Re: *Bzzzt* Fermi Paradox

From: Jeff Davis (
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 23:01:09 MST


I wrote
>The older the universe, the more capable and community-minded the
> "residents" are likely to be.

and Anders replied:

>Why? Capable may be likely, but community mindedness does not have to
>be greater.
Here's why I see more community-mindedness.

Aggressive behavior in a community of two or three or even half-a-dozen
equally capable entities, might be sustainable. One entity might surprise
and overwhelm another, and enlarge its power. It then might continue, using
its increased power succesfully against the remaining limited opposition.
But in a community numbering over--you pick a number: 30?, 50?,
100?,--there comes a point where the threat to all becomes known to all,
and the combined strength of the community becomes their source of security.

Regarding human societies, there have never been more than a handful of
nearly matched competitive regimes. And these have often formed themselves
into bipolar alliances. Such bipolarity arguably maximizes the prospect
of aggressive adventurism.

>After all, see the complex behavior of cooperation in the
>iterated prisoners' dilemma when run as a genetic algorithm - long
>periods of calm and cooperations, followed by breakdowns and

I am not thoroughly familiar with the prisoner's dilemma. But as I recall
there are two prisoner's held by a dominant power. What happens when you
change the underlying assumptions to fifty non-prisoners each dominated by
the combined power of all the others? Besides which, doesn't "long periods
of calm and cooperation" describe "community-mindedness", at least in
behavior if not in inclination?

>Just look around on this list, and ask yourself: would anybody here
>(given enough resources) start a replicator scenario without being
>cautious? I think the answer is yes, there are a few of us who might
>take the chance regardless of risks or due to a philosophical

Fair enough. But once again, the community of communities on this planet
would have resources and motivation to intervene in any action which could
pose a significant risk to all. Which brings us to the difficulty posed by
having to pull it off covertly, by a small group, and with limited
resources. Admittedly, a nanoprobe scenario might not require much in the
way of material resources, but there is a substantial difference between a
lone-gunman nanoprobe scenario, and an imperial juggernaut nanoprobe
scenario. The lone-gunman scenario is likely to provoke a serious effort
to clean up the mess, distribute "nanoprobe-protection" materials, and
publish energetic apologies. Which is to say, manifest community-mindedness.

>the probability of
>launching is nonzero.

I agree. But we're still left with the question, "How large?"


Also, as

"Andrew R. Sujdak" <> observes,

the character of the probes is central to what--for good or ill-- they can
accomplish. And the discussion to this point suffers greatly from an
paucity of these crucial details.

Practice safe interstellar intercourse. Launch only approved probes.

                        Best, Jeff Davis

           "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                        Ray Charles

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