SI Comparative Advantage [was Re: Free Will]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Mon, 16 Aug 1999 12:11:25 -0700 (PDT)

> Brent Allsop <> wrote:

> > (Julian Assange) writes:

> > > Those SI's which have motivation to control the substrates on which
> > > SI's are built shall proliferate and others will become food.

> > > The idea that SI's will do anything else with humanity but grind it up
> > > for spare atoms and is nothing short of religious faith.

> > So what about the law of comparative advantage?

> What is "the law of comparative advantage?" or where
> can I find out more about it? I disagree with Julian's assertion
> here, does this law support this position? If so, then how/why?


Comparative advantage is simply the idea that depending on your location or knowledge you are in a better "economic" position to do something than someone in a different location or with different knowledge. It is why all the shoe manufacturing moved from the U.S. to Asia (lowest labor costs), or why all the steel manufacture is done in Japan/Korea (conglomerates with close ties to banks and high savings rates provide low interest rates, allowing businesses to secure low cost loans and build the biggest iron ore blast furnaces which have the lowest production costs).

The U.S. for example, presumably has a comparative advantage in high tech industries, esp. software & creative web applications.

Depending on where you grow up and how old you are SIs will have different "comparative advantages". These will depend on such things as: (a) The size of your star [energy input] (b) How old your system is [the oldest systems generally have

the lowest metal abundances == highest material costs] (c) How close you are to the galactic center (a high radiation

      environment); high radiation -> more radiation damage ->
      more investment in shielding or more energy devoted to
      reconstructing damaged nanoscale structures.
  (d) How long you have been "alive" (# billion years) and
      what your accumulated knowledge base is.
  (e) What your position is in the galactic communication net
      (think of the power held by a galactic "router").

I suspect that that SIs would "negotiate" over food resources. One SI could watch another SIs and compute their orbital trajectories. Bear in mind that since these are "star" mass objects, changing direction and velocity is *expensive*! You could estimate what "food" they were going after (and avoid competing for it), but you would have no idea about their "intended" rate of fuel consumption. Sending out probe ships to bring back fuel is less expensive, but you want it all worked out long in advance for the greatest efficiency. So SIs would presumably have a complex negotiation and contracts system for allocating galactic resources.

Since, once you have computed your trajectories, safety margins, etc. you don't have to stay "on", other than for routine maintenance tasks, the SIs could go into "sleep" mode. The best thing we could come up with at the Foresight Group Genius Weekend is that these entities are generally doing "nothing", but have a "wake me up when something interesting happens" alarm. If most of them are asleep, detecting them is going to be a real nightmare due to the low heat production.