James: This dialog is partly a recruiting pitch. We are setting out logic that justifies the moral value of trying to steer humanity towards positive singularities and away from negative ones. Someone has to do the steering. That “someone” can be a generalized someone. That “someone” can be authority figures or politicians. Since in a republic we get to select some of them, seeing this as a moral value suggests that whether they contribute might be part of our selection criteria. That “someone” can be something on the scale of a nation or even on the scale of all of humanity. However, that “someone” can also be you, the reader. Part of our thesis is that actions of ordinary people can make a difference. Working on this issue is a way to contribute.
Jim: Ordinary people make a difference because their actions might tweak probabilities, at least by a tiny bit.
James: Right. Our experience is that this is an esoteric pitch. Most people don’t get it, or don’t believe it, or want to leave it to others. In general, that is a good thing. We don’t need everybody in the world working on these issues, although that might help when it comes to voting. We especially don’t need people trying to steer when they have a poor sense of direction, and might steer in the wrong direction.
Jim: Okay, but even if most people don’t answer the call, a small percentage of the world population will. There must be thousands who are working in this area already. Isn’t it a problem when many people try to steer? What if they all steer in different directions?
James: The result is somewhat like a congress or parliament. It can steer in one direction if there is a vote or some form of consensus. Nevertheless, an individual member is not without influence. An individual has at least a small probability of influencing that consensus by presenting good arguments. A consensus of a group of people usually results in better decisions that those of a randomly selected member of the group.
Jim: But suppose we select someone who is well qualified to make the decisions?
James: That might result in better decisions. That is the point of representative democracy, and it is the reason that people are appointed to administrative positions. The best solution might be to have a philosopher king. The problem is that there is no sure way to assure that a candidate for king is the best philosopher.
Puck: But there is no problem. I am available.
James: Puck, your availability illustrates the problem.
Puck: Hey, I make the jokes around here!
James: People who are interested in this area, who can see things that might be done or can see the value of other’s ideas, already have an important qualification. They are already likely to be better than average at making decisions in this area. They already transcend “ordinary”. However, we have seen some raucuous debates among people interested in this area. Perhaps raucous debates are a good way to sort things out, but some people really do seem to be contributing more than others. In addition to self selection, I would also like to suggest practical guidelines and ethical principles for work in this area. Things like “first, do no harm” -- although “first do no harm” isn’t exactly right. We will need to spend some time with guidelines and ethics, and hash them out with dialogs.
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