Founder, The Roots of Progress (rootsofprogress.org)

Wiki Contributions

Load More


How can we classify negative effects of new technologies?

As I was writing that post, I was thinking in the back of my mind about this distinction:

  • Operational safety: safety from things that are already happening, where we can learn from experience, iterate on solutions, and improve safety metrics over time
  • Development safety: safety from new technology that hasn't been developed yet, where we try to mitigate the harms ahead of time, by theoretical models of risk/harm, or by early small-scale testing ahead of deployment, etc.
Draft for comment: Towards a philosophy of safety

This is now revised and published, thanks all for your comments! Some key revisions:

  • Calling safety a *dimension* of progress instead of a “part”
  • Discussion of tradeoffs between the dimensions
  • Discussion of sequencing in general and DTD in particular
Jason's links and tweets, 2022-09-08

I think the biggest benefit is globalizing the talent market. The more remote work we have, the more companies can hire from the entire global talent pool, and workers can choose from the entire global set of employers. That is a vast labor market expansion.

Draft for comment: Towards a philosophy of safety

It was halted de facto if not de jure, at least in the US.

I think if it had not been stunted, we'd have lots of cheap, reliable, clean nuclear power, and I doubt that nuclear proliferation would have been significantly accelerated—do you think it would have been?

Why was progress so slow in the past?

Yes, I agree. But note that new breakthrough technologies open up whole new fields of ideas that are suddenly “easy to find”—as per your very example. So another way to look at the question is what affects the rate of growth in new fields.

Draft for comment: Towards a philosophy of safety

Ah, thanks, I have read a little bit of Searching for Safety in the past, but had forgotten about this.

I largely agree with this approach. The one problem is when dealing with catastrophic risks, you can't afford to have an error. In the case of existential risk, there is literally no way to learn or recover from mistakes. In general the worse the risk, the more you need careful analysis and planning up front.

A Progress Studies History of Early MIT — Part 1: Training the engineers who built the country

This (and part 2, which maybe isn't on the forum yet?) were really interesting, thanks. Pairs well with American Genesis, which I am in the middle of. 

Do you think engineering programs today are turning out students who aren't suited to the needs of industry? My only first-hand experience here is with computer science graduates and professional software engineering. It's true that software development in industry involves a bunch of learning and wisdom that you don't get in school and only develop on the job—for instance, how to write code to deal with errors, how to monitor a web site/app for high availability, etc. It's further true that the professors don't teach the practical industry stuff because they don't know it themselves, never having done it. I could see improvement in those areas. On the other hand, I've always felt that the formal education did provide something valuable and that learning the rest on the job worked fairly well.

A New Materials Paradigm Is Overdue

Another future potential to consider is atomically precise manufacturing—true “nanotech”, rather than simply nanomaterials—which could allow some really incredible possibilities such as manufacturing or construction with diamond. See Where Is My Flying Car?

That blog series looks great, thank you!

A New Materials Paradigm Is Overdue

This was interesting, thanks. Totally agree that plastic is underrated, and that materials in general are underappreciated.

I would love to hear more of the history of how plastic was developed, and to understand better what all the different types of plastic are and how they relate to each other.

Synbio is a likely source of new materials; also nanotech?

Load More