Re: poly: Malign Probes

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Fri Jan 30 1998 - 14:13:04 PST

> I've been assuming that detection is more extensive than just probes
>defending their own systems. They are watching several neighboring systems,
>and can at very least detect most objects whose velocity exceeds the
>escape velocity of those systems.

First, why should probes have to come from neighboring systems? If probes
can come from 1000 light years away, you'd have billions of star systems to
have to be keeping track of.

I thought the whole intuition behind needing to hide was that you just
couldn't tell where attacks might come from. A small antimatter probe
could come out of no where and blow you away. If you can see where attacks
are coming from, you can more plausibly defend and retaliate, making hiding
less needed.

> As for interception, I'm assuming that when a system sends out probes,
>one or more neighboring system sends out probes which follow and destroy
>the first set of probes plus the system that sent out those probes.
> I'm not sure whether to assume that the retaliatory probes also attack
>each other or whether they have some way of recognizing each other's
>retaliatory intent.

If systems are willing to not attack a system that sends a retaliatory probe,
why would such a system need to hide? You could take apart planets & star,
as long as you didn't send out non-retaliatory probes. If you're hiding from
neighbors, you should fear they would detect you when you send retaliatory

> I think you're implying that such detection systems and retaliatory
>ability need to look conspicuous. I'm assuming that as long as they are
>passively waiting for signs of expansion, they are easy to camoflage.
>Setting up such systems undetected is hard, and only succeeds in the
>rare case where life is able to colonize a new system by correctly guessing
>that there are an abnormally low number of malign probes in neighboring
>systems, causing expansion to be safer than normal.

If stars which had such systems were rare, colonized systems would be rare,
so there would be lots of systems out there for the taking. So a fast
colonize, reproduce, and get out of there before the bombs come strategy
could be feasible.

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 Fri Jan 30 22:28:09 1998

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