Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus

Nicholas Bostrom (
Fri, 5 Sep 1997 16:54:53 +0000

The Low Golden Willow wrote:

> } 2. Hostile attack goo cannot be allowed to gain a sizable foothold;
> } therefore there must not be any sizable global area unprotected by an
> } immune system.
> "Sizable" is vague.

If we assume that we need to cover at least 99.99% of the earth with
some immune system (which I do), then we can as well cover all of
it, I suppose. So let's reformulate:

2. In a multipolar world, the whole earth must be protected by one
immune system or another. If only cities were protected, attack goo
could easily extinguish all intelligent life.

> One city fighting off a planet of goo might lose.
> One half of a planet could fight off another half

But that would be an enormously expensive battle and it should be

> } Given an island vs. sea battle, and a certain minimum technology
> } level on both sides, the sea will win, whether the "island" is a
> } malevolent spore or a city.
> "Certain minimum technology level" is completely vague. You can shift
> the levels on either side to force whatever result you want. And I
> think I disagree with the claim in general anyway: the natures of the
> "island" and "sea" do matter. A spore surrounded by white blood cells
> and a city surrounded by whatnot are not the same thing. A city can
> defeat a first wave and then cannibalize the remains, becoming stronger.
> The spread of civilization, except here the wild comes to the city
> rather than vice versa.

I inserted the "minimum technology" proviso into Eliezer's original
formulation to make sure that the sea could avoid making itself
available as dinner. But is there such a minimum technology that
would do the trick no matter how advanced the island? I suppose there
is (design space limited),though it might be very high up on the
technology ladder. Sooner or later, the sea would reach that level of
technology, and then it would defeat the island, unless the island
had made itself into a sea by that time. So we reformulate:

In the long run, an island cannot defend itself against a sea.

Nicholas Bostrom