All of Max Olson's Comments + Replies

Where I have landed on “ideas getting harder to find”, in a nutshell

Agree on these points in general -- and believe this is one of the major reasons for optimism around AI. AI models seem particularly good at navigating high dimensional landscapes if we structure them appropriately. My theory is this will allows us to hugely increase #2, as we now have a better method for searching the solution space.

Addressing any remaining LLM skepticism

I guess it depends on the definition of each of these.

Empathy: No matter how advanced AI gets (true AGI or whatever) there will always be room for human <-> human empathy. AI will never truly have the same experiences as humans. It can pretend or fake like it does -- and I think this could still be useful in many situations, like customer support or low-level therapy. It just wont be totally replaced by it.

Collaboration: Probably the weakest of the 3. Of course any AI can collaborate, and currently they already do. I still believe that for the near f... (read more)

1Jim Muller1yAgreed. And we already have fake empathy on tap in novels, tv shows, and movies. It does have it's pleasures, but it didn't replace us, and neither will fake empathy from bots.
Tyler Cowen AMA

What's your guess on which will end up increasing productivity more: the internet, or the latest AI models?

2Tyler Cowen1yI think they are complements. The internet always can take credit for the AI models, if need be. I think they are both transformative in any case, though the AI models will take a long time to boost gdp in a measurable fashion. In the short run, AI models will make the most productive people, if they are willing to experiment with AI, much more productive.
How can we classify negative effects of new technologies?

That's a good point.

I wouldn't say that "inequality" alone would be a risk category, but more specifically inequality that leads to future brittleness or fragility, as in your example. 

Basically in this case it's path dependant and certain starting conditions could lead to a worse outcome. This obviously could be the case for AI as well.

Increasing Demand for Progress Beyond Desire

As should be obvious by my initial post I am in complete agreement that the demand side of the equation is underrated (the supply side of progress may be more important, but most of existing discussion seems to focus solely on that).

I appreciate your 2nd point on shifting focus more to how people will directly benefit. 

Another question this made me think of is what are the main reasons people don't already see the benefits? Lack of imagination? Incremental innovation over long periods going unnoticed?

To Increase Progress, Increase Desire

Thanks Sebastian. I think this is a good way to think about it. "Nudging" demand away from the more zero-sum endeavors and toward productive ones.

Awareness and action on climate change is an especially good case study. Of course as other things, climate-related tech is both demand and supply driven, but there's no doubt that overall climate awareness has pushed sales of things like solar, EVs, plant-based meats, etc. "goods where when demand increases there are long term positive effects" is a good way to put it.

Your steps 2 and 3 are obviously less clear ... (read more)

To Increase Progress, Increase Desire

Thanks for the thoughts Jason — helped me think a bit more about the idea. 

See my response to @daviskedrosky, but I totally agree that in general it is supply-driven. It's more that I wanted to give more attention to the demand side because it's not talked about as much. It is a chicken-and-egg problem in the end (and my post doesn't really discuss the balance).

In regard to "People don't clamor explicitly for new products and services" I don't think this is totally true, and it is a mix. And I do think that demand is much more important than many beli... (read more)

To Increase Progress, Increase Desire

Completely agree, and thank you for that perspective. It's a bit of a "chicken vs. egg" problem in that sense, and it's hard to think of anything that is completely supply or demand driven. It does seem like it's more supply driven in general, although I'm happy to put attention on the demand side because I think it's being neglected.

When should an idea that smells like research be a startup?

I really like this framing of research-y ideas. Matches what I was thinking in a conversation with an angel investor on the difficulties of investing in frontier-tech startups.

It seems like the key for startup funding is finding profitable intermediate goals. Optimizable projects within the bigger, non-global-critical-path effort.

This is basically what SpaceX did to me. Building a colony on mars is a clear goal but has no global critical path. However “drastically lower cost of payload to orbit” does (albeit with some “fatness” in it for sure). And more ob... (read more)

Progress studies as an (incomplete) “idea machine”

Thinking out loud here...

Would want to keep any agenda specific enough to drive outcomes, but not too specific as to turn people off from petty disagreements. Balance it at some middle level of abstraction, and make it very straightforward/logical that the agenda leads to progress. What are the different areas an agenda could cover?

Specific technologies -- as you mentioned, something like "progress is good. energy allows more progress. cheaper energy allows more energy. nuclear is cheaper energy. nuclear is good => promote nuclear"

Media -- definitive st... (read more)

2ErikSchmidt1y"Would want to keep any agenda specific enough to drive outcomes, but not too specific as to turn people off from petty disagreements." I think unfortunately, this is the equivalent of eating your cake and having it too. Progress studies, if it's actionable, largely is going to impact into the political world (because we want to do xyz things, which government has some presence in, to accelerate the pace of progress), so disagreement is going to exist. For instance, you mention regulations that "if removed or revisited" would increase progress. Two areas that come to mind for me are housing construction and nuclear regulation - but these are contentious, political topics. If we actually want to achieve real-world things here, I think specificity is unfortunately required.