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Eternity in six hours: intergalactic spreading of intelligent life and sharpening the Fermi paradox
We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
Would you endorse choosing policy to max the expected duration of civilization, at least as a good first approximation?
Can anyone suggest a different first approximation that would get more votes?
How useful would it be to agree on a relatively-simple first-approximation observable-after-the-fact metric for what we want from the future universe, such as total life years experienced, or civilization duration?

We're Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction:
An Oxford philosopher argues that we are not adequately accounting for technology's risks—but his solution to the problem is not for Luddites.

Anderson: You have argued that we underrate existential risks because of a particular kind of bias called observation selection effect. Can you explain a bit more about that?

Bostrom: The idea of an observation selection effect is maybe best explained by first considering the simpler concept of a selection effect. Let's say you're trying to estimate how large the largest fish in a given pond is, and you use a net to catch a hundred fish and the biggest fish you find is three inches long. You might be tempted to infer that the biggest fish in this pond is not much bigger than three inches, because you've caught a hundred of them and none of them are bigger than three inches. But if it turns out that your net could only catch fish up to a certain length, then the measuring instrument that you used would introduce a selection effect: it would only select from a subset of the domain you were trying to sample.

Now that's a kind of standard fact of statistics, and there are methods for trying to correct for it and you obviously have to take that into account when considering the fish distribution in your pond. An observation selection effect is a selection effect introduced not by limitations in our measurement instrument, but rather by the fact that all observations require the existence of an observer. This becomes important, for instance, in evolutionary biology. For instance, we know that intelligent life evolved on Earth. Naively, one might think that this piece of evidence suggests that life is likely to evolve on most Earth-like planets. But that would be to overlook an observation selection effect. For no matter how small the proportion of all Earth-like planets that evolve intelligent life, we will find ourselves on a planet that did. Our data point-that intelligent life arose on our planet-is predicted equally well by the hypothesis that intelligent life is very improbable even on Earth-like planets as by the hypothesis that intelligent life is highly probable on Earth-like planets. When it comes to human extinction and existential risk, there are certain controversial ways that observation selection effects might be relevant.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
[1709.01149] Biotechnology and the lifetime of technical civilizations
The number of people able to end Earth's technical civilization has heretofore been small. Emerging dual-use technologies, such as biotechnology, may give similar power to thousands or millions of individuals. To quantitatively investigate the ramifications of such a marked shift on the survival of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial technical civilizations, this paper presents a two-parameter model for civilizational lifespans, i.e. the quantity L in Drake's equation for the number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations. One parameter characterizes the population lethality of a civilization's biotechnology and the other characterizes the civilization's psychosociology. L is demonstrated to be less than the inverse of the product of these two parameters. Using empiric data from Pubmed to inform the biotechnology parameter, the model predicts human civilization's median survival time as decades to centuries, even with optimistic psychosociological parameter values, thereby positioning biotechnology as a proximate threat to human civilization. For an ensemble of civilizations having some median calculated survival time, the model predicts that, after 80 times that duration, only one in 1024 civilizations will survive -- a tempo and degree of winnowing compatible with Hanson's "Great Filter." Thus, assuming that civilizations universally develop advanced biotechnology, before they become vigorous interstellar colonizers, the model provides a resolution to the Fermi paradox.
preprint  article  gedanken  threat-modeling  risk  biotech  anthropic  fermi  ratty  hanson  models  xenobio  space  civilization  frontier  hmm  speedometer  society  psychology  social-psych  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  disease  parasites-microbiome  maxim-gun  prepping  science-anxiety  technology  magnitude  scale  data  prediction  speculation  ideas  🌞  org:mat  study  offense-defense  arms  unintended-consequences  spreading  explanans  sociality  cybernetics 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.


