Re: Disaster priorities [was Balloon-Borne Instrument Collects Antimatter]

Anders Sandberg (
19 Aug 1999 14:58:04 +0200

Given a constant rate of accidents, the survival curve will be an exponential decay. But if the probability of dying can be reduced over time, then indefinite survival becomes possible (until such an era where an insurmountable danger appears, of course).

"Robert J. Bradbury" <> writes:

> Well, I think we should balance our perspectives with regard to
> disasters... I would make up the "worry list" as follows:
> Motor vehicles, falls, poisonings, fires, drowning, suffocation, and
> of course firearms.

I think some illnesses should be on this list too.

> - the weather (floods, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, snow, hail,
> lightening);
> - airplanes (if you aren't in them when they crash, you can always
> be under them);

As I happily point out to my fellow travellers during my flights just after landing: the time the plane spends on the ground is by far the most dangerous part of the flight.

> - a nearby (< 10 LY?) supernova

Not a current problem, I would guess. Rather few suitable stars nearby (but maybe Sirius B going nova? Not very likely).

> - being consumed by a superintelligence or getting in the
> way of a superintelligence construction project

Seems to be a major worry for this list.

> - the formation of a nearby blackhole

Industrial accidents at Geodesic Systems Inc...

> - planets become detached from stars (which are dead)

Is this very dangerous? I mean, at this point any survivors will already have learned how to do without sunlight. The tidal forces involved aren't that bad, are they?

> - all solid matter becomes effectively liquid

This is actually a problem; I can imagine low-temperature, low-energy life in a far future Dyson universe, but if quantum effects eventually make everything liquid (over tremendous long eons, of course) then it is hard to sustain ordered systems.

> P.S. [For those who want to quibble on the details, ~50% of the
> prioritization are from Dyson's 1979 "Time Without End" paper.
> So read that before you put me up against the wall to shoot me.]

There is a newer paper out,


  author = 	 {Fred C. Adams and Gregory Laughlin},
  title = 	 {A dying universe: the long-term fate and evolution of astrophysical objects},
  journal = 	 {Reviews of Modern Physics},
  year = 	 1997,
  volume =	 69,
  number =	 2,
  pages =	 {337--372},
  month =	 {April}


which improves and reconsiders Dyson's old studies.

Of course, Tipler might be right and the universe is actually closed even if it looks open from here, and in that case another big danger is the Big Crunch. Or system crashes in the Omega Point.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y