Re: Our rocky solar system may be rare

Forrest Bishop (
Sat, 18 Sep 1999 11:59:53 -0700

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 14:26:14 -0400
Subject: Re: Our rocky solar system may be rare

RH wrote:
>Robert Bradbury wrote:
> >Look at my comments on Robin's paper at:
> >

>... Those
>organisms/machines will not have our genetic drive to expand unless we
>intentionally imbue them with it. They are not our "descendents", they are
>either our "creations" or perhaps "us". Many individuals significantly
>question whether of human violence or endless expansionism make sense for an
>"intelligent" species. It is questionable whether we would program this
>trait into our creations or would continue to promote these traits within
>ourselves in light of our current perspectives. There are only three
>possibilities, "more", "different" and "better".

Let's not forget "worse", which is a common public/Hollywood perception of artifical organisms/machines/uploads, etc.

>Nature tends to favor
>"more" because it enables "different" and "better". Lacking intelligence,
>history, wisdom, simulation capacity, etc. it is impossible for nature to
>create "different" and "better" by design. Creative intelligent engineering
>does not suffer from the handicaps of nature and need not follow the
>unconscious dictates of "more". ...

<But we *are* nature. At first maybe only rocks were around, then cells, then animals, now us, [a] later space-faring progeny. .... The creation and preservation of such institutions is in the individual interests of many competing entities. But I can see no similar change in the pressures toward expansionism; it seems in no particular individuals interest to prevent it. >

A counter example: Commercial expansion into space was actively quashed during the Cold War. Competing groups may find (either logically or irrationally) it in their interest to prevent each other from expanding.

>They could easily be among us and we would not know it. We do not posess
>the biotechnology capabilities to differentiate an alien imposter from a
>"genuine" human. They could exist even a few miles below the surface of
>the Earth and we would not know it.

<Sure, and God could create a universe 6000 years ago with all the light on the way to Earth, so it just looks like its 13 billion years old. And aliens could surround our solar system with a big TV screen showing the universe we see. But the big question is: WHY? Why would they do this?>

Because they are sick and twisted? Isn't there room in an SI intellect for irrationality?


 >As pointed out by Drexler in Nanosystems, pgs 154-156, radiation is a
 >signifiant hazard to nanomachines.  ...  It is even a significant problem
 >for not quite nanoscale human machines.  ...  It may not be possible to

>construct a probe capable of traveling significant interstellar distances at
>high speeds and survive.

<I think it is clear that you can make a probe large enough that shielding will be sufficient.>

Or a small machine with a sufficiently high self-repair rate. A recent interesting experiment on *Radiodurans* exposed it to the rough equivalent of several trillion years of space radiation, which it survived. The Pyrex beaker that held the colony was yellowed and crumbling.

< Larger probes are more expensive, but we're considering civilizations that have thoroughly colonized a whole star system. For such civilizations, I don't think the expense prohibitive.>

>The problem is whether or not a superintelligence constitutes a "competitive
>population". A Dyson Shell superintelligence constructed from nanocomputers
>(1 cm3) has the capacity to hold a trillion trillion human intelligences.
>The communication bandwidth between the processor elements is so high that
>it is questionable whether individuals would really exist.

<Such a shell would be so complex, and modularity is such a powerful way to deal with complexity, that I can't imagine that it wouldn't have "parts" in some sense. And it is very hard to prevent competition among parts, no matter what the intention of anything is.>

Furthermore, the propagation velocity between elements could be much less than the "experential velocity"- a signal sent to the opposite side of the shell (or to another star system) would be received by an entity that had many hours (years) to evolve into something different. Latency is more critical than bandwidth.


Forrest Bishop
Interworld Productions, LLC
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering