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

Anders anders at aleph.se
Sat Jul 9 20:02:34 UTC 2016

On 2016-07-09 17:25, William Flynn Wallace wrote:
> A good article.  However, it does not explain the apparent paradox of 
> labeling a problem 'important' and then saying it does not deserve to 
> be solved.

No, I am arguing that important problems may still be deferred to later. 
Fixing the sun's expansion into a red giant is important, but it would 
be stupid to reallocate resources used for pandemic readiness today into 
solving it.

> Once I woke up in a car, after overindulging in beer, and found that 
> we were going very fast down a lonely road.  So I asked and he said 
> that he was lost, and that his theory was to go as fast as he can so 
> that he will find out sooner if he is going the wrong way.  Fits right 
> in to your article.  I did solve the problem by looking out the 
> windows, seeing the Big Dipper in the back window, and telling the 
> driver that we were going South - which was wrong.

Figuring out where one should be going before spending effort going 
forward is rational. In a car it might not be too costly to drive a few 
miles wrong and maybe time is precious, but given the nonzero danger of 
driving fast in unknown areas at night your friend probably made a bad 
cost/benefit calculation.

The more costly mistakes or wasted effort (typically because of 
opportunity costs) are, the more effort it is rational to put into 
planning where one should go.

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

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