Technological unemployment as another test for rationalist winning

Ultimately, rationalism should help people win. Scott Alexander claims that the surge of the price of Bitcoin was a test of that:

...suppose God had decided, out of some sympathy for our project, to make winning as easy as possible for rationalists. He might have created the biggest investment opportunity of the century, and made it visible only to libertarian programmers willing to dabble in crazy ideas. And then He might have made sure that all of the earliest adapters were Less Wrong regulars, just to make things extra obvious.

This was the easiest test case of our “make good choices” ability that we could possibly have gotten, the one where a multiply-your-money-by-a-thousand-times opportunity basically fell out of the sky and hit our community on its collective head. So how did we do?

I would say we did mediocre.

Five years later, suppose God wanted to give rationalists another test. But instead of the opportunity to win big, He wanted to test whether they could avoid losing hard. He might create the largest workforce disruption of the century, driven by an unpredictable technology (which the rationalists happen to know the most about) and primarily affecting white-collar workers (which most rationalists are). If rationalism truly helps people predict the future and make better decisions, rationalists who work should survive the incoming wave of AI-driven job automation better than everyone else.

Of course, this only applies for those whose jobs are truly in danger. I’m pursuing a career in AI alignment research – if that becomes automated, none of this matters. But suppose, like many of us, you’re a software engineer. You should be paying careful attention to forecasts related to your future compensation and learning how to use the latest tools which accelerate your productivity relative to your competitors. And if things start looking really grim, since you know about Moravec’s paradox and status quo bias, you’d start learning valuable blue-collar skills earlier than your developer friends who are also at risk of getting laid off.

Most artists didn’t expect robots to become creative and thus didn’t prepare accordingly. Then, DALL-E 2 happened, rendering many of the skills they spent years mastering economically useless. This should be a warning shot for everyone else who thinks they’re rational: think ahead, don’t get caught off guard, and act on your beliefs, and maybe you’ll remain economically valuable up until the singularity.