Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Sun Apr 26 1998 - 10:39:27 PDT

Some people suggest that the reason we see no other civilizations is
because almost all of them have chosen non- or slow-expansion policies.
This becomes easier to accept if they are all singletons than if there
is diversity among some of them.

It is conceivable and perhaps even plausible that the universe is such
that the only way for a civilization to advance to the point where it
would be capable of expansion is to eliminate diversity. We already face
a situation where small groups are capable of causing immense damage to
the world, through biological or nuclear terrorism. At this point it
appears that this problem is only going to get worse.

Advances in biotech may allow for tailored viruses like an air-vectored
version of ebola (which kills very quickly). In ten or twenty years it
is likely that virtually any motivated group could create such a bug,
and it is not at all certain that countermeasures would exist.

Then of course nanotech will raise the stakes even farther, allowing
more destructive power and potentially easier design mechanisms.

It may be difficult to see how our civilization could transition to
a singleton, if we don't believe Nick's scenario. But perhaps that
simply implies that we are not destined to survive. Other cultures and
species with a different structure would allow more control over the
threat from diversity, and these may have a better chance of avoiding
self destruction.

Received on Sun Apr 26 17:42:40 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST