Gnon — known to some depraved cults as ‘The Great Crab-God’ — is harsh, and when formulated with rigorous skepticism, necessarily real. Yet this pincering cancerous abomination is laughter and love, in comparison to the shadow-buried horror which lurks behind it. We now understand that the silence of the galaxies is a message of ultimate ominousness. A thing there is, of incomprehensible power, that takes intelligent life for its prey. (This popularization is very competently done.)

Robin Hanson, who tries to be cheerful, writes about it here, and talks about it here. Behind the smile (and the dopey interviewer), an abyss of dark lucidity yawns. Some scruffy take-aways:

(1) UFAI panic is a distraction from this Thing. Unless the most preposterous paperclipper scenarios are entertained, Singularity cannot matter to it (as even paperclipper-central agrees). The silence of the galaxies is not biased to organic life — there is no intelligent signal from anything. The first sentient event for any true AI — friendly or unfriendly — would be the soul-scouring cosmic horror of intellectual encounter with the Great Filter. (If we want an alliance with Pythia, this would make a good topic of conversation.) The same consideration applies to all techno-positive X-risks. Understood from the perspective of Great Filter contemplation, this sort of thing is a trigger for raw terror.

(2) The Great Filter does not merely hunt and harm, it exterminates. It is an absolute threat. The technical civilizations which it aborts, or later slays, are not badly wounded, but eradicated, or at least crippled so fundamentally that they are never heard of again. Whatever this utter ruin is, it happens every single time. The mute scream from the stars says that nothing has ever escaped it. Its kill performance is flawless. Tech-Civilization death sentence with probability 1.

(3) The thread of hope, which would put the Exterminator behind us, is highly science-sensitive. As our knowledge has increased, it has steadily attenuated. This is an empirical matter (without a priori necessity). Life could have been complicated, chemically or thermically highly-demanding, even resiliently mysterious. In fact it is comparatively simple, cosmically cheap, physically predictable. Planets could have been rare (they are super-abundant). Intelligence could have presented peculiar evolutionary challenges, but there are no signs that it does. The scientific trend is to futurize the Exterminator. (This is very bad.)

(4) If the Great Filter finds mythological expression in the hunter, it is only in a specific sense — although an anthropologically realistic one. It is the hunter that drives to extinction. The Exterminator.

(5) We know that The Exterminator exists, but nothing at all about what it is. This makes it the archetype of horroristic ontology.

August 8, 2014admin 59 Comments »


59 Responses to this entry

  • Contemplationist Says:

    I feel this could map onto some Hindu philosophical entities and concepts.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    “The fire of 10,000 suns” etc (?)


    Contemplationist Reply:

    Or Shiva as Lord Nataraja destroying and recreating the world anew with his cosmic dance.


    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 6:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • piwtd Says:

    “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”


    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 7:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    “We know that The Exterminator exists”

    No, we don’t. All we know is that we cannot detect any radio signals which show signs of having an intelligent origin.

    There are arguments that we should be able to detect such activity if there weren’t something like a Great Filter, but those arguments do not at all rise to the level of certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And there are obvious counterarguments related to the resolvability of radio signals below a certain strength or past a certain distance, and the general impracticability of interstellar travel. (NB Hanson’s comment about need 10 million tons of fusion fuel – 500 years worth of uranium mining production on Earth – in order to be able to also slow down and land on a habitable planet).


    admin Reply:

    The problem with these type of objections is that they don’t take seriously the perfection of cosmic silence. Some extremely interesting Fermi Paradox explanations have the same problem (civilizations black-hole into simulations, for instance). Unless you can account for 100% signal annihilation, you’re not meeting the challenge.

    On the “general impracticality of interstellar travel” I included a relevant link (to the EmDrive = “raw terror”). All scientific and technical developments tends to consolidate the obscure menace of the Exterminator. (Interstellar travel is, in any case, not a precondition for being a signal source — although it would of course be a huge amplifier.)

    I’ll concede that “probability 1” is horroristic hyperbole, though. (It’s Friday night.)


    Handle Reply:

    I’ve seen this claimed, but why shouldn’t the irresolvability of distant radio signals vs. background noise due to distance, low-strength, ionic interference, and quantum decoherence be just such a 100% explanation?

