[extropy-chat] Space: The Final Constraint (was Extinctions)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Tue Jun 13 10:44:37 UTC 2006

Rafal writes

> On 6/10/06, Anders Sandberg <asa at nada.kth.se> wrote:
> > [ The definition of complex is of course a problem, since obviously
> > neither classic information theory of Kolmogorof complexity has exactly
> > the properties I would like (clearly we don't need more white noise in the
> > universe). Right now I'm getting optimistic about Giulio Tononi's
> > information integration theory of consciousness - even if the
> > consciousness part is wrong, the theory seems to suggest some interesting
> > directions to go in. Possibly my theory needs a concept of temporal
> > integration to really work. ]
> ### Amazing. Would a conversion of everything to computronium
> pondering the deepest mathematical truths count as increasing the
> complexity of matter?

This gets to the ultimate philosophical point, which a couple of 
early posts hint at too.

> If so, how would be trivial existence of the Eastern dappled titmouse
> fare in comparison? (if such bird were to be discovered)
> How would you resolve the conflict between uses of matter that differ
> in their level of complexity? Does the less complex one have to yield?

Let's distinguish between what we believe to be effective (i.e. to "work"
in Jef Albright's way of thinking), from what is ultimately desirable.
In particular, few here are socialists; we strongly suspect that the best
courses of action are in accordance with human liberty, minimal government,
and minimal use of force.

OKAY! So we *defend* the Nature Conservancy's legal *right* to buy land and
take it off-line, so to speak. That is, if someday they buy the moon or
the entire Antarctic, then in principle I don't have any problem with that,
(except to lament it).

But it's entirely a different matter what we *approve* of. And I don't
think that anyone answered Rafal's question above. What if you can replace
the entire Antarctic with computronium running 10^33 people per cubic meter?

I know---to many, that seems utterly horrific. Yet we talk at the same time
about the possibility that we're living in simulations. Well, as such *we*
ought to be able to continue our lives---or to have lives in the first place!
Shouldn't we?

Every single time that you reserve some piece of land so that big creatures
go around gobbling small creatures, and preserve all the pain and pointless
stupidity of that, you are in *principle* saying that this is the best way
at this time that the space can be used.

Do you see?  The final constraint is space itself: we all eventually have
to ask version's of Rafal's question above. JUST WHAT DO WE MOST DEEPLY 
WANT A CUBIC METER OF SPACE TO BE DOING? And I heartily agree with Rafal:
we do not (or ought not) want it to be supporting an Easter dappled
titmouse at the expense of 10^33 people/m^3---or even at the expense of
a suburban tract full of people less rich and smart than we are.

The sooner we realize that right now every human life uses up 1300 cc's of
space running a person, the better, and that unless we want to adopt the
grotesque and elitist view that "Well, I've got mine!  I have runtime!
To hell with everyone else who might exist", then we have to favor *more*
advanced uses of space and resources over *less* advanced uses of them.

To hear of folks wanting declines in human fecundity in order to advance
the causes of frozen wastes, or even of small creatures tearing each other
to pieces, breeding, living, dying pointlessly by the billions over and
over and over, always fills me with dismay.


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