Will marginal increases in global GDPincrease xrisk?

Will we transcend our human bodies? Extend our lives? Create superhuman artificial intelligence? Mitigate existential risks? etc.
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Jesper Östman
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Will marginal increases in global GDPincrease xrisk?

Post by Jesper Östman » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:20 pm

Adapted from a facebook-comment:

It all hangs on the empirical estimations of various existential risks. However, it is important to note the difference between a marginal decrease in the current pace of general technological development and a permanent halting of technology development (which is likely impossible to cause, except through causing some global catastrophe).

Consider Bostrom's metaphor of a rocket trying to navigate through a minefield - the only safe place is on the other side of the field. However, although it is unwise to halt the thrust to the rocket permanently it is also unwise to just assume that max throttle is optimal.

So the question turns into the question of what pace of general technology development minimizes existential risk. My current best estimate is that it is a lower pace than the current pace.

There are two main components for this reasoning. 1: The current existential risks seem relatively low. Few natural risks seem to have a higher chance than perhaps 1 in 100000 of killing us during the next 100 years. Also, according to what I have heard from scientists in the relevant areas the extinction risks from nukes and climate change seem also extremely low. (note that I am only considering existential risk here, not GCRs).

On the other hand emerging technologies such as biotech, molecular nanotech and AI seem much more risky (technology development might also uncover more risks). Experts surveyed on the area give much higher subjective extinction risk estimates for such emerging technology risks.

Now, speeding up the development will take us from the very low risk era to a transitional high-risk era.

2: Existential risk reduction seems more dependent on other factors than general economical progress (in contrast to general technology development). Here much depends on areas like FAI-research, lobbying, spreading awareness and so forth.

Thus to conclude, it seems like a marginal increase in GDP will get us earlier into a high-risk era unprepared, whereas a slower growth would allow us to become more prepared when we enter the risky era.

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Arepo
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Re: Will marginal increases in global GDPincrease xrisk?

Post by Arepo » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:38 pm

The other key part of the question is how closely public opinion/propagation 'good' philosophy is linked to GDP. If it's high, then we can afford more ethicists (if you think that's a good thing) for example. Reducing GDP could actually increase risk, if it creates more social instability/makes the public tend to be less altrustic.
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Hedonic Treader
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Re: Will marginal increases in global GDPincrease xrisk?

Post by Hedonic Treader » Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:57 pm

Jesper Östman wrote:Existential risk reduction seems more dependent on other factors than general economical progress (in contrast to general technology development). Here much depends on areas like FAI-research, lobbying, spreading awareness and so forth.
One factor is whether these risk-reduction activities are correlated with GDP. Let's say there's nanotech safety research, but it is costly. Less economic growth may increase the time window before the nanotech x-risks become prevalent, but it may also reduce funding for the safety research. The question then becomes whether these effects cancel, or one is stronger than the other.
However, although it is unwise to halt the thrust to the rocket permanently it is also unwise to just assume that max throttle is optimal.
Is it possible that there is a minimum speed required so that the rocket doesn't run out of fuel before it reaches the other side?
"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it... Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."

- Dr. Alfred Velpeau (1839), French surgeon

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