Re: [extropy-chat] SIAI: Donate Today and Tomorrow

From: Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Oct 22 2004 - 15:43:45 MDT

Damien Broderick wrote:
> You're right, I was trying to be polite. It's the apriori plausibility
> of the solution. You expressed bafflement at a psychological conundrum...

Just to clear something up:

I am not baffled by this conundrum.

I expected this in 1996 when I started up the Singularitarian movement. I
didn't know about the bystander effect, but I did guess that at most 1% of
the people who heard about the problem would help in even the smallest way.

Different people have different reasons for not helping. For some, as
Damien says, they will assign a zero probability of success to the
solution. (If it's a nonzero probability of success, and an existential
risk, then I have separate issues with the reasoning.) Others (quite a few
of whom just now donated) may have agreed on the problem, thought SIAI had
a decent chance at a solution, and then been zapped by the bystander effect.

English is an annoying language. There's no good word to refer to a
question with an important and interesting answer, that doesn't puzzle you
because you know the answer, but would nonetheless be quite intriguing to
someone who didn't know the answer, because the phenomenon is
counterintuitive if you describe it in strictly surface terms without
referring to the underlying causes that render it explicable. I call it a
"puzzle", and am careful not to say that I am puzzled by it.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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