mcgann_letterhead

#26 On snoozeday

Dear Jamie,

I think about it with the following constraints.

  1. I think Doomsday would be the worst thing not in the world, but in the universe, so pretty bad,
  2. We’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming,
  3. I have the usual cognitive biases and limitations that all humans do, that mainly ignore the above.

Point 1 is something I’d love to rant about, but I’ll keep in on the topic of doomsday as you seem to think it so important, jeez. It basically comes down to the fact that consciousness and intelligence are the most important things and humans may be the only creatures to experience the universe in this way. I feel stupid saying it, but some people really do assume that better things will come along, not necessarily. So doonsday should be at the top of our minds as the worst outcome ever. Ever.

Point 2 is the trump card that gets me closest to apathy. So we’ll be working hard to avoid many doomsdays. Even if we are so good so as to avoid them all, one will sneak up and get us without us even expecting it.

There is a way out of this. A “Great Scattering” of sorts, like when the sandworm-human hybrid God emperor of Dune, Leto II Atriedes orchestrates the scattering of uncountable ethnic groups to random lost sections of the galaxy in an effort to guarantee humanity’s survival.1)But not before selectively breeding a human invisible to prescience, otherwise prescient rulers could still track humanity. Would you like to hear more about the novel Dune by Frank Herbert? Dune is good. I like Dune. How much do you hate it? So yeah we should go to space. This could guarantee survival forever.

Unless, of course the galaxy has found itself in a “Dark Forest” scenario in which survival so critical, resources are so limited, technical rate of progress so variable, and communication so difficult between intelligent species that the game-theoretic optimum is for intelligent species to hide their presence and completely destroy any other life at first sight. Drenched in hostility, all life sticks to their planetary systems. Creeping around like hunters in a forest under continuous existential threat.2)It’s a clever possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox. But if true we may have guaranteed our doomsday because we’ve been broadcasting our presence already for some time. A tragic state for sure, it’s a concept in the sequel to the Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. But I probably lost you at “sandworm” so I’ll back off from the sci fi.

Combining point 1 and 2 is a tortuous combination, simultaneously driving maximum empathy and maximum apathy. Luckily there’s point 3.

I suspect you might be a little annoyed at how flippant I’m being about your question, but this is the result of an honest introspection.

Pass the beer,
Mat

 

Footnotes

1. But not before selectively breeding a human invisible to prescience, otherwise prescient rulers could still track humanity. Would you like to hear more about the novel Dune by Frank Herbert? Dune is good. I like Dune. How much do you hate it?
2. It’s a clever possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox. But if true we may have guaranteed our doomsday because we’ve been broadcasting our presence already for some time.