[ExI] Thoughts on Space based solar power (Clinic Seed & a diverse future)

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sun Nov 23 05:52:20 UTC 2008

hkhenson wrote:
> My ex-wife and I wrote the original study of agriculture in a space 
> colony.  Why would you have pests?  Where would they come from?

Just a few missed insect eggs could multiply. In practice, all ecologies 
have pests. No habitat can be that perfect in quarantine if habitats 
exchange people. Obviously, people try:
   "National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC)"
Besides, sometimes today's pest is tomorrow's desired item, and vice versa.

Also, if you import both pest and predator, you may be better off than 
waiting for a pest to show up without a predator present. Sometimes a 
chronic low level of infection is better than the risk of an uncontrolled 
problem suddenly showing up. It's not an easy question to answer. But in 
general, statistically speaking, it only takes one of some pests, and 
habatits are so big, and some might be quite busy. And there may be lots of 
possible refuges for a pest.

This gets somewhat into "meshwork vs. hierarchy" issues. You need a strong 
hierarchy to enforce a quarantine. But mesh works have value too in creating 
a diversity of possibilities. There might be a tension if items are imported 
physically as opposed to more easily filtered data streams.

In any case, as with malware on the internet, if you have teenagers around, 
some of them are going to break the "rules". So, no matter how hard you work 
at the start, keeping up a quarantine may be difficult.

Still, agricultural robots could help with all this. Or obviously strong 
nanotech -- but then you have to worry about more nanotech. :-)

And I'd expect different habitats would have different policies. Something I 
wrote about that maybe ten years ago inspired by an airplane trip to Europe:

 From the later customs declaration page:
Please fill out the following customs declaration form:

I hereby certify:

I am not carrying over 1 milligram of radioactive material.

I am not carrying a class T or above computer virus or any harmful 
biological virus encoding or crystallization.

I am not carrying prohibited weapons or their fabrication plans without a 
proper arms shipment permit.

I am not carrying over 5 gigaquadrillion bits of information on my person.

I am not transporting self replicating systems such as plants, animals, 
fungi, bacteria, metabots, nanobots, or synthomorphs or their fabrication 
plans without a valid self-reproducing object transport license.

I am not transporting an independent intelligence having class B sentience 
or above without its permission.

My personal biological fauna meets or exceeds Interhab standards for minimal 

My (Our in the case of collective minds) emotive and rational stability 
meets or exceeds Interhab standards, and I am (we are) not in mind of 
restricted memes without a current memetic carrier authorization on file.

I have not been previously ejected from a Solarius community for any reason.

Microgravity dwellers and others as applicable: My powered bodysuit is 
restricted to standard human strength.

> The AIs in this story are "ethical" in their own ways, ways that were 
> built into their fundamental personalities and many of the copied from 
> evolved humans.  One of the decisions the human made years before is 
> that uploading has to be reversible.  And the people do go in an out of 
> the simulation often during the early stages.  It's just that the 
> simulation gets to be better than the real world.

Yes, "better than life". :-)

But, at some point, what is the difference between the simulation and the 
real world? Once your mind is running on virtual hardware, you can perhaps 
just as easily manipulate an avatar in the *physical* world as one in a 
virtual world, as a form of telepresence. There might be some mental mapping 
issues of course. Which makes me realize an assumption in the story is that 
people would only come out back into the physical world in their bodies, not 
enhanced artifacts, like a bird or a dolphin or an octopus etc.

But come on, isn't someone in the "better than life" simulation going to 
read about the L5 society and just start building real hardware because they 
could? Again, the "physical" world might have a special meaning to people, 
whether that is "sacred" or "prized" or "nostalgia" or something else.

Anyway, on brain downloading, here is what I emailed Ray Kurzweil eight 
years ago (and my opinion hasn't changed much since then, though I will 
admit to greater uncertainty):
"I could endlessly elaborate on this theme, but in short -- I find it
highly unlikely that any mind designed to work well in meatspace will be
optimal for cyberspace. It will be overwhelmed and quickly passed by in
an evolutionary sense (and consumed for space and runtime).  It is
likely this will happen within years of digitization (but possibly
minutes or hours or seconds).  As an example experiment, create large
programs (>10K) in Ray's Tierra and see how long they last!
Our best human attempts at designing digital carriers (even using
evolutionary algorithms) will fail because of the inherent
uncompetetiveness of clunky meatspace brain designs optimized for one
environment and finding themselves in the digital realm. For a rough
analog, consider how there is an upper limit of size to active creatures
in 3D meatspace for a certain ecology.  While something might survive
somehow derived from pieces of a digitized person, it will not resemble
that person to any significant degree.  This network will be an alien
environment and the creatures that live in it will be an alien life
form.  One might be able to negotiate with some of them at some point in
their evolution citing the commonality of evolved intelligence as a bond
-- but humanity may have ceased to exist by then."

I write from the perspective of someone who spent some time studying Ecology 
and Evolution. And it can be rough out there. :-) Already the internet is 
filled with spam, viruses, malware, botnets, and other stuff. Why should a 
virtual world be any different?

An interesting related book, by the way:
   "Fool's War" by Sarah Zettel
"In "alien contact" science fiction, the aliens come from far off,
light-years away. But what if the aliens were closer to home? What if the
next great life-form with which we must contend isn't from the stars but
from our hard drives? In Zettel's second novel (after Reclamation), Katmer
Al Shei, owner and engineer of the starship Pasadena, and her crew become
pawns in an elaborate scheme to bring human beings and artificially
intelligent life-forms into deadly conflict. But the real protagonist ends
up being Evelyn Dobbs, the ship's Fool, who, hired to amuse the crew for its
long voyage, finds herself trying to contain the threat of war."

An excerpt from one comment from Amazon:
"Fool's War is one of the more unusual science fiction books I've read 
recently. I recommend reading various reviews on Amazon rather than rely on 
the blurb on the book's back cover since it misleads the reader -- 
specifically, the book is more about intrigue, shifting alliances, 
socio-economic warfare, and prejudice rather than merely a hard-core 
examination of artificial intelligences and viruses. ... Life-form -- Human 
vs. artificial intelligence. What does it mean to be human, or alive? Are 
humans so inherently xenophobic that they cannot accept the possibility of 
other types of life? Are artificial intelligences so jaundiced that they 
must instill fear rather than convince? ..."

> I am optimistic that there is probably a technical solution or several 
> of them out there.  I am not very optimistic about them actually being 
> done, and downright pessimistic about them being done by the US.

Fair enough. Dysfunctional social issue led the USA into Iraq, too.

>> Anyway, to the extent you put your solar space satellite plans under 
>> free and open source licenses, people can collaborate on improving them
> Following the logic and math through the wiki pages seems to be harder 
> than what most people are willing to do.  Or perhaps a social group has 
> not yet formed around the concepts where people get support from each 
> other the way they do on open source projects.

One contributor to project success is indeed to get people together who care 
about it. :-) One possibility is to integrate a wiki and a face to face 
meeting (as in, get people together at a workshop, and people work together 
on it). There certainly have been a lot of people interested in SPS based on 
previous SSI conferences. Maybe they don't know of it?

> You mentioned Clay Shirky. Do you happen to know him?

I was referencing that document by Clay Shirky based on the previous 
discussions on this list about that work.

--Paul Fernhout

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