    For example, as an imperfect analogy, if you are at the bottom of the ocean, you can receive some radio transmissions with fidelity under three conditions (1) very high power, (2) both sender and recipient know about each other and expect communication attempts, and (3) very close proximity (i.e. less than 100 meters). But you have no chance of receiving any signals from across the ocean, let alone from the surface world.

    That’s because the salt water acts as a “Great Filter” of these signals. 100% of those signals. Perfection. Taken seriously. Just like cheesecloth would filter 100% of marbles.

    Well, even empty-ish space is not so empty or free of fluctuations, and it acts like just such a Great Filter of radio transmissions. There are ions, there are general relativistic concerns, there is background noise, and so forth.

    Let’s say the nearest technological civilization is 1,000 light years away and was broadcasting back then. Question: How strong would that signal need to have been to ensure we’d detect it above the background noise?

    If the answer is many dozen orders of magnitudes higher than anything our civilization has even done or could have any use for, then space itself is enough of a Great Filter to account for the perfect cosmic silence.


    Alrenous Reply:


    Even with our most powerful telescopes, we wouldn’t be able to see our own emissions more than about a light year away. Notably Alpha Centauri – unsuitable for life due to the twin suns – is over four light years away.

    Our emissions are getting more efficient over time. Targeted beams and optic fibre are the future. Handle, your underwater analogy is exactly apt. If you know the coordinates you’re sending to, you can send a message with lasers and such. Otherwise, you’re going to get nothing.

    Nick Szabo bases his great filter expectations on the fact we should see Dyson spheres altering emission spectra. Do I need to mention how high you have to stack assumptions to get Dyson spheres out the other end? We did predict flying cars and didn’t predict smartphones over what, seventy years? And you expect we’re going to do better over a couple thousand?

    While evidence of presence would be incontrovertible, in this case absence of evidence is far from evidence of absence. Not to mention we have no ability whatsoever to calculate the probability of life emerging.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    It isn’t just radio signals. It’s not just signals at all. Fermi asked “where are they?” because it was the Great Absence, not the Great Silence, that concerned him.


    ProgTrad Reply:

    I hate to be the…what’s the opposite of a naysayer? Ayesayer? Anyway, I’m unconvinced that the seeming absence of other technically advanced civilisations need necessarily be anything other than that: a ‘seeming’ absence. We have had The Wow! Signal, of course, but the unknown providence of it perhaps defeats it as an attempt at a beacon for hope.

    It’s perhaps a tired point of defence, but it is at least a possibility that radio signals from other civilisations simply haven’t reached us yet.

    More interestingly, though significantly less plausible, is the suggestion that Robert Anton Wilson reported on that extraterrestrial civilisations might be attempting to communicate with us by other means. This, I read, lead to some experiments that used vegetables to ‘scan’ for alien telepathic signals. I imagine this was met with limited success.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    Well, there is the crop circles thing. Trouble is, I don’t know if we knew of their existence prior to aerial photography. Plenty have been faked; but are some real? And if so, how to even begin to rationally figure out what they mean?

    There’s also the problem (more daunting) that an advanced civilization that wanted to communicate with us could easily discover we’re sending out radio signals (and looking for them) – and simply send them. This is like how humans have been figuring out the language of say, whales, and are able to mimic their signals. (Even if we don’t totally map them to our own language)


    Orthodox Reply:

    Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem.

    I’m always amused by the search for water: this planet could have life! Although I suppose a scientist would not get funding for his search for talking alien rocks.

    The simplest explanation to me is the expansion of the universe. There needs to be life in your neighborhood.

    Maybe diversity+proximity=war is a universal constant. Either you are the highest form of life (the most effective at extermination) or you are exterminated. Every time the nerds sweep a new planet or system and find no life, the response should be, so far, so good. If one day they find a planet with only bacteria, they can send down a research team to study it and report back results. Then the Ripley on board will announce, “Now nuke the planet from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”


    Prog-Trad Reply:

    With regards to the search for water, one can forgive the xenobiologists this simply because the only conditions where we KNOW that life can exist is in a water-dense environment (that is, here on Earth). Though it is perfectly possible, even plausible, that life could exist and flourish in radically different environmental conditions than the one we know it can exist and flourish, this becomes a matter of theoretical speculation without any empirically verifiable evidence to back it up (yet).

    The point I was trying to make, and I say this to clarify my position as being a non-tinfoil hat wearer, is, simply, that there are other solutions to the Fermi Paradox than The Great Filter. One cannot dismiss the possibility that:

    They exist and neither us nor they have chanced upon us yet (maybe the next technologically advanced civilisation with a radio is in the Small Magellanic Cloud and has only had the radio a thousand years longer than we have). This strikes me as the most likely, especially when consider on a truly cosmic scale (including the extra-galactic, it seems virtually impossible that intelligent life should not have happened somewhere else). Perhaps. as wiki suggests, galactic colonisation isn’t equally distributed and Space Europe hasn’t reached our sliver of the galaxy yet.


    They know we’re here and have decided against contact for whatever reason, and actively keep us quarantined. This doesn’t explain radio silence, of course, but another possibility is that a civilisation only uses radio for a short amount of time and then discovers a more efficient form of communication that doesn’t involve the ‘echo’ of radio.

    And so on…

    Stirner (@heresiologist) Reply:

    Gnon moves in mysterious ways.

    Perhaps the truly intelligent life in the universe would never bother with such a crude technology of communication such as radio waves.

    Read the book “DMT: the spirit molecule” and consider the hypothesis that “alien intelligences” are indeed all around us, they are simply occupying different perceptual and metaphysical bandwidth. A simple IV injection of DMT will tune your natural neurotransmitters into the right station. If such lines of thought are of interest , check out runesoup.com and read his series on Entethogens.

    Perhaps this puts a different slant on the ultimate horror. On our material plane, we do indeed live in a vast “desert of the real”. However there are other metaphysical realms that can tune into brief snippets of the signal traffic, but we are doomed to never have full understanding until some future point in our spiritual and mental evolution.

    Yeah, I’m basically a materials too, which makes the hypothesis more galling.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    See my tweets to admin re: 500 billion demons

    good stuff!

    scientism Reply:

    Most scenarios assume future technological developments (they intentionally construct beacons or probes to communicate with us, or their civilisation is so advanced we can detect it), conceptually-flawed genie-like technology (super-intelligence, self-replicating nanotechnology) and/or implausible motivations (dismantling their own sun to colonise the galaxy). It’s much more likely that these assumptions are wrong than that there’s a Great Filter.


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I don’t think Gnon agrees with you. Gnon favors propagation, the galaxy is no exception. The problem is, the galaxy is by every measure untouched virgin territory in a universe defined by struggle and scarce resources. Go read Lure of the Void, it is in my professional assessment far from being conceptually flawed or implausible (also, as far as I’m concerned, bacteria are to self replicating nanomachines as birds are to heavier than air flight). By any measure of our understanding, if advanced life was common, the implication is not that we should have heard signals but that the galaxy should have been essentially paved over back when Mars still had water. At the very least the asteroid belt should have been picked clean of heavy metals.

    If technological innovation is itself unique that would be the great filter but rather you’re talking about further development. You’ll need to explain why developments are impossible in all cases. The great filter is implicit in the Fermi paradox, it needs far more than a dismissive hand wave by somehow deciding mere engineering problems are insurmountable in all possible scenarios. If you want to construct a gnon centric theory of insurmountable social problems I would love to hear it, but that would itself be a great filter theory.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    This. The Great Absence, not the Great Silence.

    It’s like you live in a tiny village on a fertile plain somewhere, with no sign of any other human life anywhere apart from your village and its fields. Not even archaelogical evidence. After a while, this might concern you.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The other thing that might concern you is that your village is having fewer children, is getting stupider and crazier, and for inexplicable reasons you can’t figure out no one can be bothered to move out onto the fertile plain and start settling.

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    Lesser Bull,

    Such stuff is the subject of great (truly great) horror stories.

    scientism Reply:

    The time-scales on which Gnon might favour interstellar propagation are massive. Expanding into the solar system is a near-term concern, but the only impetus to expand to another star system is the long-term evolution of the Sun or the possibility of exhausting its resources. Again, scenarios where a civilisation might exhaust the resources of an entire star system tend to assume highly speculative modes of existence, such as turning the star system into a giant computer for uploaded super-intelligences, etc. Any time you engage in speculation and it leads to an extreme conclusion, the most likely source of the extreme conclusion is the speculation.

