Saturday, 18 April 2015

Picking the Right Fields

One of my goals is to see the world in a hundred years from now, that is 2115. Sadly, even if I reached the maximum observed human lifespan of 122 years, I’d still only make it another 90 years.
Seeing 2115 requires three things to occur: live long enough for the right technology to be developed, make humans not have to die anymore, and avoid global catastrophic risks. Here are my very rough estimates for the minimum amount of money that needs to be spent over the next 10 years to solve each problem
  • Live long: $0.5 million
  • No death: $1MM
  • No catastrophes: greater than $10 billion

Live long enough for the right technology to be developed

I need about $50,000 annually to live a good life. This involves purchasing creature comforts and signing up for cryonics. 10 years of this gives $0.5 million. Sadly, cryonics is not yet guaranteed to work, otherwise I could just put myself to sleep right now for much less money.

Make humans not have to die anymore

I see two paths to this
  1. Suspended animation: This involves preserving the body (or at least the brain) before it is information theoretically dead. Through private conversations with researchers in chemo- and cryo-preservation I learnt that it’ll take roughly $1 million and 3 years to develop procedures to preserve a human brain. This assumes, of course, that the vast majority of what makes us human lies in our brains.
  2. SENS research program: The SENS research foundation funds a research program at many different universities to cure aging by reversing the cellular damage that accumulates over our lifetimes. Their founder estimates that it’ll take $200 million to $1 billion dollars over 10 years to make the fastest progress on solving the problem of death.

Avoid global catastrophic risks

The few risks I looked into all would cost more than $10 billion over the next 10 years to avert. For instance, the 2015 U.S. budget has $1.6 billion for nuclear non-proliferation and at least $1.2 billion for biodefense. Surprisingly, artificial intelligence risk had no estimate I could find.

Next Actions

I’ve begun working on extending my healthy life span by increasing exercise, eating better, avoiding smoking, and driving more carefully
I’m also volunteering with the Brain Preservation Foundation, which funds research into cryonics and other means of brain preservation. Hopefully we’ll spur even better preservation protocols to be developed so that within a decade far fewer people will have to die any more.
FAI research seems potentially high leverage as well despite, or maybe because of, its unknown costs.There are very few people working on the related problems now (I couldn’t even find a precise definition of control problem), and yet it requires no specialized equipment, just a brain and an Internet connection. This suggests that trying to solve FAI-related problems could be unusually useful.

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