Re: seti@home is SORTA WORKING
Sun, 11 Jul 1999 11:39:49 EDT

In a message dated 99-07-10 21:07:47 EDT, (Robert J. Bradbury) wrote:

[regarding communication between species with vastly different levels of intelligence:]
> Nonsense. Insects do a great job talking to each other for the
> purposes of their survival. Moths, I believe they do some of
> the best pheramone signalling known (a few molecules hundreds of yards,
> perhaps even miles away). Crickets, certainly make themselves known
> to nearby mates.

Well, as you indicate E.O. Wilson and others "talk" to insects through their work on pheromone signaling. Comparing the content of the conversation that takes place in that endeavor to, say, Shakespeare, your point is well taken. But the point is that some small number of humans DO go to the trouble and endure the "boredom" of the content of the conversation for the simple sake of learning a little bit.

> Greg's example with the lemurs is a case in point -
> "they concoct simple plans in pursuit of their constant desire
> to stir up mischief."
> They are interesting because they are creative. Greg can predict
> how they may behave some of the time, but not perhaps all of the time.

Perhap I'm easily amused :-)

> I would argue that an M-Brain could predict with relatively high
> accuracy what humans would do. They have the observational capacity
> and storage capacity to build a huge database of statistical
> responses to given situations (just as Greg does with the lemurs).
> They also have the computational capacity to simulate a variety
> of possible futures for any human situation and would likely be
> able to predict exactly how things will play out (within the limits
> of chaos theory).

{WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL CONTAINS WILD SPECULATION; VALID POETIC LICENSE REQUIRED.} Those limits may well make the decisive difference. You made the chillingly apt point when we discussed this in Palo Alto that many, if not most SIs might spend the vast majority of their time in "suspend mode" out of what amounted to a god-like boredom. I don't doubt that that may be true for most. But I can also imagine a situation in which an SI might create various subparts of itself with lesser levels of intelligence, perhaps a myriad of such subdivisions, each with slightly different capacities for interest and engagement in various subjects. Managing this hierarchy of sub-intelligences might be the ultimate business of the ultimate SIs.

Here I can't help but getting another chilling thought: Consider the Hindu theodicy. In its most refined form, Hindu theology posits a unitary god, Brahma, who essentially "plays games with himself" by partitioning his being into lesser subparts who have more or less unity with his "ultimate" self and more or less knowledge of the nature of the "game". In this view, we are all really aspects of Brahma, with Krishna being the gentle "messenger" who crosses levels of "god-nature" with the news that we're all really different, more or less aware parts of the ultimate god-mind. Shiva ("the destroyer"), in this view, is the aspect of Brahma who erases the self-imposed limits in Brahma's cosmic game, from time to time "rebooting" more or less of the rules.

Perhaps, with cosmic time and ultimate computational resources on their hands, at least some SIs will come to play the Brahma "god game". If so, then there will be perhaps many, many quite potent intelligences in the universe -- intelligent far beyond our current level -- but still not at any particular time fully in possession of all of the knowledge and power of a "complete", unitary SI. Such "lesser deities" might well be interested in communicating with us -- in the gentle way of Krishna, or perhaps in the more dramatic ways that Shiva upsets the apple cart. In this regard, there might be specifically-crafted "level crossers" that are intentionally "designed" to play that role in some SI's "god game", or who might evolve into that role on their own. This concept of a "level crossing" techno-transcendent intelligence is similar to Anton Sherwood's notion of the "extrosattva" I've written about before:

While you make compelling arguments about the improbability of communication between SIs and animals with our level of intelligence, can you say that the scenario I describe above is impossible or even improbable?

     Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley