Re: poly: Malign Probes and expanding civilizations

From: carl feynman <>
Date: Tue Jan 06 1998 - 05:50:10 PST

At 07:27 PM 12/21/97 -0500, Sasha wrote:
>It seems that most scenarios for the civilizations' expansion assume that
>their power and spread will be shaped more by their spacial expansion than
>growth in complexity, power over the laws of physics, ability to create more
>space/time where they are, etc. Of course, extensive factors are easier to
>model and extrapolate, but their role seems to be smaller and smaller even
>in recent human history, and will probably continue to diminish.

I think this is because the Earth is of fixed size. If you exist in a
world large enough that portions of it are beyond one's practical reach--
as did all our ancestors from the first life to Ferdinand Magellan-- then
where you are and how much area you control is of vital importance. As our
transportation and communication technologies get better, the importance of
being on different parts of the Earth decreases. The development of
practical space travel will restore the importance of position and possession.

>So I do not
>seriously consider any expansion scenarios based on currently known - or
>currently existing - laws of physics and technology.

I suppose I have more regard for the conservation of energy and the second
law of thermodynamics than I do for historical analogy. But I suspect that
this is because I find the consequences of my point of view more fun to
think about than those of your point of view. Let's make a date for dinner
in a thousand years, and we can laugh about how wrong one of us was, OK?

> Also, with technological development speeding up, a civilization that lags
>its neighbor in development for even a century (a nanosecond, when things
>really speed up?) would be desperately inferior technologically. That would
>make any attack against a stronger neighbor futile, and an attack against a
>weaker neighbor unnecessary.

During a period of rapid technological improvement this will of course be
true. But I think that rapid technological change cannot continue
indefinitely, or even for very long on a cosmic scale. Eventually life
will become well-adapted to a niche whose limits are set by the laws of
physics. It is the simplicity and rigidity of the laws of physics that
make speculation about such a final state more falsifiable than
speculations about the intermediate states.

Received on Tue Jan 6 13:41:48 1998

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