"Someone ought to do something" posts

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Date: Tue Sep 18 2001 - 19:07:07 MDT

"Aikin, Robert" wrote:
> I suggest one or more individuals make it their primary function to prepare
> and present the concepts associated with AI and hit the corporate world to
> meet people face-to-face. It will require funding on a far lesser scale to
> send out a dedicated spokesperson/salesperson. Somebody "out there" will
> see the promise, of this I'm confident. I remember the scene in CONTACT
> when the future of the project required serious funding, she hit the road.

"Susan was bright enough to know that the phrase 'Someone ought to do
something' was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it *never*
added the rider 'and that someone is me.' But someone ought to do
something, and right now the whole pool of someones consisted of her, and
no one else."
        -- Terry Pratchett, _Hogfather_

There are certain mailing lists where there are endless proposals and
proposals and proposals and nothing ever gets done. I don't want that to
happen on SL4. I think the rule should be that you can't offer a proposal
for "somebody to do something" unless you're already doing something else
yourself, something which prevents you from taking on that additional
project you just proposed. It doesn't have to be full-time, but there has
to be something, even if it's just writing a webpage. But there has to be

What are you, yourself, doing to redouble your efforts toward the
Singularity? What are your current efforts? I have nothing against
spectators; it seems likely that most of the people who benefit from the
Singularity will hear about the Singularity after it happens, simply
because there is not enough time to grow to the size of the present
environmentalist movement or even the civil-rights movement of the
sixties. I'll be happy if I'm proved mistaken, but I see nothing morally
wrong with living in a world where the majority of people win but don't

I don't even have a problem with spectators subscribing or posting to
SL4. Some may be too young to have any disposable resources, or may be
too busy to have any disposable time, or, most likely at all, may have not
yet overcome that peculiar quirk of human nature that prevents people from
acting on the logical consequences of their ideals. Pre-Singularity human
nature is a mess and I don't see how it would help for me to become
hostile to people who are just being human. It takes time for beliefs to
soak in to the point that they become actions, and I don't want to disrupt
that process by rushing it.

But I do think that spectators shouldn't post proposals for action unless
they are personally willing to contribute to them, or unless they're
already contributing what they can. I apologize if it turns out that
you're already donating to one of the other transhumanist organizations
such as ExI/Foresight, or that you already have a major web complex of
Singularity writings, or if there's a reason I should have recognized your
name but didn't. Still, are you volunteering to approach a prospect? Are
you offering an introduction to a billionaire friend? Are you posting a
PowerPoint presentation that you think would help? Are you writing an
article for Forbes on ultraleveraged philanthropy? Even if I know it's
human nature, it's still frustrating when someone says "Hey! Great idea!
Full speed ahead! I'm cheering you on! Finish up that Singularity soon!"
but won't do anything to actually help. That sort of applause is only
encouraging when you hear it from someone who's too early in life to help
out now, but may be able to help out later - and even then such
encouragement should be sent in private, not in public.

As for "doubling all efforts", are you under the impression that we did
not previously think the Singularity to be important? The urgency doesn't
get any higher. It's already at max. My life is devoted to the
Singularity and cannot be redevoted. Doubled efforts require either
doubled funding or full-time volunteers.

What's the point of writing "someone ought to do X" or "the transhumanist
community ought to do X" or "Singularitarians ought to do X"? What good
does it do? Which existing project should we halt to work on X? The
people who have crossed over to doing something about it are not idle;
they are working on whatever it was that moved them to cross over.

"Someone ought to do X" is not news. "I am doing X" is news. Let SL4 be
a refuge for the latter.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://intelligence.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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