Re: Fermi Paradox in the news

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 03:29:45 MDT

I posted a largish reply to this issue, but it looks like it got bounced.
(Is there a size limit?) Let me summarize:

I'm arguing against the idea that a second data point (defined as a
non-local environment that gives rise to intelligent life) allows you to
escape from the observer selection effect of the AP.

From: "Damien Broderick" <>

> Er, Jason - I think you're just not getting it. Slow down for a moment.
> Gene is construing the AP as an epistemological screening filter. We see
> what we see because we are here, not vice versa.

Sorry, you're right, I am going too fast. I am actually aware of how Gene
is using AP, but I haven't been very clear in the direction in which I'm
attempting to invalidate it. Let me address a few of your comments, and
then try to be more careful in my contructions here.

> >If dolphins were intelligent, would this be a two blip, or a one blip?
> That *could* be a good question, but I doubt it - it's still local-bound
> conditions. If smart archaeo-gloop near a volcanic vent aced the IQ
> maybe.

Consider: what is "local-bound?" You are grouping dolphin intelligence to
human intelligence because we shared local conditions for emergence-- my
argument is that other denizens of this *universe* share "local" (rules of
this reality,) conditions for emergence (macro-scale physical laws.) We've
arbitrarily decided on a planetary arena as the immediate birthing criterion
for intelligence, when instead I'd argue that we inhabit a physical reality
that should be considered the ultimate arena.

Let me quote what I consider to be the key phrase from Nick's posting and
see if I can clearly indicate what I consider to be the problematic aspects:

Nick Bostrom wrote:

"No matter how small a fraction of all planets in our infinite universe
develop life, we would by necessity find that we originate from one of the
exceptional ones that did."

There are two arbitrary classifications going on here. The first: Planets
develop life. The second: "We" = humanity. I sort of rattled off a couple
of quick arguments against this, but let me go a bit further, and hope it
doesn't continue to appear that I am trumpeting my own ignorance:

Let us take a step back. Let's pretend that planets don't develop life:
realities develop life. (Or rather, realities develop universes, universes
develop planets and planets develop life.) Let's further pretend that "we"
doesn't equal humanity, but rather "we" equals "all observers." This is
what the AP really says after all, doesn't it: i.e.: Observers should not
be surprised to be observing a reality that begets observers. Right?

In this capacity, the AP has no discretion-- it does not distinguish between
planets, and it does not distinguish between sentiences. It tells us simply
that we are in a reality that begets observers. This is a tautology and
doesn't provide any epistemological filters to other observers, because it
has no discretionary capacity over micro-scale processes: i.e.: it does not
distinguish between planets as birthing places, but speaks rather to the
overall nature of the reality we inhabit. It also doesn't distinguish
between observers: you are not distinguished from me, and Vegans are not
distinguished from us.


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