Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Sun Apr 26 1998 - 17:42:28 PDT

Peter C. McCluskey wrote:

> You think it's possible to abandon evolution without enormous
> opportunity costs? I suspect I'd prefer most versions of the "burning
> the cosmos" scenario.

In the singleton scenario, evolution would not be abandoned; it would
be internalized. Instead of natural selection there would be
deliberate design of the fitness function and the selection
mechanisms. It would be more like a researcher playing with genetic
algorithms. (It would even be possible to retain a considerable
extent of "natural" selection within the singleton.)

> With the side effect of making them more vulnerable to life that
> originated elsewhere and didn't outlaw evolution.
> I suspect that outlawing memetic evolution effectively enough to
> achieve this singleton would severely limit the intelligence that
> could be achieved.

I think that for the foreseeable future the risk that we will
annihilate ourselves is much greater than that we will be annihilated
by aliens. As regards long-term strategies, they will in many
respects be similar to the best we could hope for without the
singleton: e.g. the singleton would want to expand in all directions
at near the max feasible speed.

As I said, I don't think that the singleton would outlaw memetic
evolution. For instance, it could even use some of its resources to
simulate a totally ruthless assembly of egotists, adventurers, and
crazy professors in a life-and-death battle against each other. A
superintelligence could then safely extract whatever valuable memetic
stuff resulted from the simulation.

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Sun Apr 26 23:48:21 1998

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