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MatthewB comments on Max Tegmark on our place in history: "We're Not Insignificant After All" - Less Wrong

18 [deleted] 04 January 2010 12:02AM

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Comment author: MatthewB 04 January 2010 04:30:08PM *  -2 points [-]

This was one such idea that I had. I don't get the feeling that a superior intelligence is going to be so petty as to just waltz around the universe sucking up resources. That smacks, to me, of Hollywood horror stories. And, considering how poorly we understand Game Theory in relation to non-human species... It might be that they have a much more cooperative solution to the universe's problems.

After all, any post-Singularity Society should realize that the ultimate goal of their intelligence is to merge with the rest of the universe. Why would that mean that they must eliminate all other intelligences along the way, rather than using those intelligences as a proxy to complete the task of total utilization of the universe's energy.

My point is that we do not yet know enough to even begin speculating on possible motivations for ET, until such a time as we can sort out terrestrial motivations among our respective intelligent species.

And, as I said, we really should be worried about putting our terrestrial house in order first, as this will improve out chances during any first contact situation, whether it be potentially friendly, or potentially hostile.

Edit: Spelling (Of to Out)

Comment author: AngryParsley 05 January 2010 04:32:24AM 2 points [-]

I don't get the feeling that a superior intelligence is going to be so petty as to just waltz around the universe sucking up resources.

Sucking up resources? Nobody else is using them. They're just being wasted; hastening the heat death. One star will only last billions of years. All the matter in a galaxy could be organized to support a larger civilization for much, much longer.

After all, any post-Singularity Society should realize that the ultimate goal of their intelligence is to merge with the rest of the universe.

You are making a claim about a very large portion of possible minds. Also, I don't even know what you mean by "merge with the rest of the universe."

Why would that mean that they must eliminate all other intelligences along the way, rather than using those intelligences as a proxy to complete the task of total utilization of the universe's energy.

First, aliens that evolved separately wouldn't have similar values. Some of them would actually be threats if they valued paperclips above your civilization. Second, automated probes can do a much better job of organizing matter than some random apes with nukes.

My point is that we do not yet know enough to even begin speculating on possible motivations for ET, until such a time as we can sort of terrestrial motivations among our respective intelligent species.

Actually, yes, we do know enough to speculate. We notice that everywhere we look, there is no evidence of alien intelligences. The lights are on but nobody's home. So there are three possibilities:

  • Every civilization that has ever come into existence destroys itself.

  • Every civilization that has ever come into existence "transcends" in such a way to make the universe indistinguishable from ordinary stars and galaxies.

  • There aren't any other civilizations in our observable universe.

Comment author: Alicorn 05 January 2010 02:01:46PM 0 points [-]

Sucking up resources? Nobody else is using them. They're just being wasted;

I'd like to point out that even among the forms of intelligence that we have met, this is not a universally compelling argument. Consider that many people have a strong negative emotional reaction to the idea of putting garbage on the moon (assuming this could be made efficient). Now, objecting to this makes precious little sense. The moon is huge: even if we decide we want a colony there later, we're unlikely to coat its entire surface in waste and leave no room there. In fact, even putting enough trash there to be visible from Earth would take a while if we decided we wanted to avoid that for aesthetic reasons. It just weirds people out to use the moon as a landfill. Why should we expect that aliens wouldn't have analogous reasons to avoid "sucking up" resources that are doing less good by themselves?

Comment author: AngryParsley 05 January 2010 03:57:06PM 1 point [-]

Sure, if all aliens had values like that, then maybe all of them would stay in their original solar systems. But if even one is different, it would quickly expand.

Comment author: pdf23ds 06 January 2010 12:37:03AM 0 points [-]

It should be noted that right now humans are in a very unstable point in our evolution. Our scruples about garbage are almost certain to be eliminated if we continue to evolve under natural selection. Natural selection rewards the most efficient replicators, period.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 06 January 2010 12:42:04AM 3 points [-]

Our scruples about garbage are almost certain to be eliminated if we continue to evolve under natural selection.

By what method? How will agreeing to do things with garbage that we currently prefer not to do help individual humans reproduce more successfully?

Comment author: MatthewB 05 January 2010 04:49:38AM *  0 points [-]

My point is that we do not yet know enough to even begin speculating on possible motivations for ET, until such a time as we can sort out terrestrial motivations among our respective intelligent species.

Actually, yes, we do know enough to speculate. We notice that everywhere we look, there is no evidence of alien intelligences. The lights are on but nobody's home. So there are three possibilities:

  • Every civilization that has ever come into existence destroys itself.

  • Every civilization that has ever come into existence "transcends" in such a way to make the universe indistinguishable from ordinary stars and galaxies.

  • There aren't any other civilizations in our observable universe.

OK... Those are all very valid reasons for why there are NO ETs. I admit that and have some similar thoughts myself.

However, if you will look at what I wrote again:

My point is that we do not yet know enough to even begin speculating on possible motivations for ET, until such a time as we can sort out terrestrial motivations among our respective intelligent species.

This comment is not about whether ET exists or not, but about what might motivate various behaviors, and that we cannot even sort out the motivations of terrestrial alien species (Cetaceans, Great Apes, Birds, Elephants, etc.). If we might be able to sort out the motivations of other types of biology for their respective behavior and goals, it might then give us a better frame of reference for why an ET Civilization might be acting in a peculiar manner.

