Long Term Universe Outcomes

The Fermi Paradox is a huge problem for humanity. The simple question, “Where are they?” has no easy answer. Are there really no aliens out there colonizing the universe? Maybe life is unlikely, or maybe no life ever gets off its home planet. Or perhaps alien life is crowding the galaxy but we are too small minded to see it or are intentionally blocked off by a higher order. Assuming the observable universe is as cold and dead as it looks, humans have a few options going forward:

Team Human : Humans make it to control the universe while remaining recognizable and fill the universe with corn and war and video games.

Everyone Dies : The Universe is dead again, Earth is still likely to breed another smart monkey in a few billion years, if no one else gets to it. Go back 4 spaces.

Nanotech : Tiny robots eat everything! They might colonize the universe and even evolve into interesting and complex forms of life 2.0, but are completely alien so we’re not happy about that. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.

Paperclip maximizer : AI pursuing a goal eats the universe and maximizes its reward. The fallout might have interesting dynamics that harbor life 2.0 of some sort, but the long term outcome is that the universe is converted to things of little human value.

Human maximizer : An AI fills the universe with hedonium, not much better than paperclips.

VR : We live in virtual reality. Humanity either stay confined to the solar system or fill the universe, effectively hedonium.

Humans 2.0 : We augment ourselves with machines, maybe even become a hivemind. We remain human and fill the universe with beauty and science while remaining in control.

Invent God : Friendly AI helps us make the universe into our happy but challenging garden and everyone lives happily ever after as their ideal self, but the universe is controlled by non-human entity.

This list is incomplete, and I am no authority in determining humanities long term future. However, I do think the stakes are very high, and the long term outcome for the observable universe depends on our actions as a species. Notice that only a few of these outcomes result in humans leaving Earth, and it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of the prize that is the universe for all of time. Tech arms races point us towards the less attrctive items on this list, so let’s try to keep things under control with this “AI arms race” that we seems to be on the verge of.

Thanks to Luke Miles for the discussion and idea to make this list into a blog post.