[ExI] What are among the world's most important problems to solve, why?

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sat Jul 9 14:08:11 UTC 2016

On 2016-07-09 14:45, William Flynn Wallace wrote:
> ​Yes, there is a difference between a puzzle and a problem, but where 
> are the guidelines here?  Why not solve all important problems?  ???  
> If they weren't interfering with the human race they would not be 
> called important.  Some explication is needed here.

Gender equality, world hunger, and avoiding extinction-level nuclear war 
are all important. But if you fail at solving the last one having found 
solutions to the other two is pretty moot.

Xrisks are special because they cut off all the good of the future, so 
stopping them early has a great deal of value. Some problems have 
multiplicative effects on other things: deworming in subsaharan Africa 
does not just making kids healthier, but also improves school results 
and intelligence, which in turn boosts the economy. Fixing ageing fixes 
a host of other chronic diseases plus boosts human capital. 
Meta-problems are often under-researched, elastic and useful to solve early.

I sketch out some ways to select problems right in this little essay, 
with some medicine-related examples in the final section:

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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