Summary: For the first post on Harsimony, I want to give an overview of my interests, what I plan to write, and what I hope to gain from writing. Overall, this is a much more abstract piece than what I plan to write in the future, so hang in there.
While I have many specific interests in policy, science, computation, fiction, and altruism, my interests can be divided into three central questions:
- What are the boundaries of our scientific knowledge, and where can we go using what we have?
- Given this knowledge, what should you actually do with it?
- How do the answers to the first two questions change when individuals form a group?
Posts regarding the first question might discuss the state of knowledge around a particular scientific field or an examination of the impacts of an emerging technology. Of course, practical answers to the second question lean on answers to the first, but this will not be my focus. Rather, in theory, what is the best way to translate our knowledge into actions? By abstracting away the details of our knowledge, I believe the second question becomes more interesting. I want to explore how far a few simple assumptions can inform the way we make decisions. Posts here will mostly concern building a good decision theory, with occasional consideration of more real-life issues.
Though scientific reviews and decision theory are exhilarating (for me, at least!), I hope to spend most of my time answering the third question. Here, new intricacies arise in what you can know, and in what you can do. For example, it is one thing for a person to know something, but it is quite different for a group to agree on something. People accustomed to arguing with their family members over Thanksgiving dinner should have an intuitive grasp of this! Additionally, even if a group can come to agreement about something, what should they do collectively? At it’s core, this is essentially a question of ethics and governance. Like most people, I have opinions on these topics, but what I find more interesting is: How do we build a system of governance which can respect different group needs and allow people to freely associate and act? Further, within a group, how far can we get towards a general theory of ethics by making a few simple assumptions? How does ethics change as these assumptions are changed? Specific posts examining the third question might examine different theoretical grounds for utilitarianism, or an examination of the impacts of a policy.
Stepping back, why am I doing all of this? On a practical level, I want to develop a skill and a habit of writing. On a personal level, there is something deeply satisfying about writing my thoughts down as my ideas are forced into a more coherent and useful form. But most importantly, I want to get feedback from other people in order to find out what is hard to understand, what doesn’t make sense, and what can be improved.