Suppose you’re an administrator here in Oxford, you’re working in the Computer Science department, and you’re the secretary there. Suppose you find some way to make the department run slightly more efficiently: you create this mailing list so that everybody can, when they have an announcement to make, just email it to the mailing list rather than having to put in each person individually in the address field. And that’s a useful thing, that’s a great thing: it didn’t cost anything, other than one-off cost, and now everybody can go about their business more easily. From this perspective, it’s very non-obvious whether that is, in fact, a good thing. It might be contributing to AI—that might be the main effect of this, other than the very small general effect on economic growth. And it might probably be that you have made the world worse in expectation by making this little efficiency improvement. So this project of trying to think through this it’s in a sense a little bit like the Nietzschean Umwertung aller Werte — the revaluation of all values—project that he never had a chance to complete, because he went mad before.

Nick Bostrom, Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy, Good Done Right conference, 2014

Added to diary 12 December 2018