Re: The Great Filter

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 15 Aug 96 14:26:31 PDT

I wrote:
>If local technological advances run out, then the only route to growth
>is spatial expansion to other resources.

I should have said "unbounded growth"; even with a bound, you can of
course get growth if you asymptote. And of course I meant growth in
resources used.

Crosby_M responded:
>Even with our constrained meat minds, many of us still manage to grow wiser
>as we grow older, even as we consume fewer material resources. Is this
>because our computational power is growing or because we have learned to
>make better connections, to abstract things to higher, more generalized

No question that you could still "grow" and learn by using a bounded
amount of computational hardware for an unbounded time. But why not
use more hardware if you can?

>I recently quoted from Eric Lerner: "There is no inherent limit to evolution
>away from equilibrium, even within a fixed supply of energy, so long as a
>process can continually increase the efficiency with which it recycles the

I have a paper on this topic:
There are real limits.

>Regarding option 3, Robin replies: "But some of them should be interested in
>our raw mass and the sun's energy. Unless it is always cheaper to get more
>mass/energy by creating a 'baby universe' or some such." Of course *they*
>are *interested* in it; but, if they've transcended then why should they
>need to consume more and more material mass? I would think that the most
>successful evolutionary step would be to learn to use existing matter, as it
>is, as a distributed computing and communications medium.

I don't see what "transending" (whatever that means) has to do with
the basic evolutionary arguments I've offered. The question isn't
about "needs", its about evolutionary pressures and "wants". I'm
merely suggesting that if there are accessilbe resources, something
will evolve to use them. And if there is a use competition between
leave-it-be-nature-watchers and pave-it-over-colonists, its hard to
see how the former would win over most of the universe.

>Also, one of Greg Egan's major themes is that transcendant beings might
>prefer to run at a slower clock speed. I know that I would personally
>prefer some sort of geologic time frame, being able to watch large scale ...

You'll find it very hard to construct an argument for evolutionary
pressures toward this.

>I don't think that Boundless Expansion implies explosion.

I didn't mention Boundless Expansion.

Robin Hanson