At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall:
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components:
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  politics  polisci  sociology  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  social-structure  social-science  evopsych  agri-mindset  pop-diff  kinship  regression-to-mean  anthropic  selection  group-selection  impact  gender  gender-diff  conquest-empire  MENA  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  china  asia  sinosphere  technocracy  scifi-fantasy  aphorism  alt-inst  recruiting  applications  medieval  early-modern  institutions  broad-econ  biodet  behavioral-gen  gnon  civilization  tradition  leviathan  elite  competition  cocktail  🌞  insight  sapiens  arbitrage  paying-rent  realness  kumbaya-kult  war  slippery-slope  unintended-consequences  deep-materialism  inequality  malthus  dysgenics  multi  murray  poast  speculation  randy-ayndy  authoritarianism  time-preference  patience  long-short-run  leadership  coalitions  ideology  rant  westminster  truth  flux-stasis  new-religion  identity-politics  left-wing  counter-revolution  fertility  signaling  status  darwinian  orwellian  ability-competence  organizing 
october 2017 by nhaliday
World Without Stars | West Hunter
Seems to me that forming in a galaxy might give a solar system enough heavy elements, while being flung into the intergalactic deeps would protect you from cosmic catastrophes like gamma-ray bursts.   Such stars might be good homes for complex life, especially a few billion years ago.

Interstellar travel is hard enough for us, but for these guys, it would be a bitch. That first step is a doozy.
west-hunter  scitariat  speculation  ideas  commentary  study  summary  news  org:nat  org:sci  space  xenobio  death  anthropic  fermi 
june 2017 by nhaliday
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.

simpler explanation (just different math for Drake equation):
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox:
Overall the argument is that point estimates should not be shoved into a Drake equation and then multiplied by each, as that requires excess certainty and masks much of the ambiguity of our knowledge about the distributions. Instead, a Bayesian approach should be used, after which the fate of humanity looks much better. Here is one part of the presentation:

Life Versus Dark Energy: How An Advanced Civilization Could Resist the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe:
The presence of dark energy in our universe is causing space to expand at an accelerating rate. As a result, over the next approximately 100 billion years, all stars residing beyond the Local Group will fall beyond the cosmic horizon and become not only unobservable, but entirely inaccessible, thus limiting how much energy could one day be extracted from them. Here, we consider the likely response of a highly advanced civilization to this situation. In particular, we argue that in order to maximize its access to useable energy, a sufficiently advanced civilization would chose to expand rapidly outward, build Dyson Spheres or similar structures around encountered stars, and use the energy that is harnessed to accelerate those stars away from the approaching horizon and toward the center of the civilization. We find that such efforts will be most effective for stars with masses in the range of M∼(0.2−1)M⊙, and could lead to the harvesting of stars within a region extending out to several tens of Mpc in radius, potentially increasing the total amount of energy that is available to a future civilization by a factor of several thousand. We also discuss the observable signatures of a civilization elsewhere in the universe that is currently in this state of stellar harvesting.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Evolution of Virulence | West Hunter
Once upon a time, I thought a lot about evolution and pathogens. I still do, on occasion.

It used to be the case [and still is] that many biologists thought that natural selection would inevitably tend towards a situation in which pathogens did infinitesimal harm to their host. This despite the epidemics all around them. I remember reading a book on parasitology in which the gormless author mentioned a certain species of parasitic copepod that routinely blinded the fish they attached to. He said that many a naive grad student would think that that these parasitic copepods were bad for the fish, but sophisticated evolutionists like himself knew (and would explain to the newbies) that of course the fish didn’t suffer any reduction in fitness by going blind – theory said so ! Clearly, that man had a Ph.D.

If a pathogen can gain increased reproduction by tapping host resources, or by doing any damn thing that helps itself and hurts the host, that tactic may pay, and be selected for. It depends on the balance between the advantages and costs – almost entirely those to the pathogen, since the pathogen evolves much more rapidly than the host. In some cases, as much as a million times faster – because of generations that may be 20 minutes long rather than 20 years, because pathogens often have very large populations, which favors Fisherian acceleration, and in many cases, a relatively high mutation rate. Pathogen evolution is, at least some cases, so rapid that you see significant evolutionary change within a single host. Along the same lines, we have seen very significant evolutionary changes in antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria over the past few decades, but I’m pretty sure that there hasn’t been much evolutionary change in mankind since I was a kid.

