Mid-Term Goals

Table of Contents

This is inspired by Hilbert's problems list.

This is a list of my current goals for moving humanity forward.

Some of these are easier than others. Being effective means finding the easy things that have leverage.


Figure 1: Solarpunk city with clear skies. Utopian high-tech future. Open spaces and trees. Flying buildings. Water.

Thinking big and what I think life is about

Why not think big? It's better than thinking small as far as I can see.

We are already influencing the long-term trajectory of civilization, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not.

I say civilization is life. We currently have sciences that are largely defined by their methodologies and institutions with a different science for say organisms, computers and technology. You might then think that life is what biology studies, but it is not so true. Life is also ideas, artifacts, civilization and computers.

Life is the craziest thing in the universe and it just starting. And we have the opportunity to shape the next stage of life, civilization, and intelligence.

There are a few things that fall out of common sense in my opinion, invariants: Suffering and death are bad. Life is good. Progress is good because it allows for more life, creativity, beauty, harmony and joy.

  1. This was true in the distant past. It was true when we were Cambrian fish.
  2. What is true across the eons is likely to stay true in the coming eons.
  3. You really cannot know what amount of beauty and joy lies on the other side of progress. Nobody was foreseeing Bach or The Witcher 3 when the first primates started living in trees.

Mid-term I want to work on a solarpunk utopian future, biasing the outcomes towards human flourishing and ushering in the singularity1 quicker.

This is a future with many trees and clear skies. In cities full of innovative and harmonious people, gazing at the stars and building great things.

Techno Optimism

What is techno-optimism, chat gpt?

Techno-optimism is a worldview or attitude that technology can bring about positive outcomes and solving some of the world's most pressing problems. It is the belief that advances in technology will ultimately lead to a better world, and that technological progress will help humanity overcome many of its current challenges, such as poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.

Techno-optimists tend to be enthusiastic about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and renewable energy, and they see these technologies as powerful tools for solving social, economic, and environmental problems. They often believe that technology can enable greater productivity, efficiency, and innovation, and that it can ultimately lead to a more prosperous and sustainable society.

However, techno-optimism is not without its critics. Some argue that it can lead to an overreliance on technology and overlooking important social and ethical issues associated with technological progress. Others point out that technology can exacerbate existing inequalities and that it can also have unintended consequences that are difficult to anticipate.

chat gpt end

Those critics are not seeing the full picture. Maybe civilization optimism would be the better word anyway. Science, reason, and humanism are all part of the story.

The point is to understand how and why civilization and technology are useful for bringing about human flourishing and well-being. And to continue the already made advances. And to realize, historically, how precious our current situation is.

For the inequality thing. This is not at all how mobile phones, the internet and medical advances (penicillin anybody?) turn out to work. By the time technology works well and is cheap to make we can make it available to all humans. Humanism and progress give us the ethical framework to have equal opportunity etc. as a goal.

1. Solve Poverty


  • Obvious low-hanging fruit.
  • Enable huge productivity gains by allowing large populations to contribute to science, engineering, medical research etc.


  • Make a lot of money and push projects.
  • UBI
  • Democratize2 goods
  • Democratize education
  • Democratize opportunities
  • Lower the costs of production for material + infrastructure, food and energy.

How do we know we make progress?

  • See Our world in data.
  • I have been working in this space for 5 years now and my current hope is to fix extreme poverty around 2030. (Which is a few years earlier than current projections last time I checked).

2. Solve longevity

  • Fix aging
  • Fix other diseases

This means you get an indefinite biological substrate lifespan. This might be rather low-hanging fruit, see Livespan with Dr. David Sinclair. Consider that fixing aging fixes a lot of diseases at the same time. Being biologically young means you fend off diseases.

Also, the same kind of advances fixes autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer, and cancer. See also the work of Aubrey de Grey for intelligent reasoning on this.

How do we know we make progress?

  • When you know your biological age the same way you know your weight.
  • When a head of state pronounces Not a minute longer dying from old age.

3. Solve energy


  • Energy consumption is linked to affluence.
  • Unlimited or virtually unlimited energy unlocks insane infrastructure and productivity perks
  • Be able to pull CO2 from the air3.
  • Water treatment plants etc4.
  • You only need enough energy so there is always some there the moment you look.
  • Kardashev Scale. The advancement of the civ.


  • Industrial scale fusion, a SpaceX for fusion Lex Friedman + Dennis Whyte.
  • A green manhattan project (Yuval Noah Harari has mentionend this).
  • Fission? 5
  • Per definition, renewables, since we play a long game.
  • When it comes to getting rid of gas and coal you have to acknowledge keeping civilization running is a goal.

How do we know we make progress?

  • When we put industrial viable fusion energy on the grid.
  • When you pay a flat rate for your electricity bill.
  • When electricity is provided as a public good, in affluent countries.

