RE: Another Take on the Fermi Paradox

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Dec 24 2002 - 05:49:13 MST

> And of course I should point out I am not the first to bring this
> objection, many others including Tipler have come up with it before me.
> Does anyone know of any good rebuttals to the "where are the Von Neumann
> Probes?" quandry? I find myself siding with Nick "we are Sims" Bostrom
> rather than believe all civs kill themselves off. THAT would be
> depressing.

I am a strong suspecter in the Honest Annie scenario. [** see footnotes **]

That is, I suspect that when an intelligence reaches a certain level, it

1) gains access to sources of computing power and material resources that
are not known to us, i.e. are "outside the physical universe."

2) has no more interest in pre-Singularity intelligences than it does in
ants, bugs or rocks -- i.e. no need to communicate with us

When a species achieves technology, it rapidly either

a) self-destructs, or

b) pulls an Honest-Annie type transcension

Effectively colonizing the physical cosmos -- or sending out enough probes
to get noticed -- is a lot harder than either a) or b), hence has either
never or very rarely occurred.

This suspicion is actually orthogonal to the "is reality a simulation or
not?" question. It could be, for example, that an alien mind set up the
simulation and *then* pulled the Honest Annie transcension.

In a sense, then, I suspect that all civilizations *do* kill themselves off.
But they die by giving rise to something new, beyond civilization, mind and
physical reality as we know it.

-- Ben G


1) For those who don't know, "Honest Annie" is a reference to an AI computer
in a story by Stanislaw Lem.

2) "suspecter" is part of Orson Scott Card's tongue-halfway-in-cheek
hierarchy of religious conviction: wishing < suspecting < hoping < believing

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