Re: poly: Malign Probes

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Wed Jan 07 1998 - 11:33:52 PST

On 12/21/97, Greg Burch wrote:
>In a message dated 97-12-19 20:33:54 EST, Robin Hanson writes:
>> 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.
>... the lethality of
>malign probes to all other forms of organization makes them functionally
>equivalent to a parasite such as Ebola. Because of this, I conclude that any
>species capable of building a malign probe would naturally generate a
>aversion to them, and would actively seek to oppose their operation. Because
>such a species could not count on all of its members to see the compelling
>logic of NOT building malign probes, and because its members could not be
>certain that malign probes might not arise from some other species (of which
>they were either aware or unaware), it seems that there would be a powerful
>incentive to construct active defenses against malign probes. Such defenses
>seem to be the analog of an immune system, designed to detect and destroy
>malign probes. ...
> It may be that this expansion would not leave the highly visible
>trail of destruction one would expect from a "galactic ecosystem"
dominated by
>malign probes, but rather, only the occasional evidence of a malign probe

I think this post and others are confusing various scenarios. The scenario
I was addressing here was the one where life is common, but everyone has been
hiding for billions of years for fear of being destroyed by "malign probes",
sent out by some life to kill off other life. This is definitely a
scenario; life does not coordinate on larger scales. Given this, any one life
should be mainly concerned about the effect its probes have on itself, not on
other life. Sure, my malign probes may go off and make a mess of other parts
of the universe, but if that helps me avoid getting destroyed by other's
probes, won't I do it?


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 19:29:32 1998

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