Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Perry E. Metzger (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 15:45:21 MST

Samantha Atkins <> writes:
> On Fri, 02 Jan 2004 15:02:14 -0500
> "Perry E. Metzger" <> wrote:
>> Robin Lee Powell <> writes:
>> >> Myself, though, I will make a strong prediction -- which is that
>> >> the laws of physics and the rules of math don't cease to apply.
>> >> That leads me to believe that evolution doesn't stop. That further
>> >> leads me to believe that nature -- bloody in tooth and claw, as
>> >> some have termed it -- will simply be taken to the next level. I
>> >> don't fear this particularly, but it isn't consistent with the
>> >> "everything is going to turn up roses" viewpoint.
>> >
>> > You've taken one sample set, Earth, and implied from the course of
>> > evolution on Earth that it is a *law of physics* that violent
>> > conflict occur.
>> >
>> > That's not even tripe.
>> I routinely hear arguments like that from socialists about why my
>> evidence for economic rules that contradict their religion must be
>> wrong. Generally, it comes down to "I will choose to believe that what
>> you are mentioning doesn't generalize because it violates what I would
>> prefer to believe."
> Are you characterizing all who think your argument above somewhat
> lacking as being (oh my!) "socialists", or are you just innocently
> throwing this out as one place you hear what seems to you an
> analogous argument with no intent to prejudice the conversation?

It is an analogy, although it is an interesting one since economic and
evolutionary mechanisms are rather similar in that they're based on
spontaneous order. I don't in any way assume that the people in this
discussion are socialists.

>> Evolution isn't something you can avoid. Deep down, all it says is
>> "you find more of that which survives and spreads itself", which is so
>> close to a tautology that it is damn hard to dispute. There is no
>> moral superiority to a bacterium that minds its manners over one that
>> overwhelms its competition. The universe on a deep level doesn't care
>> which one you find more of. However, almost axiomatically, the second
>> one is the one you'll find in every soil sample and the first will be
>> rare or extinct.
> But it is not in the least clear that only what is "bloody in tooth
> and claw" is what optimally survives.

It is fairly clear that mere capacity for violence is not enough to
guarantee survival -- but it is also pretty clear that lack of
capacity for defense can have adverse consequences.

> Also, it is not clear that any sort of normal evolution or genetic
> algorithm applies after intelligent beings become able to directly
> increase their intelligence and thus survivability. Evolution gets
> potentially replaced as the engine of change.

I very strongly disagree. The mechanism of evolution changes -- we're
no longer talking about DNA mutations, but often conscious design
choices -- but the overall effect changes not at all. For a
gedankenexperiment, consider a superintelligence that chooses to
remain in one small solar system versus one that chooses to spread
aggressively throughout a whole galaxy. If you take a quick sample at
random, which are you more likely to find? One can also imagine design
choices like using more material to build fewer intelligences
vs. using smaller amounts of material each on larger numbers of them,

>> So what sort of strategies does evolution favor? Quite a number of
>> them, actually, but none of them can be characterized as "pacifist".
> Assumes evolution forever which is the point of contention.

I can't see how evolution would stop. It seems to me that we would
continue, in the future, to find more examples of those entities that
have good survival traits and spread aggressively than those that do

> It is not clear what meaning to assign to "pacifist".

Choosing the avoidance of violence as a primary goal rather than as a
possible strategy towards achieving another goal, like survival and

>> The struggle for resources is unlikely to end, because the amount of
>> resource you can have in any finite volume remains finite. That leads
>> me to assume that we'll continue to see evolution take place as life
>> spreads through the cosmos. That, in turn, leads me to assume that
>> we'll continue to see "nature bloody in tooth and claw", although
>> perhaps it will become "nature bloody in assembler and particle beam"
>> or other gadgetry far beyond our understanding.
> There are many ways to deal with a struggle for resources that are
> not "bloody in tooth and claw" though.

Sure, there's trade as well. However, that tends to happen between
entities with fairly balanced capabilities for violence, in
circumstances where there is significant mutal gain to be had from
trade. If what I covet is not your abilities but literally the raw
materials of which you are made, such as in the relationship between
humans and salmon....

Perry E. Metzger

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