RE: SIAI: Donate Today and Tomorrow

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Fri Oct 22 2004 - 14:38:18 MDT

At 02:32 PM 10/22/2004 -0400, David Massoglia wrote:

>4) Why are you relying on donations instead of concurrently doing something
>useful for humanity and make profits along the way so you don't have to rely
>on hand-outs so much?

This does seem to be a question that swiftly occurs to most people
encountering SIAI, but it might be as unfair as asking a string theorist to
tinker up some small table-top fusion motors in her days off, or perhaps
some decorative string bags, to fund her theoretical work.

The kind of investigation Eliezer and associates are engaged in probably
*has* no direct, market-applicable, practical spin-offs, any more than the
papers from a nuclear strategy think-tank did 40 years ago. Certainly Kahn
et al didn't run up some home ICBM plans for Walmart to support their RAND
work. It's true that they held out their hand to the government/military,
and were paid handsomely, and perhaps Eliezer could follow suit--if working
in secret for black programs was not a detestable option, likely to lead to
precisely the fate he wishes to avert.

Well, how about getting funding from a university? From a national
endowment of some kind? The Macarthur Foundation? Maybe, but no, that
probably would require wasting time going to school and getting the
sheepskin. Of course it's true that if Eliezer had done that when he was
17, and breezed through, he'd now be a moderately well-set-up postdoc or
more likely a professor. But that option was not chosen, and there's no
sense crying over spilled PhD scholarships.

Now, as someone else noted, it might be argued that

<for the love of Pete it's been
many years; let's see some kind of code. You'll
get money from my pocket.
And I'm not equating code with progress. No. I'm
equating it with a higher quality form of exploration
and demonstration. That's what I want to see.>

But again, rock/hardplace: if you're fearful that your unique insights
might unleash Doomsday, or bring it on sooner, you're well advised to keep
your damned mouth buttoned. On the other hand, you also want to keep your
mouth fed. So the monk holds out his soup bowl. Very understandable.

Damien Broderick

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