Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Peter C. McCluskey <>
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 08:38:53 PDT ("Nick Bostrom") writes:
>I think that in a singularity scenario, the leadning force will
>quickly be so much more advanced than its competitors that it will
>not really matter that the new war machines haven't been tested in
>(non-simulated) battle.

 Do you have some reason to believe this? It's sufficiently different
from what military history suggests that it sounds like wishfull thinking.

>>, and there may also be a risk
>> that people will misjudge who has what technology.
>If the new technology is such that if A has it and B doesn't have it
>then A can easily defeat B, then we would expect A to attack B as
>soon as A gets the technology, since A would reason that if B had the
>technology B would already have attacked. (Ethical considerations

 I don't expect a policy of initiating force whenever possible to
become widespread in the forseeable future, so I doubt that the reasoning
you expect will become widespread.

>don't apply here if the subjugation could be done without bloodshed.
>If driven by ethical motives, A might choose not to do anything to B
>other than preventing B from building weapons that B could use to
>threaten A. Such action might not even look like an "attack" but more
>like a commitment to enforce non-proliferation of the new

 There are lots of people who will violently resist conquest. If your
singleton were merely enforcing a ban on something few people wanted
anyway (such as germ warfare), it might look peacefull to most. But your
goal of controlling interstellar appears to require substantial restrictions
on travel (can't let them out of the region that the singleton controls
until they've been properly programmed). Why would you expect this to
be more peacefull than the Berlin wall?

>> >One way to think of a singleton is as an pre-programmed
>> >self-enforcing constitution.
>> A constitution whose programming most people couldn't verify.
>That raises another intresting issue. They might not be able to
>verify it directly (by themselves), but that does not necessarily
>mean that we can't conceive of some institution that would allow
>people indirect means of verification that they could find

 I can certainly conceive of such an institution. Most existing
institutions that I would trust to do that kind of verification
get to be trustworthy by avoiding controversial power grabs. Most
institutions that grab the power needed to accomplish what you want
don't deserve to be trusted.

Peter McCluskey          | Critmail ( | Accept nothing less to archive your mailing list
Received on Tue May 19 15:42:31 1998

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