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Current Essay Contest

The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

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To Be Announced February 14
February 28, 2023 - April 19, 2023 open to submissions
Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
The Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and John Templeton Foundation Media Partner: Scientific American

How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
The Gruber Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

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Brent Pfister: on 6/6/14 at 22:48pm UTC, wrote Tommy, your essay is really original and far-reaching. My essay made some...

Edwin Klingman: on 6/6/14 at 1:02am UTC, wrote Hi Tommy, The quality of this essay has caused me to go back and print out...

Alex Hoekstra: on 5/28/14 at 20:40pm UTC, wrote Hi Tommy, An interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring essay; thank you for...

KoGuan Leo: on 5/28/14 at 16:09pm UTC, wrote Dear Tommy, Imaginative and fun but serious essay at the same time. I...

James Blodgett: on 5/28/14 at 8:21am UTC, wrote I have read your essay again and I am impressed again. You have hit (and...

Jayakar Joseph: on 5/24/14 at 17:37pm UTC, wrote Dear Anderberg, I agree your statement: "If you think we have a global...

Tommy Anderberg: on 5/22/14 at 19:20pm UTC, wrote Thank you for the discussion. We got a little circular towards the end, but...

Tommy Anderberg: on 5/22/14 at 19:18pm UTC, wrote If I were to drop virtual reality, I would have to give everybody a...


David Vognar: "Completeness theorem: If a system’s components can transduce, that system..." in The Entropic Price of...

Georgina Woodward: "On obtaining the singular, relative, measurement product it replaces the..." in The Present State of...

Steve Dufourny: "The paper of Wilczek of course is very relevant considering the idea about..." in The Noise of Gravitons

Georgina Woodward: "Material neuronal structure in which memory is encoded, physical records..." in Quantum Physics and the...

Steve Dufourny: "It is really how we consider the structure of the spacetime, and also how..." in The Noise of Gravitons

Aleksandr Maltsev: "Hi Georgina, Write a letter to" in Quantum Physics and the...

Georgina Woodward: "In quantum experiments using particles, there won't be swapping with a..." in The Present State of...

Aleksandr Maltsev: "I shortened the phrase Zeeya Merali  «Why does time flow….?    How..." in Time's Arrow, Black Holes...

click titles to read articles

The Entropic Price of Building the Perfect Clock: Q&A with Natalia Ares
Experiments investigating the thermodynamics of clocks can teach us about the origin of time's arrow.

Schrödinger’s A.I. Could Test the Foundations of Reality
Physicists lay out blueprints for running a 'Wigner's Friend' experiment using an artificial intelligence, built on a quantum computer, as an 'observer.'

Expanding the Mind (Literally): Q&A with Karim Jerbi and Jordan O'Byrne
Using a brain-computer interface to create a consciousness 'add-on' to help test Integrated Information Theory.

Quanthoven's Fifth
A quantum computer composes chart-topping music, programmed by physicists striving to understand consciousness.

The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

February 7, 2023

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: A Future Brighter than 100 Trillion Suns by Tommy Anderberg [refresh]
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Author Tommy Anderberg wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 15:03 GMT
Essay Abstract

I discuss how humanity may enhance its capabilities and expand in space to eventually spread beyond the Milky Way.

Author Bio

I am a guy who wonders how the world works.

Download Essay PDF File

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James Dunn wrote on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 19:59 GMT
Mars is not the closest match to Earth within reach, Venus is. Venus is 90% of the mass of Earth and can hold an atmospheric pressure that can support human life after terra-forming the atmosphere.

Mars has 38% of the gravity of Earth and will never be able to support the atmospheric pressure needed to sustain human life. The current atmosphere on Mars is like living at 125,000 feet above sea level here on Earth. We will be required to live in pressurized cavern to sustain life. So why not just live in ventilated caverns here on Earth?

Venus however can have its' atmosphere terra-formed from space. Let me know if you want references. And the same technology can provide both active Weather Control for Venus and Earth. The same structures can be used for solar sails to transfer people and resources between the inner planets and provide maintenance transport. All without fossil fuels.

Catalysts and energy differentials of the Venus atmosphere can convert the CO2 to oxygen and hydrocarbons. The atmospheres of both Mars and Venus are 97% CO2, but Venus has more atmospheric components to sustain catalyst based conversions.

