Re: Review of Vinge's Deepness in the Sky

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 15:49:57 -0500

Robin Hanson wrote:
> This theory needs to be augmented to explain why the "no organization"
> organization fails. Across the thousands of stars there is a weak
> organization via trade that doesn't seem to threaten the total human
> region. So why couldn't the same weak ties work within a star's system?
> Why couldn't a solar system fragment into thousands of places each of
> which was organized internally, but where ties between places were weak?

Because where high bandwidth is possible, more efficient forms of organization will outcompete any effort to duplicate the galactic organization on a single planet. It is similar to the problem of a civilization optimizing away all its spare room. The shortsighted approach always outcompetes. Civilizations in the Slow Zone are short-lived for the same reason humans are.

The Qeng Ho are sufficiently distributed in time, and sufficiently small in crew, that they don't have a "commons problem" - at least, not on more than one ship at a time. The Qeng Ho are immortal for the same reason amoebas are.

> I'm not yet persuaded of that. If bio weapons can kill all the
> humans in a star system, why doesn't it spread to other star
> systems via the trading ships? If trading ships can block
> the spread, why can't places within a star's system use the
> same approach?

Because a star system has fully spread The Plague by the time anyone can impose effective quarantine measures. The time between stars is long enough to eliminate sleeper viruses... either that, or at the time of the novel, any sleeper viruses are still sleeping.

--          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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