poly: Malign Probes

From: Robin Hanson <hanson@econ.berkeley.edu>
Date: Fri Dec 19 1997 - 12:33:12 PST

David Brin wrote:
>> The best explanations are those that are compulsory (impose themselves,
>> creating a relatively stable equilibrium condition). By 'best' I do not
>> mean nice, though. 'Malign Probes' is a scenario that fits -- VonNeumann
>> machines that seek potential competitors and destroy them.

Anders replied:
>I had a somewhat similar scenario in a sf roleplaying scenario I ran a
>while ago; see http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/Game/report4.html for an
>in-game writeup. Essentially, the argument is that technologically
>advanced civilizations become able to wipe each other out far too
>easily, and the only ESS is to hide in interstellar space.

I challenge anyone to write down a specific model and show that this behavior
is the ESS of it. It just doesn't seem like equilibrium behavior to me.

Imagine you are a malign probe. You don't know where you came from, so if
you're captured you can't give that info away. But you do know what sort
of signal it would take to convince you someone is a "friend" and to not
destroy them. (Even if someone captures you, your crytpo makes it very
hard for them to figure out how to mimic such a signal.)
You mission is to destroy non-friend life. You look for signs of such and
move in to destroy them.

You suffer chances of being destroyed naturally in flight, or being noticed
and destroyed by malign probes from non-friends. So you need to reproduce
once in a while to preserve your numbers. But then the question arises:
why not reproduce a LOT? If you come to a system that has no enemy
why not start to convert the whole damn system to more malign probes, sending
them out as fast as you can. Sure, another malign probe may come destroy
this system, but how is it better to have just stopped reproducing after
a few copies?

If malign probes are not afraid to reproduce like wild, then the universe
quickly gets filled up with malign probes. I don't see how this could
explain what we see.

Robin Hanson
hanson@econ.berkeley.edu http://hanson.berkeley.edu/
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Fri Dec 19 20:28:11 1997

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