Re: SETI/ASTRO: MBrains/JBrains & Globular Clusters

From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 10:36:13 MDT

On Wed, 18 Jul 2001, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:

> I'm getting the feeling that people haven't read my
> papers in detail, or I'm not making myself clear in

My connectivity right now is mostly limited to ssh sessions, interlaced
between dayjob duties (the wonders of xDSL, or, rather, the wonders of
absence of working xDSL).

So, apologies if I can't read anything I should be reading. I'm deaf and
dumb now.

> my messages, so I'll make *one* more try:
> Not if convergent evolution drives all *conscious* beings
> to realize that *expansion* is pointless.

I think I will now definitely start worrying about sudden suffocation, in
case all the air molecules in this room decide to converge on one corner
of the room, due to a statistical fluke, leaving me with a lungful of hard
vacuum. Ooops. <gasp> <gASP>.

Imo, you're describing an exceedingly small region of phase space.
Overwhelmingly improbable the system will go there.

Under conscious you probably mean sentient. I'm laboring under the
illusion of being sentient, but I don't find expansion pointless. I know a
great many sentients who think expansion is very desirable. (Irrationality
is a valuable trait for a space search). To be expansive, you don't need
to be sentient, in fact being sentient is probably a negative selection
trait. The pioneer originating culture was almost certainly sentient, but
the pioneers are going to be very minimalist, streamlined beings. Less
atoms to cast into self, shorter development cycles, and none of that
leisurly 'analytic rumination' thing. Pioneers are not philosophers,
they're specialists.

Hey, who said they're going to be nice? Look around; do you think the
fitness function selects for niceness, and self-limitation? Afraid it
ain't so, in fact, quite the opposite.

> (a) Life, of the non-conscious variety can expand only very
> slowly (panspermia via meteors).

Life which once (long time ago, in a galaxy far away) used to be sentient
can be very, very speedy. Panspermia via impact ejecta contamination
meanism seems to have been ruled out, as interstellar pebble capture
doesn't occur in geologic time scale.

> (b) Life, of the non-technological variety can't expand any
> faster than the non-conscious variety.

The difference between technological and nontechnological life is
arbitrary. Postbiology doesn't make a difference between critter and tool.
I live in vacuum, and eat iced carbonaceous chondrite, and sail between
the stars on gray sails. Am I animal, vegetable, or mineral?

> (c) Life, of the non-conscious & non-technological varieties
> is subject to natural selection via planetary & galactic
> hazards that probably resets the clock relatively frequently.

Possible. The planetary hazards alone seem to hint at rare Earth.

> (d) Rare life of the conscious technological variety rapidly
> makes it through the singularity transition.

Not all of it, and not every single agent in a population. The edge
selection effect selects for just one thing: expansion. Only those aspects
of development which facilitate that are inherited.

> (e) Natural selection *FAILS* when the S-curve of the singularity
> flattens out at the top with the complete optimization of
> all local matter at the atomic engineering scale.

Doesn't follow.

> Just as humans have *almost* trumped natural selection on
> the Earth (no more bears in Europe or tigers in India...),

Humans are very darwinian. It's just the fitness function has changed.
There's always radiation after a founder effect. We haven't started
shedding replicators into space, but we will in a few decades. In case I'm
not too frail physically (fat chance), I wouldn't mind going into space,
and do a little off-planet industry.

> JBrains & MBrains will trump natural selection in the universe.

JBrains & MBrains are subject to natural selection themselves. They're not
monodes, but population pockets.

> They "FIX" the hazard function so it is virtually nonexistant
> (at least until the protons decay). After you trump natural
> selection, the logical game is self-directed conscious evolution
> (which may rely on natural selection for internal development
> strategies, but it isn't visible externally).

I don't follow that assessment. Started in a darwinian regime, I don't see
a selection mechanism which makes you strip that regime entirely,
sustainably. Evolution is default.

> The path of evolution is to drive complexification, but you cannot
> complexify in an efficient manner unless you know what has been
> tried and failed. There is a huge cost to trying something that

A failure in one context can be a success in a changed context. Analysis
and book-keeping is associated with costs. Look at sexual display, or
haute couture.

