[ExI] breakout culture (Was: ambition)
anders at aleph.se
Sat Feb 2 12:10:41 UTC 2013
On 01/02/2013 22:03, Tomasz Rola wrote:
> Interesting. So, I understand your sims are set up for pre-industrial
> civilizations? Or maybe even before agrarian revolution?
Yes, I am currently tuning them using late Roman/Medieval life tables
from South Germany (Stettfeldt). I have life tables from
hunter-gatherers, but it was the instability of these that got the
project started (sometimes complaining aloud about having to add fudge
factors to get reasonable results pays off! I actually asked "Is there
an archeologist in the house?" and got a yes answer.)
> Because for early
> industrial-like civ (say, England around 1800), my very wild guess is, it
> would require about 20-200 kilopeople - but this again depends on what is
> the role of economy, the more economy the more people needed to sustain it
> for given tech level, production needs consumers, something like this.
It is pretty complicated, and I don't think any economists have any
quick and nice answers ("Well, dear boy, since the economy of scale
exponent is 1.07 and the proportionality constant back in 1801 was what
it was, your answer will be 5.7 million people") - I hope to find a few
and pump them for more information when I get the time.
> on a space ship, no need for money (well, not sure about it but let's
> assume), so production is maintained with disregard of costs, as long as
> technical side is ok (enough energy and materials and people to operate
> the devices).
Cost is cost, even with no money. If I want a kilogram of steel it has
to be made from the mass and energy budget of the spacecraft, and it
will be unavailable for other functions as long as I have it.
In the case of the spaceship the bigger problem is maintaining the
technology needed: there must be enough people who understand it, there
must be technology that allows them to build or repair it, and there
must be a sufficient influx of new people who understand it to replace
those who disappear. The Apollo crews no doubt knew a lot of
engineering, but they were dependent on ground control to solve many
problems and could definitely not build another Saturn 5 on their own.
It really is the problem of closure in self-replicating systems. Here
the system is an economy rather than a device.
> Hmm, I guess for real world survival longer than few (hundred) millennia a
> really good tech is a must (and IMHO we are at best halfway there, even
> without starting the whole uploading business, just for creatures
> resembling humans in form and lifestyle). And this makes any other
> assumptions, like limits based on genetics or even Dunbar's number a
> little less significant (like, we can fabricate genes out of "genopedia"
> as needed, we can integrate with some kind of info-processing implants or
> maybe grow better brains by better genes etc). Or so I would say.
From a demographic survival perspective, having a long-lived population
is very good (more time to fix things), having the tech to provide loads
of resources allows you to have a high fertility if you so choose
(especially since maternal mortality can be kept down), and you can
counter a lot of the normal variability of the environment (be it bad
harvests or supernovas). Good medicine indeed makes genetic problems
manageable, and good communication/coordination tech gets around Dunbar.
There is of course the problem that more advanced tech also allows
individuals to make more dangerous things. My Medieval Germans did not
even know what pitchblende was (despite it being found in the region),
let alone that the uranium inside could be super-destructive when
extracted in the right way. Today I can write a computer virus or order
DNA for some nasty pathogen without rising from my chair (actually
turning these into something likely to be destructive would take more
work, admittedly). But it is not clear that endogenous tech risks have
to go up: they are likely a function of the coordination/oversight of
the society, and different forms of organisation can likely manage
these. (A crude existence proof is of course a 24/7 surveillance society
devoted to safety, but there are hopefully liveable examples too).
So, yes, hightech societies are likely far more stable than low-tech
ones. But they might be hard to initially achieve, since they require a
criticial size of population and knowledge with the right memes.
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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