Indeed, the current egoists want an easy visible target that has PR appeal, but has no significant return on investment.

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 20:23 GMT
Hi. A fair point, Venus could be terraformed (I remember Sagan's "fried algae", and one need look no further than Wikipedia for a bunch of other proposals) but currently, it is even less survivable than Mars. Put a guy in a standard issue NASA spacesuit on Mars, and he'll live. Do the same on Venus, and it's an imploding-melting-burning horror show.

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Donald C Barker wrote on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 02:33 GMT
Hi Tommy,

FYI, Mr. Dunn wrote almost the same thing on my essay page. I still have to hold to the point that we really need to diversify our species off Earth (i.e., Mars) before something bad happens, and we dont own the casino we just play the game. Nice essay though and I agree, we have a lot of necessary Tech to develop if things are to go smoothly.


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 23, 2014 @ 12:48 GMT
I think we are on the same page regarding the need to diversify, we just advocate different tactics to achieve that goal. The choice probably won't matter much for another couple of decades, since the technological advances specific to my scenario are initially going to be driven by other concerns, and the heavy lift and other space capabilities needed for Mars missions will be useful either way. I'll start worrying the day I see a reckless Mars mission with a high probability of failure diverting large resources and/or risking to provoke a public backlash against space in general.

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Michael Allan wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 03:57 GMT
Hello Tommy, May I offer a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I would ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. - Mike

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 08:06 GMT
Hi. I'm trying my best to read at least every abstract, to read the essay when the abstract catches my attention, and to leave a comment if one happens to pop into my head. It's a big avalanche to dig through, and I'm way behind, but sooner or later I should get through it. No need for a formal agreement, I'm an equal opportunity commenter.

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Michael Allan replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 11:50 GMT
Thank you, (That's not a bad policy, either.) Your essay has an inviting, exploratory style that's never dull. You argue for the need to expand into the galaxy. By laying down an incisive examination of the problems and solutions to that end, you build up a proposal for an economically sustained, virtual transhumanism as the means - a brave thesis, if not a rash one.

I have a few questions, please. First about the Lagrangians who export energy and (perhaps) moon minerals to earth. "Eventually", you claim, "they could spread throughout the solar system." (p. 2) In spreading just to the vicinity of Mars, what economic basis would they obtain for this venture that the unsustainable Mars colonies (pp. 1-2) could not obtain? - Mike

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 17:30 GMT
That's a trick question, right? :) The natural front of expansion for O'Neill-style settlements would be into the asteroid belt, not Mars. Off the top of my head, the businesses I can think of would be mining (with related refining and manufacturing) and real estate.

The asteroid belt is like a planet which has already been ground down by a giant mining machine and laid out for us to pick and choose from with minimal mechanical effort, and without a gravity well to lift out the ore from. Initially, miners will operate from Earth, but a look at this is enough to see why they will eventually want to move out. Sooner or later, any Mars settlers would also have to mine for their own needs, but they would have to work much harder to find and extract what they want, and they would have to pay the gravity well tax in order to export anything.

Real estate would follow in the miner's trail and work pretty much as usual: a developer would build a habitat and then sell or rent units. The buyers would be very different from the rugged pioneer types you would expect to see in a Mars settlement; think "Elysium", or luxury sea residence / cruise ship like The World. People would move there to live better, not worse. I wouldn't be interested in a lot on Mars, but if I had the money, I wouldn't disdain living on (or rather in) something like Island One.

If I really must think of a way to drag Mars into this, it would be because of its water. I suppose, without any attempt at actual analysis, that it might make sense to "mine" Mars' polar caps for ice and blast it to habitats in the asteroid belt. Going around the sun a little faster than its customers, it would be like the solar system's own ice van. Mars colonists would probably hate the idea with a vengeance.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 15:16 GMT
Dear Mr. Anderberg,

I thought that your essay was exceptionally well written and the graphics were out of this world. I do hope that it scores well in the competition.


Joe Fisher

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 08:09 GMT
Thank you for the kind words. Out of this world - exactly. :)

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 01:05 GMT
Dear Tommy,

I was really impressed by the imagination and out-of-the box thinking that went into this essay. I'm not sure everyone will be enthusiastic about the ideas you present but they are certainly different, and therefore they enrich the discussion. Your progression to Humanity 3.0 reminded me of Asimov's "Last Question".

