The three ways to solve a problem

And the best way to address it is always the third way.

I don’t like that many people are discriminated against because of who they are or where they are from. I don’t like that billions of people are in utter poverty. I don’t like that it is far easier for the rich to get richer and the powerful to gain more power when compared to someone not starting off on an equal footing. I don’t like that we’re consuming natural resources in an unsustainable manner.

There are a lot more things I don’t like.

But all of these problems seem so big in scope that what I personally do may seem inconsequential at best. If I don’t consume products built by exploiting farmers in Africa or do my bit to not own a car that runs on fossil fuel, while many people continue to do otherwise, the situation that we find ourselves in might not change.

Faced with this, I have three ways to address these problems:

One, I can boycott these products and practices and write and talk about the problems they cause and raise awareness in the hope that more people come to internalise the problem and hope that they act in a way to solve it. This is pleading. This is what many climate scientists and charitable organizations do today. And this isn’t very successful as what this results in is endless debate.

Two, I can find a way for taxes and penalties to be imposed on such products and practices, and subsidise and incentivize the good products and practices. This is bribing and threatening. This is what governments try to do with their policies. Again, this isn’t a very successful way of dealing with the problems as the big boys that benefit from this bribe corrupt politicians to make these policies ineffective.

Three, I can envision the perfect solution and get the whole world to move in that direction by convincing them that it is the cool/economic thing to do.

This is the way of Elon Musk.

When he saw that we are burning up the planet by our excessive use of fossil fuels, he started Tesla and made it a cool thing to own an electric car. Since then, every major car manufacturer has started producing electric variants, accelerating the progress we make as a whole towards completely electric vehicles.

When he saw that we are one catastrophe away from being wiped out as a species, he started Space X. By bringing down the costs of launching rockets into space drastically, he has made it attractive for governments and others to invest in this sector and eventually lead the human race on to other planets.

When he saw that AI could potentially do to us what we did to every other animal and plant species on the planet (thoroughly dominate and exploit them), he started OpenAI and Neuralink, each addressing the following problems respectively. AI is bad for us if it is controlled by a handful of people or companies and it is bad for us if it goes rogue. The last time a species had a big intelligence advantage over every other species, it resulted in humans dominating the Earth in every aspect. All other species : Humans :: Humans : AI? Not unfathomable.

In the realm of our mundane daily lives, we still face several problems every day. And we have the same three ways of addressing them. It may be while dealing with naughty children, or mean bosses or dishonest partners or annoying neighbours.

And the best way to address it is always the third way.

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