balance

I've spent the last year thinking about what I want to spend my life doing. It stemmed from thinking about what I want the world to become. I woke up a lot of mornings not convinced that what I was going to do that day was ultimately useful to humanity. There was no way I could continue living life like that.

What I'll actually spend my life doing partly depends on what can realistically be done and what I am capable of doing. But my priorities, and the tradeoffs, remain the same.

My large-scale priorities, in vague order:

  • Help humans get their needs met
  • Achieve human equity
  • Stop killing animals
  • Stop destroying Earth for funsies

The corresponding large-scale goals:

  • Implement baseline food, shelter, health care, education, and other needs
  • Convince society to destroy structural discrimination / Pass basic human protections
  • Make synthetic meat and leather / Pass basic animal protections
  • Prevent the destruction of natural habitats / Pass basic Earth protections
  • Develop space exploration and terraforming to support human population growth long-term

My personal priorities, in vague order:

  • Make useful sh*t
  • Make cool sh*t
  • Bridge worlds
  • Be healthy

My corresponding personal goals:

  • Develop applications that help underserved communities get their basic needs met or help influence action to improve conditions for them
  • Make art / Produce music / Write novels
  • Connect very different people
  • Exercise / Eat plants / Learn martial arts

The ever-loving and trusting idealist in me still believes helping other humans will ultimately result in a better world, so that's at the top. If you help others meet their basic needs, there will be more people who can also think about how they can improve the world and do some of these other things. Maybe not all of them would be able or willing to do so, but some of them would, and that's more than there were before.

Making art is actually part of staying healthy. I realized a long time ago that my mind starts to unravel when I go for too long without writing or making art or music. It's both a creative outlet and a way to leave something for others to enjoy and be touched by long after I'm gone.

There are secondary personal priorities, like making enough money to cover expenses, or supporting a family. Many people choose to make those priorities their main focus in life. I am clearly not one of them. I accept that I may have to dial down some of my main priorities to address those. But as long as I am able to, I'd like to focus on helping humanity at large, because anything less ambitious may not get me out of bed every morning.

about robots taking people's jobs

I'm not opposed to the idea of robots taking over dangerous manual jobs. I'm not even opposed to the idea of robots taking over creative or technical jobs. I'm just opposed to people blindly trying to make that happen as soon as possible, before any societal provisions are put in place for the people whose jobs will be taken.

I don't believe in meritocracy. I'm not in favor of economic or intellectual Darwinism. It assumes that only the smartest or most resourceful should survive, and it also assumes an even playing field for all involved. "If someone's manufacturing job will be taken by a robot, they should just learn the skills needed to get a better one," say people from well-off families who have never tried to master a skill while hungry, or while working a low-wage job 16 hours a day.

I'm all for robots taking our jobs, but before that, we need our society to function without jobs at all. We need to set it up so that no one needs to spend their entire life working at a place they don't really care about just to feed themselves and their families.

We need get our world to a place where no one has to work to stay alive. Once that happens, bring on the robots.

not a technocracy

Last weekend, while camping on an island full of ponies, I had a long conversation with a newfound friend who works in Washington D.C. as a lawyer and political fixer, and Joel, who's studying computer security but did his undergrad in economics and political science.

The new friend implored Joel and me to venture into roles outside of tech, not a hard sell since we're both from non-tech backgrounds. But she emphasized the fact that non-techies have no idea what's going on with technology, and that's a huge issue, especially in law and the government.

We already sort of knew this, but the bleakness with which she presented us with this information was startling. Joel and I are years away from being computer experts, but she said that decades of experience aren't a prerequisite to be a consult for some of the concepts that lawyers and lawmakers need help grasping. It just takes a few connections with the right people-- and a knack for translating technology into language that actual human beings understand.

As someone who went into tech partly to make it more accessible, it's encouraging to see that I really am filling a pressing need-- the need for techies to have actual human skills. However, it's also disconcerting to hear that our government is still largely tech-illiterate when technology now permeates everything. Entrenched systems have a lot of catching up to do.