One way to influence the future is to improve human decision-making—to make people smarter, encourage metacognition, improve institutional decision-making, etc. Any of these changes will probably have an impact on how future folk manage the problems they face, and on the sorts of infrastructure and capabilities they in turn build for the farther future. Even if we don’t know what those problems will be, or what exactly we would want smarter or better-educated people to do, it seems like a safe bet that there will be opportunities for them to apply their increased capabilities.
But at the same time, I think most of the problems humans face are caused by humans. So if you make humans better at doing whatever they do, you speed up the creation of problems as well as their resolution.
Nevertheless, I tend to suspect that increasing human capabilities is a positive change on balance. I’m not sure about this, or about the magnitude of the impact; since it looks like capability improvements might be leading contenders for altruistic interventions, it seems like an important question. Depending on the answer, I may decide to work directly on the biggest problems I can see, or instead to help prepare future folk to do the same. Read the rest of this entry »