Your comment in response to the previous quote of mine (in your post above), actually came closer to addressing what my main thesis of my prior post really is:

First, aliens that evolved separately wouldn't have similar values. Some of them would actually be threats if they valued paperclips above your civilization. Second, automated probes can do a much better job of organizing matter than some random apes with nukes.

This is exactly what I was getting at. ET that evolved on a different evolutionary path to humanity (and much of Earth Life) will have values that we might not be able to recognize nor correlate to our own behavior and values.

This was why I said that the consumption of resources might not be their top goal.

Comment author: AngryParsley 05 January 2010 05:17:54AM *  1 point [-]

This was why I said that the consumption of resources might not be their top goal.

Addressed at the beginning of my comment. You are making a claim about the values of every technological civilization that has ever existed. More importantly, this value (not utilizing unused resources) is completely the opposite of what most evolved life on Earth does. It's certainly the opposite of what humans do.

Your claim is that every civilization that has come about has said, "Welp, we really like the universe as it already is and we're gonna keep it that way. Moreover, we're so sure that every other alien civilization is going to come to the exact same conclusion as us that we won't even send out some probes to find and sterilize planets where hostile life could evolve."

Comment author: MatthewB 05 January 2010 06:11:19AM -2 points [-]

I have made no such universal claim.

I have said that we do not know enough about any potential ET to know that their top priority would be the consumption of resources above all else.

If it has seemed that I made a universal claim about a potential ET, then I retract such a claim.

The only universal that I am claiming is that aliens will be different than humanity (barring a strange situation where all ETs turn out to be humans with latex foreheads), and that we are currently unable to really speculate on what might motivate these aliens.

All aliens will not have the same motivations, either (unless there is already a universal consciousness of some sort). They are likely to be as varied as life here on earth, and probably more so.

We may base some behavior upon our own, or upon terrestrial non-human intelligences (Squid, Octopi, Elephants, Apes, Birds...), but all this is likely to do is give us a methodology for interpreting an ETs behavior once one (or many) arrives on Earth.

I am not really even sure what your point is at this juncture, as you have missed the points that I was trying to make in the first posts.

Namely, that we need to put the socio-economic and cultural footings of the Earth into some some sort of shape for which we would not be embarrassed - This may make little to no difference to an ET who dropped by (should such ETs even be out there to drop by), but it will make all the difference in the world to us to be able to rapidly bring together a collective to help communicate with such a being.

I am not disagreeing with you about most of your points. Only that our sun would be sought as a resource to be used by these other intelligences. There may be some ETs who are competitive and antagonistic with other intelligences, and who will expand from their home making use of whatever they can in the process.

(Pardon me if I am not too clear right now. I have a fever from an infection in one of my legs)

Comment author: thomblake 06 January 2010 04:05:44PM 0 points [-]

I have a fever from an infection in one of my legs

OT: Skin infection? I get those. I almost died from the first one I got. Left leg doesn't work so well anymore. Be on your guard in the future since it will likely be more vulnerable to infection from now on.

Comment author: MatthewB 07 January 2010 04:12:39AM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the warning. I have been living with this for 11 years now, so I understand pretty well how vulnerable I am to infection. In another post somewhere, I may have mentioned that I am disabled because of damage to both legs from a motorcycle accident.

Odds are likely that I may loose my left leg eventually if things continue the way they are now. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to do, and I hope that I will be able to keep my leg.

However, after seeing people like Amiee Mullins, or technologies such as some of the new Artificial/Bionic legs... I could probably be OK with a fake leg at this point in my life.

After all, if this Singularity business has anything to it, I will probably be getting rid of both of my legs anyway, to replace with cybernetic legs.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 January 2010 04:25:46PM *  -1 points [-]

After all, if this Singularity business has anything to it, I will probably be getting rid of both of my legs anyway, to replace with cybernetic legs.

Singularity has nothing to do with "cybernetic legs". See also: Re: Multiple Future Bens on SL4

"So if you're thinking that what you want involves chrome and steel, lasers and shiny buttons to press, neural interfaces, nanotechnology, or whatever great groaning steam engine has a place in your heart, you need to stop writing a science fiction novel with yourself as the main character, and ask yourself who you want to be."

Comment author: Cyan 07 January 2010 04:27:07PM 1 point [-]

Singularity has nothing to do with "cybernetic legs".

Aw, nuts.

Comment author: MatthewB 07 January 2010 04:38:15PM *  0 points [-]

From what I read, the Singularity has to do with all manner of technologies, including AI, Robotics, and Nanotechnology, (edit: And Genetics) which focuses upon explosive growth of intelligence.

There are all manner of scenarios in which this may come about, and in most of them, the peripheral benefits will likely include technologies which will make cybernetic prostheses a pretty trivial thing.

However, all of that aside (and random thoughts by Eliezer from 2002), I am pretty confident that within the next 20 years, technologies such as Dr. Ted Berger's Neural Prosthesis, and the various current batch of cybernetic limbs (Google some, they are plentiful given the wars we are fighting) will give me some form of leg that will allow me to function either as I do now, or better.

This technology may or may not be central to the Singularity (depending upon whose version of it you wish to quote), yet it is technology that will be a consequence of the trip there.