is a good way to get people in the door and/or sticking around to consume more overpriced coffee or whatever. So, none of these things are free. Certainly not more free than radio or TV were in the 20th century. The internet isn't even more free than cable TV since both require ongoing payments in addition to buying the initial device.

That isn't to say that I don't feel like i am getting a good deal. I certainly do feel like a lot of things on the internet are good deals. But so what? a lot of things in real life are good deals also. Do internet/tech related businesses create more consumer surplus per dollar of revenue generated than more traditional businesses? I have no idea, but I'm confident that I can't figure it out just by thinking about how amazing things are today.

But the flush toilet can only be invented once. We might have access to talking super toilets with multi-coloured fountains - but all the bells and whistles are less useful that the original flushing toilet aspect.

how about a teleporter combined with a toilet. It could sit somewhere in your house, scanning your bladder and colon periodically, and then removing accumulated waste without you having to do anything. While it is doing that it could also remove any viral particles or unhealthy bacteria from your bloodstream, excess ear wax, unwanted body hair, tumors, arterial plaques, unpleasant memories, etc. THAT would be a real innovation!

The argument that innovation has slowed is pretty simple. In the developed world, per capita output has to be driven by innovation. To some extent people can work harder, but that's pretty limited. We can see that by the best measures we have, growth of per capita output has been slowing since the 70s and especially since 2000. That means that innovation is slowing. The counter argument is that the best methods of measuring output aren't good enough, and that the newer forms of innovations are not captured as well as older forms of innovation. I guess that's possible, but its not obvious. After all a lot of tech companies are worth a lot of money.

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