Re: SI Comparative Advantage [was Re: Free Will]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 25 Aug 1999 16:47:25 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 25 Aug 1999, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> Can I just briefly point out that chimpanzees, much less rocks, are not
> famous for migrating to janitorial jobs?

Comparative advantage *requires* that you both can do the job. If one of you can't then the other's comparative advantage becomes infinite.

> Besides, this doesn't hold true if the worst producers are using
> resources inefficiently that the best producers could otherwise use.
The worst producers could be doing an extrodinarily poor job of producing widgets, and you would continue to allow them to do it if it cost you 100 years of star output to go & bring back 10% of their widget raw materials over a 1000 year time period.

Yes, you could simply go there, axe the widget for brains manufacturers and produce widgets locally (there) with the formerly (their) resources. But in the time you are doing that, you have to be able to guarantee that that every other SI in the galaxy hasn't discovered how to locally produce widgets in less time than you would take to (a) go there + (b) setup your own widget manufacturing system + (c) ship it to the SIs that now constitute a very "iffy" market.

I'm sure that there is someone in the world who has a significant comparative advantage with regard to manufacturing flint spear heads. If that is true, then why haven't I noticed them doing a IPO right next to Amazon, Red Hat, Affymetrix, etc., etc.

Time delays and market shrinkage turns comparative advantage into a no-op.

Since presumably there SIs all have nanotech, there are no more matter based widgets (shipping mass around in space is too expensive). The only widgets are light-speed transmitted "designs". The problem is that there are few barriers to a remote individual coming up with the design themselves and little recourse to prevent them from using such a design (i.e. no galactic patent law). This to me seems to imply little galactic "trade". On the other hand there might be a market for galactic gossip or news. The routers always get their cut because it is cheaper for them to amplify and retransmit to local destinations than it is for a remote source to transmit very high power beams to all of those destinations.