Dear Decent American Citizen,
If you’ve read any of my articles on thinkbynumbers.org, you know that there are a lot of things going on in this world that don’t make any sense. For a long time, I kind of thought that I must be crazy and everyone was just too polite to tell me. I was certain that there was something I was missing that could explain why we allocate society’s limited resources in such an idiotic fashion.
For instance, President Obama just announced that he wants to spend $100 million a year studying the brain. This is a wonderful thing. The brain is the sole source of all joy and suffering in the universe. However, while President Obama is busy patting himself on the back about this, world governments are spending $1.8 TRILLION each year finding ways to murder us and destroy our property. I put these numbers in an excel spreadsheet. I had to make the column representing military spending 17,000 pixels high in order to make the brain research spending even visible (1 pixel high). It’s fucking ridiculous.
A little less than a year ago, I came up with an easy 3 step plan to abolish unnecessary by optimally allocating societal resources using a form of crowd-sourced direct democracy which you can read about at CrowdsourcingUtopia.
These are the steps:
1. Learn – Learn as much as you can about all relevant public policy issues. This requires that individuals ignore partisan warfare and focus on hard data. This step will be facilitated by the crowd-sourced and gamified public policy data repository known as the Think by Numbers Project. Anyone may contribute their own articles. Since there will be lots of spam and garbage submitted, posts will be ordered using a democratic voting system. This will give the best content the most focus. It will encourage friendly competition among authors incentivizing them to produce their best work. Creation a sister wiki-version of each post that may be edited by any member of the site. The wiki-versions will be much more thorough, detailed, accurate, and objective that the original posts. However, it’s likely that they will be bland and less entertaining than the original posts. That’s why we will allow the original author to maintain full editorial control over their version.
2. Decide – Decide which problems cause the most suffering and which solutions are most cost effective. This was not previously something that could be quantified due to their inherent complexity. However, there is a new tool call crowd-sourcing which could be used to facilitate this. Two examples of effective crowd-sourcing were guessing the weight of an ox and finding a missing submarine.
Cost-effectiveness calculations will be accomplished using an online database where users can see a list of all the major problems in the world. A problem is just an issue or situation that causes suffering. The user can then submit their estimations of the magnitude of the suffering (either using a dollar figure or a unit of pleasure called a util or hedon) caused by each major world problem. All submissions are then averaged and problems are ranked according to the degree of suffering caused by each.
Users can also submit ideas for possible solutions. Then everyone can submit their estimates on how much each solution will cost and how much suffering it will reduce. Then the amount of suffering eliminated divided by the cost of the solution will give you a value representative of the cost-effectiveness of that solution. This step is known as the Crowdsourcing Utopia Project.
3. Act – In the final step, a charitable foundation will acquire and direct resources towards realizing the most cost effective solutions. This might be called the Charitable Foundation for the Abolition of Suffering. It is hoped that this will take over many functions that government is currently supposed to be fulfilling, but is not due to incompetence and/or corruption.
To my surprise, no one seemed to give a damn about it. Initially, I was completely baffled by this. “What could possibly be more important than fixing our corrupt political system?” I asked myself. I mean, we spend $25.4 billion dollars a year enabling a large number of grown men to do various things with various types of spheres for no reason. As a society, shouldn’t we be spending even a tiny fraction of our unimaginable wealth to create a system that would optimally allocate resources in a manner that would minimize suffering throughout the world? I was so confused.
However, since then, I have had an epiphany which can explain how a world that contains so much unnecessary suffering will allow its governments to squander our bountiful resources on idiotic pursuits such as the war in Iraq and the War on Drugs. The reason the world is so screwed up is because open-minded, thoughtful, self-critical people who can see the world as it really is are often completely dejected and demoralized by the reality they see. Furthermore, these people who possess an acute awareness of the importance of reducing suffering are often crippled by the scourges of the mind known as depression and anxiety. This leaves the levers of world power to the type A, alpha-male (often psychopathic) personalities that are supremely assertive and confident in their beliefs. Their myopic worldview has no conception of the severity of suffering that is going on all over the world. This is because they are generally psychologically very healthy and have never experienced true suffering themselves. The result is that they posses a complete lack of empathy. However, they simply know what they want and are willing to do whatever they have to do to get it.
People often assume a causal relationship between power and corruption. However, there is only a correlation. This correlations exists because the corrupt, psychopathic, type A personalities simply have a distinct advantage when it comes to acquiring power. They are not bound by rules of morality. They are not typically confined to the state of analysis paralysis that most introspective individuals find themselves in.
The reason the open-minded, self-critical, introspective people throughout the world remain in their psychological cages is because the field of modern psychiatry is not taking an aggressive, data-centric approach to curing their illness and maximizing their happiness. As a result, the world is filled with the walking dead geniuses that are paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Since I cured my lifelong depression, I feel like a zombie who just woke up but is still surrounded by a bunch of other zombies that are just stumbling around aimlessly. I desperately want to wake all of them up so they can be happy and help me to eradicate suffering from the world. That’s what I am trying to do with Quantimodo.
We find ourselves at an inflection point in history. If crowdsourcing positive psychology research can help to wipe out depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, then these thoughtful, self-critical, and open-minded individuals will gain the confidence and assertiveness that is required to obtain positions of power. Once we reclaim control from these psychopaths, I believe we’re going to see exponential declines in net world suffering as we begin implementing rational resource allocation policies.