Abstract Horror (Note-1a)

Robin Hanson on the Great Filter for TED. It’s too well done to hold back until next Friday. “Something out there is killing everything, and you’re next. … You should be worried.” (He has the nightmare smile down to a T.)

December 13, 2014admin 11 Comments »
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11 Responses to this entry

  • Hurlock Says:

    I wrote about this on twitter so this is somewhat of a copy-paste.

    This is an overly amateurish theory and I could be talking utter nonsense, but this is what I came up with.
    What if there is no single ‘Great Filter’? When we start from the premise of a probabilistic universe, and keeping in mind the second law of thermodynamics I believe that it is not surprising that we haven’t observed anything like another life form colonizing space.
    What is the probability of an environment suitable for life forming? What is the probability that a life form will then develop? What is the probability that it develops into a complex life form with multiple cells? What is the probability that this evolve into a complex biosphere such as ours? What is the probability that from such a biosphere a species with large brains develops; we know evolution does not necessarily optimize for intelligence? What is the probability that such a species survives long enough to be able to evolve into a complex civilization? What is the probability that this civilization survives long enough and evolves even further into being able to develop technology for colonizing space? And so on and so on…

    Starting from a planet which is completely desolate and moving towards a planet which contains a complex biosphere in which an extremely complex and technologically advanced civilization has developed with the potential for space exploration, we are moving from a probable state to an extremely improbable one. Not only that, but let’s remember the second law of thermodynamics. Clearly, entropy in the universe is constantly increasing. Which means that the universe, as a closed system, is overall moving from a less probable to more probable state. But what is happening on Earth is exactly the opposite. And for a civilization to develop capable of colonizing space it’s the same. It must be moving against the universal tendency of increasing entropy. Which means that the development of such a civilization doesn’t simply remain extremely improbable, it is constantly becoming less and less probable as entropy keeps increasing in the universe. It is, quite literally, a battle against time.

    So my point is, what if there is no single ‘Great Filter’ but a constant cumulative probability filter, as we are moving from more probable states of existence to increasingly less probable states?

    [Reply]

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    I recommend _Rare Earth_, by Ward and Brownlee.

    http://www.amazon.com/Rare-Earth-Complex-Uncommon-Universe/dp/0387952896/

    Plate tectonics is important. You not only have to have an environment that’s just right, it has to stay just right for billions of years. Mars used to be a much friendlier place.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 13th, 2014 at 7:12 pm Reply | Quote
  • blockchain exit Says:

    ot: Ridecoin “Bitcoin Uber! Distributed blockchain based ridesharing. Can’t be shut down like Uber and Lyft. It just exists.”

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 13th, 2014 at 9:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Abstract Horror (Note-1a) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on December 13th, 2014 at 11:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Well based on his filters so far at 9 mins, we’re stuck on Lost Desire.

    But current circumstances are aberrant.

    In fact current circumstances are extremely aberrant.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 13th, 2014 at 11:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • Jay Money Says:

    @Hurlock
    Time is covered under Supernova as a possible Great Filter.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 14th, 2014 at 12:30 am Reply | Quote
  • Erebus Says:

    There are a number of “solutions” to the Fermi Paradox that Hanson’s not taking into account. A long review is in this PDF. A short cut/paste/edit below.

    1. Interstellar travel is unfeasible, at any level of achievable technological development. (This may imply that advanced extraterrestrials would retreat into simulations rather than colonize the stars. Possibly similar to how, in Peter Watts’ Blindsight, humans blithely retreated into a self-indulgent sim called “Heaven”. This looks increasingly probable for humanity — of all possible futures, the Cyberpunk version might be the one we’re stuck with.)

    2. Our observations are being deliberately manipulated or confused by extraterrestrial intelligences so as to frustrate SETI efforts. (The more ubiquitous and common extraterrestrial life is, the more plausible this theory may be.)

    3. Extraterrestrials have not had time to establish large spacefaring civilizations. (Let’s not forget that the universe is extremely young, at merely 13.8 billion years old; that the farther afield we look, the further back in time we’re seeing; lastly, that it’s looking like galaxies shall remain able to support life for trillions of years into the future. All of this may imply that we’re living in an ancestor simulation, which is something I find very highly plausible.)

    4. That extraterrestrial intelligence exists, and may even have visited or does visit Earth, but that we simply have not noticed it.
    4.1. Spacefaring civilizations are sufficiently rare that they are not in our search volume.
    4.2. They exist, but their total energy supplies are universally below the search’s detection threshold.
    4.3. ETI’s with large energy supplies universally expel waste heat at low temperatures (i.e. wavelengths longer than the capabilities of the search).
    4.4. Spacefaring ETI’s inevitably discover and universally employ physics that makes their civilizations effectively invisible in the MIR despite having large energy supplies (for example, expelling their waste heat as neutrinos, efficiently using their energy supply to emit low-entropy radiation, employing energy-to-mass conversion on a massive scale, or by violating conservation of energy).

    …I’d add that it is possible to mask IR radiation, to some degree, even today. It’s far from impossible that spacefaring, advanced civilizations are, for one reason or another, intentionally masking their radiation signature.

    I’d also add that the inverse square law makes it impossible that we’ll accidentally pick up meaningful signals from anywhere, and it ensured that SETI’s early chances of success were always very low.

    So, with all that said, it’s essentially a non sequitur to say “we don’t see anything, therefore something out there must be killing everything.”

    [Reply]

    Cassander Reply:

    It’s worth saying that the book you mention, Blindsight, is one of the best sci fi books ever written and cannot be recommended highly enough.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 14th, 2014 at 6:48 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Hanson overlooks that some civilizations are going to get self-filtered by economists.

    I find this persuasive – 3. Extraterrestrials have not had time to establish large spacefaring civilizations. (Let’s not forget that the universe is extremely young, at merely 13.8 billion years old; that the farther afield we look, the further back in time we’re seeing; lastly, that it’s looking like galaxies shall remain able to support life for trillions of years into the future. All of this may imply that we’re living in an ancestor simulation, which is something I find very highly plausible.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    All very interesting, but the Fermi Paradox appears so provincially anthropocentric when “dark’ matter-energy is taken into account.
    At present, dark matter-energy is estimated to constitute 95.1% of the total content of the universe. That’s an awful lot of something (or nothing) for inscrutably more evolved life-forms than us to disappear into.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 14th, 2014 at 9:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • peter connor Says:

    One major filter that he overlooked that could easily apply to humans would be Mouse Utopia–civilizations destroy themselves dysgenic ally before they can build starships.
    Of course, it’s also true that aliens far more advanced than us could probably prevent detection…

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 15th, 2014 at 5:41 am Reply | Quote

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