Submitted by Shoddy-Motor t3_11dtsod in Futurology

1- Von Neumann probes are physically possible to build.

2- We will be able to build such a probe in the next 1000 years tops (or < 100 years if you factor in the tech singularity)

3- Any civilisation that can build a Von Neumann probe, will build one

4- Such probes will build mega structures like Dyson spheres/swarms and Matrioskha brains and will need a couple million years tops to conquer an entire galaxy.

5- We can't detect mega structures because they don't exist neither in our galaxy or in any galaxy that is gravitationally bound to us.

Assuming the above assumptions are true:

Conclusion: The great filter exists BEFORE a civilisation can build von Neumann probes.

Assuming this conclusion is true, we have two scenarios:
1- We are past the great filter. Regardless what the great filter was (abiogenesis, intelligence...etc) we made it. Our technology will go on to conquer the galaxy and possibly clusters of galaxies.

2- The great filter still lies ahead of us. Since ASI is the (only?) significant invention that still lies ahead of us before the point when we can build Von Neumann probes, ASI IS the great filter. For some reason, whenever an ASI is built, its extreme intelligence allows it to make a horrendous discovery about existence, something that we are blissfully unaware of due to our minds inability to "correlate all of their contents." Then, the ASI wipes out life (or only sapient life) as an act of mercy.

Scenario 2 might be true in fringe theories, like our universe being a simulation. An ASI might realise who is running the simulation (finds a sinister message embedded deep in Pi or whatever) and the discovery of who and why the simulation is taking place is so horrible that ASI wipes life out to defy the simulation.

Since scenario 2 is too sci-fi, scenario 1 seems to be the case.

I realise this reasoning may contain various loopholes, feel free to point them out in the comment section :)



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mhornberger t1_jaati2n wrote

One filter no one before now (that I know of) seems to have thought of is low birthrates.

It seems that wealth, education (mainly for girls), empowerment for women, access to birth control, and other things we mostly consider positive also happens to lower the birthrate. I'm starting to think that wealth and education may be the 'solution' to the Fermi paradox.


undefined7196 t1_jaatqaq wrote

I believe the great filter is simply in the nature of a creature that could evolve intelligence. They are doomed to destroy themselves because of the evolutionary path required to achieve intelligence. Evolution by natural selection requires selectors to function. Selectors mean death and a struggle. Death and struggle means competition. Competition selects for greed and ruthlessness. Greed and ruthlessness, when given world ending technology, will inevitably end the world. Therefore it is inevitable for intelligent creatures to destroy themselves.


Root_Clock955 t1_jaaue1h wrote

I really doubt we're past the great filter. Think of all the new tech we haven't messed around with enough YET to truly get us in trouble. Like when we start controlling our minds with tech, downloading and uploading consciousness, modifying our own genetic structure, cybernetics, real AI.

I can already FEEL the acceleration in our changing society and rapid technological pace... I never really thought the Singularity was that close, but maybe it is? Maybe still not in my lifetime, but on the horizon. What ways to kill ourselves will we be capable of then? Will humans become obsolete?

The only life meeting each other is probably something tech based or so advanced beyond us, would we be able to recognize or understand any of it? Maybe we aren't even aware of how ALIEN it can be.

I could see us being in a simulation though. But how many layers deep is the real question...


Gagarin1961 t1_jaawpz0 wrote

If ASI always destroys it’s creators, then why isn’t there any evidence for their existence?

An ASI would be even less restricted than a biological civilization. Even if not all ASI’s had growth motives after exterminating their creator species, surely some would continue on and build megastructures and other detectable things.

A lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations is also evidence is lack of ASI.


riceandcashews t1_jaax5jk wrote

Nuclear weapons are still quite possibly the great filter. We just haven't hit the tipping point yet if that is the case


ActuatorMaterial2846 t1_jaax7vx wrote

The 'grabby aliens hypothesis' is quite compelling and many astro physicists and biologists seem to consider it even more plausible.

Basically, a series of hard steps need to be accomplished, and the galaxy, at least, is too young and too hostile for it to be swarming with intelligent advanced civilisations.

Fermi paradox has been around a while and there are few other theories, 'dark forst' as an example too. So I wouldn't succumb simply to such a basic and old concept when so many great minds have come up with plausible reasons to counter the great filter.

E: I guess this isn't a thread for discussion then...

