Holmes IV and the Three Themes

This blog is a somewhat whimsical (“we’re all going to die”) collection of thoughts and links that I run across. But there may be some unifying themes: (1) climate change; (2) how to ensure that technology, and especially artificial intelligence, is a strong net positive for safety, human rights, and growth; and (3) how to ensure that institutions make good decisions, for example, about the first two themes. I want to push the conversation and activity in the right direction, but, for better or worse, my ability to make a difference on each of these issues various.

Climate change. I don’t know much about the science of climate change, but I am very worried about it. I believe our failure to act is immoral and reckless. Our children and their children will lead worse lives. As far as I can tell, the best I can do is (1) pay attention; (2) vote; and (3) donate to worthy causes. Otherwise I am circling and trying to amplify intelligent policies and conversation. If I find more strategies I will write about them.

Ensuring that AI has a strong, positive impact. AI has the potential to dramatically change human potential and reorganize society. And we are at an inflection point. Like all powerful tools, it could reignite our economies and lead us to an age of unimaginable safety and well-being. It could also be used as a tool for oppression and human displacement. What policies will ensure that AI is a strong net positive? Tackling this issue requires a strong understanding of both AI and law, for which I am well-positioned. I will continue to write and act on this topic.

Ensuring that institutions are capable of making good decisions. Our ability to make evidence-based decisions is critical to progress. We want peace, safety, health, growth, and life satisfaction. We are better at getting these things than we were 200 years ago, and that’s because we have (by and large) made good decisions. But that capability has seemed to trend negatively in the past few years. Why? How can we get better?

  • Grabbing the low-hanging fruit. There are many policies that have consensus expert support but we just don’t do them. This is the diet-and-exercise challenge: we know it’s good for us, but we have a hard time doing it. How can we improve?
  • Thinking long-term. We don’t have natural intuition for the effects of compounding or exponential technological change. How can we improve our ability to plan for the future?
  • Breaking into the attention economy. A few giant tech corporations have demonstrated over the past decade that they have an incredible ability to capture our attention, and they make money doing it. Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc. have all employed sophisticated machine learning models to predict the right content to keep you watching. They learn, get better, and compete with each other. And we spend longer looking at their content and advertisements. It’s hard to make good decisions when no one is paying attention. What can we do about this?

These are my passions and projects in the next phase of my life.