Compilation of currently existing project ideas to significantly impact the world

One of the problems the LW, EA, CFAR X-risk community has been faced with recently discussed on Slate Star Codex is the absorption of people interested in researching, volunteering, helping, participating in the community. A problem worth subdividing into how to get new people into the social community, which is addressed on the link above, and separate problem, absorbing their skills, ability, and willingness to volunteer, to which this post is dedicated:

What should specific person Smith do to help in the project of preventing X-risk, improving the world, saving lives? We assume here Smith will not be a donor—in which case the response would be “donate” - joined the community not long ago and has a skill set X.

Soon this problem will become worse due to influx of more people brought in by the soon to be published books by MacAskill, Yudkowsky and Singer coming out. There will be more people wanting to do something, and able to do some sorts of projects, but who are not being allocated any specific project that matches their skill set and values.

Now is a good time to solve it. I was talking about this problem today with Stephen Frey and we considered it would be a good idea to have a list of specific technical or research projects that can be broken down into smaller chunks for people to pick up and do. A Getting Things Done list for researchers and technology designers. Preferably those would be tractable projects that can be done in fewer than three months. There are some lists of open problems in AI and Superintelligence control, but not for many X-risks or other problems that some of the community frequently considers important.

So I decided to make a compilation of the questions and problems we already have listed here, and then ask someone (Oliver Habryka or a volunteer in the comment section here) to transform the compiled set into a standardized format.

A tentative category list

Area: X-risk, AI, Anti-aging, Cryonics, Rationality, IA, Self-Improvement, Differential Technological Development, Strategy, Civilizational Inadequacy, etc… describes what you have to value/​disvalue in order for this project to match your values.

Project: description of which actions need to be taken in 3 month period for this project to be considered complete.

Context: if part of a larger project, which is it, and how will it connect to other parts. Also justification for that project.

Notes: any relevant constraints that may play a role, time-sensitivity, costs, number of people, location, etc...

For example at Luke’s list of Superintelligence research questions, the first one:

  1. How strongly does IQ predict rationality, metacognition, and philosophical sophistication, especially in the far right tail of the IQ distribution? Relevant to the interaction of intelligence amplification and FAI chances. See the project guide here.

Would be rendered as

Area: FAI ; Project: Read Rationality and the Reflective Mind, by Keith Stanovich, to become familiar with the model of algorithmic and reflective minds. For this project, investigating metacognition means investigating the reflective mind. Find ways to test Stanovich’s predictions and answer the questions in the previous section. Design the study to give participants tests which high a IQ should help with and tests which a high IQ should not help with. This step will involve searching through Rationality and the Reflective Mind, and then directly contacting Stanovich to ask which tests he has not yet conducted. Context: this is the first of two part sub-study investigating IQ and metacognition, and needs being followed by conducting a new study investigating the correlation. These parts are complimentary with the study of IQ and philosophical success, and are relevant to assess the impact that intelligence augmentation will have in our likelihood of generating Friendly Artificial Intelligence. Notes: needs to be conducted by someone with a researcher affiliation and capacity to conduct a study on human subjects later, six month commitment, some science writing experience.

Edit: Here is a file where to start compiling projects—thanks Stephen!

This is the idea.To gather a comprehensive list of research or technical questions for the areas above, transform them into projects that can be more easily parsed and assigned than their currently scattered counterparts and make the list available to those who want to work on them. This post is the first step in collection, so if there are lists anywhere of projects, or research questions that may be relevant for any of the areas cited above, please post a link to these at the comments—special kudos if you already post it in the format above. Also let me know if you would like to volunteer in this. If you remember any question or specific project but don’t see it in any list or on the comments, post it. When we create a standardized list for people to look through it will be separated by area, so people can visualize only projects related to what they value.


Lists of ideas and projects:

Superintelligence Strategic List—Muelhauser

Mechanisms of Aging—Ben Best

Cryonics Strategy Space—Froolow

Ideas and projects:

Go to Mars—Musk

Make it easy for people within the community to move to US, UK.

Preserve Brains

Find moral enhancers that improve global cooperation as well as intra-group cooperation

Open Borders