Re: The Future and Nihilism (was Re: >H RE: Present dangers to transhumanism)

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 3 Sep 1999 12:02:32 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 2 Sep 1999, Brian Manning Delaney wrote:

> Hi Robert!
> I remember when I met you at the A4M conference several years ago
> you said you wanted to do philosophy someday.

Hi. Really, I don't remember, but would easily believe I said it.

> ... Hopefully you've forgotten the whole encounter, and don't even
> know who I am!)

Oh, absolutely. [Anders, please don't step in here and let anyone know about our discussion regarding possible effects of the Hawking Radiation from small (long-lived) black holes on orbiting nanocomputers containing uploaded sentients...]

> Having a philosophy in place before the Big Change occurs might be an
> incredibly good thing -- life-saving, even earth-saving, perhaps.

Yep, to be saved, I think we need a philosophy that effectively allows us to transcend a massive body of gentic & cultural programming. Not a small task.

> On the other hand, after the Big Change, the philosophy we come up with
> now will probably be entirely irrelevant.

> One thing I am fairly certain of, though: Virtually ALL philosophies,
> as well as religions, are concerned with the purpose of life.

Yes, it seems to be a common thread. Is there any philosophy though that says "there is no purpose", or "the purpose is to have fun" or something that begins to deal with a motivational/operational paradigm when survival is no longer an issue?

> > re: SIs assembly & disassembly once existance was shown to be pointless
> Yup. Though maybe also: just stay the way you are, and continue to try
> to verify -- forever -- that your realization that there's no good
> philosophy is accurate.

Well, now you get into the realm of mathematical proofs where they can't "really" prove it, but they run enough computer programs and I think they get to the point where they can show that statistically it must be true. I think the 4-color map problem and a couple of others have been solved in this way, though someone who knows more of the details should comment.

If I've thought about a philosopy for a billion years or so and haven't come up with one. I don't think there is much point for thinking another 10 billion years about it. But thats just my opinion.

> > This seems to fit the
> > paradox of "Why do we still see stars?".
> Even under the (in my view, incorrect) assumption of philosophical
> materialism, it seems highly likely that there are energy sources
> the use of which wouldn't have any manifestation that we normo-humans
> could know about.

If you are talking about something that would violate the laws of entropy I would have to disagree. If you remain with those laws, activity of any kind requires the production of heat which given sufficiently sophisticated tools, must be detectable. There are many things we cannot detect now, but there are many reasonable arguments that say that if ETC exist, and have existed for longer than a few million years, they could have colonized/harvested all of the stars. If we still see stars, we have to invoke some constraint, the question is "which one?"

> > (b) SIs evolve to the point of:
> > benevolence|caretaking|indifference|quiescence.
> I'd add:
> (e) SIs are still evolving, we just don't see them.

This seems to be a variant of (b). I didn't mean to imply that they are not still evolving. Though I would argue they rapidly get close to the limits physics allows, so the evolution would primarily occur on non-physical levels).

> Do ants _see_ us?
I suspect so, but I'm sure the sensory impression is rather "funny", perhaps similar to our impression of a mountain when we are climbing it.

We can obviously detect things *much* larger than us (stars, galaxies, etc.). We also seem to understand *what* those things are. It can be shown that the ET could be here in large numbers and we don't see them (because they operate at the nano-level). Since we don't (mostly) have the tools to detect them, our only option in working on this problem is to look at things we cannot easily explain or that cannot be seen that we stronly suspect are there.