Delicate complexity? (was: RE: computronium prime-oxide_

Nick Bostrom (
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 00:28:02 +0000

Hal Finney wrote:

> they ran into balancing problems, where trivial
> strategies would dominate (often a problem with alife simulations).
> At last report they were introducing various ad hoc rules and limitations
> to try to get robust evolutionary behavior.

At this most basic level, complexity or growth in compexity does certainly not seem to be the most likely or natural situation. But since it's boring (for the human psychology), we change the parameters in the simulation until we get something interesting. It makes me wonder if we may not be prone to overestimate the likelihood that the far future will be complex.

It appears to me that Anders and Robin (and Max?) have a tendency to think that there are lots of checks and balances in the nature of things, and that tradeoffs and diminishing returns guarantee that a large variety of different strategies will always co-exist. Eliezer and other extreme singularians (and to some extent me) seem to think that the world and posthuman society might well be more brittle, and that system could easily end up in one of the "boring" states, i.e. simple states. (If the universe were transformed into a giant pleasure-machine, for example, it might be a simple state, but not a boring one from the insiders point-of-view.) In a factor analysis of different thinking styles in transhumanism, I would expect this to turn out to be one of the basic dimensions.

Nick Bostrom Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics