Re: The Great Filter

Michael Wiik (
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 19:34:01 -0700 (PDT)

Eric Zetterbaum wrote:

> You have left out basic curiosity. There are two not necessarily mutually
> exclusive paths to transhumanity. One is inward into our self constructed VR
> worlds, the other is outward into the universe. Some of us need to know what
> is over the next hill, others prefer to create their own hills on canvas, or
> watch hills on TV. Some who have the option to upload into a self contained,
> VR world might choose not to do so, because they can't help but want to know
> what is in the next star system in the 'real world'. I can forsee a future
> in which the artists and couch potatoes of the world are all uploaded into
> artificial worlds of their own or other's design, while the scientists and
> explorers of the world continue to point their outputs towards the external
> universe.

It's difficult to understand what the goals of transhumans (used in the
sense of "transcended humans") might be. As you say, the paths may not
be mutually exclusive, however, it seems to me that economics dictate
the inward path. For example, you launch a manned exploration/colonization
mission to Mars, I send trillions of nanoprobes to cover the planet and
recreate all of Mars inside a VR. The material mass of my effort may be
only a few grams, miniscule compared to your mission. I'm not sure that
any additional benefit you get with the larger mission (mostly, it would
seem to consist only of additional matter to process) would justify
the extravagent cost. So I don't think it's just the difference between
couch potatoes and explorers; one could explore my VR Mars virtually

Not to get mystical here, but, to me, the entire "external" universe
exists inside my head. Perhaps there's an "end to science", where increased
knowledge only improves our comprehension of the universe by a few
decimal places. In such a case being able to construct a clockwork
universe inside VR at least means we'll be able to understand the totality
of it eventually. We just print out the source code.

The original Great Filter post wondered why we didn't see evidence of
intelligent reengineering of the universe. It might seem a shame to us
to consider that advanced civilizations always take the inward path,
but it seems possible that the rewards therein may be as great, or
even greater than, those obtained by outward exploration. Perhaps they
discover that the whole universe is a computer program, and escaping it
(or teleporting anywhere within it) is just a matter of reconfiguring the


             Michael Wiik             Messagenet Communications Research