Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Tue Apr 28 1998 - 18:36:58 PDT

Robin Hanson wrote:

> You're assuming that any single dominant power must be all knowing
> and all powerful. But even slave owners haven't had such total
> control; slaves have had private lives, however small. A single
> power could still be at risk of revolt, intrigue, or breakup.

The slave owners lacked certain essential technologies. For example,
they could not read the slaves' minds, and they could not simply
program the slaves to totally embrace whatever values the slave
owners wanted them to have. (If a slave thought that the most noble
and pleasant thing in the world was to obey his master, he would
not escape or revolt, even if he had the physical capability to do

> It might not want these events, but might not have enough knowledge,
> power, or internal coherence to manage better. I expect a singleton
> to be temporary simply because of limits on the stability of
> political systems.

Historically speaking, no political system has been stable (though
some might have been fairly stable if they had faced no outside
competition?). However, I don't think this gives us any reason why no
system will be stable in the future. The reason is that certain new
technologies will change the rules of the game. This is
something that I should try to elabotate on when I write up,
but the basic idea is that peoples' brains will no longer be
blackboxes where all sorts of unexpected things can happen; they
will be computational structures amendable to direct
manipulation by anybody in power at time zero.

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Wed Apr 29 00:43:36 1998

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