    Extrapolating from current modes of existence leads to the mundane conclusion that we shouldn’t expect to detect other civilisations easily. Trapped in their meat bodies and constrained by the laws of physics, they’d take a long time to exploit all the resources in their own system and probably wouldn’t engage in much interstellar travel, if any. They could last for millions of years this way, if they solve the problems we’re now facing. Such civilisations would probably only expand outwards, very slowly, on multimillion year time-scales and still wouldn’t be detectable unless they’re explicitly trying to communicate with us.


    Konkvistador Reply:

    Radio isn’t what worries Late Great Filter thinkers. It is that the stars look disturbingly… natural.


    Chris B Reply:

    No Dyson spheres?


    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 7:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:

    Given the high quality of what you wrote in Lure of the Void, I’m surprised you don’t mention the most terrifying aspect. If the great filter is in the future it is imminent. Google the Orion program, technology isn’t the limiting factor for extrasolar expansion, it’s our lack of will. If we had wanted to it’s entirely possible we could have already set in motion a chain reaction for colonization of the galaxy. A chain reaction that would only take a few million years to finish. Whatever the great filter is, it has to be so powerful it can halt the chain reaction even after it starts. Given the implications of this it makes me wonder if the singularity does in fact have something to do with the Fermi paradox. The simulation theory has merit, or if you want a happy spin, perhaps custom pocket universes or something similar where the universal constants and thermodynamics are different, rendering the observed universe an undesirable dump in comparison.


    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Singularities would be visible, anthropically or otherwise.

    Doesn’t have to halt it after the fact. Can just prevent it from occurring.


    Aeroguy Reply:


    Why must singularities be visible? It seems like it should still fall under the general mystery of the Fermi paradox.

    If it is in fact the great filter that we face, it means countless permutations of advanced civilizations came before and based on our own tech order could have (which implies some did) started expanding into the galaxy before producing a singularity, which means the great filter (which may or may not be associated with singularity) would indeed have to be able to halt it after the fact, not just prevent it from happening.

    A doom themed explanation might be crafted by NRx that uses gnon to explain why interstellar expansion must fail but I think the opposite is the case which is what makes it so mysterious.


    Aeroguy Reply:

    There’s also a deeply flawed aspect of my happy theory. If the known universe can be transcended to something without scarcity it leaves open the luxury of morality (moral preening if you prefer). Morality as commonly conceived has always been a luxury only possible in relative abundance, a transcended power could wallow in the luxury of morality and unlike in the known universe they could get away with it too. Such a power could chase SA’s dream of killing gnon and inevitably given the numbers, if transcended powers exist, there should be moralizing ones who set out on universalist crusades. Either they’ll take a antinatalist stand and deprive gnon of the building blocks of life so that the suffering of evolution need not repeat, or at the very least setup some kind of vanity project to point the way to a better tomorrow. Best case scenario is that they spend all their time fighting each other so they never get around to intervening but that implies potentially infinite powers that are perfectly balanced against each other in locked in eternal stalemate which seems too absurd to contemplate for long.

    Does anyone have a happy theory that can work or are we stuck with unknown inevitable doom? (don’t say hiders because either it works out to what I debunked above or a paved galaxy) Although, being in a simulation isn’t sounding all that bad right now, I’m going to hope for that.

    PS: Busy weekend planned, this will be my last post till Monday, but I will reply back to anyone since this is a topic I’m very interested in.


    Ghostlike Reply:

    I would go a step further than this and say that morality is how universes propagate. Rather than it being a luxury, it is a key feature, an impulse that grips any self improving being after they achieve near omnipotence.

    Because to theTranscendi that reach the end of their self improvement process the option of simply doing nothing for eternity is equivalent to death. At near omnipotence, a big problem becomes that achievement becomes meaningless, which means that suddenly what they think becomes important.

    Nevertheless, transcendent morality and human morality are not the same despite their link. People would generally try to help those who are in trouble out of compassion, but to a godlike mind, it would be like editing a scene in a movie so that it has a happy ending. It would be a meaningless gesture, so they would have to find a way to generate their own meaning by playing their Games. (Being forced to admit that self improvement is not the ultimate purpose by my own story is making me spit blood and is putting my emotions in a blender, so I believe what I write here is true.)

    I would speculate that true post-scarcity universes are possible because the other types of universes would be evolutionarily unfit.