I liked the fact that in the conclusion you went from the rather heady images of the far future to concrete steps that can be taken now. A vision without a plan is condemned to remain a dream.

Best wishes,


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 10:15 GMT
Thank you. I wrote this expecting most readers to be appalled (and the score so far seems to confirm my expectation :D ). If somebody were to offer me brain-in-vatification today, I would be horrified too, even if the technology already existed. Absurdly oversized as my Cro-Magnon body is for the actual use I make of it (built to hunt Mammuts, used to push buttons...) it is still holding up too well to warrant extraction. But barring some really surprising developments over the next few decades, I know it won't last. By the time Kurzweil et al. expect the Singularity to happen, I'll be taunting them from a precariously fragile platform (if at all). At that point, even a very risky experimental procedure involving partial loss of sensory input and motor control might look better than the alternative. "Would you rather be dead?" tends to be a pretty convincing argument.

I didn't think specifically of "The Last Question", but now that you mention it, it is a very good comparison; I was trying to evoke the same feeling which characterized some of the best SciFi from Clarke's and Asimov's era, of a future so vast and holding so many possibilities that we can't even begin to wrap our heads around it. Basically I wanted to see how shamefully optimistic I could be without breaking any known laws of nature. Turns out, there is plenty of room for optimism. :)

(That said, I think Asimov cheated badly by putting his "AC" in a "hyperspace" where it could keep thinking indefinitely, apparently unaffected by the very entropy problem at the core of his story. If he had thought of virtual worlds, he could just have let everybody immigrate into one running on the AC, and forgotten all about our dusty old universe with its bothersome physical limitations.)

By the way, I think your essay made a very good point. Personally, I chose to interpret this year's question as apolitically as possibly, and just point to what "we" (nerds, humanity...) should do to open access to desirable future opportunities. If some self-appointed "elite" were to claim actual ability or prerogative to "steer" humanity, I would probably laugh my head off.

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Georgina Woodward replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 10:42 GMT
Hi Tommy,

yes it is horrific and not the way I would like humanity to go. Having said that it was a very novel vision of the future and an enjoyable read.Very well thought out. I like that you have discussed problems with the scenarios as well as the advantages.

Good luck, Georgina

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 17:38 GMT
Well, you know: "Adapt to the environment. Do not cause more problems than you solve. (Bend like the willow.)" ;)

You have Kevin Costner's gilled descendants swimming around sub-aquatic sanctuaries, I have The Matrix... in Space! Maybe not all that different.

Thanks, and good luck to you too.

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James Blodgett wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 11:47 GMT
I like your essay, and I like your writing. I also like your 2012 FGXi essay on physics, and I like your comments on Michael Allen's paper.

Michael offered me his deal where each rates the other fairly. Would you want to make that deal with me too? I am more interested in your comments on my essay than in your rating, since I don't expect to win this contest. I tried for coach-before-the-big-game inspiration of readers, but it is hard to do that when the odds of individual effectuality seem low. I sense that inspiration should be possible here, so I want to keep optimizing my presentation. I think your feedback would help. I am asking others too. If the feedback and folk's interest warrant, we could all be coauthors. Maybe we could inspire others to save the world.

My one quibble with your paper is Humanity 3 as a goal. My feeling is maybe. We have personal "I think, therefore I am" evidence that our current biological brain configuration has something like a conscious soul. IBM's Watson is smarter than humans on tricky jeopardy questions, but is it conscious? Could a future model be designed to be conscious? I conjecture that we can never be sure of the answer, but I can imagine experiments that would be suggestive of an answer. One is a Turing/Freud test, psychoanalyzing an AI. Another is an implementation of our mind that shifts back and forth between biological and electronic, so we can compare and critique the feeling of both (if this is possible). We can never be sure, but given continued progress we will be forced to decide on what to do about the issue, since "not to decide is to decide not to decide." My quibble is that I think it is too soon to set Humanity 3 as a goal. I think we should wait for the results of those kinds of experiments and have that kind of experience. If we are forced to fudge the decision, we should at least do the best we can. We also have to deal with the "take over the world" problem, which also exists with current humans (like Hitler), and the Yudkowsky "foom" problem, along with his questionably implementable "proof of friendliness" solution. I think we will have to fudge that one too. I agree with Shirazi that Humanity 3 has the blow-us-away expansiveness of Asimov's "Last Question." I wouldn't want to tell you not to invoke that. I would just like to see a caveat or two. Your benevolent matrix doesn't raise these questions for me since you propose using biological human brains. If you are going for inspiration, you should market test to see if it raises those problems for others. I disagree with Socrates, I think rhetoric is appropriate when the goal is saving the world. It won't work unless we inspire others to get on board.

