Re: The Great Filter

Crosby_M (
Thu, 15 Aug 96 14:24:00 EDT

On August 14, 1996 8:50AM Robin Hanson wrote: "Eugene Leitl writes: '_Are_
>H's bound to push towards expansions? How can we know?' [Robin replies]
Yes, if they are internally-competitive (without a single strong world
government). If local technological advances run out, then the only route
to growth is spatial expansion to other resources. And generically
evolution, of transhumans or anything else, pushes toward growth where
possible (some mutation trys it, and wins thereby). "

Even with our constrained meat minds, many of us still manage to grow wiser
as we grow older, even as we consume fewer material resources. Is this
because our computational power is growing or because we have learned to
make better connections, to abstract things to higher, more generalized
levels? Reilly Jones put this nicely in his Extropy #15 article on SO: "Our
perspective must be broadened in order to find simplified contexts." Or, as
I recently quoted from Eric Lerner: "There is no inherent limit to evolution
away from equilibrium, even within a fixed supply of energy, so long as a
process can continually increase the efficiency with which it recycles the

I think intelligence is more a function of communication than computation.
As Anders Sandberg said, RE The Dividing Neuron, "The number of neurons in
a brain doesn't correlate to its intelligence, it is the way they are linked
together that is important." So too, ever-increasing processing power is
not necessarily extropic, especially when it wants to consume everything in
its path!

Robin Hanson refers to Niklas Bostrom's 8/13 7:00PM post: "If life developed
independently on Earth and on Mars, what could block the conclusion that our
far future is probably doomed? I can see only three potential answers: 1.
[great filter] 2. Higher life forms continue to prosper but do not cause an
'explosion' into cosmos. 3. Higher life forms do explode into cosmos, but in
ways that are invisible to us. This would presumably mean that they do not
engage in galactic scale constructions, and that they are not interested in
contacting human level life."

Regarding option 3, Robin replies: "But some of them should be interested in
our raw mass and the sun's energy. Unless it is always cheaper to get more
mass/energy by creating a 'baby universe' or some such." Of course *they*
are *interested* in it; but, if they've transcended then why should they
need to consume more and more material mass? I would think that the most
successful evolutionary step would be to learn to use existing matter, as it
is, as a distributed computing and communications medium. As Anders said: "I
think that the 'natural order' is artificial: stars are power generators,
galaxies are really computer nets and so on."

Also, one of Greg Egan's major themes is that transcendant beings might
prefer to run at a slower clock speed. I know that I would personally
prefer some sort of geologic time frame, being able to watch large scale
structures / patterns evolve in *real time*, rather than endlessly computing
ever more complex solipsist visions to the Omegath decimal place! On
balance I'm fairly satisfied with my current processing capabilities
(although I do wish I had better control over the noise levels and easier
access to non-local phenomena - but those are communication issues.) I'd be
content to keep running my simulations and observations at the current clock
speed (or slower), as long as there was no threat of degradation or sudden

I don't think that Boundless Expansion implies explosion. Growth doesn't
have to be an endless consumption of more and more resources. Transcended
life forms could learn to live on endlessly elaborated information, not
explosively manic energy consumption - unless you think that dinosaurs are
more advanced life forms than humans. As Reilly Jones might put it,
*explosion* is a characteristic of the chaotic gaseous realm, while "the
Extropic transformation is the complex (liquid) realm."

This idea of boundlessly expanding by consuming ever more and more resources
reminds me of Ralph Merkle's Extropy #11 vision of the first upload VR being
a Roman orgy simulation!

Mark Crosby