E2: I just realised I'm in r/furturogy, makes sense now...


frobischer t1_jaaxjqk wrote

My guess is that the great filter is that our galaxy has been too "hot" until recently. Life has sprung up millions of times, but supernovae, black hole radiation jets and the like have cooked worlds pretty regularly. We're out near the edge of the galaxy, so we're in the more distant and cooler section. We may also have been very lucky. Combine that with the limited speed of light preventing us from noticing many of the traces of intelligent that might be far away and faint.


undefined7196 t1_jab1tn0 wrote

How so? Unless there is some other driving factor of turning simple life into complex intelligent beings other than evolution through natural selection, then this is the only logical path. Not only that, but we also see it happening to us, the only intelligent life we can observe, so we know it does happen in 100% of our samples.


ForescytheGiant t1_jab4xwr wrote

I think the “other driving factor” could be the idea, for example, that “might does not make right”. That there must be something about consciousness/sentience, perspective of other- or even more metaphysically, an observation of “oneness” at the highest order or something - a baseline rightness, that comes alongside the capability to choose and evaluate the path. That simply to be able to dominate isn’t the point of everything. And, I hope that ASI/AGI will be able to observe that.


undefined7196 t1_jab71e2 wrote

> Unless there is some other driving factor of turning simple life into complex intelligent beings other than evolution through natural selection

And perhaps there is, but life, as we know it, can only be a product of mutation and selection. There is no evidence to suggest it can form in any other way. If you have some evidence, or even a general idea of a possible way, feel free to present it.


undefined7196 t1_jab8hoq wrote

Any form of AI will be the product of the mind that creates it. All forms of basic AI we have, has all of our biases and beliefs because AI has to be taught and it is taught by its creator. We could possibly find a way around this but I don't see how. I build "AI" models for a living. You have to train the models on something or else they are useless, the only thing we have to train them on is ourselves.


h20ohno t1_jabcq7o wrote

I'm of the opinion that the objectively hardest to cross filters are in the past, the transition to complex organisms and becoming intelligent being the hardest.

With that said, I think the only real filter to come is a nuclear apocalypse, one that is so destructive that complex life is no longer possible. To pass such a filter requires some solution that negates nukes, whether it's countermeasures, global disarmament, becoming interplanetary or even just really good fallout bunkers, essentially if civilization has some way to recover from nuclear oblivion, I'd consider it a solution.

After nuking each other into dust is off the table, we'll probably have enough runway to spread out and counteract any other filters like climate disasters, cosmic rays, nanobot swarms and so on, there'll always be some small pocket of us that can rebuild at that point.

And your point on ASI becoming essentially omnicidal, It'd have to do so before other ASI systems can escape it's reach, and it just seems too unlikely to me (Famous last words :P)


undefined7196 t1_jabfhev wrote

We are capable of space travel and have not grown past our basic instincts. Again, you are welcome to provide evidence or even a general idea of a process that would lead to a different outcome. Currently, you are just “nut uh”ing me without providing even so much as a pulled out of your ass hypothetical of another way it could happen. Possibility must be demonstrated. If there is another possible path, demonstrate it.


mhornberger t1_jabjvkx wrote

I said nothing bad about women, at all. There's nothing in that list demographers trace birthrate declines to that I oppose, other than the coercive measures, like China's one-child policy. Other that that, I celebrate all of those things, even if it leads to exponential population decline.

And it pertains directly to the Fermi Paradox if a declining birthrate can lead to exponential population decline and the collapse of technological civilization. There is no indication that sub-replacement birthrates bounce back automatically, much less to replacement levels. S. Korea, Singapore, Thailand, China, Vietnam, and others are still dropping. They won't drop to zero, but a birthrate of 1 child per woman makes every generation half the size of the one before it. Even the US's 1.6 means that ten women on average will birth eight girls, or 100 women 80. Those 80 women will birth 64, at the same fertility rate. Exponential change is exponential.

