I was thinking more along the lines of the Kardashev scale. In it the grabby aliens model roughly corresponds to a universe filled with Type III civilizations, while my analogy fits a Type IV.

Arguably polytheist pantheons might be considered Type IV (or even V) civilizations, so I supposes this does indeed work as an argument of sorts for some kind of disenchanted theism.

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Its too strong not to leave other effects. 10^37 every second is a ridiculous force towards being as early as possible. If that was actually true, we would live in a would that appeared at the first moment it was physically possible to do so. In this regime, the chance of the human genome appearing through spontanious random chance corresponds to only a few months. (Ie there are so many more universes of age T than of age T+1 year, that there are more universes of age T in which the human genome randomly assembles itself, than there are universes of age T+1 year total. )

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Brilliant point. If the share of alien civilizations that become obsessed with optimizing for qualia is high, then most civilizations will be small. (Expansion ceases to have much point - if there's no expectation that it increases the amount of desirable qualia accessible to the parent civilization).

Of course there can be much gloomier interpretations of such a finding: https://www.overcomingbias....

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Greg Cochran, whom you previously debated variolation with, has a new podcast with James Miller, this time on UFOs rather than COVID:


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I feel these debates are too agnostic about the likely telos of aliens (whether grabby or not). Being able to make reasonable conjectures here will greatly improve our a priori expectations and our interpretation of available cosmological evidence.

Premise 1: Eventually, civilizations progress until they can engage in megascale engineering: Dyson spheres, etc.

Premise 2: Consciousness is the home of value: Disneyland with no children is valueless. Premise 2.1: Over the long term we should expect at least some civilizations to fall into the attractor of treating consciousness as their intrinsic optimization target.

Premise 3: There will be convergence that some qualia are intrinsically valuable, and what sorts of qualia are such.

Conjecture: A key piece of evidence for discerning the presence of advanced alien civilizations will be megascale objects which optimize for the production of intrinsically valuable qualia.

Speculatively, I suspect black holes and pulsars might fit this description.


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>Becoming grabby/expansionistic is favored by the maximum power principle.

I don't necessarily disagree with this which indicated that there may something wrong with this principle.

>The condition of an "advanced but non-grabby civilization" is unstable.

A big assumption again to make, the same can be said of any type of civilization...

>To remain in that condition requires total ongoing cooperation by all actors.

You don't require any cooperation to in effect do nothing only when you want to do big persistent things...

>The reversion to "grabbyness" only requires a single decision by a single actor, at a single time.

What is a single actor? Like a person? Sure I can become grabby... After all I guess I can put much better use of all the resources my neighbours are supposedly just wasting away. How succesfull will I our you be in this?

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True, that is a good example. It does depend on the civilisation lacking the ability to control its fringe elements who want to destroy it. Something along the lines of Bostrom's vulnerable world hypothesis being true and very hard to solve.

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Not invisible, just fundamentally a part of reality itself. It's similar to the simulation argument: your own (imagined) agency is very likely to be part of the organ/orchestration of an advanced civilization, because a really advanced civilization is getting exactly what it wants, including in the part of the universe you happen to inhabit.

IOW: if you expect efficient grabby aliens, shouldn't you assume the physical matter making you up has already been "grabbed"?

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Only if it is designed to be stupid and non-evolving, but equipped with superior propulsion technology.

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Seems like an argument which provides a plausible explanation for the lack of physical evidence that Zeus exists.

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Radio is the problem with the benign filter hypothesis and future filter hypotheses. It is terribly unlikely that even reclusive civs would be radio silent.

The most likely options (without positing science-fiction physics) are that no alien civs exist/have existed, no sufficiently advanced civs exist/have existed, or the Dark Forest: alien civs exist, but are too smart not to hide.

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Becoming grabby/expansionistic is favored by the maximum power principle.

The condition of an "advanced but non-grabby civilization" is unstable. To remain in that condition requires total ongoing cooperation by all actors. The reversion to "grabbyness" only requires a single decision by a single actor, at a single time.

Expansionist behavior should thus be the default expectation. But, all late filters are up-weighted by the self-sampling assumption -- even these benign proposals.

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I'm definitely in the "we're an early civilization" camp myself, but I think I can construct an internally consistent story of why there is a close to inevitable filter in front of us.

Note that this is conditional -- there's no guarantee that this is the shape of future technological progress, but it appears possible.

The possible explanation using just presently known facts about technological progress would be that the future filter is close to inevitable if the technology level required to build extrasolar colonies is also a technology level that lowers the threshold to destroy a civilization. We went from "a large minority of all humanity is needed to drive humanity to extinction" to "a small group of humans in charge of nuclear weapons can probably drive humanity to extinction (offer might require 1-3 orders of magnitude more nukes than we currently have)", if this keeps going and we get to "a small group of humans with a basement laboratory can drive humanity to extinction on a planet", then as long as the timescale of intersystem colonization is longer than the expected lifespan of humanity on a planet humanity would tend towards extinction.

The old example of this was the concern that tailored viruses are getting too easy to create, but we might have gotten lucky and mRNA vaccines are easy enough that the centralized authorities can contain tailored plagues (with a few substantial institutional upgrades).

P.S. A lot of the techs that we project needing for interplanetary colonization are quite fragile -- a generations ship could probably be killed by a small group with minimal access to any of a number of systems.

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The TOTAL filter is large, but it is made of many parts which can be of different sizes.

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Nice idea - so the energy resources available on colonisable planets might be insufficient to colonise another planet? That could certainly apply to many civilisations. However, my point is that, for it to be able to explain why we don't see a single alien civilisation, it'd have to apply to a very high portion of them. I'd be unconvinced of that, given there should be great variation between species re. how energy-efficient their bodies/minds are. Also, a civilisation could also prioritise colonising those planets with sufficient resources to continue the expansion.

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Doesn't it have to be near-inevitable to explain why we don't observe a single alien civilisation? Even one that filtered 95% of civilisations would allow many to become visible.

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