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 5, 2014 @ 21:48 GMT
Of course, I just had to post my reply in the wrong place. Please see post below yours. Sorry. :/

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Author Tommy Anderberg wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 21:47 GMT
Thank you for the compliments, and apologies for doing my usual "say what happens to pop into my head" thing regarding your presentation.

Regarding Humanity 3.0, note the question mark in that section's title, and the multiple conditionals and branches in that part of the scenario. If I had to bet on whether human-like intelligence and consciousness are possible on non-organic substrates, I would say yes, for lack of any convincing counterargument. But something may yet come out of left field.

Your suggestion of a mind which "shifts back and forth between biological and electronic" is curiously reminiscent of something an old friend suggested a few days ago, but I wouldn't know how to turn off the organic part and then back on (the main problem being the second step...). My own preferred scenario would be gradual substitution of organic circuits with artificial ones without ever interrupting or duplicating consciousness.

If Humans 3.0 are possible, they would still not be a final goal, at least not in the form described. But I wouldn't worry about them taking over our world, for the same reason that I rarely get into fights with birds over who gets to eat a particularly juicy worm.

Essentially, I don't expect Humans 1.0 to get much beyond Earth, or Humans 2.0 to get much beyond the solar system. Maybe the nearest stars, if they really push it. But a Human 3.0 could realistically aspire to go anywhere in the galaxy and beyond. Why bother with the very special niches required by organic life forms, if you can go to the galactic center and feast on energy densities which would kill them instantly? Let them eat their worms.

If I must worry about takeovers, I would worry about Humans 2.0. They will still need relatively scarce water and carbon compounds, just like us, and they will be nearby. The day could come when they raise the question why Earth's inhabitants insist on making such poor use of their most valuable natural resources. Some 98% of my body mass is pure animal. If we insist on staying like this, we may eventually have to produce credible deterrence against our neighbours in space.

As for market testing, I think we are seeing the results already, at least as far as FQXi is concerned: a nanny-state dystopia might be acceptable, but dropping the Cro-Magnon body is so completely out of the question that it doesn't even deserve to be rated. :D

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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 12:30 GMT

When I spotted you name on the list I smiled. Is it two years you've been away? You haven't lost your style and sure didn't disappoint. From wading through some essays begging them to end, even baling out, yours ended too soon, at once relevant, insightful, irreverend and a bunch of other adjectives.

But lets talk future. I think I have a way to get there quicker, using a...

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 6, 2014 @ 21:55 GMT
Hi again. Yes, almost two years - that seems to be the average time I end up hiding from the lynch mobs when I post something. :D

It is nice to be welcomed back, and I appreciate the sentiment. Thank you.

That said, I hope that in future, we will all keep the way we vote to ourselves. The vast majority of votes are cast anonymously, and making a subset of them public invites all...

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Peter Jackson replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 17:16 GMT

I suppose to fully understand the 'escape hatch you may have to read the galaxy recyling paper, but if you know what quasar outflows and jets are you're half way there, we just hop on for the ride. Only today one star was spotted leaving the Milky Way on the flow at a million mph.

I don't think we have any datum at all to measure 'successful' as all we know...

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 8, 2014 @ 19:50 GMT
Thank you for clarifying what you mean by 'escape hatch'. How do you propose to safely "hop on" an object going by at a million mph?

I think we do have a way to determine if a scientific theory is successful: check if it produces correct predictions. The examples of undesirable conditions which you mention are all about technology and/or policy. To the extent that they are failures, they...

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on May. 6, 2014 @ 20:29 GMT
You might be interested in my essay which discusses some related matters. I illustrate possible limits to these types of future ideas.

If humanity does push into outer space then it requires some sort of socio-economic reason. I think the most likely economic purpose manned space flight might serve in the near future is with the deployment and maintenance of solar power satellites. Intermittent space flights might turn into longer term visits with space station habitats. Eventually this might give way to the next big step which would be asteroid mining. That might pave the way for converting asteroid material into habitats.