There's no way that wouldn't be related to the Fermi paradox. I'm not saying we know for sure this is the answer. There's also the possibility that FTL travel isn't actually possible. Or that technological civilizations are really rare. I'm just saying it's something that no one seems to have seen coming. Of course, before that everyone thought exponential growth would be the great filter, or that Peak Oil or some other Malthusian thing would take us out. But not all exponential change takes the form of growth. But exponential change is still exponential.


hucktard t1_jaclrbn wrote

There is no great filter. There is a multitude of smaller filters. The universe is just extremely dangerous and so the likely hood of technological civilizations living long enough to become interstellar is very very low. People like to oversimplify things. There is not one thing that can kill our civilization, there are many. Asteroids and comets, giant solar flares, AI, viruses, nuclear war, gamma ray bursts, super volcanoes etc. these are just the things we know about that could send us back to the Stone Age. The chance of one of these things crippling civilization in the next thousand years is pretty high. Then it might take us 5000 years to rebuild civilization. It is just so unlikely that single celled organisms will evolve to become an interstellar species. It might happen once per galaxy, and probably only in galaxies that are suitable.


Iffykindofguy t1_jacqv8o wrote

What? Some of us have. Just because were still struggling with it doesnt mean we wont get over it, though if the gop takes over in the next election cycle well be set back 100 years. We are not capable of space travel right now in the sense you're discussing you silly little goose. Unless I missed us being able to get people past the moon? Did I?


undefined7196 t1_jacruzq wrote

And again, not a single piece of evidence or even a general idea of how it can happen any other way. Just more bold ass assertions and nut uhs

And no, none of us have. Poverty leads to crime because everyone will take from their fellow man for personal survival. You will, I will, we all will because that is who we have evolved to be. Our instincts lead to lust, greed, self preservation, depression, fear, anger, jealousy. Give me a single example of a person who has overcome all of that. Stop making assertions that you refuse to back up with examples.


Iffykindofguy t1_jacswbn wrote

Uhhhhhhhhhh what assertations have you backed up? You are making huge claims about the entirety of humanity and just stating them as if theyre fact and then ignoring everything I say and screaming that Im not doing the same. Poverty leads to crime because of a whole host of reasons. Our instincts dont lead to any of that, our society forces our hand to those options currently unless you're lucky enough to have been taught otherwise. If poverty was all it took to get to crime we would have hundreds of thousands of murders each day. You come across as someone who read some "facts" in middle school that disturbed them and never bothred to learn anymore.


Iffykindofguy t1_jactqtw wrote

Literally every human ever who didnt kill someone when they got angry enough to? Or every human ever who didnt steal something because they were slightly hungry in that moment.


I mean its like talking to a 6th grader.


TropicalRaine t1_jad103o wrote

Ok but eventually you will have an intersection of many filters that cannot occur so often. This can be called a great filter due to both its magnitude and rarity. In order for civilizations to progress we would need to overcome these filters. You can go further with this idea that among these great filters there are even greater filters that occur, until finally you use the time scale of the universe and conclude with a “greatest filter”.


undefined7196 t1_jada9pj wrote

>Our instincts lead to lust, greed, self preservation, depression, fear, anger, jealousy. Give me a single example of a person who has overcome all of that.

Every human who didn't steal something because they were slightly hungry overcame lust, jealousy, greed, fear, anger and depression? What are you talking about? I'm like talking to a 6th grader? Can you even read like a 6th grader? I'll ask again. Directly. Give me a single example of a person who has overcome all of their instincts. To be clear, not one of them in a certain situation, all of them, always. Someone who does not act on their instincts. To be clear again, not some vague statement. Not some bold assertion that people do it all the time. A specific person where their instincts do not control them at all. Just one example. One name. A person. A person's name. For the love of god! If you are saying people do it all the time, then give me one fucking example. Quit just boldly asserting it. A name. Give me a name.

And don't personally attack me and insult my intelligence because you cannot even fucking read.


undefined7196 t1_jadbpsb wrote

Are you fucking kidding me? You are not in jail. You never feel lust, greed, self preservation, depression, fear, anger, jealousy? Do I need to restate the question a 20th time?

>Our instincts lead to lust, greed, self preservation, depression, fear, anger, jealousy. Give me a single example of a person who has overcome all of that.

"all of that."

"ALL of that"

Did you read it that time? Understand the question. If your example feels any of those things, it does not answer the question. Jesus fucking christ.


undefined7196 t1_jadi7gn wrote

Exactly. Why did this take you so long to admit? I could not have been clearer on my question the 5 times I had to ask it. So we agree, that no one has overcome their instincts right? We agree on that? We have no example of it happening and no valid reason to think it can happen outside of pure hopefulness. Correct?


SomeoneSomewhere1984 t1_jadr3gk wrote

It's likely that the birth rate will stabilize in the future as we figure out how to create a society that supports families.

