[ASTRO] von neumann probes

From: Andrew R. Sujdak (arsujdak@midway.uchicago.edu)
Date: Fri Jan 14 2000 - 14:37:11 MST

> Is it feasible for the probes to be development & observation/contact,
> designed to detect go/no-go status as they are closer to arriving? Then
> needn't worry so much about the problem at the end of paragraph above.

This is the best of the suggestions I've heard so far, but the one thing I'd
like everyone to consider is that there is no reason why MULTIPLE probes
can't be sent to the same system. When you're dealing with an exponential
system like VNP's it's trivial to linearly increase the processing time. So
why wouldn't the civilization simply send out several different classes of
probes to the colony. Example:

Start with a "detection" probe. Send it out before the other ones. It's
entire job is to detect advanced civilizations. If it does NOT detect them,
after a pervasive search, then it flips a "kill switch" on the RF waves it
was transmitting throughout its segment.

Then send in a contact probe and a colonization probe. Depending on the RF
feedback they get, one switches "off" and the other one lives and performs
its function.

Why do it this way? Because nature shows us we're a lot better off making
globs of things that do really simple tasks but work well collectively
rather than making swiss army knives.

Which actually leads me into my second point about VNP's. Why does everyone
assume some kind of "uniformity" in the design. If VNP colonization were to
occur, I think it would probably be very messy and look like a poorly
designed computer network. My logic in this is that without FTL signalling
you get an "empire" that is sufficiently large that the parts cannot
communicate with each other on reasonable time scales any longer. Galactic
travel timescales are so large for sublight travel that it would be
completely impossible to have enough design foresight to make probes that
were worth talking with by the time they get across the galaxy.

"Oh, look hunny, there's a 140,000 year old probe over there. I'm sure it
has TONS of information in it that we've never seen before, and all kinds of
science that we've never discovered"

Don't think so.


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