Cosmic expansion vs uploads economics?

post by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-12T07:37:07.297Z · score: -3 (10 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 18 comments

In a previous post (and the attendant paper and talks) I mentioned how easy it is to build a Dyson sphere around the sun (and start universal colonisation), given decent automation.

Decent automation includes, of course, the copyable uploads that form the basis of Robin Hanson's upload economics model. If uploads can gather vast new resources by Dysoning the sun using current or near future technology, this calls into question Robin's model that standard current economic assumptions can be extended to an uploads world.

And Dysoning the sun is just one way uploads could be completely transformative. There are certainly other ways, that we cannot yet begin to imagine, that uploads could radically transform human society in short order, making all our continuity assumptions and our current models moot. It would be worth investigating these ways, keeping in mind that we will likely miss some important ones.

Against this, though, is the general unforeseen friction argument. Uploads may be radically transformative, but probably on longer timescales than we'd expect.

18 comments

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comment by gjm · 2013-07-12T11:22:45.678Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dysoning the sun is just one way uploads could be completely transformative.

Is it really uploads that would make the difference between "really hard to construct a Dyson sphere" and "quite easy to construct a Dyson sphere"? It seems to me -- perhaps wrongly, so feel free to persuade me -- that most of the difficulties standing between our present situation and one where we've got a Dyson sphere around the sun would be left largely unaffected by easy uploads.

The linked post does not appear to contain any arguments or evidence for the proposition that uploads would make it easy to build a Dyson sphere around our sun. It just says: "About six hours of the sun's energy would be enough to launch self-replicating probes to every reachable galaxy in the entire universe. We could get this energy by constructing a Dyson swarm around the sun, by, for instance, disassembling Mercury. This is the kind of task that would be well within the capacities of an decently automated manufacturing process."

The paper costs £31.50 for access.

The second video has the more promising title of the two and has a substantial section about Dyson spheres/swarms. It also doesn't seem to me to say anything that indicates that, of the difficulties standing between us and a Dyson sphere, uploads would solve more than a small fraction.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-12T12:19:44.081Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The paper can be found here: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Armstrong-Sandberg-Eternity-in-six-hours-intergalactic-spreading-of-intelligent-life-and-sharpening-the-Fermi-paradox.pdf

The main reason Dysonning the sun can be done at a fast pace is because of the exponential feedback loops. As long as we have some crude way of doing all the steps, then adding uploads allows us to automate the whole process, and get the exponential feedback.

comment by gjm · 2013-07-12T13:11:27.034Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But why would you need an exponential number of human-equivalent intelligences for this? Why not much stupider robots?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-12T13:13:45.790Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Robots capable of doing that task would be enough, but running and building factories and dealing with problems could be tricky with current AI. Humans can do this, so uploads could as well.

comment by knb · 2013-07-13T23:40:07.573Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a process involves uploads, which are people, then it isn't "automated."

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-07-15T03:34:27.694Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a process involves uploads, which are people, then it isn't "automated."

This seems to be a comment more that is disputing definitions than actually making a statement about what we actually expect to observe.

comment by knb · 2013-07-16T21:44:06.804Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If he's going to use a word in a way that is so different from it's normal denotations and connotations, he needs to explain why he's using that word, and what it means to him.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-07-16T22:05:07.642Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think many people have a strong intuition either way about whether the word "automated" should include uploads or not. At least for me, I don't feel strongly about it either way, and I suspect that many feel similarly.

comment by knb · 2013-07-13T23:43:46.264Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If uploads can gather vast new resources by Dysoning the sun using current or near future technology, this calls into question Robin's model that standard current economic assumptions can be extended to an uploads world.

So far as I can see, you haven't demonstrated this or even made an argument to this end yet. It seems to me that basic economics still applies if there is a dyson sphere. There would still be scarce resources, the direction of the slope of the supply and demand curves wouldn't change, etc.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-14T07:50:18.995Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Basic economics won't change, but Robin's model assumes a relatively fixed society/economy across the transition (and Robin's model is pitched as temporary, before changes get too great. The Dyson argument implies changes may get too great, immediately)

comment by DanielLC · 2013-07-12T08:03:26.886Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that can be said to violate standard economic assumptions. It's just standard exponential return on investment, at least until you finish building the sphere.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-12T08:41:47.869Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Still disruptive to assumptions of societal continuity, though.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-07-13T00:11:30.995Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does that mean?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-13T05:47:13.164Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We can't use our current economic theories to effectively model such a situation.

comment by polarix · 2013-07-13T17:22:14.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm still unclear, why not? Once the sphere is built, while the raw energy available is fixed, we can still have growth in computation per unit energy, right?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-14T07:46:23.719Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Robin's model is a transitional one, valid until uploads move beyond human, or human society/economy moves beyond what it is now. Radical changes like this one call into question the assumption that human society/economy can be considered otherwise stable across the transition.

comment by timtyler · 2013-07-13T21:07:45.113Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In a previous post (and the attendant paper and talks) I mentioned how easy it is to build a Dyson sphere around the sun (and start universal colonisation), given decent automation.

Why would a superintelligence build a Dyson sphere? Aren't there smarter ways of converting matter into entropy than letting it stew in its own juices at the bottom of a gravity well?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2013-07-14T07:40:46.741Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uploads aren't superintelligent.