[Question] What makes people intellectually active?

What is the difference between a smart person who has read the sequences and considers AI x-risk important and interesting, but continues to be primarily a consumer of ideas, and someone who starts having ideas? I am not trying to set a really high bar here—they don’t have to be good ideas. They can’t be off-the-cuff either, though. I’m talking about someone taking their ideas through multiple iterations.

A person does not need to research full-time to have ideas. Ideas can come during downtime. Maybe it is something you think about during your commute, and talk about occasionally at a lesswrong meetup.

There is something incomplete about my model of people doing this vs not doing this. I expect more people to have more ideas than they do.

AI alignment is the example I’m focusing on, but the missing piece of my world-model extends much more broadly than that. How do some people end up developing sprawling intellectual frameworks, while others do not?

There could be a separate “what could someone do about it” question, but I want to avoid normative/​instrumental connotations here to focus on the causal chains. Asking someone “why don’t you do more?” has a tendency to solicit answers like “yeah I should do more, I’m bottlenecked on willpower”—but I don’t think willpower is the distinguishing factor between cases I observe. (Maybe there is something related involved, but I mostly don’t think of intellectual productivity as driven by a top-down desire to be intellectually productive enforced by willpower.)

I have some candidate models, but all my evidence is anecdotal and everything seems quite shaky.

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