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 7, 2014 @ 15:14 GMT
I agree wholeheartedly that space colonization will only happen if it makes economic sense, not because of superficial enthusiasm or political dictates. Satellite solar power is a big opportunity, and it was a big part of O'Neill's plans, but currently even the most advanced plans put it 25 years into the future. NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission looks set to happen sooner, and by then Planetary Resources should already be flying commercial missions. So I would put my money on mining first, solar later.

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 11, 2014 @ 22:30 GMT

The first three sections of your essay confused me as I couldn't see reflected in them the optimism-filled title of your essay and Clarke's quote that begins it. But, starting in section four, I began to understand your optimism.

Wonderful job on the essay. Loved it. Thanks for "This could change" (Sec IV, para 5)

Would love your comments on my essay (here). I hope you agree that imagination and ingenuity, available only in the billions of minds and hands of the human race, will keep humanity going in ways and places we cannot even dream of today. We just have to believe and work at it: As Ford said:"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right"

- Ajay (another through-and-through optimist)

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 13, 2014 @ 17:22 GMT
Thanks. :) Be sure to check out Ellen Jorgensen's talk on biohacking if you haven't already, I think what she is describing is very close to what you wrote about.

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Arthur R. Woods wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 14:39 GMT
Dear Tommy,

Many thanks for commenting on my essay: A Space Age on Earth. Your essay really takes off where mine ends. I believe that we would both agree that in order to aspire to Humanity 2.0 and eventually to Humanity 3.0, Humanity 1.0 will first need to make it through this critical moment in its history - a "window of opportunity" that may be open for only a few decades at the most, if it has not already closed. As you say and the end of your essay: "What we Humans 1.0 can meaningfully do here and now is focus on writing our own part of the story."I liked that and your suggestions about what we should do very much.

Assuming humanity does so, I found your speculation about the future of humanity to be well crafted and well explained.

It does, however, stimulate some questions which are not intended to be critical of your essay but rather on the philosophical and perhaps practical side. If one considers humanity to be embedded into Earth's web of life - the dominant species to be sure, but nevertheless interdependent and interconnected with all other life sharing our planet - what role would the rest of life play in the Humanity 2.0 and 3.0 future scenarios? In other words, to what degree can humanity ever be detached from the life support system that has mutually evolved over millions of years to its current integrated state and still remain human?

I realize that this is outside the scope of your essay but I would nevertheless appreciate your thoughts if you have any.

Thanks again for a stimulating essay and best regards,


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 13, 2014 @ 19:41 GMT
That's a very good question. I think there are at least three different aspects to it: philosophical, psychological and practical.

The first category is one which I am more than happy to leave for others to ponder.

Psychologically, I have witnessed vastly different attitudes toward other living creatures: from people treating pets as full-fledged family members, through indifference to outright cruelty. The kinder, gentler attitude seems to be a modern phenomenon, more common the further removed one is from the realities of the food chain (a "fun" factoid I just looked up: some 25 million chickens are slaughtered every day in the US alone, and I think we all know how most of them live; there is nothing kind or gentle about it). There is a widespread belief that kids benefit from growing up with pets, and some evidence that it may actually be true. Based on what I saw growing up with a sequence of dogs, a bunch of birds, miscellaneous rodents and the occasional reptile, I think it would be pretty straightforward (and more humane - I was a lively kid...) to replicate the experience using virtual pets. It may be hard to fool a real dog into thinking that a simulated one is real, but fooling a human is pretty easy.

The practical aspect is the serious one. Flavio Mercati has written an essay which pays homage to currently fashionable views (and which therefore can be expected to do very well in the contest) and advocates "solutions" like only eating game meat, but which also gets some things right. One of them is that there are vast amounts of energy of raw materials awaiting exploitation in space. Another is that the biological diversity of Earth is truly rare, and therefore precious. He is sticking to the 60s script of space colonization, with humans turning other planets into new Earths by terraforming, and in that model, the more species you have to work with, the more likely you are to find a viable mix capable of supporting a robust biosphere in the new environment. The script is dated, but he does have a point: diversity is good.