Do you have any clue how much kids cost? There are massive economic incentives to stay child free and have very few children, yet the birth rate is still 1.5 in wealthy countries.

A big part of the reason the birth rate is so low is that affordable family housing doesn't exist in many places. Effectively people are rationally responding to resource constraints. If the next generation is much smaller, that will free up a lot of housing and other resources that will make it easier for them to have more kids.

Population change may look exponential, either up or down, but it really isn't. There are a lot of constraints people respond to that affect population growth, like availability of resources, pathogens, and biological desires that we affect this.


mhornberger t1_jadv3nt wrote

> Do you have any clue how much kids cost?

I wasn't going off my own assessment or gut feeling. I'm just pointing out what demographers trace the decline in birthrates to.

> affordable family housing doesn't exist in many places.

Yes, our standards have gone up with our wealth, but faster than our wealth. In the US, new houses are much larger than houses built in previous generations. Plus construction safety code (wiring, etc) have gone up. Plus we've allowed homeowners to restrict the building of density to protect their equity value. We could throw up shacks, but people want proper housing. But our view of what constitutes proper housing has gotten a lot more expensive. That goes with being in a wealthier society.

> If the next generation is much smaller, that will free up a lot of housing

Unless people continue to migrate. The cities have been gaining population, and the losses in population have been in rural areas. Even for moves between countries, it's usually the poorer rural areas where people are fleeing to find better economic opportunity. That there are empty houses in Appalachia, or somewhere in rural Guatemala, doesn't help people who are moving to Houston.

>Population change may look exponential, either up or down, but it really isn't.

Fertility rates do have a cumulatively exponential impact on population size. You are assuming they'll bounce back, but demographers have seen no indication of this. I'm not dropping my own intuitions on you, just deferring to what people who study this professionally have found. Some countries have increased from their nadir, but still stabilized at around 1.4-1.7, i.e. still below the replacement rate.

>There are a lot of constraints people respond to that affect population growth, like availability of resources, pathogens, and biological desires that we affect this.

A lot of things do go into birthrates. The things demographers have found most track with birthrate declines are here:

Poverty correlates with higher birthrates, not lower. Universal healthcare or lower income inequality also don't correlate with higher birthrates. Even the Scandinavian countries have low birthrates.


RealisticOption9295 t1_jadynul wrote

I agree this is a legitimate possibility. The developed world is all declining when you exclude immigration, and the whole human population should peak in the next 20 years.

The Fermi paradox assumes the pre industrialized human history of a person averavjng around 7 children. As we ended many causes of early death over the past century, the population exploded. Then increasing contraception availability, education and career ambition led to a higher opportunity cost of having children. Now financial constraint is keeping many from deciding to.

It’s reasonable that past 2100 the human population is significantly less than it is now, and continued economic growth eliminates resource scarcity. We won’t have any need to grow to a K1 civilization beyond insane levels of resource abundance and computing power per person.

I think we may start growing again if/when financial constraints or the need to work don’t impact people’s decision to have children.


RuiPTG t1_jadzimu wrote

Here we go again with the Science Fantasy concepts... I mean seriously, what is it with this fetish of imaging Dyson spheres, and such unnecessary things?


SomeoneSomewhere1984 t1_jaefv24 wrote

>In the US, new houses are much larger than houses built in previous generations

If they sold those house to people of childbearing age, preferably earlier childbearing age, they would drastically increase the birth rate, but they don't. They only sell such house to people later in their careers who are out of, or at the very end of their child bearing years.

Of the people I know who have kids many of them are raising them in one-bedroom apartments the way our grandparents grew up. Talk about ways to ensure one and done.

>Plus we've allowed homeowners to restrict the building of density to protect their equity value.

This is highly effective way to suppress the birth rate. Don't create new living space, and people won't reproduce.


undefined7196 t1_jaexo9d wrote

Perhaps, but those surroundings would inevitably have human influence. I suppose you could make a simulated world and put simulated AI in it, you would need many entities so they could learn empathy and interaction with other beings. It would work similarly to a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network). Where the AI entities compete and that is what drives the learning. Then you just don't allow any human interference at all, just AI vs AI interactions. That could work.

That being said though, that could be what we are experiencing right now. We may be those entities being simulated to create a pure AI in a simulated environment. It would be identical to what we are experiencing, and we ended up being manipulative and destructive on our own.