Inadequate Equilibria

Where and How Civilizations Get Stuck

Inadequate Equilibria is a book about a generalized notion of efficient markets, and how we can use this notion to guess where society will or won’t be effective at pursuing some widely desired goal.

An efficient market is one where smart individuals should generally doubt that they can spot overpriced or underpriced assets. We can ask an analogous question, however, about the “efficiency” of other human endeavors.

Suppose, for example, that someone thinks they can easily build a much better and more profitable social network than Facebook, or easily come up with a new treatment for a widespread medical condition. Should they question whatever clever reasoning led them to that conclusion, in the same way that most smart individuals should question any clever reasoning that causes them to think AAPL stock is underpriced? Should they question whether they can “beat the market” in these areas, or whether they can even spot major in-principle improvements to the status quo? How “efficient,” or adequate, should we expect civilization to be at various tasks?

There will be, as always, good ways and bad ways to reason about these questions; this book is about both.

—Eliezer Yudkowsky


Eliezer Yudkowsky is a decision theorist and computer scientist at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute in Berkeley, California who is known for his work in technological forecasting. His publications include the Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence chapter “The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence,” co-authored with Nick Bostrom. Yudkowsky’s writings have helped spark a number of ongoing academic and public debates about the long-term impact of AI, and he has written a number of popular introductions to topics in cognitive science and formal epistemology, such as Rationality: From AI to Zombies and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Inadequate Equilibria is licensed under CC NC-BY-SA 4.0 and is published by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, a research nonprofit with a goal of ensuring that smarter-than-human AI systems have a positive impact. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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