I can't follow you here either.

> has already been tried which doesn't work. Nature doesn't care about
> this (e.g. it will try "failures" again and again) because it doesn't
> give a damn about the optimal allocation of limited resources.
> Advanced conscious technological civilizations *do* care about such
> allocations because the cost of getting any more of them is high.
> Sure, there is lots around to grab, but once you have them, they can't
> communicate to you what designs have been tried and fail due to the
> speed of light delays and large-body-of-information communication
> costs.

What's the point in you having children?

You don't, because you're too rational to see a point in it?

Then, it seems such strategy will not make measurable impact, keeping the
stage clear for other players. (If total population declines temporally,
it doesn't mean that all subpopulations are shrinking. Sooner or later,
the dynamic fraction will dominate).

> The bigger the wavefront, the slower you have to go unless
> you consciously, intentionally want to waste the resources
> (e.g. two MBrains on opposite sides of the wavefront are
> trying the exact same sub-atomic engineering designs at
> exactly the same time).

The wavefront is an expanding sphere. The wavefront selects for just one
thing: a complex speed/fecundity. This does not describe a specific
technology a priori, and if anything, it deprecates sentience.

> For reasons, like the black hole engineering strategies
> discussed by Mike & Anders, there may be only certain
> specific places in the galaxy where you can go, where
> you may have the matter and energy resources that would
> allow you to start the next S-curve of technological evolution.

Which level of tech do you need to colonize the Solar system? But for
minor missing pieces (closed-circuit portable ecologies) we have the
technology already. In a few decades we can send our first intestellar
mission, slow, very slow, but if the Singularity critters are not going to
expand, the rest of it is all ours, hein?

> JBrains & MBrains *know* they don't want to get bigger.

The ecology knows it doesn't want to colonize new substrate. Duh. JBrains
& MBrains are *ecologies*. Very diverse ecologies at that.

> They want to get "smaller". They will either know from
> a theory of everything and/or having tried trillions of
> possible designs that doing so is "impossible" or dedicate
> the resources available in the most efficient way possible
> to the exploration of the sub-atomic engineering phase space.

All is very well, but will they vanish all, quantitatively? Every single
one of them? How probable is that?

> For example, if as Frank points out, you can build reversible
> computers that trump any non-reversible computer and you need
> one of those to take the next steps in sub-atomic engineering
> simulations *and* they require a saturn-mass of silicon to
> do the engineering, then you are going to go to the location
> where that much silicon is available for astroengineering.

Good for you. I'll stay here, and breed. And expand.

> You aren't going to run willy-nilly around your local region
> of space terraforming every planet or JBraining & MBraining
> every star system because it isn't going to get you any

Guess what, I am. Going to. Unless you'll stop me. And I know of a lot of
people who're positively pathologically expansive. Some would do it to
only make an obscure point.

> closer to having sub-atomic engineering capabilities or
> knowing that they are not feasible.

Engineering is tres cool, but sometimes I also just want to party.

> For Eugene's premises to be valid he has to make a strong
> assertion that advanced technological civilizations do not
> reach the conclusion that trying to ignore Malthus is doomed.

Uh, no. We're pretty advanced, almost sufficiently advanced to colonize
the galaxy, and I fear less than one of ten people off the street have
ever heard Malthus' name, if asked.

> (Sooner or later you run out of stars or galaxies!)

Yes, but how is that relevant to not being expansive? It rather motivates
for a gold rush, if anything.

> Its assuming post-singularity technologies with pre-singularity
> personal motivational systems and irrational thinking.

Postsingularity puts no constraints on the mental set of critters. And, of
course, you don't need to be Postsingularity to colonize at least the
local galaxy.

So, the much more mundane explanation for Fermi's paradoxon is that we're
very, very rare. So, that gives us the mandate on a power lunch on the
universe, at least that part of universe we can reach before runaway
spacetime expansion extinguishes the party lights, and sends us home,
soaking wet, in the dark.

-- Eugen* Leitl <a href="">leitl</a>
ICBMTO : N48 10'07'' E011 33'53''
57F9CFD3: ED90 0433 EB74 E4A9 537F CFF5 86E7 629B 57F9 CFD3

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