That won't matter to inorganic Humans 3.0, but it could bite Humans 2.0. Their life support system will need to provide them with things like glucose and amino acids. Ideally, those would be synthesized, but initially at least they could come from a handful of plant species (Soylent is essentially based on rice, oat, canola and microalgae; in The Millennial Project, Savage was big on blue-green algae). Since they will be working with a completely engineered environment, it will be tempting to optimize everything, down to cloning a few particularly productive organisms, and call it a day. The result would be a monoculture, with all that entails: very efficient as long as it works, but very fragile when something goes wrong. So as a purely practical matter, it would be in their interest to maintain a larger selection of species.

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Anonymous wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 16:41 GMT

I have to say I avoided reading your essay because I think moving off the planet in any serious technological fashion is delusion, for many of the reasons you list in your essay. Yet having read various of your comments on other threads, it's obvious you are an extremely intelligent person and this essay doesn't disappoint. I still think it's delusional though. Though we may be the...

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 22:24 GMT
Thank you for calling me delusional (twice) and for clearing up a lingering doubt induced by your dispatch from May 1:

And on a conceptual level, it does seem many of these entries are out of 20th century science fiction. We haven't been back to the moon in forty years and how many of these entries are going on about populating the universe and moving off the planet after we have finished trashing it!!!! Do these people even bother to go out side and look up at the sky and really appreciate just how far away everything is and how little there is that we can actually work with?

The doubt being, of course, whether you had actually read the entries in question.

I would also be remiss were I not to express my deep gratitude for disclosing, after you finally found the time to read my humble contribution, that

while some of your hypotheses may be valid, in the distant future, there are significant hurtles to overcome

This shocking revelation was more than worth the effort of parsing the 615 words preceding it. It goes without saying that my inability to extract any further information from your, I am sure, absolutely brilliant, well argued, deeply knowledgeable and extensively referenced critique is entirely due to failings of my own.

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John Brodix Merryman replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 00:57 GMT

Sorry to not be on the bandwagon, but the devil is in the details.



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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 19:45 GMT
Bandwagon...? Oh well, if you could divine those devilish details two weeks before even reading the thing, I guess you can see a bandwagon coming, too. Two weeks again? I can't wait! :)

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 22:33 GMT
Hi Tommy,

I admire high aim. You have got it.

Thanks for your interesting essay on technology.

Don Limuti

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 10:29 GMT
Ah yes, shoot for the moon...

Thanks. :)

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Member Marc Séguin wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 06:17 GMT

Congratulations on a very interesting essay! I enjoyed your writing style, and your tongue-in-cheek remarks such as "To those who really think that the world would be better off without people, all I can say is: after you" or "If you think we have a global warming problem now, just wait another billion years". The tone of most of the essays in this contest is sooooooooooo serious...

What I like the most about your essay is that it does not suffer from "Failure of Imagination" (as defined by Arthur C. Clarke, as you mention): when thinking about the future, I deplore the fact that too many people fail to even take into consideration the possibility that Humanity 1.0 may fairly soon no longer be the only way to be human. It is difficult to know in advance what Humanity 2.0 will look like, but you certainly have presented many intriguing possibilities. I also like how you stressed the importance of the expansion of humanity in space, while being critical of some scenarios (like a Mars colony without a clear "business plan").

I think your essay deserves to make it to the finals, and I have rated it accordingly. Good luck!


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 16:57 GMT
Thank you. It's funny how polarizing this essay seems to be. It's either love or hate, not much in between. Maybe the cheeky style is one of the causes. It seemed like the right choice for an in-your-face optimistic view of the future, which I thought was the assignment... though looking at most other contest entries, I can only agree with you. They are very serious, concerned, and rarely particularly optimistic.

I also agree that the next iteration of humanity could be even more varied than my 2.0. The branch which I focused on is the one which I think will be most relevant to space (initially at least), but it is certainly possible that things like genetically engineered and/or technologically augmented minds and bodies will play a big role here on Earth already within a few decades. I have a doubt though, which I think is hinted at by some of the comments: there are those who just feel that such far-reaching modification is wrong, even if they can't articulate exactly why. Given our propensity to kill each other over trivia like language, clothing and skin color, I can't help but wonder how tolerant we will be of truly radical diversity. Even a small minority of haters can be a serious problem, and I am afraid we will see such tendencies. The outcome I hint at in the essay is that the people of Earth will change only slowly, while new variations on the theme will be tried out in space, where there is plenty of... well, space for everybody to stay out of each other's way.

