RE: Existential Risk and Fermi's Paradox

From: Christopher Healey (
Date: Tue Jun 19 2007 - 14:50:40 MDT


I was walking down the street about 6 months ago and bumped into an old
friend from my childhood. Even though our meeting was by chance, we
took the opportunity to catch up. It turns out we've become good
friends again and have also supported each other as colleagues.

Should we have turned the other way because there was no higher
explanation for our meeting again? Instead of choosing this avenue, we
seized the opportunity to inject meaning into a chance encounter. We
chose to generate meaning at that cusp, where the default outcome would
have been zero.

But I suppose that my entire anecdote is completely meaningless if you
require all meaning to derive from a singular root, because there always
has to be a higher source of meaning to bootstrap that "root". It looks
like turtles all the way down!

Ha... can't have that. Therefore, there must be no point at all.

But wait! What if that root meaning could indeed bootstrap itself?
What if meaning could somehow weave itself into existing, out of a bunch
of stuff that was, on its own, devoid of meaning. What might that look

Perhaps it would look a whole lot like evolution, as the entire chain of
events leading to this exact moment.

And finding oneself embedded and aware within such a landscape, an
expansive plateau of meaninglessness exhibiting embryonic sparks and
isolated pockets of meaning, what greater source of meta-meaning could
there be than to fan those sparks into flames?

If the meaning we're supposed to find in our everyday lives is to come
from outside the system somewhere, then I cry foul. It just pushes the
problem elsewhere; pushes meaning behind an impenetrable curtain of
unknowability. I don't know how to make existence more meaningless and
arbitrary than by doing just that.

But if instead, meaning is something we contruct, something that *must*
be constructed to exist at all, then we all bear a deep responsibility
for tending that most delicate and uncertain spark. Meaning becomes
bound to our collective existence, whether we like it or not. We can
grow up and engage that responsibility, exploring the potential depths
of meaning, or we can bask in the relative bliss of our current

Either way, if the above is true, one thing is for certain. If we don't
project the meaning we *can* find into our collective future, then it
will be smothered still-born in the womb.

The Fermi paradox isn't an outcome. It is a challenge to be remedied.

-Chris Healey

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Toby
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 2:24 PM
Subject: Re: Existential Risk and Fermi's Paradox

This is my rather depressing take on the Fermi
There is no point in anything.

We humans are programmed/evolved to make sense out of
the environment, so we find it hard to accept that
large complex artefacts, like the universe for
example, are pointless. This has allowed us to
confabulate higher meanings that keep us going.

But if a truly rational being accepts that there is no
creator/mysticism/purpose then what is the point?
Evolution generates its own purpose; survival. But a
rational being will not be able to deceive itself for
long if the universe really is devoid of higher
These minds will euthanize leaving nothing behind.

This may be a view in common circulation. Ian M Banks
touches on the idea in one of his books when he
describes a clean AI free of any of the "noise" of the
creating species. These AIs always sublime


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