All of Donald Hobson's Comments + Replies

Why Governments Can't be Trusted to Protect the Long-run Future

For something that is long term, but only effects the property of 1 person, like the field example, the market prices it in and it's not an externality.

No one is significantly incentivized to stop climate change, because no one person bears a significant fraction of the damage caused.

Politicians are far from perfect, but at least they have any incentive to tackle these big problems at all.

1Maxwell Tabarrok11dWell if it affects one plot of land that is currently the property of just 1 person it can still be an externality because lots of different people will own this land in the future.
Radical Energy Abundance

I have yet to see a good case against AI doom. 

The Next Einstein Could Be From Anywhere: Why Developing Country Growth Matters for Progress

I don't think most of these "next einstein" arguments prove what you think they do. 

If you want to increase the chances of string theory breakthroughs, you want to find the sort of people that have a high chance of understanding string theory, and push them even further. If any genetic component is relatively modest, then it becomes mostly pick someone, and throw lots of resources at educating them. If genetics or randomness control a lot, but are easily observed, then it's looking out for young maths prodigies and helping them. 

Ensuring widely s... (read more)

Small signs you live in a complacent society

Have you considered printing off a few sheets of paper, getting some glue, and just adding a few signs yourself? ;-)

Why slow progress is more dangerous than fast progress

Some tech, like seatbelts, are almost pure good. Some techs, like nukes are almost pure bad. Some, like cars, we might want to wait until we develop seatbelts and traffic lights for before we use widely. It depends on the technology. 

Philosophy in Space

Elon musk is very good at making himself the center of as many conversations about technology as possible. 

He should not be taken as a source of information of any reliability. 


Living on mars with tech not too far beyond current tech is like living in antarctica today. It's possible, but it isn't clear why you would want to. A few researchers on a base, not much else. 

Think ISS but with red dust out the windows. 

At some point, which might be soon or not so soon, tech is advanced enough that it becomes easy to get to mars. But at t... (read more)

Will Technology Keep Progressing? (A Happier World video)

I don't think the "aside from the internet, nothing much". Firstly comuter and internet tech have been fairly revolutionary across substantial chunks of industry and our daily lives. This is the "a smartphone is only 1 device so doesn't count as much progress" thinking. Without looking at the great pile of abacuses and slide rules and globes and calculators and alarm clocks and puzzle toys and landline phones and cameras and cassette tapes and ... that it replaced and improved on. 

Secondly, there are loads of random techs that were invented recently, ... (read more)

Against Altruism

If longtermists existed back when blacks were widely regarded as morally inferior to whites, would the moral calculus of the longtermists have included the prosperity of future blacks or not? It seems like it couldn't possibly have included that. More generally, longtermism can't take into account progress in moral knowledge, nor what future generations will choose to value. Longtermists impose their values onto future generations.

It is true that we can't predict future moral knowledge. However.

  1. An intervention by someone from that time period that helps mo
... (read more)