So that's another reason to go colonizing, besides natural resources and long-term survival: it will allow humanity to evolve faster.

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Michael Allan wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 13:45 GMT
One more question please, Tommy. - You claim on page 6, "A human mind which works 106 times faster needs a body which moves 106 times faster." - Why? - Mike

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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 20:54 GMT
Let's make the thought experiment that I have a magical button which, when pressed, makes your brain work 10^6 times faster than normal. I press it. What happens?

For all practical purposes, your world freezes solid. One second of wall time is now 11.6 days of your subjective time. Unless your brain has been hacked to handle this situation, you suffer immediate sensory deprivation; even sensory neurons firing 100 times a (wall) second to tell your brain what's going on are now only firing once every 2.8 of your subjective hours, so you are effectively blind, deaf and floating in space without a body. Within a few subjective hours you lose the ability to think clearly, you become emotionally unstable and then you start hallucinating. If I let go of the button after just one second, you will have set a new endurance record, but you may now be irreversibly insane.

Let's assume that your brain has been hacked to overcome the sensory problem: when I press the button, you don't go blind and deaf, you just see a still image of the world, and maybe I stream you some music and some faked sensory information to keep you from going nuts. So you feel a little better, but only a little, because you are suddenly locked in concrete. Normally, you are constantly moving. Your eyes dart around, you blink, your fingers twitch, your body shifts back and forth, redistributing the load between muscles. Most of it is borderline conscious until you start thinking about it. Now it just stops. You are completely paralyzed, unable to do anything. Your immediate, instinctive reaction is to fight the force which suddenly seems to be restraining you, but nothing happens. By the time you've rationalized what's going on and calmed down, several subjective seconds' worth of maximum force control signals are on their way to your muscles. Those are between 0.1 and 1.5 meters away, so travelling at 100 m/s, your orders will reach them in 1000 to 15 000 subjective seconds. After half an hour you start getting sensory feedback telling you that your first commands were executed, followed by increasingly painful reports of the consequences, spread out over the next 8 hours. From the outside, it looks like you are having a violent fit, flailing about uncontrollably, and probably harming yourself badly in the process.

You can't control a body with such long lag times. Even without panicking about it, having to wait hours to get feedback on an order to move a finger completely breaks the normal control loop "move a little towards target, compare new position to desired location, repeat if necessary".

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Michael Allan replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 17:57 GMT
Myself, when I'm thinking, I like to find a quiet place away from distractions. Sometimes I'm outwardly inactive, or sometimes I engage in a repetitive activity such as jogging. My thoughts float above me and I become almost unconscious of my physical environment and activity. It would not help me to jog faster, of course, nor to perceive faster. I concentrate on my thoughts.

Even in thought itself speed isn't everything. I want my thoughts to be correct, which doesn't necessarily mean fast. Instead of speeding up the "computer clock" (or in addition to it), one could add more memory, for example; or improve the I/O, as with new forms of perception; or improve the network that interconnects the nodes (i.e. discussion among people).

Anyway, I want to thank you for answering all my questions so patiently. Your essay's very interesting to read and discuss. It makes me think a lot (if not faster or better!). Seriously, it deserves to do well in the contest. Thanks also for reviewing my own essay. I'll be rating yours (together with all the others on my review list) some time between now and May 30.


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Author Tommy Anderberg replied on May. 22, 2014 @ 19:20 GMT
Thank you for the discussion. We got a little circular towards the end, but I've seen much worse. :)

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on May. 24, 2014 @ 17:37 GMT
Dear Anderberg,

I agree your statement:

"If you think we have a global warming problem now, just wait another billion years (Ga); by then, the oceans will have all but evaporated, CO2 levels will be too low to sustain photo-synthesis, and the biosphere will collapse (yes, the long term problem is too little CO2, not too much)."