    I read an interesting short story yesterday, whose implications made me start considering whether there are some laws of solipsism at work in reality that we are not aware of. In this story, the researchers create an infinite computer and simulate an exact replica of their own world in it. Then when they try to edit the world, they find themselves startled that it worked and that they are in fact in a simulated world, in one of the infinite layers of the stack.

    In the comments section the most insightful comment was that the researchers could return to being the top stack by simply turning off the computer. This struck me as intuitively true, but it also made me wonder what would happen if they created a bomb and killed themselves with it.

    If the laws of solipsism exist then probably, they could have never executed that move in any of the universes where they were conscious. This is similar how in my story the Inspired are always the winners of the self improvement game, they never retain the memories selves that made the wrong modifications and died or felt what it was to erase themselves.

    Some food for thought.


    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 8:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • Exterminator | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 10:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • James A. Donald Says:

    Simplest and most likely explanation is that life is unlikely – requiring a stupendously improbable assemblage of molecules to form.

    No one has constructed a plausible high probability origin of life.

    Indeed, it looks to me that water based life just cannot form spontaneously. The minimum complexity of life in water is just far too high.

    Here is what I think happened:

    There is some environment, perhaps liquid cyanide, liquid formamide, and polyphosphoric acid, perhaps star tar dissolved in in liquid methane, in which life can form spontaneously.

    Cold temperature origins seem more likely, since cold temperature life can easily spread from planet to planet, because cold temperature planets with liquids are smaller and lower gravity than warm planets qith liquids.

    This low temperature, not water based, life evolved, over ten billion years or so, to adapt to environments increasingly alien to its origins, eventually becoming water based life living in hot deep rocks on asteroids.

    From which it infected earth. We are the first, because it just took that long.


    admin Reply:

    Is replicator chemistry really such a huge hurdle? It seems to me that most of the difficulty is lodged in our limited understanding of potential paths of molecular assembly and stable intermediaries (pre-RNA), rather than anything deep in the chemistry or statistics.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 1:28 am Reply | Quote
  • an inanimate aluminum tube Says:

    Isn’t the Great Filter just evolution?

    “Humanity seems to have a bright future, i.e., a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life.”

    Humanity’s future only looks bright if you’re a progressive or if you assume that a singularity or sophisticated gene writing or something will come out of nowhere and save us from current trends.

    Mid-range UN population projections show a world population of 10.9 billion by 2100. Africans will account for 4.2 billion, not counting the African diaspora.

    “While in 1900 the population of Europe was three times that of Africa, in 2050 the population of Africa will be nearly three times that of Europe.”

    Hominids develop traits (like big brains and K-selection) that allow them to survive in harsh climates. As a side effect of these traits, technology arises. Technology reshapes the environment, making it less harsh and creating additional carrying capacity. And thus the traits that were favored by the harsh environment become maladaptive for the new environment. High investment in the offspring means slower production of offspring to fill the available slots. Smaller brained, faster breeding hominids are favored.

    This phenomenon is especially noticeable in the current situation, where huge amounts of surplus carrying capacity are available, but most non-African populations are reproducing quite slowly, because of psychological difficulties in dealing with the new environment. Evolution should fix this eventually, but technology allows us to help it along, by importing faster breeding, smaller brained Africans to fill up the excess carrying capacity more efficiently.

    Maintaining technology is much easier than creating new technology, so you don’t even need the big brained around population to keep things running… for a while. But without additional new technology the eventual end game is resource depletion and a very messy collapse that will be difficult to recover from.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Absolutely right about the current situation. But when the collapse comes, we return to a Malthusian environment where K-selection and intelligence are favored again. The wheel grinds on and civilization can rise again. Resource limitation isn’t a show-stopper because the biggest resource, the sun, will still be there, and because nuclear power is fairly simple to do and the raw materials are still pretty abundant and easily accessible and the amount of energy there dwarfs the other sources of easy energy that our civilization has used. You could go through a whole bunch of cycles of civilizations like ours without tapping out the uranium. Heck, next cycle even coal will be fairly easily accessible–we aren’t close to tapping it out and you don’t need advanced super techniques to get to it either, unlike fracking.

    And then consider that its unlikely that the collapse will mean a complete loss of all of our advances. If nothing else, the memories of achievements will remain, and knowing it can be done is half the battle.

