A funny thing a lot of people don’t realize about WeFunder is that they’ll only promote a page if the page raises above a certain amount before the official public launch of that page. Effectively this also means that humanity’s current best option for mitigating existential risk at scale will have the probability of being successfully funded strongly influenced when the clock hits 0.
People are fond of imagining tipping points and butterfly effects, but every once in a while those moments come around. One of my favorite studies was done on comparing how many people considered extinction to be “uniquely bad” depending on what future they saw as the alternative. Most people didn’t find the idea of extinction quite so bad if the future was more of the same, and yet when the alternative was a “Utopian” world of relative abundance that quickly changed.
Personally, I find extinction uniquely bad in no small part because I see the world of abundance which stands as the alternative. It seems silly that such a thing should be so strongly influenced by promotion, but these are the systems that humanity has built. Even if missing the mark for such a thing only increased the existential risk to humanity by 10% or even 1%, that increase is pure “uniquely bad”.
Perhaps it won’t matter, and humanity will overwhelmingly vote in one direction or the other regardless of the policies and promotion of one platform.
Even for those purely looking for financial gain, I wonder if perhaps they’ve forgotten the words of Bill Gates:
”If you invent a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, so machines can learn, that is worth 10 Microsofts.”
Let’s consider what Bill Gates’s scenario could look like applied to the first such system to meet his criteria. Even if one were to conservatively assume that our team was no better equipped to run a startup than average, which appears to be a pretty low bar these days, that would mean 10% odds of success.
On April 11th, 1986 Microsoft stock was worth $0.10.
On June 25th, 2021 Microsoft stock was worth $265.02.
Microsoft’s Market Cap rose to 2 Trillion USD.
So $265.02 / $0.10 means that the gains were 2,650.2 fold, and a breakthrough worth 10 times that would be a 26,502 fold gain.
There is a useful equation called the Expected Utility Hypothesis for estimating the value of probabilities:
0.9(0) + 0.1(26,502) = 2650.2
To put it another way, if the stakes on that were $5,000 then the return would be a 10% chance of 132.5 million, if Gates is correct anyway.
Now, there are plenty of other options for investors, like the companies who make the e-scooters gathering dust on the sidewalk, or any number of useless chatbots, or yet another supplier of niche alcohol. However, people seem to forget that the value of their portfolio suffers when extinction occurs, so it is generally a good idea to avoid it.
This train is leaving the station soon, and everyone has their chance to choose a better destination than the one we’re departing.