poly: "Burning the Cosmic Commons" paper available

From: Robin Hanson <hanson@econ.berkeley.edu>
Date: Thu Mar 12 1998 - 16:19:42 PST

A draft of my paper "Burning the Cosmic Commons, Evolutionary
Strategies for Interstellar Colonization", inspired by the
first polymath discussions, is available at

To tease, here is the abstract:

Consider an expanding wave of interstellar colonization, where
``seeds'' grow at the ``oases'' surrounding stars, and then
launch a new generation of seeds toward more distant oases.
If property rights in virgin oases were unenforceable, frontier
colonization behavior would eventually be given by a selection
effect: only leading edge colonists whose strategies implemented
the maximum sustainable average speed would tend to stay at the
leading edge.

Even with such maximal strategies, random factors would cause
some seeds to fall behind the leading edge. Since eventually
most of volume the colonized universe would be far behind
the leading edge, it is of interest to learn more about the
strategies and values of the descendants of such fallen-behind

I assume that oases are uniformly-distributed, that risk-neutral
colonists with identical values and constant technology travel
much farther than the oasis spacing, and that seeds receive noisy
signals about which oases ahead are already occupied. I then
treat colonization as a game played out along a traveling wave of
colonization, and consider how colonists choices change as they
fall further behind, including choices of which oasis types to
colonize, how long to stay there, how far to send seeds from there,
and the speed, hardness, and perception abilities of such seeds.

Robin Hanson
hanson@econ.berkeley.edu http://hanson.berkeley.edu/
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 Mar 13 00:24:15 1998

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