Re: poly: Malign Probes

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Sun Feb 01 1998 - 12:21:22 PST

Peter M. writes:
> A probe that tries to come from 1000 light years away gets destroyed by
>another system near to its launch point. ...
>I'm assuming that defense is not effective, even when it is possible to
>identify the source of the attack (as in mutual assured destruction with
>nuclear missiles), and that retaliation happens (the value systems of
>most probes place destruction of expansionist life above self-preservation,
>and self-preservation above other kinds of destruction).

I don't think it works to just assume certain universe-wide values to explain
a universe wide behavior. This behavior needs to be stable wrt natural
selection, or life with these values will go away. What could be the fitness
reason for retaliating against a probe launched toward a destination 1000
light years away. Why should you go out of your way to defend them?

>I think the "retaliate on launch" strategy may be the only criterion
>needed for malign probes to be stable. To also explain the absence of
>visible Dyson spheres, there must be an additional criterion sufficient
>to cause retaliation, something like "industry in that system is producing
>more than X joules of heat; if I don't launch a first strike soon, they
>may acquire the ability to send out more probes than I can destroy".

"producing X joules of heat" /= "could send more probes than I can destroy".
I could patiently produce probes for a million years, then send the all out
at once. At most you'd be limiting the frequency with which they could try

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 Sun Feb 1 20:32:44 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:29 PST