The Great Filter

Michael Wiik (
Sat, 10 Aug 1996 09:01:47 -0700 (PDT)

I enjoyed Robin Hanson's article entitled The Great Filter
( ) but disagree
that an optimistic future involves large-scale colonization of space
or even space travel at all. I think it's quite possible to have an
utopian future without even getting off the Earth. The advance
of space exploration technology seems to pale next to the advance
of computer hardware and software. Seems to me then that there's a
good possibility we'll invent numerous new worlds to explore within
software constructs that may satisfy the urge to expand. From what I
recall, prior to the discovery of possible ex-life on Mars, that a
manned Mars mission was scheduled for maybe the 2020's, thus placing
it in the later period of Vinge's singularity timeframe of 2005-2030.
Thus I think there's an good chance we'll become transcendent post-
humanity long before any major manned exploration or colonization
activities within our solar system.

This leads to some interesting consequences: if only a portion of
mankind transcends, they might leave enough advanced artifacts
around for the remainder to do the major physical engineering projects
to explore and colonize space. Maybe all those UFO's are full of
alien idiots who couldn't transcend along with their fellows.

Of possible interst: some years ago while playing with SimEarth I
found that the "goal" (your nanotech cities lifting off from the
surface) could be done fairly quickly with massive science funding
with the unfortunate side effect of a "hellish" (the games's term)
existence for your sim-populace. In one scenario I managed to delay
this goal for several centuries while keeping my populace in the
advanced info-age, with a fairly utopian existence (i.e., 20-30
hour work weeks as opposed to 70-90 hour work weeks).


             Michael Wiik             Messagenet Communications Research