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In physical eschatology, is Aestivation a sound strategy?

by MakoYass 1 min read17th Jun 201911 comments


In this paper, Anders Sandberg, Stuart Armstrong and Milan M. Cirkovic argue that

If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 1030 multiplier of achievable computation.

Later Charles H. Bennett, Robin Hanson, C. Jess Riedel disagree, claiming

In fact, while this assumption may apply in the distant future, our universe today contains vast reservoirs and other physical systems in non-maximal entropy states, and computer-generated entropy can be transferred to them at the adiabatic conversion rate of one bit of negentropy to erase one bit of error. This can be done at any time, and is not improved by waiting for a low cosmic background temperature. Thus aliens need not wait to be active. As Sandberg et al. do not provide a concrete model of the effect they assert, we construct one and show where their informal argument goes wrong.

Who was right?

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With all due respect to the first set of authors, I wouldn't argue with Charles Bennett on the subject of thermodynamics. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02084158

Aestivation is not sound strategy, as both its assumptions are shaky: Heat death of the universe is not an inevitable outcome: Big Rip now seems more plausible, when growing acceleration will tear apart the universe in like 20 billion years of now. Moreover, the fate of the universe can't be known for sure until much larger scale physical experiments will be performed, like building galactic size accelerators.

This turns us to the second assumption: the need to maximise computations. Future AI may not just maximise computations, but it has to do it as soon as possible, as it may need the results of computations earlier in order to control the fate of the universe.