The mystics of the East and the West have inspired me for decades.
All of our calculations say that, in the infinite vastness of time and space, intelligent aliens should be very common. This is very strange. Those star systems will colonize other star systems and so on until we start expanding at nearly the speed of light, colonizing literally everything in sight.
But there should be alien civilizations that are a billion years old. Anything that could conceivably be colonized, they should have gotten to back when trilobytes still seemed like superadvanced mutants.
Well, the Great Filter. The planet goes some of the way towards a spacefaring civilization, and then stops. The most important thing to remember about the Great Filter is that it is very good at what it does.
If even one planet in a billion light-year radius had passed through the Great Filter, we would expect to see its inhabitants everywhere. The articles I linked at the top, especially the first, will go through most of the possibilities. The Great Filter is not garden-variety x-risk.
This seems wrong to me. Even if human civilization does destroy itself due to global warming — which is a lot further than even very pessimistic environmentalists expect the problem to go — it seems clear we had a chance not to do that.
A few politicians voting the other way, we could have passed the Kyoto Protocol. A lot of politicians voting the other way, and we could have come up with a really stable and long-lasting plan to put it off indefinitely.
Maybe it kills , But occasionally one manages to make it to space before frying their home planet. And the same is true of nuclear war or destroying the rainforests.
Unlike global warming, it may be that we never really had a chance against Unfriendly AI. Even if we do everything right and give MIRI more money than they could ever want and get all of our smartest geniuses working on the problem, maybe the mathematical problems involved are insurmountable.
So unlike global warming and nuclear war, this theory meshes well with the low probability of filter escape. But as this article points outUnfriendly AI would if anything be even more visible than normal aliens.
These would be easily detectable as a sphere of optimized territory expanding at some appreciable fraction of the speed of light. The Great Filter is not transcendence. Some of them hang out on their home planet, peacefully cultivating their alien gardens. Others upload themselves to computronium internets, living in virtual reality.
Still others become beings of pure energy, doing whatever it is that beings of pure energy do. Which is all nice and well, except what about the Amish aliens? What about the ones who have crusader religions telling them they have to conquer the galaxy to convert everyone else to their superior way of life?
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