Re: poly: Re: the destruction problem (was: singleton)

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 12:24:50 PDT

Anders Sandberg, <>, writes:
> I think the best solution is nature's way: maximum diversity and
> dispersal in the large, and as strong defenses as possible locally. If
> there are many and dispersed groups, then most threats will just
> destroy a few, and the others may have time to prepare a defense. How
> to achieve this dispersal and perhaps even isolation in certain
> respects is tricky, but given either singleton intervention or a rush
> outwards this might be possible if the technology and environment
> allows it. Locally, each community/habitat/sub-singleton/whatever
> would of course do its best to limit the risks of its destruction,
> something that is of course evolutionarily encouraged. In this model
> disasters would be limited rather than non-existent; a kind of
> self-organized criticality where lessons from smaller problems are
> used to prepare for larger problems.

Our society, at least in the "advanced" parts of the world, is highly
interdependent and therefore fragile. This is what is leading to the
nascent Y2K hysteria, the fear that widespread, sparse but simultaneous
failures will bring the whole system down.

It is hard to see how to reduce this interdependence without paying an
enormous economic cost. The trend seems to be in the opposite direction,
with such systems as just in time manufacturing increasing economic
efficiency at the expense of more interdependence.

Maybe people are being irrational and not considering the full costs of
interdependence when they make a decision. Considering a locally made
good versus one shipped halfway around the world, the main difference is
usually transportation costs. No one worries about what happens if the
Y2K bug keeps the ships from operating, or a new virus brings down the
transportation infrastructure. These things have never happened before,
so we don't have a good intuitive sense of their likelihood.

Once there is a disaster, if we survive it, people may begin to add these
considerations into their economic choices. Goods which are simple
and local will be preferred over those which require a complex chain
of distant suppliers to produce. People will move more towards the
situation Anders describes, with dispersed groups that are relatively
self contained.

The question is whether that first triggering disaster will be mild
enough to be survived, while being harsh enough to scare people into
building robustness and durability into their economic relationships.

Received on Fri May 1 19:37:36 1998

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