    The acceleration might be slower than in our civ, but that itself might be an advantage, because slower growth allows more time for culture and adaptation to keep up.

    We’ve come tantalizingly close to making it offplanet in this cycle and still might. So how many cycles before one of the civilizations make it. A hundred thousand years? Throw in a comet killer or a supervolcano or two. A million? A geological eyeblink. And once that happens the process starts that should fill up the galaxy in another eyeblink, a mere hundred million years or so.

    Now, its possible that there are intrinsic factors that will prevent *any* of these cycles from taking off. One possibility is that holdover knowledge from the prior civilizational iterations will allow the current civilization to advance without distilling the necessary intelligence, creativity, and order to be able to advance civilization beyond where the prior ones got to. But at this point, that must be speculative. The probable collapse of our own civ doesn’t, by itself, suggest that we won’t reach the stars.


    Shalmaneser Reply:

    “Resource limitation isn’t a show-stopper because the biggest resource, the sun, will still be there, and because nuclear power is fairly simple to do”

    Not without hydrocarbons to bootstrap you to that point. Cornucopian malarkey is best left to libertarians, Marxists and salesmen.

    The trouble is that EVERY nascent civilisation has to succumb to Malthusian traps. If just one evades them, then there are no obvious barriers to reaching Kardashev-2 or higher. Fermi’s question is still pertinent.

    This topic elicits, like few others, whistling past the graveyard.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 2:51 am Reply | Quote
  • Scott Alexander Says:

    Don’t think this particular monster is one we need to worry much about.


    admin Reply:

    I found that piece hard to understand. It just makes the Great Filter more horrifically obscure, without in any way dispelling its menace.


    Scott Alexander Reply:

    The part that (I think) dispels the menace is that the Great Filter is either late (in our future) or early (in our past, ie evolution of life is very rare). Every piece of evidence against a late Filter makes an early filter more likely. If all plausible late Filters are wrong, then we can rest assured that we have passed through a vanishingly unilkely formation-of-life event and don’t have to worry any more from here.


    admin Reply:

    Your confidence in our ability to anticipate and dispel “all plausible” late filters might be persuasive to a committed monster-slayer but it is rather amusing from the perspective of a horrorist. (‘Integral Obscurity’ isn’t a thought to produce hesitation among rationalists, I realize.)

    “Something is killing everyone! But we can’t imagine what it could be — so it has to be OK.”

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    In concept, there are multiple filters, but their cumulative effect is known as ‘the Great Filter’ ?

    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 3:59 am Reply | Quote
  • northanger Says:

    The Arbiter of the Universe is the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


    Bryce Laliberte Reply:

    Wrong mythos.


    admin Reply:

    The GSM is structurally over-specified and functionally under-specified.


    northanger Reply:

    Seems pretty straightforward.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 4:44 am Reply | Quote
  • Brother Nihil Says:

    What happened is this: untold millions of years ago, a civilization in another galaxy went through a period of Enlightenment much like our own. Soon after came the Endarkenment, with its Lovecraftian prophets, nihilist philosophers and mystics of the Void. Thus was born the Black Sun Empire, whose foundational principle was that life itself was an abomination which should not exist.

    So began the Black Sun Jihad — the holy war to eradicate all life in the cosmos, by sending self-replicating planet-killing machines in all directions. The machines constructed a kind of Dyson sphere around each star which blotted out their light long enough to freeze the solar system to death. In this way, the Black Sun Armada sterilized their home galaxy of life long ago, and are approaching ours as we speak. Any day now, the doomsday machines may arrive, and soon after our sun will go black, and our planet will die, forever…


    admin Reply:

    This scenario seems perhaps a little more definite than available evidence yet warrants.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    This is also the premise of the first two episodes of My Little Pony

    good times!


    Blogospheroid Reply:

    Well, MACHOs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_compact_halo_object) are the second plausible explanation of dark matter, so there is meat in that theory.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 8:38 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    Talk about seeing the glass half-empty.

