A lot of social problems will solve themselves once material problems are solved. How much relationship stress is caused by work stress? How much family and relationship drama can be traced back to some health or scarcity problem; irritability from a two-hour long commute, depression after a major loss of a loved one, annoyance from living in cramped conditions – these things add stress to relationships. I’ve lived in a house with five other people and only one bathroom. That was difficult in a way that living with three other people sharing three bathrooms is not.
But some problems won’t be solved with unlimited health and material abundance. Some people don’t have any friends, and material resources wouldn’t solve that. I have some guesses at solutions here, which I’ll list below, but the meta-solution is that we will have AI systems far wiser and smarter than us, and they can help us generate, test, and implement solutions.
I expect one of the most significant of these solutions will be an unlimited number of AI therapists. Currently, therapists can sometimes be really effective, but they often aren’t. There’s a huge variance in the skill of therapists. I expect that once we have an abundance of superhuman-level therapists, a huge chunk of social problems will go away. People struggling will always have someone sympathetic to talk to. They’ll always have someone to help them learn the skills that will help them be friends. In the worst case, even if someone can’t find any friends, there will be AI systems to keep them company. It might sound weird, but I don’t think it’s much different than keeping a dog or cat for companionship, except that it might be closer to fulfilling human connection than those animals can provide. In a good world, no one will have to be alone.
In addition to the task of directly coaching people on their social problems, AI systems will be able to help matchmake people, both for friendship and romance. It can be hard to find someone to date. It can be hard to find new friends. Imagine if there was someone who deeply understood everyone and could connect people who were likely to do well together. I think that’ll solve another huge chunk of social problems. **In a good world, people will have help finding people who fit well with them.**Some social problems are biological in nature, and we might consider them physical or health problems, even if they manifest as social problems. In college, I worked as a caretaker for adults with developmental disabilities. They struggled a lot in their relationships, to the extent they could have relationships. Often their brains didn’t function like healthy adult brains. With a powerful understanding of biology, we could help tune brains to work well — currently we do this extremely crudely with small molecule drugs and I bet future technology will enable vastly better interventions and outcomes. In a good world, everyone can have a healthy, functioning brain.
At the end of the day, people will still be responsible for their actions and behavior with each other. If someone decides to repeatedly act badly towards those around them, no one may ever want to be their friend. They’ll have access to the best possible therapy. They’ll have AI companionship if they want it, even if no humans will tolerate them. There will probably still be some suffering. But everyone will have the option to choose a path that is likely to work out for them. In a good world, everyone will be set up to succeed at their romantic and social goals.
I don’t know why, but the prospect of solving the bulk of our social problems excites me even more than the prospect of solving our health and material problems, which is a lot! Maybe it’s because most of my friends and I are fortunate enough to have our physical problems mitigated for now, and the big difficulties that remain are social. Regardless, I just can’t express how excited I am for the thought of this future, where everyone who is currently suffering from depression finds a way out of that hole. Where those struggling are able to discover the fire of purpose burning inside of them and rise above their struggles to entirely new heights.
“It feels a little embarrassing to admit, but the thought of an AI matchmaker who really gets me, helping me find the love of my life… well, it’s a whole trope but honestly I really want that. I still want agency in the matter – I don’t want a completely arranged match – but I can imagine going to a salon or party where a superintelligent system invites people based on mutual compatibility. That sounds amazing.” – Lesswrong User
Friendship feels like the piece that completes the picture for me. Friends have always been such an essential part of my life, one of the main things that makes life worth living. I can imagine every kid growing up and finding their friend group — that one D&D group that plays multi-year-long campaigns — that co-housing project on a farm near Boulder — that little suburb where the kids have built a mountain bike park in the nearby lot. So much of our struggle is the desire to see and be seen. To find people who get us, the people we can laugh and make trouble with. I cannot express how much I want that for people. I will fight til my dying breath for everyone to have that friendship, acceptance, and love I know is possible. We don’t have to be alone. That’s a vision of a future I believe in. Where everyone is ok.