Re: RELIG: Colonizing Hell

Anders Sandberg (
Sat, 4 Jan 1997 19:37:31 +0100 (MET)

On Fri, 3 Jan 1997, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:

> An interesting notion.
> 1) Can hell be terraformed?
> 2) If not, what would be required to live there?
> For the classic "lake of sulfer" scenario, you'd need powerful
> refrigerators and maybe little cabins floating on the lake. Would there
> be any way, with modern technology, to put a research station *beneath*
> the lake? For power, we can use the temperature differential between
> the lake and the plain of ice in the Ninth Circle.

"Hell must be isothermal, for otherwise the resident engineers could use
the temperature differential to cool off a part of it to any desired
temperature" (Old physics joke).

Molten sulphur isn't that hot, just a few hundred degrees centigrade, so
a research station (suitably insulated, chemically inert and linked by a
cooling system to the Ninth circle) would certainly work. Infernal
sulphur-based biology might be fascinating (or is it a branch of
demonology? Demonochemistry?).

An oceania-like floating structure might work, but the fumes above the
lake are definitely unhealthy, But by enclosing it in a geodesic dome and
extracting energy from burning sulphur, you could probably create a real
paradise inside.

> Would there be any motive for colonizing hell? My copy of *Inferno*
> doesn't show much in the way of natural resources.

Hmm, skilled labor? There must be a lot of useful people down there (and
lawyers, politicians and priests of course :-) Research has already been
mentioned. Interesting minerals might be present. Besides, according to
all accounts *nobody ever dies in hell*! This would provide a very unusual
life extension method: "Want to live forever? Live in hell!"

> What would be required to terraform Hell? Since Hell is infinite (?) it
> beats a Dyson sphere for living space, and in any case I think that we
> should do our best to ensure a happy afterlife even for the morally
> challenged. I believe that the flatterers were supposed to be wading
> through excrement, so we have plenty of fertilizer. The classic problem
> of producing oxygen doesn't apply; what we need is to give Hell a
> self-sustaining livable ecology. Are there any plants that put roots
> down in molten sulfer? If the sulfer is self-heating, or the plain of
> ice is self-cooling, we can drop chunks of ice into the lake - the
> question remains; what will live on even cooled sulfur?

I think the classic vision of Hell includes some ecology (the forest of
the suicides?), but most seems to consist of neatly divided regions with
very different chemistries. Mixing the right areas together could result
in very useful results. The best way might be to start out with building
an infrastructure, moving the flatterers into the first circle so that
their circle could be mined and seeded.

Somehow I have the feeling it is easier to build small biospheres inside
hell than terraform the whole thing; as Piers Anthony wrote in his
occasionally hilarious _For Love of Evil_: "Changing Hell was like boxing
with a big pillow; you made an impression, but it didn't change anything".

Besides, we have forgotten how to deal with the demons. What rights do
they have to their natural environment?

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y