Re: Great Filter, Low Profile, Cryptocosmology

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 21 Oct 96 10:37:08 PDT

Crosby_M writes:
>Most of the people writing about the universe as a 'computation' or "sea
>of information" are physicists; e.g., Paul Davies _The Mind of God_,
>Fred Alan Wolf _The Dreaming Universe_, Brian Josephson, David Bohm,
>Nick Herbert, and so on (though some of these do tend to get a little

These authors are not talking about the same thing at all.
Here we are talking about computing stuff unrelated to the easily
observed behavior of the physical system, while they are talking about
computing this observed behavior.

>>We know which systems are exchanging bits with each other, and how
>>fast, and where this arrangement changes, etc. We also know a lot
>>about designing computers, carefully arranging the routes and speeds
>>of bit exchanges. And these two really look nothing alike!
>Our current computers are optimized for serial, not parallel
>computations, have inadequate associative memories, and are pitiful at
>What we know is only a tiny fraction of what we have yet to learn. How
>much do we really know about the initial conditions of the many chaotic
>biological and economic systems that we're still just identifying?

I don't see the relevance of the initial conditions. The initial
argument was that the bit sequences we observe in nature are what our
current understanding of communication design would lead us to expect
from advanced computers. My counter argument is that the circuit
diagram is very far from what our current understanding of circuit
design would lead us to expect. Yes, our expectations may be
completely wrong, but on the whole these observations can't be taken
as support for the view that everything around us is colonized.

>I read the Academy page and noted that they said: "Incomplete and
>asymmetrically distributed information has fundamental consequences,
>particularly in the sense that an informational advantage can often be
>exploited strategically." I assume that by "Mechanism Design" and
>"signaling games" you're referring to approaches for controling these
>chaotic, natural systems.

No. that is not what I was referring to.

>>It seems to me that the outcome of all this strategizing is that the
>>best strategy is just to expand as aggressively as possible.
>How is this different from Vernor Vinge's Blight? The image I get from
>this is a homogenous nanofog out to conquer the universe, leaving in its
>wake only a Black Goo, or less, converting everything to its
>pre-programmed optimal design. How would such a system have any
>creativity and what "new technology" could it ever develop?
>I'd expect a colonized universe of this type to look very barren, more
>like a black hole or a 'premature' Omega Point.

I think you have assumed that such a huge nanofog must be homogeneous.
Instead, it could support far more diversity and creativity and
exploration of new tech than could vastly smaller civilizations.
And why need the actions of such a civilization be "pre-programmed"?

Robin D. Hanson