Over the past few years, Joe Carlsmith has published several blog posts that nicely articulate views that I’ve also arrived at, for similar reasons, before he published the posts 1. My own thinking has certainly been influenced by him, but on non-naturalist realism, deep atheism and AI existential risk, and a few other topics in AI and metaethics, I was definitely there-ish before he published. But: I had not written up these views in anything approaching the quality of his blog posts. I’d have found it hard to do so, even with great effort.
What should I make of the fact that one of the best contemporary philosophers is on a similar path on some topics? On the one hand, this is gratifying and encouraging: this is some evidence that (a) my views are correct and (b) that I “have what it takes” to develop my own, somewhat novel views on important topics at the vanguard.
On the other hand, it makes me think “Joe has it covered, and will do a better job than me”. This pushes on my long-running concern that spending time on moral philosophy and futurism—which I am constantly drawn to—is mostly self-indulgence on my part; that going “all in” this stuff would mean falling short of my “be useful” aspiration. If I went “all in”, I think 90%+ that I’d top out as “good”, but not “world class”. And: on the face of it, the returns to being merely “good” are pretty low.
Much better, plausibly, to keep the philosophy as a passionate side-project. It feeds into my work as an “ethical influencer”, which is one way of thinking about the main impact of my career so far. Plausibly this role—perhaps mixed with some more “actually do the thing” periods—is my sweet spot in the global portfolio.
To be clear: Joe also has a lot of fantastic posts which have contained many many “fresh to me” ideas and insights. I read everything he writes.↩︎