[extropy-chat] The Drake Equation and Spatial Proximity.

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Thu Oct 26 00:29:27 UTC 2006

On 10/25/06, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> We have plants and animals all over the surface of this planet.
> Almost soon as a new volcanic island pops over the surface of the
> of the sea the pioneer successon starts.

Because the cost is low.  They would not be here if they were not
preprogrammed to spread.  Their lack of  exo-awareness specifies that they
cannot spread in a way which dictates probability of survival.  You can
easily colonize the marginal niches -- show me a path to colonize the niches
which will dominate! [1]

Perhaps my language makes you think I'm talking pond scum, suddenly
> taking a leap to the stars. Not so. All pioneers must originate in
> a culture which is reasonably hi-tech by our means (self-rep machinery,
> interplanetary travel). As far as we know astrochicken who feed
> on crunchy carbonaceous chondrites don't arise spontaneously.

Agreed.  So the devil is in how one reconciles that from which one has
arisen with that to which one aspires.

Yes, speed of travel and short replication is key to succeeding the pioneer
> niche.

Yes.  But it is sooner or later (whether it be in this galaxy or in others
as one might attempt to colonize -- one is going to have to face up to the
fact that there *are* other ("alien") footprints in Hollywood Boulevard.)

If you have time, and there's stuff growing (fusion metabolism) in
> Oort and Kuiper contamination will happen spontaneously, even if
> you don't have the genome for a plasma thruster.

I am not sure that I understand this inference.  If important you should

Yes, if you arrive there before me, you will beget a faster breed of
> pioneers.
> And so on.

No, at each step of the way, "colonizers" will assess the "state of the
universe" to determine whether the investment justifies the benefit.  This
is the *key* factor which has not been brought into SETI, colonization,
exploration & growth discussions (at least that I am aware of) before now.

*WHY* Grow????  We understand reproduction, we have condoms, we have birth
control pills, we understand enough about human self-satisfaction feedback
loops that we can say, "We choose not to 'grow' -- We choose to better
ourselves!"  You *have* to justify growth across light year distances (and
the delays it would impose upon the computronium) vs. growth across solar
system distances (light year delays vs. light minute delays).

>    ownership of the development rights for Star xyzzy and get *everyone*
> Who arrives in the wilderness first, has all the rights to use the
> resources and settle, before moving on.

Of course.  Unless a superior force says "All your matter (and energy) are
belong to us.  Ha Ha Ha..." [3]

The nice thing about relativistic travellers is that you don't
> see them coming. By the time half of the sky starts turning infrared,
> they're past here already.

You seem to be assuming a send everything everywhere with a colonize
everything worth colonizing perspective.  I would argue that you do not have
enough matter or energy to do this.  You have to select your targets -- and
if they are not there when you arrive its an "opps" situation.  I am willing
to entertain this approach but I would want to see the numbers (i.e. you
have to argue that you can blanket planetary or asterioid size areas within
the surface area of a galaxy).  I am maintaining that if you miss you miss.
You have to know *in advance* with *high probability* that what you want to
reach will be there when you arrive.  Otherwise you are shooting bullets
into the sky -- don't you have something better to do with them?

The argument applies to all darwinian machines who're stochastically
> sampling the behaviour space. Some of them are Darwin Award winners.
> Some of them are just big winners, period.

This assumes you have now way of predicting better outcomes or *know* that
there is a better way to predict outcomes.  I would argue that we are long
past that point.  Would you spend $200 billion on sending a spacecraft
someplace potentially "colonizable" or $2 billion on where to send it to?

You can't miss redistribution of predispersed material which will
> substitute each star with a blackbody lighthours wide very soon.

Agreed.  The question revolves around whether we are currently oriented
towards detecting such.  I would argue that we are not  (yet).  Though we
appear to be getting closer.

If they're infected, you can't miss it. Especially aggregated, they'd
> be visible across the entire visible universe.

This is the light-cone problem.  The aren't detectable if they are spreading
directly towards the outskirts of the galaxy or towards the nearest GC
unless we happen to be in their path.  This is similar to the GRB problem --
you can detect an "impossible" amount of energy if it happens to be focused
in your direction.  If it isn't focused that way you may be lucky to notice

If the stuff has grown legs, you're an animal at sea.

I'm not sure I understand this.  You seem to be still presuming (a)
spherical growth patterns and (b) that random distributed growth has value
vs. directed growth (i.e. colonize the galaxy vs. go to where your history,
skills, experience, etc. will be most useful.) [5]


1. Colonization of niches which will dominate requires a high degree of
precognisance, which in turn requires a high degree of simulation
capability.  [We will for a moment ignore the fact that you are erasing all
of those unsuccessful future thoughts...]  If you colonize, at least if you
are somewhat above being brain dead, *or* roughly about our at our current
state of evolution, you would do so hoping for a reasonable chance of

2. I state this on the basis of Lineweaver's assertions ~70% of solar
systems are ahead of us.  We are playing catchup.  I will freely modify the
position based on evidence in opposition.

3. You will not understand this unless you are aware of the "Are your base
are belong to us." history.

4. Numbers are entirely arbitrary -- we can refine the discussion by
providing more accurate estimates.

5. You *know* everything which is the 'at current state' within the galaxy
(within your light perception).  What you don't know is what the future will
be.  You have to position yourself into the future with respect to
probability of survival, greatest contribution,
etc.  It is *no* longer about *your* survival, or your children's survival.
You can choose this but you have to ask "What is the probability that this
will be really important in the long run?"  If you select the past -- my
survival, or my children's survival, or my societies survival, you may be
selecting that which is either (a) doomed to extinction; or (b) not the
"best" path.  Or you could, instead, opt for the non-predictable future --
one which is not based upon "make more copies of me and my offspring" but is
instead based upon very far upstream efforts at value manipulation.  I
suspect the non-simulated futures fail in signifcant numbers compared to the
simulated futures.
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