Re: RBs Top-Ten-List [was Re: EVOLUTION: Stress needed for diversity?]

From: Robert Owen (
Date: Sun Mar 19 2000 - 12:15:42 MST

Robert J Bradbury wrote:

> On Sat, 18 Mar 2000, Robert Owen wrote:
> > Since both of your questions, Robert, are among my top ten, would
> > it be asking too much for you to list your other eight?
> 1) Are the sources of the gravitational microlensing observations
> universally distributed around our galaxy and are they engineered
> objects? [a subset of What is the Missing Mass?].

The preferred answer is: "yes".

> 2) What are the speed-limits to self-replication?
> 3) What are the speed-limits to evolution?

In both cases, 29.

> 4) How many really useful "biochemistries" (i.e. chemical systems
> that can support self-replicating self-assembling machines)
> are there and which of those can arise without conscious
> intervention? [A variant of "How big is the phase-space for life?"]


> 5) Are there feasible ways of creating alterverses, particularly
> those where you have rigged the fundamental physical laws and
> constants? [Interesting because I'm pretty sure we are doomed
> if all the baryonic matter decays and universe-tunneling is
> disallowed.]

Lovely books -- deceptively simple:

        The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art and Science

     by Michael S. Schneider, HarperPerennial, l995 0-06-092671-6

         NATURE'S NUMBERS by Ian Stewart, Basic Books, l995

> 6) What is the probability that an amoral, self-evolving, self-replicating
> AI/Alife can develop and "breakout" by accident? { After all, the
> computers and the net *are* an environmental niche... }


> 8) What is the molecular size to which a human body must be reduced
> that molecular nanotechnology cannot reassemble you? [At some
> point you end up with too many 3D pieces that look identical, with
> too little positional information, to reassemble Humpty Dumpty.]

             "The molecules themselves will be whatever size I
              tell them to be; I just pay them extra, that's all."

                                               - Humpty to Alice

> 7) What do SIs think about over trillions of years?

One Approach: Imagine a Galapagos Island-like turtle whose heart beat
once every year; estimate the duration of its specious present.

> 9) What are the optimal computing architecures for what SIs think about?
> And number 10, on RBs Top-Ten-List is:
> 10) Am I going to make it?


> But thats just this morning. Ask on another day and you may get
> a different set. Sorry, no questions about philosophy, morality,
> etc. While I have those too, I probably need a different environment
> (not staring at a wall of technical books) to raise them to the
> level of consciousness.

I suggest you lower your threshold so the top of your head off
which you think is thickened somewhat.

> : Caesar Who is it in the press that calls on me?
> : I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
> : Cry "Caesar!" Speak. Caesar is turned to hear.
> :
> : Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
> :
> : Caesar What man is that?
> :
> : Brutus A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
> :
> : Caesar Set him before me; let me see his face.
> :
> : Cassius Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
> :
> : Caesar What say'st thou to me now? Speak once again.
> :
> : Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
> :
> : Caesar He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass.
> :
> : (Julius Caesar 1.2.15-24)

Most excellent quotation; reminds me of "sleek-headed men...".

Many thanks,


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA

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