Re: Big Bang demiurges (was: Re: El Aleph)

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sat, 02 Jan 1999 21:04:01 -0600

> On the other hand, it's bracing, I suspect, to acknowledge in due humility
> that, for all we know, actually there are other Powers in the cosmos, right
> now, who have passed through the veil of the Spike. And perhaps they do
> move upon us, vast and heedless, as fire moves across the tops of a field
> of cropped and stubbled wheat...85

There most certainly are, one way or another. Intelligence left to itself would have populated the Universe long ago. Some races would probably have the discipline to deliberately not create Singularities... at least one in a thousand, I should guess. They still aren't here. My guess is that as soon as even an unSingular civilization runs across a Singularity (like land mines scattered across the galaxies), or even as soon as radio transmissions reach Them (and Earth puts out as much radio flux as a small star, the photons on the way even now)... they vanish.

It's the only set of SI actions that can explain the Great Filter, I think. Causing the native sun to go supernova (while building a wormhole?) isn't enough. There would be species that avoided Singularities, enough to populate the galaxies. Only a deliberate effort to ensure a silent sky could create the silent sky we see.

I can't begin to imagine what set of SI motives could result in such actions. Where are the Von Neumann helpers? If the Powers want something from mortals, why don't they have drones orbiting every star? Deliberate interference on the part of Singularities presents an even greater puzzle than the Great Filter; if an SI wants something from normal space, why don't they expand in all directions at lightspeed?

I think that the paradox results from our misunderstanding of causality. Suppose that the black hole at the heart of our galaxy is an SI or an SI drone, spanning time (after the fashion of a Tipler cylinder) to the beginning of its creation. When our radio signals reach the black hole, our civilization is... whatever they do with civilizations... possibly thousands of years before the first radio. One drone is sent; no Von Neumann reproduction is necessary, and it arrives with plenty of time to spare. It's an intuitively unappealing answer, with nonabsolutes in the wrong places, but it's the best answer I have.

What does a "goal" mean when there's no clear distinction between future and past? What does "now" mean when it can be changed after the fact? Perhaps it's our irretrievably linear analysis of "urgency" that gives rise to the Great Filter Paradox. Or perhaps, if we've already admitted that civilizations are useful for something, this whole civilization is conveniently simulated. But then why create the appearance of paradox, like a gigantic finger pointing at the cardboard props underlying the Universe?

The stars are empty
Analyze the Great Filter
Silence speaks volumes

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.