So when analyzing virulence, people mostly consider evolutionary pressures on the pathogens, rather than the host. Something like the Born-Oppenheimer approximation.
west-hunter  bio  disease  parasites-microbiome  red-queen  thinking  incentives  evolution  🌞  deep-materialism  discussion  mutation  selection  time  immune  scitariat  maxim-gun  cooperate-defect  ideas  anthropic  is-ought  gender  gender-diff  scale  magnitude  stylized-facts  approximation  analogy  comparison  pro-rata 
april 2017 by nhaliday
The Great Filter | West Hunter
Let us imagine that we found out that nervous systems had evolved twice (which seems to be the case). And suppose that you spent a lot of time worrying about the Fermi Paradox – and had previously thought that nervous system evolution was the unlikely event that explains the great silence, the bottleneck that explained why we don’t see signs of alien intelligent life. Thus in our past: we’re safe. Now you’re worried: maybe the Great Filter lies in our future, and the End approaches. But not just that: you assume that the political class noticed this too, and will start neglecting the future (cough, cough) because they too believe that isn’t going to be one.
Worrying about the Great Filter might not be crazy, but assuming that politicians are hep to such things and worry about them is. If you think that, you have less common sense than a monotreme. And that’s real common. I’ve had analogous arguments with people: they didn’t have any common sense either.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : In Praise of Low Needs
We humans have come a long way since we first became human; we’ve innovated and grown our ability to achieve human ends by perhaps a factor of ten million. Not at all shabby, even though it may be small compared to the total factor of growth and innovation that life achieved before humans arrived. But even if humanity’s leap is a great achievement, I fear that we have much further to go than we have come.

The universe seems almost entirely dead out there. There’s a chance it will eventually be densely filled with life, and that our descendants may help to make that happen. Some worry about the quality of that life filling the universe, and yes there are issues there. But I worry mostly about the difference between life and death. Our descendants may kill themselves or stop growing, and fail to fill the universe with life. Any life.

To fill the universe with life requires that we grow far more than our previous leap factor of ten million. More like three to ten factors that big still to go. (See Added below.) So think of all the obstacles we’ve overcome so far, obstacles that appeared when we reached new scales of size and levels of ability. If we were lucky to make it this far, we’ll have to be much more lucky to make it all the way.


Added 28Oct: Assume humanity’s leap factor is 107. Three of those is 1021. As there are 1024 stars in observable universe, that much growth could come from filling one in a thousand of those stars with as many rich humans as Earth now has. Ten of humanity’s leap is 1070, and there are now about 1010 humans on Earth. As there are about 1080 atoms in the observable universe, that much growth could come from finding a way to implement one human like creature per atom.
hanson  contrarianism  stagnation  trends  values  farmers-and-foragers  essay  rhetoric  new-religion  ratty  spreading  phalanges  malthus  formal-values  flux-stasis  economics  growth-econ  status  fashun  signaling  anthropic  fermi  nihil  death  risk  futurism  hierarchy  ranking  discipline  temperance  threat-modeling  existence  wealth  singularity  smoothness  discrete  scale  magnitude  population  physics  estimate  uncertainty  flexibility  rigidity  capitalism  heavy-industry  the-world-is-just-atoms  nature  corporation  institutions  coarse-fine 
october 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Beware General Visible Prey
So, bottom line, the future great filter scenario that most concerns me is one where our solar-system-bound descendants have killed most of nature, can’t yet colonize other stars, are general predators and prey of each other, and have fallen into a short-term-predatory-focus equilibrium where predators can easily see and travel to most all prey. Yes there are about a hundred billion comets way out there circling the sun, but even that seems a small enough number for predators to careful map and track all of them.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?
Bostrom's anthropic arguments
In sum, if your descendants might make simulations of lives like yours, then you might be living in a simulation. And while you probably cannot learn much detail about the specific reasons for and nature of the simulation you live in, you can draw general conclusions by making analogies to the types and reasons of simulations today. If you might be living in a simulation then all else equal it seems that you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look likely to become eventually rich, expect to and try to participate in pivotal events, be entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happy and interested in you.

Theological Implications of the Simulation Argument:
Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument (SA) has many intriguing theological implications. We work out some of them here. We show how the SA can be used to develop novel versions of the Cosmological and Design Arguments. We then develop some of the affinities between Bostrom’s naturalistic theogony and more traditional theological topics. We look at the resurrection of the body and at theodicy. We conclude with some reflections on the relations between the SA and Neoplatonism (friendly) and between the SA and theism (less friendly).
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september 2016 by nhaliday

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