4. Fix software (Rant)

Seriously, most web and mobile software only works so-so nowadays because of bloated software. Everything is bigger and more complicated than it needs to be. Reloading some app because it stops working is the norm. This garbage is not acceptable in my vision of the future.

Software is supposed to be focused, effective and competent.

The price we pay right now for bloated and uninspired software is insanely high. How many mental energy hours go into reloading some app that stops responding6? Seriously, this is a global humanitarian issue.

Another issue is something I call mind-suck software now. This is software that is highly designed and explicitly or implicitly informed by behavioral psychology. To draw our attention and suck our time. When I click on an app with a blue icon because it has a red dot in the corner, that is not merely my fault, not only my lack of self restrain. That is also the fault of the people that made this software in the first place. This is an ethical issue. Long term I hope we understand which kind of software is conducive to our well-being and which is sucking our minds. 7 Mind-suck software belongs in the trashbin of history.

Existing software that lets me feel the competence of the computer is Unix/Linux, FOSS tools, Git, Emacs, and non-bloated parts of the web like Wikipedia. We can do it right.

The phone is a completely opaque object to me, with virtually no power to reach into it and make it do what I want it to do. Instead, I need to hope app vendors come up with something I find useful.

One of my fears currently is that BCIs will inherit from the current mobile model of software delivery. I think this would delay the singularity by multiple years.

The issues are uninspired practices and a disregard for the wisdom of the early days of computing. Also, the focus on financial incentives breeds less ambitious projects.8

Also, if it is FOSS, it tends to become small and focused, if it is proprietory, it tends to become large and bloated.

All user interfaces could be more like Data Rabbit right now. Think of the difference in productivity across the whole world. People would not fight computers anymore but wield great tools of thinking.


  • FOSS
  • Reinvent the heyday of Lisp and Smalltalk interactive systems. These were made by people for people that build systems.
  • Ideas from Bret Victor, Rich Hickey, Jack Rusher and others.
  • It will be easier when we have more abundance and the incentives don't need to be primarily financial anymore.
  • I choose Clojure. The community has an emphasis on thoughtfulness about how to make good software. It is a Lisp with a focus on interactivity, and raw power through succinctness. Great polymorphism constructs. A strong concurrency model and reach by being hosted on JVM and javascript. In short: A language for humans by humans for building effective information systems.

How do we know we make progress?

  • When you can change what a button does on your phone.
  • When syncing data between 2 programs on mobile is not an advanced operation.

5. Higher tech

For obvious reasons, any of those can help fix things on this list:

  • AI, information technology, automation.
  • Better computer interfaces (conversational, … ).
  • Nanotech, material science.
  • Biotech, BCIs, genetics.
  • A science and engineering of processes, policy and government 9.
  • Also infrastructure, networks10, internet connection, water and goods.

How do we know we make progress?

  • When a computer asks you back about an edge case you have not thought about while explaining your task to it.
  • When you don't buy toothbrushes at the store anymore because you have a matter compiler or printer or nano factory.

The special effectiveness of AI

Say intelligence is the ability to achieve complex goals. If we have that in computers the same way we have chess computers, it is an instant global win condition. A general AI could solve the things on this list, including making better AI. Which would further increase its capability of fixing the things on this list.

6. Solve food

  • Cheap, tasty, clean meat.
  • Just higher-tech food production.
  • Plants. Better plants. More effective plants. And plant-growing buildings.

7. Preserve biodervisity and ecosystems


  • Organismic life has an intrinsic value to it.
  • In a medium-long-term situation where energy, material and compute are abundant, maybe 11, the information you get from gene sequences and analyzing ecosystems are the most valuable thing there is.


  • Relatively hard.
  • Fixed by 3, 8 and 9, which you in turn push best forward by increasing affluence.

How do we know we make progress?

  • When the extinction of any species is a global tragedy.

8. Solve government and policy

Why is governmenting not more like engineering? Anyway, it is an unsolved problem for obvious reasons:

  • lack of UBI, poverty
  • lack of decisive climate safety action
  • lack of world peace
  • noise pollution
  • users citizens need to bother with paperwork, tax stuff is not automated.


I don't know what to do mid-term except try to push affluence globally. Higher affluence correlates with a more reasoned government generally (See the Nordics). This way I would generally bias for more desirable outcomes.


The moment we have super-intelligent AI, we get one of multiple possible outcomes, with either a group of people controlling an AI making the decisions or an AI making the decisions. If you are skeptical about this statement, try to play a party of chess against a chess computer12.

How do we know we make progress?

  • Everybody's education level goes as high as possible. I believe that means everybody can achieve a Ph.D.-level education at minimum.
  • UBI.
  • Explicit policies against noise pollution 13.

9. Develop more far-sighted incentives14


Companies are arguably the most competent actors in the world right now.

The fact that Starlink is the entity that fixes the internet in Ukraine right now and not a government is showcasing this for me.

