Re: poly: frontier replicators et. al.

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Wed Jan 07 1998 - 10:19:18 PST

Rich Schroeppel wrote:
>We might well be the first intelligent replicators in our light
>cone, perhaps because evolution took a few lucky turns. We might
>examine the biologically static periods in our planet's life
>history for clues as to the hard/slow steps. ...
>The development of intelligence and civilization doesn't
>qualify as a slow step here. [Accepting this line of thought
>requires buying into the notion that these later steps are less
>probable than the origination of life itself, because they took
>longer. That's why I'm skeptical.]

I have a paper which illuminates some limits on how much one
can infer about the difficulty of a step from how long it took:

Given Early Success, Hard Tasks Look Easy

   For trial-and-error tasks, task durations are usually
informative about task difficulty; harder tasks tend to take
longer. Among systems which have quickly completed a given
sequence of tasks, however, task durations are only informative
about the difficulty of easy, not hard, tasks.

  For example:
      1.A new business must accomplish several tasks before its
initial funding runs out, and successful ones take roughly the
same time for most tasks, regardless of task difficulty.
      2.If life on Earth has reached our level of evolution faster
than most viable planets, the hard evolutionary steps should be
roughly equally spaced in history.

Robin Hanson
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 Wed Jan 7 18:11:20 1998

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