Re: Darwinian extropy

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 27 Sep 96 20:56:37 PDT writes:
> Dan Clemmensen has suggested that SIs don't colonise cosmos
> because of their high discount rate for future benefits. The
> discount rate would presumably be high because of the
> rapidity of their subjective time and the slowness of cosmic
> travels. The idea is interesting since, if right, it would
> help resolve the Fermi paradox.
> One reason why SIs could have a high discount rate would be
> if they had a bias towards the near future, just as we
> humans have. ...
> Suppose that the objective of the SI is to maximise the
> amount of valuable computations it will carry out during its
> life time. ...
> that the gains would be obtained after perhaps a thousand
> years and be enjoyed for perhaps billions of years, while
> the required investment would presumably be very small ...
> If Robin's objection, that not all knowledge can be obtained
> simply by sitting back and think (making computations), ... I
> don't think it carries very much weight, because there is no
> obvious reason why SIs should be interested in the detailed
> structure of distant cosmic regions. We must not forget that
> a mere suggestion for where the Great Filter could be, even
> if it falls short of being a proof, would be very helpful;

Let us also recall that each step of the filter has a size. An
argument that might be sufficient for saying the some of the filter
lies at any one point might be insufficient for saying that all of it
lies there. Even if you persuade me that only one in ten star systems
cares about actually seeing the distant universe up close, that still
leaves a ten to the twenty filter to be explained.

Though I said this before, let me also repeat that discount rates are
evolutionarily endogenous. Our discount rate is not biased relative
to the context where it evolved. And with competition, we should
expect future discount rates to track the local growth rate. And
limits to growth are hit, agents should care about farther and farther
into the future. There really are academic papers on this sort of thing.

Robin D. Hanson