Re: tunneling through the Singularity

Hal Finney (
Fri, 3 Oct 1997 16:42:36 -0700

Wei Dai wrote:

> The reason I bring up cryptography, however, is to show that it IS
> possible to defend against adversaries with enormous resources at
> comparatively little cost, at least in certain situations. The Singularity
> tunneling problem should not be dismissed out of hand as being unsolvable,
> but rather deserves to be studied seriously. There is a very realistic
> chance that the Singularity may turn out to be undesirable to many of us.
> Perhaps it will be unstable and destroy all closely-coupled intelligence.
> Or maybe the only entity that emerges from it will have the "personality"
> of the Blight. It is important to be able to try again if the first
> Singularity turns out badly.

One idea which is a bit analogous to cryptography is to try to lose
yourself in the vastness of interstellar space. As the singularity
approaches, it may be possible to outfit a small spaceship with enough
resources to keep you and perhaps some other people alive, or at least
preserved. You then leave earth and head out at some random direction.
You'd need to make the direction choice such that it could not be
predicted by the later Singularity. Maybe some kind of chaotic
interaction with the Oort cloud could leave you with a random direction
where all the information about which way you went has been thermalized.

You'd also have to be going fast enough so that by the time the
Singularity happens and it comes after you, the volume of space where
you could be is big enough (cubic light years, ideally). This requires
a significant fraction of the speed of light.

The reason why it could be hard to find you is that the Singularity has
only the resources of the solar system to work with (at least initially).
Realistically they will only put a tiny fraction of that into looking
for you. This is a very limited amount of matter, and even if they
converted it all into spaceships and sent them out looking for you,
space is so big that they wouldn't come very close. This is why it's
like crypto, because it's easy for you to choose a random direction
(like a random key) but to find you they have to check every direction
(like a brute force search for every key).

Of course you'd have to consider what kind of sensor technology could be
used to detect a small spaceship from far away. I don't really know
how hard it would be to spot you.

Even if this hides you, it doesn't fully satisfy Wei's requirement because
it doesn't leave you in a very good situation after the Singularity burns
out (or whatever happens to it). Maybe your ship could have an engine
and you could return to earth after some number of years. It's not
clear how you'd know what it was safe, though.