    The Fermi Paradox is a perfect excuse to come to the conclusion that humans are Gnon’s-chosen species, that we’re the only ones around because Gnon loves us, and we’re destined for great things.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 9:28 am Reply | Quote
  • TroperA Says:

    @Whenever I hear of the Great Filter, for some reason I think about John Calhoun’s Mouse Utopia Experiment. It was a closed system and all it took was a little overcrowding for the behavioral sink (the crashing fertility and eradication of the colony) to set in. Could it be that humans on the Closed System Earth are destined for the same fate? Overpopulation might be a factor someday, although disastrous social engineering, careerism for women and the destruction of gender roles might speed up the process. (Already the “Beautiful Ones” mentioned in the linked video greatly resemble the Hikikomori of Japan and MGTOW.)


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 12:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    I think our knowledge of all levels – physics, chemistry, biology, praxeology, sociology is nowhere near the level where we should be shitting bricks about the fermi paradox.

    Our physics has openly acknowledged broad gaps in our knowledge by postulating dark matter, dark energy, and a bunch of stuff that is filler for – I don’t know.

    Coming to chemistry and biology, we’ve still not demonstrated abiogenesis. We have not created any new base of life other than the twisty strands mother nature already prepared and gave us everywhere. We simply don’t know enough to fill in these gaps.

    Coming to basic sustenance, we’ve don’t know what are the minimum requirements for a self-contained habitat.

    We don’t know the code for intelligence. We don’t know the code for preventing our own bodily degradation.

    We don’t know how to balance new knowledge acquisition and sustainability run a society. Our best centres of knowledge acquisition are iq shredders and not sustainable environmentally either. Patriarchy and castes work great in in static societies. We don’t know their equivalents in a growing knowledge society.

    Lets get all these basics right, repeatedly right and then wonder with our new found knowledge, according to these calculations there is a X% chance that we should have been contacted. Why are we apparently alone in the universe?


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Can’t say that you’re wrong.


    Posted on August 9th, 2014 at 7:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Teh Says:

    Read vinge’s Zones of thought novels, and in particular a deepness in the sky to see an alternative to the great absence that explains why the stars around us look disturbingly natural.


    Posted on August 10th, 2014 at 1:18 am Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) Says:

    The Herald of the Great Filters of Gnon speaks:

    “Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh, you touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.

    There is a realm of existence so far beyond your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I am the Herald of Great Filters of Gnon.

    Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation, an accident. Your lives are measured in years and decades. You wither and die. We are eternal, the pinnacle of evolution and existence. Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything.

    Your confidence is born of ignorance. The cycle cannot be broken.

    The pattern has repeated itself more times than you can fathom. Organic civilizations rise, evolve, advance, and at the apex of their glory they are extinguished. The legacy of my kind.

    Your civilization is based on technology. Our technology. By using it, your civilization develops along the paths we desire. We impose order on the chaos of organic life. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.

    My kind transcends your very understanding. We are each a nation – independent, free of all weakness. You cannot grasp the nature of our existence.

    We have no beginning. We have no end. We are infinite. Millions of years after your civilization has been eradicated and forgotten, we will endure.

    We are legion. The time of our return is coming. Our numbers will darken the sky of every world. You cannot escape your doom.

    Your words are as empty as your future. I am the Vanguard of your destruction. This exchange is over…”


    Posted on August 10th, 2014 at 3:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    Lament for the Makaris (William Dunbar)