What does not fit in my solarpunk future yet is that companies are currently maximizing money, instead of human flourishing.


In the mid-term, by pushing forward easier things on this list. Bring about abundance and rational decision-making.

Another idea is to make tons of money and become a powerful corporate entity yourself. (This counts for anything on this list).

Create enough abundance so money is not the driver anymore. This is called Post Scarcity and I think reality looks like this would work. Aka more affluence leads to more attention on human flourishing.

How to know if we made progress?

  • Corporate entities are explicitly pushing to solve other issues on this list.
  • A corporate entity fixes infrastructure in a region of war (Oh, we are making progress!)

10. Solve immortality

For starters something like mind-uploading. Where you have a mind backup inside a fault-tolerant system.

Medium-long-term we need to make sure earth is safe from meteors and gamma rays. Goes into super long-term. By becoming a civilization after the stars are gone, and surviving the death of the universe, a civ might ultimately decide the fate of the universe.

How to know if we make progress?

  • When the death of a single person is a global tragedy.
  • When you don't tell children about the history of death until they are old enough to stand it.
  • When Misery was


  • The Singularity is Near Ray Kurzweil It is a truly seminal book. It makes you appreciate exponential processes and then it maps that to computers and biotechnology. Making you see the logic of how fast technology is growing crazy powerful and tiny.
  • Yuval Noah Harari, together with Pinker and others an eminent thinker and proponent of civilization optimism.
  • Steven Pinker Enlightenment: Now The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
  • Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel. An eye-opening book about large-scale, big-picture thinking. How civilizations form. Science fiction without being science fiction. It tells you everything could be different.
  • David Deutsch The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World Big history, big ideas. Connects scientific inquiry with how evolution works. Explains the power of good ideas, talks about beauty, ethics, the fate of the universe and all that with a red thread going through it. Perspective-creating. A continuation of The Selfish Gene in some ways.
  • Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology K. Eric Drexler. Drexler calmly and matter-of-factly explains how you can have a machine the size of a garage printing a car. The only thing needed is some advances in material science, no new physics is required.
  • If you enjoy thinking about possible outcomes regarding AI, Max Tegmark, Life 3.0/. If you read nothing else from the book, the first chapter describing the fictional near-future secret group called the /Omegas is extremely thought-provoking. This is the idea of a small group of individuals controlling a super-intelligent AI, taking over the world and biasing for human flourishing.
  • Superintelligence: Science or Fiction? | Elon Musk & Other Great Minds
  • I don't fully know why but Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene is more than an just eye-opener about how evolution works it is also an eye-opener about the power of thinking and common sense.
  • David Sinclair on fixing aging https://www.lifespanpodcast.com/
  • Aubrey de Grey, very vocal about how we need to overcome deathism, the idea that death is something to accept.
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky has written about the ethics of progress, longevity and more. If anything in this post resonates with you and you have not read Harry Potter And The Methods of Rationality yet, seriously, I can advise doing that. I am not alone in saying this. The book covers topics on morality, fixing death, being a scientist, and the navigation problem of fixing the world.
  • Isaac Assimovs The Last Question is somehow a good meme about the big-picture.



In terms of Ray Kurzweil. Techno utopian high tech outcomes that change the game completely.


With Democratize I mean make it available to everybody, without conditions. And as cheap as possible.


I have picked up this factoid from a Helion Energy blog post somewhere.


Chat gpt mentioned this when I asked what the perks of unlimited energy would be


I am not even thinking about windows users that are rebooting their PC. I can handle only so much brokenness in my mind right now.


Sam Harris has thought publically about this on multiple occasions: The price of distraction, Why I left Twitter


Alan Kay has talked about the dynamics of innovation and how you don't get this in the climate of short-sighted monetary goals


Already exists, of course, I am just too ignorant to even list the correct names.


I really enjoyed this talk by Dylan Beattie it kind of went to different concepts about networks and supply chains etc. He also mentioned Diamond Age style nanotech that would change the game of supply chains completely. He pointed out there might be a new logic to supply that would entail information and experiences, not goods.


I see multiple possible worlds in this regard. Depending on

  • A. How hard it is to fabricate evolutionary organismic wisdom.
  • B. How valuable evolutionary organismic wisdom is.

We could make some back-on-the-envelope reasoning about A, but B is completely unknown. We don't know the value of biodiversity and ecosystems yet and we should treat them as extremely valuable.

Also aesthetically, a solarpunk utopian civilization would value organismic life just for its intrinsic value.


That is from Max Tegmark, Life 3.0.


I am just taking noise pollution as an example where human well-being is not at the center of what we are doing with civilization yet.

The day we ban foliage blowers is the day we can rejoice, for we are on the way into our solarpunk utopia.


This idea is straight from Alan Kay. In one of his many appearances on youtube and podcasts.

Date: 2022-11-17 Thu 20:11

Email: Benjamin.Schwerdtner@gmail.com