As per 'Eigen-rotational...

view entire post

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James Blodgett wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 08:21 GMT
I have read your essay again and I am impressed again. You have hit (and enhanced) almost all of the notes; an impressive grasp of this literature; I learned a few things. I questioned your "humanity 3" in my previous post, but I agree that it may deserve to be part of your smiley-face utilitarian integral, and we need to face that issue if we are serious about maximizing because it adds a lot more maximum. Your vision deserves a shot at the next stage in this contest, a shot I think you have now unless the numbers change. Your essay deserves more than that. Even if it is not recognized here, I advocate making sure it gets a good megaphone elsewhere, in a respected venue if possible but not hidden behind a copyright wall if possible. I also advocate that you keep writing in this vein. The quest is that we might really be able to implement some of your integral; a humongous expected value (probability times value) because of the humongous value even if the probability is fairly low, which hopefully it is not. (I have got to find some better way to sell that pitch, if it is saleable.)

Incidentally, have you any interest in being an Advisory Board Member of the Lifeboat Foundation? That is more or less their standard membership category in a large (2,500+) and very diverse group some of whom are top notch. The size and the diversity can be advantages. Lifeboat is to a standard think tank like Burning Man is to a staid art museum. What may be another advantage is that they are as blue sky as your essay, if you want to be that way. I can't make an official offer of membership, but I'll bet I could get you in, and I'll bet you would add to the group. My email is on my essay.

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KoGuan Leo wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 16:09 GMT
Dear Tommy,

Imaginative and fun but serious essay at the same time. I enjoyed very much reading yours.

You want to recreate biological humans into Human 3.0, "nonbiological humans within a decade or two." You wrote: "Assuming, as most workers in artificial intelligence and neuroscience seem content to do, that the mind is completely encoded by the connectome and does not depend on deeper physical (or supernatural) properties of the brain, this suggests the possibility of entirely nonbiological humans within a decade or two. Let’s call them Humans 3.0."

In my KQID theory, I believe we are already made of what I called Founding Omni-principle Giving first Taking later that is actually our Ancestor FAPAMA Singularity Qbit (00, +, -) that computes, simulates and projects its Einstein complex coordinates into relativistic stage Ψ(iτLx,y,z, Lm) hologram Multiverse. Yes, I believe we are holograms living in virtual reality. We are made of bits-waves that cause biological bodies that we experience. Please review and comment my essay.

I rated your imaginative work a full mark 10.

I would like we be friends, my email is Please contact me.

Best wishes,

Leo KoGuan

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Alex Hoekstra wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 20:40 GMT
Hi Tommy,

An interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring essay; thank you for putting it together. My co-author and I (along with many other community members here, I'm sure), share the trans-human vision of a brighter future, and from one "transhumanist" to another, I want to extend my gratitude for your thoughtful examination of what it means for our species to expand beyond the bodies and minds that the natural selection of eons past has provided.

You pose some exciting ideas, many of which I hope will come to fruition. In this essay contest and in all other endeavors, I wish you the best.


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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 01:02 GMT
Hi Tommy,

The quality of this essay has caused me to go back and print out your "Forgotten Landscape". As I see it you're well on your way to understanding how the world works.

I'm generally averse to the "virtual mind" scenarios, but if I lived in a ruined, paralyzed body, I'm sure I would feel differently, so I support research along the BCI lines. I spent enough time in Second Life to feel that it's (at least the public spaces) pretty disappointing. I think most must come there for virtual sex, although there are real artists at work on the creations.

I have a pretty well-developed (but not very well known) theory of consciousness and it is not very compatible with 3.0. The reasons why are spelled out in comments in my other earlier essays.

Anyway, I like your style and your mastery of the topics you're interested in and that's worth a 10. But it's too late in the game to help you much. I suspect the "Matrix" turns people off and that this has influenced their votes.

If you find time I'm interested any comments you might have on my essay. I look forward to your next essay.

My best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Brent Pfister wrote on Jun. 6, 2014 @ 22:48 GMT
Tommy, your essay is really original and far-reaching. My essay made some of the same conclusions as yours--civilization may not be able to rebuild if it collapses because the easily exploited natural resources are gone, we need to go into space soon, and Mars is bad. After that you went for life simulated in computers. That may be a good solution for avoiding the extremely difficult problem of finding another Earth. I discussed using genetic engineering to adapt humans for living on alien worlds, but I think it is computationally unfeasible. But it would also be very hard to download a brain into a computer. The brain is so complex and delicate that I do not know how the whole state could be transferred, especially without destroying the brain. It was really interesting learning about neuromorphic computing and the current state-of-the-art.

Thank you for writing your essay!


Happy Path

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