Good morning, dear children of earthbound subspecies,
And listen, my friends, to some spellbinding theses!
These names of importance, and cyber-distinction,
Instruct how to thrive whilst avoiding extinction!
The hopes of Ray Kurzweil, the warnings of Bostrom,
Yudkowsky, from rational, digital rostrums,
Our debt to the future, the sin that meanders,
By William MacAskill and Scott Alexanders
The arguments rendered, complex and exquisite,
Still warrant synopses to parse and revisit.
And so, in some frolicky, whimsical style,
Their value and virtue we aim to compile,
And hopefully, build an insatiable habit,
To ponder your goals, and your place on our planet!
The world fills our airwaves with negative mantras,
The vitriol rages from nervous Cassandras,
The dissatisfactions of snarky polemics,
The changing of climates and global pandemics
But skillful partitions and sense philosophic
Must figure if risks are, in fact, catastrophic,
For temperatures rise and the sea levels too,
And our gasoline guzzlers still spew CO2
And humans continue their coughs and sneezes,
And incubate microbes and viral diseases
So while loss of life and of limb can appall,
The risks named above can kill some, but not all.
For human attempts to be shrewdly prudential,
Shine spotlights on factors and risks existential
While some risks have probable, likelier odds,
Some others are truly the wrath of harsh gods,
And thus, though the climate and COVID are scary,
Some oft-ignored threats give us cause to be wary.
An asteroid impact event and its craters,
Some nuclear bombs and destructive dictators,
A gamma-ray burst from irradiant skies,
Misguided alignments from strong AGIs,
A supervolcano’s effusive eruption,
And other potential celestial destruction,
An autocrat’s values we’ll choose to decry,
Unless we’re entrapped by his rogue BCI!
Now none of these horrors are probable, true,
But all end the game if their outcomes ensue,
Dystopian screeds, oft a fictional topic,
Pen risks we perceive to hold odds microscopic
But should we, as people, endure ‘cross the ages,
Improbable odds do compound like our wages,
And so, as we ride our terrestrial lorry,
We’ll either be safe or we’ll surely be sorry!
While naysayers pity the plight of our scions,
The doomsayers err, be they Erlichs or Mayans,
Malthusians year-after-year, still dissenting
Pose scarcity problems and other lamenting.
But billions accrue in the world’s population,
And hunger still falls, though each seeks satiation!
The climate will change while our tech is evolving,
But offers to catalyze new problem-solving
For once, in Manhattan, the doubters were sure,
That sooner or later, it’d sink in manure!
But as they inferred exponential profusions,
The automobile proved a fine substitution!
And thus, we remember, amidst each recession,
Historical records of human progression,
Some say that the past was transcendent, averring,
Lugubrious fools if those years they’re preferring.
Would anyone choose to go backwards in era?
In London, Riyadh, in New York, in Canberra?
And thus, as we ponder the future entrusted,
Expect some improvements, more life-years, adjusted!
Technology gains, life expectancy scaling,
More bushels per acre, more med-tech unveiling,
While ancestors perished in birthing and warring,
In total, survival and safety is soaring.
And thus, the afflictions of lifestyle and aging,
Evince human gains and the suff’ring assuaging
So when short-term pains plague the world or the market,
Know minds are dry tinder, and outlook can spark it!
Imagine the arc of your earthly existence,
The joys and the pains and the paths to subsistence.
But now, please consider the total of lives,
Each cradle-to-grave, every egg that survives.
You live every life, not just yours on the earth,
Each caveman and spaceman, each lord and each serf,
And now you imagine the lives still to come,
The trillions of arcs spawns a new rule of thumb.
When pondering life and the value of humans,
How many are lost by a planet in ruins?
Are lives in the distance of lesser importance?
If not, long-term thinking’s a needed affordance!
But finance, instills dispositions short-sighted,
Returns in a decade leave banks unexcited!
The EBIT we chase, the constraints we impose
As PEs and VCs chase their next IPOs
The exit next quarter on which we rely,
Inhibits pursuits of long-term ROI,
The “value” creation to which we aspire,
Should never have end dates at which we retire.
And thinking longterm spawns superior choices,
Inspired decisions from sobering voices
And suddenly risks that seem distant become,
A proximal threat to which once, we were numb
For while households ponder the recent inflation,
A brewing concern is potential stagnation
For even small risks, given adequate eons,
Will vanquish all folks, from the lords to the peons,
And as we aspire to true non-senescence,
The X-risks before then demand convalescence,
This wisdom required is near and endemic,
Humility brought to our work epistemic,
Too slow to progress, and the X-risk accrues?
Too fast to develop, and chaos ensues?
But every decision and act philanthropic,
Should focus longterm, and be never myopic!
Neglected Problems & Approaches
While pondering risks and the persons affected,
Consider the issues and problems neglected
The charity flows to the climate and cancers,
But thousands of causes need funding and answers!
The optimal act, all you givers and scholars,
Should maximize impact of marginal dollars!
Amelioration of global compunctions
Begins with convexity lurking in functions
Will subsequent dollars diminish in meaning
Or yield exponential results for redeeming?
In building the future and longtermist hope,
Consider the cause and its scale and its scope!
So what do you think is a cause worth exploring?
What tail-risk events are we blithely ignoring?
The future we leave to a son or a daughter
Needs highways and pipes, not just clean air and water!
Some popular causes are chic and romantic,
With speakers of fame and platoons sycophantic
But please look beyond this parochial locus,
And find what’s ignored for your dollars and focus!
And thus, the deontic request for solutions,
Must reach folks of wealth and august institutions!
When impact is crucial and capital’s lacking,
Demand some results from the causes you’re backing!
Should impact be measured in gains, economic?
Deworming intestines or research atomic?
Or is larger impact derived from careers?
You can’t give away with your bills in arrears!
Should lives be devoted to work, altruistic?
Or pass on all earnings in acts Calvinistic?
Consider the impact of all your achievement
To better the world and diminish bereavement
For some would fare better as doctors and nurses,
While others might flourish with chapters and verses,
Regardless, we prosper by choosing the powers
We aim to develop through thousands of hours
And what we retain for our comfort today,
Might boost what we gain and can then give away.
There’s no simple rule for the acts that you should
Complete in your life to achieve the most good
We only would ask that you’re thoughtful, selective,
In how you distinguish which act’s most effective
Your time and your money and bod’ly equipment
Are finite for sure, and require commitment
Integrity, charity, minds scientific
Can help build a subsequent world, beatific
So offer a thought to the life that you’re living,
The time that you’re spending, and cash that you’re giving
If messages here are at all worth construing,
Then surely there’s books to be read, work for doing!
So while jobs compete and the FAANG menace poaches,
Go think for yourself, try neglected approaches!
For AGI, BCI, try some new queries!
We’ve burned up careers by the gross on string theories!
So read, write, and think, and then teach us your learnings.
Go startup a hedge fund and donate the earnings.
Go challenge assumptions and values we’ve chosen,
Before AGI leaves us ethically frozen!
Experiment broadly with code and ideas
And don’t be deterred if they ain’t panaceas!
So heed this impassioned and childish distraction,
Go forth in the world, find a cause, and take action!
Written By: Evan Coopersmith & AE Studio