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Poof of concept
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Do not make von Neumann probes, instead, keep a moderate number of hidden civilization replicas, and monitor the universe, to last longer, and to lead a more interesting existence.
While self-replicating spacecraft would have a potential to bring life and
technology to a whole galaxy in a matter of just a few million years, it
not be the wisest thing to do. The exponentially replicating probes
create competition, accelerate resource consumption,
away the chance for other types of life to emerge, preventing the
possibilities to study other
types of life, which might provide insights into overlooked optima to
our own biases, the knowledge of which may be useful for future road-
blocks. All of that combined, releasing von Neumann probes would
to be treated with the same caution and foresight as messaging to
extraterrestrial intelligence. (Advanced alien civilizations may already
exist, and be monitoring the universe for emergence of replicators.)
All that brings me to an assumption, that any sufficiently advanced
civilization is secure, wise, curious and patient enough to be
in polluting the universe with von Neumann probes, because
they had assured their survival with sufficiently high certainty (e.g.,
diversifying with just a dozen of mutually remote independent
makes probability of extinction vanish), that making exponentially
replicating probes does not enhance their chances in survival (but
reduces it by accelerating resource consumption, and creating other
In that context, leaving the resources for other types of life to emerge
seem more interesting and deemed useful.
As a side effect, in that case, one would not expect to see the universe
teaming with life (like Fermi paradox supposes), but instead, a universe
with different types of
civilization clusters, with hidden locations, and encrypted signals to
other about their existence and developments, where each cluster is
not unlikely to be
of another. Whatever dangers they would encounter, would likely not
divulge the locations of other civilizations, but be able to inform them.
In other words, wise exploration instead of pure replication.
One does wonder, however, what would happen if such advanced
civilizations do get in contact despite taking this wise exploration
NOTE: We do need to run some simulations for this strategy, but if this
proves to be a better strategy, then it weakens the predictions of Ray
Kurzweil, that we're just one civilization, and the predictions of Nick
Bostrom about the "great filter," that prevents civilizations to further
Dave Pearce' Hedonistic imperative
[beanangel, Mar 18 2019]
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||I will do my part by continuing not to make von Neumann probes.
||The problem with this idea as an explanation of the Fermi
paradox is that it requires _all_ extraterrestrial intelligences
to behave the same way.
||// _all_ extraterrestrial intelligences to behave the same way
||The proposition, is that it may be a pattern -- "any sufficiently advanced
civilization is secure, wise, curious and patient enough, that they don't do
the von Neumann probes"... And then, if they do notice the replicators,
they probably take actions to stop them.
||Yes, it may be a pattern, I'm just saying that it would be
strange if *all* extraterrestrials followed the same pattern.
I mean, out of every ten civilisations, you might expect at
least one would be hell-bent on taking over the galaxy. It
also assumes that civilisations adopt *and maintain* this
strategy indefinitely - if they went through a brief
aggressive phase and sent out vNMs, they'd be everywhere.
||I increasingly believe that there may be very, very few
intelligent species in the galaxy, and we might be either
alone, or the most advanced.
||// I mean, out of every ten civilisations, you might expect at least one
would be hell-bent on taking over the galaxy.
||And what if this propensity towards safe exploration is more common
than anticipated? It is not clear, is it 1 in 10, or 1 in million. For example,
one could expect that 1 in 10 persons would like to be stateless.
However, in reality, approx. 1 in 1000 persons are stateless. I'm
bringing up this comparison, because it involves individual choices for
long-term stability associated with social organization. The choice of
safe exploration may just be similarly much more common choice.
||Creating vNMs doesn't require much intelligence, and little wisdom. So,
what if these advanced civilizations that had lived for longer than a few
million years from the time they had became technologically advanced
(like we did in the last couple of centuries)? They would likely be
monitoring the galaxy for these "hell-bent" attempts to create vNMs, and
preventing the replicators.
||Galaxies taken over by vNMs would probably then be rarer than we
think, and further away than expected, making seeing significant
differences from normal galaxies harder.
||But then why not simply build benign vNMs and send them
out to explore?
||OK, since humanity is the only example we've got, let's
model humanity. In 100 years from now, we will perhaps be
able to send out "benign" vNMs. These benign vNMs will just
travel until they end up on a rock. If the rock has life, they
will just report back to Earth with nice photos, and maybe
say "hello" to the life they find. If it has no life, they'll use
a tiny fraction of its minerals to build more of themselves to
send on to the next rock. This seems like a reasonable
thing to do, by a species not intent on dominating the
galaxy but curious to learn what's out there. And I think
there's at least a reasonable chance that we'll do something
like this in the next few hundred years. And if there's a
reasonable chance, it's reasonable to assume that at least
some other intelligent species out there would do
||And then, would benign vNMs be easily discoverable (Fermi paradox
predicts universe teaming with life). Probably not.
||Would they be expected to spread widely? Maybe, given that they exist
long-enough. Would they be a risk to the civilization that sends them
given that they are discovered by another intelligent civilization?
so, because they could give out the location of the parent civilization.
Therefore, a wise civilization would decide to first decentralize (i.e., first
making mutually distant replicas) before risking having their single
being discovered due to vNMs... But then, at the point when they have
mutliple mutually remote replicas, they're probably advanced enough to
be uninterested in vNMs.
||Maybe next year we discover:
||(1) A way to travel virtually, not using radio waves or
(2) A new subatomic particle which turns out to devour the
(3) A way to roam the multiverse, such that the odds of us
staying in this one are 1/infinity or
(4) An entirely new and amazing form of pasta, so fantastic
that we decide to stay at home for eternity and eat.
||If any of these things is also inevitable for any other
civilisation, then that would explain a few things.
||Indeed! Any of the (1)-(4) would explain a few things, including Fermi
paradox. Oh, what's the fantastic pasta, that's so attractive that it keeps us
||That is the fifty dollar question, [Mindey]. If I knew, I'd be a
||And you were laughing at me yesterday, saying a lead magnet would not work! It'd be a lot better than a pasta magnet!
||Dave Pearce' Hedonistic Imperative [link] outlines things of value to be accomplished prior to spreading.
||//things of value to be accomplished prior to spreading//
Bugger. Too late for me.
||In Accelerando, it isn't pasta, but some sort of economic
novelty that we mortals cannot comprehend keeps the AIs
that succeed us as the inhabitants of the inner Solar System
from exploring the universe, and it is theorized that the
same has happened in most or all other systems that have
||Okay. So, I suppose, the above implies, that there must then be two
types of galaxies:
||Type-A -- ones inhabited by conservative intelligence (Wise Exploration)
Type-B -- ones inhabited by progressive intelligence (rapidly populated
via von Neumann probes).
||The Type-A may be long-lived, and Type-B may be short-lived, due to
rapid evolution and use of resources.
||Given large intergalactic distances, the Type-B may presume that it
is safe enough
to reveal their existence to other galaxies. And so, we should expect at
least a small
percentage of galaxies to use energy more rapidly than expected, yet I
suppose less rapidly than quasars do...