Ryan Baker


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Are we living at the most influential time in history?

Interesting piece. One challenge in extending it to decision making is "resources". It's not clear if you mean financial instruments or some kind of stockpiling. There appears to be some not fully considered vacillation on that topic.

Financial instruments are probably the default, but as we move into more and more long term views, the meaning of these becomes more vague. Does it really pass "resources" to a future generation by having stockpiled financial instruments? While in a micro-economic level these are very translatable to actual resources, at the macro-level, the clarity of that relationship breaks down. Printing a trillion extra dollars doesn't increase available resources, it merely shifts the locus of acknowledged control over the existing resource pool.

Likewise, if a long term philanthropist stockpiled financial instruments to be released in 500 years, keeping them fully dormant, they wouldn't transport physical resources 500 years into the future. What it would do is to create a shock to the system in 500 years of a new source of control. During the 500 years where these instruments were dormant, the rest of society would likely behave as if they did not exist, using all available physical resources during the dormant period without any stockpiling.

In addition, many financial instruments aren't dormant by their very nature, but directive. Investment in a stock directs resources and is an active influence. If this follows societal norms it would have little impact, but also not shift resources into the future.

What it can do is shift influence within the future. If that's a valuable enough goal, you still have to consider hazards. If the future isn't willing to accept this influence, it's not in any sense guaranteed. Financial instruments (and even stockpiled resources) can be seized, and the eventual outcome of their stockpiling can be much different than intended. In small enough quantities, for short enough timespans, it's reasonable to expect them to be treated like they have always been. But there is an additional level of uncertainty that compounds with interest over time and is likely to increase when passing thresholds that draw broader attention.