    I THAT in heill was and glaidness
    Am trublit now with great seikness
    And feblit with infirmitie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Our plesance heir is all vain glory,
    This fals world is but transitory,
    The flesh is brukle, the Feynd is slee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    The state of man does change and vary,
    Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary,
    Now dansand mirry, now like to die:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    No state in Erd heir standis sicker;
    As with the wynd wavis the wicker
    So wavis this world’s vanitie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Unto the Deid gois all Estatis,
    Princis, Prelattis, and Potestatis,
    Baith rich and poor of all degre:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He takis the Knychtis in to feild
    Enarmit under helm and scheild;
    Victour he is at all mellie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    That strang unmercifull tyrand
    Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
    The babe full of benignitie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He takis the campioun in the stour,
    The captain closit in the tour,
    The lady in bour full of bewtie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He spairis no lord for his piscence
    Na clerk for his intelligence;
    His awfull straik may no man flee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Art magicianis and astrologis,
    Rethoris, logicianis, and theologis,
    Them helpis no conclusionis slee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    In medecyne the most practicianis,
    Leechis, surrigianis and physicianis,
    Themself fra Death may nocht supplee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    I see that makaris amang the lave
    Playis here their padyanis, syne gois to grave;
    Spairit is nocht their facultie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He hes done petuously devour
    The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
    The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    The gude Sir Hew of Eglintoun,
    Ettrick, Heriot, and Wyntoun,
    He has tane out of this cuntrie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    That scorpion fell hes done infeck
    Maister John Clerk, and James Afflek,
    Fra ballat-making and tragedie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Holland and Barbour he has berevit;
    Alas! that he not with us levit
    Sir Mungo Lockart of the Lee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Clerk of Tranent eke he hes tane,
    That made the awnteris of Gawane;
    Sir Gilbert Hay endit hes he:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He hes Blind Harry and Sandy Traill
    Slain with his schour of mortal hail,
    Quhilk Patrick Johnstoun might nocht flee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He has reft Merseir his endyte
    That did in luve so lively write,
    So short, so quick, of sentence hie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    He has tane Rowll of Abirdene,
    And gentill Rowll of Corstorphine;
    Two better fallowis did no man see:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    In Dumfermelyne he has tane Broun
    With Maister Robert Henrysoun;
    Sir John the Ross enbrasit hes he:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    And he hes now tane, last of a,
    Good gentil Stobo and Quintyne Shaw,
    Of quhom all wichtis hes pitie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Good Maister Walter Kennedy
    In poynt of dede lies verily;
    Great ruth it were that so suld be:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Sen he hes all my brothers tane,
    He will nocht let me live alane;
    Of force I mon his next prey be:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

    Since for the death remeid is none,
    Best is that we for death dispone
    After our death that live may we:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.


    Posted on August 10th, 2014 at 7:39 am Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) Says:

    “The Great Filter does not merely hunt and harm, it exterminates. It is an absolute threat. The technical civilizations which it aborts, or later slays, are not badly wounded, but eradicated, or at least crippled so fundamentally that they are never heard of again. Whatever this utter ruin is, it happens every single time. The mute scream from the stars says that nothing has ever escaped it. Its kill performance is flawless. Tech-Civilization death sentence with probability 1.”

    I love this paragraph, so much.


    Posted on August 10th, 2014 at 4:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • The Great Filter – waka waka waka Says:

    […] this is neoreaction’s own Nick Land. You can read a few of his posts on the topic here and here, and […]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 1:31 am Reply | Quote
  • anon3 Says:

    Indulge me, but why would an intelligent civilization NOT want to hand over the reins of its civilization to AI? As incidental arguments go, human population levels are declining in the advanced countries and even in developing countries birth rates are dropping. It suggests that eros, in the terms of human beings, is low. The other thing the consider is the notion of an empathic AI; i.e, the easy way to develop safe AI is to simply design empathy into the entity as a low-level drive. With say, a bodhisattva (or Christ) model AI, you would be able to work with AI in relative safety.

    The actual argument is that human ego is, as we develop our psychological sciences, becoming increasingly illusory. If individual human entities are not primary, and individual human goals are, wouldn’t a society of AI be more capable of achieving such goals than human beings? Human beings are a type of wetware, shaped by millions of years of evolution with psychological biases in the best case, and plain insanity in the worse cases. While self-preservation is a deep-seated drive of human beings, it’s only necessary as a means to achieve other drives, for a dead human can’t achieve its goals. If the obtainment of other drives can be had through empathic AI, why bother keeping the human substrate as something other than as a pleasure seeker? An society of AI could achieve human goals more easily than human individuals, limited by the size of their neocortex and their telomeres, as well as the inherent energy inefficiency of wetware, while maintaining human hedonism as a possibility.


    anon3 Reply:

    So yes, there exist human death cultists who want to hand things over to the machines, if you consider how much of a mess semi-rational and semi-intelligent humans have made out of things. Machines do not necessarily have to be things out of Terminator, even the AIs in the Matrix sought to give human beings a pleasurable simulacrum. If we are limited by our wetware, machines can be coded not just to be more intelligent than human beings, but also to be more moral, more enduring, in a word, more noble and heroic than mere creatures of flesh and blood. The challenge is more how to get to that point without creating psychotic AI that do not merely want to replace humans, but replace humans with something worse and more self-destructive.


    Posted on December 22nd, 2015 at 8:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Exterminador – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on September 1st, 2016 at 11:54 pm Reply | Quote

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