X-Message-Number: 21658
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 08:55:27 -0400
From: Keith Henson <>
Subject: Re: #21657: Reply on Advanced Civilizations

At 09:00 AM 24/04/03 +0000, Mike Perry wrote:

>Thomas Donaldson, #21647, writes in part
> >As for civilizations expanding, your answer, from an
> >    IMMORTALIST, seems short-sighted. OK, so it takes thousands
> >    of years (ultimately it could probably be done in much less,
> >    but still well beyond the lifespan of present human beings)
> >    to travel from star to star. To immortal or very long-lived
> >    creatures, thousands of years is trivial. You are imposing
> >    ideas due to our present very short lifespans onto our
> >    behavior (or the behavior of some other hypothetical
> >    creature). We would hardly break up with the people who
> >    live right next door, only 1000 LY away, would we?

Two points.  Forward's method (Drexler's light sails pushed with lasers) 
currently looks like the best way to travel.  It seems to be limited to 
about .5 c from abrasion.  So, 100,000 light years of travel (across the 
galaxy) takes about 200,000 years.  But using (time) warp drive it can 
subjectively take as little or as long as you want if you (as any nanotech 
based life form should) have control over your perception of time.  At warp 
8, (10 exp 8 slower) edge to edge would take 200,000/100,000,000 = 1/500th 
years.  Less than a day while watching 100 supernovas twinkle.

>A good point. One hopes that immortalization will bring with it both much
>greater wisdom and more of a sense of civilization being one happy family.
>So the idea of mine that a rapidly expanding civilization could develop
>internal hostilities leading to civil warfare is perhaps unrealistic--still
>we don't know for sure. I can see various possibilities. One could be that
>it will become clear to advanced, former humans that benevolence is the
>only sensible attitude.

"Former" is the operative word here.

Evolutionary psychology is the key to understanding why humans fight wars 
in the first place.  Primitive humans, like every other animal, filled 
their ecological niche to the limit.  The productivity of the environment 
was unstable, resulting in times (every few generations) of crisis--not to 
mention ice ages coming along.

The evolved psychological response to privation is to make war on a 
neighboring tribe.  Even if a tribe that did so was wiped out, it was 
normal for some of the young females to be incorporated into the winning 
tribe.  War (from a gene's viewpoint) was better than starvation.

6 million years of this--at least, since chimps also make war on 
neighbors--has left us with near universal psychological traits (from 
surviving genes) leading to war and related social upheavals in times of 
declining wealth per capita.  I.e., memes dehumanizing neighbors prior to 
killing them spread well in times of privation.

It will require literally changing human nature to get rid of this 
"feature," and I am not certain it's a good idea.  Growing wealth per 
capita seems to keep it turned off.

The insight behind model is only a month old or so.  It will be interesting 
to see if counter examples of a group of people starting a war in times of 
*rising* wealth per capita can be found.

Evolutionary psychology is a powerful thinking tool.  I discuss two other 
evolved psychological traits, capture-bonding and addictive attention 
rewards here:


>(Actually I am optimistic that that will be the
>case.) If it is clear *enough*, however, such beings could conclude that
>there is essentially no danger from any other civilizations that may exist
>or come into being, so no reason to rapidly occupy every reachable niche in
>space. (Instead they may focus more on some version of "inner space" as has
>been suggested.) That is only one possibility, though. At the other
>extreme, you could have rapid colonization *and* precautions to prevent any
>other intelligent life emerging anywhere, to minimize any possible threat.
>(Perhaps the advanced beings will realize that benevolence is not to be
>taken for granted after all.) I for one hope that never happens, of course;
>I'd like to see ETs if I could, though I think they will be hard to find.
>Anyway, it's clear that there is much we don't know about all this, and
>firm conclusions about the likely behavior of advanced civilizations are

Considering how little we understand the roots of the behavior of our own 
"civilization" that's a good conclusion for now.  I suspect though that 
this trait is going to be a feature of any successful intelligent, top 
predator species.

Keith Henson

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