In general, the more you read about any particular topic, the more you think about it. And the more you read about any particular point of view, the more you agree with it (see attitude polarization). So, if there’s something you want to get more involved in- transhumanism, science, math, or doing good deeds in general- read about it! Read, read, read all you can. You’ll become more knowledgeable. You’ll be able to assist newcomers. You’ll gain the respect of the community. But be sure to get knowledge from a variety of different sources, even critical or stupid ones. Otherwise, you’ll risk falling into a cult.
Firefox has spell-checking built in. I’m not sure how many IE users are aware of this, but to all the bloggers and authors of the world: please switch to Firefox, it’ll save us a great deal of hassle.
America, in 2008, is one of the most heavily regulated societies in the world. If you want to smoke pot in America, you have to get a permit (and even then, it’s still illegal under federal law). If you want to drive, you have to wear a seatbelt. If you want to invest your cash, it has to be SEC-approved. If you want to build a building, even on your own property, it had better conform to the building codes. If you want a new roof, you need a permit. On and on and on it goes…
And yet, when it comes to raising children, our society has very few regulations. There are no, or very few, requirements to become a parent in the U.S. People who are too incompetent to get a drivers’ license, or get a job at McDonalds, are free to have and raise as many kids as they want. Even mental illness, in many cases, is no barrier to having a child. The result is an endless procession of kids who grew up in dysfunctional households and never had a chance to live the American Dream. Millions of children run away every year, even though many have no place to go and wind up homeless.
As a side note, there are endless regulations on what the kids can and can’t do. According to Psychology Today, even teenagers have twice as many restrictions as incarcerated felons. This does not appear to be helping.
In all of the examples I listed earlier, nobody is affected except you if you make a stupid mistake. All of those regulations, and many more, could be safely gotten rid of; if people want to make stupid mistakes, we can’t stop them, and we shouldn’t bother to try. In this case, however, we as a society need to make an exception. Amid all the cries of “protect the children“, wouldn’t it be nice if someone, somewhere actually protected the children?
Basic principle of economics: Irrationality creates money pumps, while rationality takes advantage of money pumps.
A money pump is formed whenever people’s actions get out of line with Bayesian decision theory. For a simple example, consider the endless series of booms and busts in the stock market. Logically, any investor should buy low and sell high to make a profit. However, when a stock starts to go up, people become excited about it, and start buying more than they should. Conversely, when a stock starts to fall, people panic and rapidly sell it all off. If you can figure out when these booms and busts are happening, you can make a huge wad of cash. And if you get caught up in them, you can lose a huge wad of cash (remember the dot-com bubble?).
In a perfectly rational market, therefore, nobody should be able to make a profit (on average) by simply buying and selling. Any profit-making opportunity will be exploited until it gradually disappears. And then, perhaps, all the billionaire banksters would have to start making wealth for a living, and we’d all be better off.
In the meantime, I’ve written some software to automatically identify and exploit stock market imbalances. Current predicted return: 1,227% (yes, one thousand two hundred twenty-seven percent). This month I’ll see how well it works in practice.
Suppose that, in total, it costs around $2,000,000,000 to reach the Singularity. This does *not* include technologies such as faster computer chips, higher networking speeds, better programming languages, etc; these will all be developed anyway even if the inventors never know about the Singularity. $2 billion, even over several decades, is more than enough for a full-time programming staff, professional researchers, a dedicated facility, and all the other stuff in a modern university. Obviously, this is only a rough guess, but I’m confident it’s right to within a factor of 20 or so.
Currently, there are around 6.5 billion people on the planet, most in developing countries. Even with industrialization and birth control, we’re still expected to reach 8 billion by 2025 or so. Each and every one of these people is genetically programmed to die. We all, in a very real sense, have a lethal genetic disorder. A Singularity, beyond the other benefits it might bring, could cure all of us quickly and easily.
So, doing out the math, to save one human life would cost… around a quarter. That’s it. Thanks to inflation, almost nothing costs a quarter anymore; even vending machines often require a dollar or more. Millions of people gave blood last year, even though it’s inconvenient and moderately painful, to save lives. Surely we can all donate a quarter.
For everyone who’s been following the American political situation, or watching the American media:
The media has zero legal obligation to be fair.
Nowhere, in any federal, state, or local statute, does it say that the media has to be fair. A TV station, radio station, blogger, or giant corporation can be as biased as it darn well pleases. In fact, the media has no legal obligation to tell the truth, so long as it doesn’t commit libel or slander. If you want fair media, you need to encourage people to stop listening to biased reporters. Don’t even bother complaining to the government (yes, I’m looking at you, Parents Television Council). They couldn’t do anything even if they wanted to- the First Amendment forbids it.