poly: Re: singleton self-interest

From: d.brin <brin@cts.com>
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 00:52:46 PDT

The argument over whether a singleton can plan for its own dissolution
misses a point. Most volitional entities preserve their existence because
to do so has become an imperative via Darwinian selection. (Because each
one is a descendant of other entities who happened to care about self-
preservation, the trait got reinforced.)
                Another approach is Asimov's Third Law of Robotics (very
much on my mind at the moment!) A priority for self-preservation that was
programmed in from the entity's start.
                Finally, if the entity is composed of many sub-units, and
THEY have self-preservation intincts, they may fight to ensure the macro
entity's survival... e.g. bureaucratic standards committees for the
buggywhip industry.

Of these, #1 is clearly the most powerful. Singletons must be designed
from the start to evade this scenario, retaining volitional control over
dissolution strictly on the basis of standards and goals. Once singletons
(or robots) are allowed to self-reproduce, Darwin's logic sets in. The
descendants of those who choose to live won't allow themselves to be

In fact, some government and other committees HAVE elected to dissolve
themselves. The prime requisite is that individual members have other
self-interest bases, so that the dissolution is not threatening. Thus, a
singleton that began with a clear sense of purpose, to achieve clearly
defined goals, might be able change when those aims were achieved, and even
shrug over its own dissolution... providing its membership has an
attractive alternative waiting for them.

> If those other civilizations haven't constrained themselves the way
> the singleton has, it may be unsafe to wait until seeing them to
> optimize one's defensive powers.

This ignores the incredible power of flexibility, combining overall
cohesiveness with internal competition. A 'singleton' like my Gaia
includes a vast array of cantankerous dissenters. It will respond to
aliens with imagination, considering a vaster array of possibilities than
could be achieved by any external threatening force that operates either by
pre-programming OR by random competition. The combination of vigorous
internal competition with overall cooperation appears overwhelming.
        After all, it describes us!

I'd put my money on a truly civilized, diversity-loving, adventure-thirsty
macro culture, against any monolith it encounters in deep space... or
against a Darwinian stew of vicious, mutually-predating pirhanas, spreading
randomly and chewing up everything in sight. Neither opponent sounds very
formidable to me. A federation of sub-units that try a myriad
possibilities, yet will still come to each others' aid, is simply
Received on Fri May 1 07:56:35 1998

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