Re: ASTROENGINEERING: When Stars go Dark

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 14:45:24 MST

Robert J. Bradbury asked me:
>Here is an economics question for you -- how do you value
>"present" thought against "future" thought? ...
>you need the full solar output for ~800 years to
>disassemble Jupiter -- but if you dedicate all the available power
>to say the "sub-optimal" computronium of your MBrain, then Jupiter
>will never get disassembled.
>How do you make the tradeoff between a "lot" of cycles now and
>somewhat more cycles later (if you sacrifice the cycles now)?

There are two topics: what do folks value, and how do they get
what they value. Economics tend to spend more time on the later
topic, but your question focuses more on the former topic. For
the question of what do folks value I see two main approaches:

1) Some sort of variation and selection among folks who want
different things. This is what I did in my cosmic commons paper.

2) Assume folks now take control somehow of the future evolution
of values. They might preserve their present values. Or if they
at the meta level value other values, they might choose to change
their values. And so on. (And all other civs do the very same.)

Evolutionary analyses suggest that sexual beings discount the
future at roughly one half per generation, while asexual beings
don't discount at all. But I think the key assumption in your
analysis is that our descendants will mainly care about thought
per se, as opposed to caring about thought as a means to other ends.

>Can you imagine a scenario in which the universe looks the way
>it does now because the posthumans simply got wrapped up in
>their simulations and forgot to harvest the remnants that we
>now see?

Yes. But the scenario I would envision is strong convergence, in
Nick's terms. For some reason all posthuman societies evolve to
squash dissent and move to strongly value something which can
only be found locally, such as rapid response computation. And
I find it hard to assign a very high probability to this scenario.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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