Speed­ing up development

TagLast edit: 11 Jun 2021 11:55 UTC by Pablo

Some actions might speed up development, or might be aimed at doing so. For example, actions might speed up economic growth, scientific and technological progress, or expected future changes in values, laws, or political systems. This can also be referred to as speeding up progress, although that may be problematic in implying that the developments are necessarily good things that should be advanced.

Beckstead (2013) describes speeding up development as one of three main types of benefits from attempts to improve the world, with the other two being “trajectory changes” (including existential risk reduction) and “proximate benefits” (meaning “the fairly short-run, fairly predictable benefits that we ordinarily think about when we cure some child’s blindness, save a life, or help an old lady cross the street”).

It is possible that speeding up development in various ways would make trajectory changes more or less likely, and that this would be the most significant effect of speeding up development in those ways. For example, faster economic growth might decrease or increase existential risk, with this benefit or harm outweighing the other effects of that growth.

Some people have argued that speeding up development is in itself the best way to improve the long-term future. One argument that could be made for this position is that every delay to development causes astronomical waste. However, others have argued that we should instead focus on trajectory changes because roughly “where we end up” matters more than “how fast we get there” (Todd, 2017; see also Bostrom, 2003).


Beckstead, Nick (2013) A proposed adjustment to the astronomical waste argument, Effective Altruism Forum, May 27.

Bostrom, Nick (2003) Astronomical waste: the opportunity cost of delayed technological development, Utilitas, vol. 15, pp. 308–314.

Todd, Benjamin (2017) The case for reducing existential risks, 80,000 Hours, October.

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