[ExI] Humans are a uniquely dangerous species

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Fri Nov 29 07:49:24 UTC 2019

On Thu, Nov 28, 2019 at 6:06 AM John Clark via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> There is nothing unique about humans in that regard, when two species
> occupy the same environmental niche there is always conflict; but that's
> irrelevant as far as ET is concerned because we wouldn't be in the same
> environmental niche.
### Well, I don't know, this might be complicated.

I don't believe that there are any exceptions to Gause's law among
non-technological species such of animals or plants. In the absence of
interbreeding, two species using the same limited resource (food, space)
and subject to the same limitations (e.g. susceptible to the same predators
or pathogens) will always undergo random fluctuations in their relative
population density. There is a positive feedback among sexual species that
amplifies such fluctuations where the species that becomes less common in
an area will rapidly become extinct as its members are less and less able
to find mates. Among asexual species this feedback doesn't exist but random
fluctuation eventually eliminate all competing lineages. It is very similar
to the way neutral mutations disappear from a species - just need to wait
long enough (under certain assumptions).

I don't believe the plankton paradox is a paradox. The multitude of
seemingly fungible plankton species (algae, bacteria) are massively
outnumbered by viruses, and for each plankton species there are specific
viruses that force a lower populations density on that species, allowing
non-susceptible species to expand and in turn become limited by their own
viruses. This means that each plankton species, although superficially
similar to others, is living in its own niche, defined by both nutrients
(which are common to many species) and by viruses and other predators
(which are species-specific).

Ancient out-species hominids come under Gause's law. Let's assume there are
two hominid species incapable of efficient interbreeding in an area. Even
if we assume they are both peaceful and never attack each other, they will
limit each other's population density by consuming resources needed to
survive. Even if we assume they are identical in their ability to use
resources, they will have random fluctuations in population density.
Members of the species that is more numerous will be able to find
non-inbred mates easier, while the less numerous species will become
slightly more inbred, thus less fit, and less able to use resources, and
less common, and more inbred, and less fit.... until the bitter end. Of
course, if you start with aggressive species that already have slight
differences in their ability to use resources that process of elimination
will be much faster.

Furthermore, intelligence greatly expands a species' environmental niche.
Humans have learned to exploit probably the most diverse range of
environments, sources of foot, ways of attacking other creatures and
defending from other creatures. Since the hominid niche is extremely wide
(i.e. humans are the ultimate generalists), any hominid will exclude all
other hominid species from an area, leaving no place for others to survive.

That there are no surviving Neanderthals or Denisovans or H.floresiensis is
not an indictment of our bloodthirsty ancestors, it's just the way of
living things.

But once we are talking about technological species, some bets are off.
Game theory offers stable equilibria that are only accessible to agents
capable of modeling each other's behavior and payoffs, and
non-technological species cannot access such equilibria. I don't know
enough about game theory applied to non-interbreeding intelligent
technological species but my guess is that there could be ecological
surprises, perhaps allowing stable coexistence of generalists. It's
complicated. Maybe I'll offer some theorizing in another post.

We don't even have to wait until we physically encounter ET to find out.
General AI is soon coming to town, and things will never be the same.

Happy Thanksgiving, intelligent agents of the list!
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