Posted by aogThursday, 27 July 2006 at 12:18
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Brothers Judd is rediscovering the Fermi Paradox, although none of the commentors seem to remember previous discussions.
What I found interesting here is that all of the commentors seem to think that detecting the existence of alien technological civilizations would be done by detecting their communications. On the contrary, it seems to me that we are far more likely to detect them via their works. There is no good reason that I know of to presume that such civilizations would not engage in environmental engineering on a scale that would be visible across much of the galaxy. But the primary form of environmental impact we would observe would be the colonization of our own solar system. It would be hard to miss, for instance, heavy mining of the asteroids or gas giant moons, or perhaps the disassembly of a gas giant or two for raw materials. That’s a bit different from inspecting faint radio signals for signs of intelligence.
Resolving the Fermi Paradox doesn’t require explaining why we haven’t had contact, but why we’re here at all instead of an alien colony. Even at only 1% of lightspeed, a species could colonize the galaxy in less than 20 megayears, which is an short amount of time on the scale of galatic history. As Fermi himself asked, “where are they?”.
Friday, 28 July 2006 at 00:53|
…none of the commentors seem to remember previous discussions.
Hey! Since I commented in that thread, as “Noam Chomsky”, I find that remark a bit presumptuous.
What I found interesting here is that all of the commentors seem to think that detecting the existence of alien technological civilizations would be done by detecting their communications. On the contrary, it seems to me that we are far more likely to detect them via their works.
A point that I made by implication, and others explicitly, although of course “detecting their communications” is the favorite method, because it’s the easiest.
There is no good reason that I know of to presume that such civilizations would not engage in environmental engineering on a scale that would be visible across much of the galaxy.
If we knew what we were seeing.
Plus, star-faring species would probably have the ability to move around and refurbish planets, but even with that level of power it’s not a given that they would be able to make Dyson spheres or manipulate stars. So maybe their works aren’t visible on a galactic scale, even if they’re a million years ahead of us, or at least not visible to us at our current level of ability to detect.
Even at only 1% of lightspeed, a species could colonize the galaxy in less than 20 megayears, which is an short amount of time on the scale of galactic history.
But there’s a big difference between “could” and “would”. As you remark to Ms Harris, we can’t yet leave the solar system. (And if we could, I’d go, assuming that they’d select me, which is rather doubtful).
However, there’s no technical reason that we haven’t yet sent nuclear-powered-rocket probes to all of the nearest stars at an appreciable fraction of lightspeed, or seriously tried to make light-sail probes a reality. Those things we could do, we just don’t. We aren’t interested enough in doing it, even though those could be done for an annual budget equal to what we spend to advertise fizzy sugar water and download cell-phone ring-tones.
When it gets easier and cheaper, we’ll do it, but not as quickly as it could potentially be done. So too with our galactic colonizers. Maybe they ARE slowly colonizing the galaxy, but at a leisurely pace.
Further, the Chinese sent out huge exploration and colonization fleets long before the Europeans. They might have been the ones to rule and shape the world. However, for political and cultural reasons, they abandoned the effort, and turned inward. Maybe there’s a parallel.
…everyone goes virtual and loses interest in physical reality. Or high technology civilizations senesce by insulating their members from reality so that they can no longer cope with it.
I firmly believe that such will happen to a large fraction of humanity. Look at how popular television and video games are. People could be so much more than they usually are, but few put forth the effort to be really spectacular. (Myself included, of course, or I wouldn’t be making this comment - I’d be out changing the world). Given that, why not spend all of your free time on the Holodeck, or in virtual reality, especially since there may not be a lot of need for humans to “work”, as we know it.
I’d be willing to bet that by 2200, 70% or more of humans are Lotus-eaters. ‘Course, that leaves a significant number to explore and conquer the Universe.
Can technology grant us trans-human intelligence and abilities?
Absolutely. It’s already happened. The ability to travel from coast-to-coast in a single day, for instance, is “trans-human”. The ability to live in Antarctica is “trans-human”.
The difference between what we take for granted and the future will be nano-scale, miniaturization, and effective bio-mechanical interface. Much of our communications, transportation, and medicine will become internal to humans, rather than external. Once we can “jack in” to mechanical sensors, we’ll be able to “see” in the ultraviolet and infrared, to call to “mind” any data-sets that we can conceive of.
But we’ll still be humans with tools, differing from cave-dwellers with stone knives and woven-grass baskets only in the power and sophistication of our implements, not in fundamental ways.
Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 19:52|
Resolving the Fermi Paradox doesnít require explaining why we havenít had contact, but why weíre here at all instead of an alien colony. Even at only 1% of lightspeed, a species could colonize the galaxy in less than 20 megayears …
Throughout this thread, and the Fermi paradox, is the assumption that given enough time, there is a solution to vast distance.
What if there isn’t? It is one thing to posit traveling at .1C, but how the heck does one stop? Unless the star has a vector pointed at the arrival direction, it is of no use whatsoever in slowing down an approaching object. Even then, circularizing the orbit at some useful distance would take (just guessing) thousands of years.
So, unless there is some plausible means of both accelerating to, and decelerating from, something as little as .1C, then the task may well be nigh-on undoable.
Then there is galaxy’s structure to contend with — roughly the inner 2/3 of the galaxy is completely inhospitable to life. The density of stars is sufficiently high to carry with it unsurvivable radiation. The outer fifth (or so) is too sparsely populated for there to be any stars with Earth like planets. Not only does the remainder pose a circuitous route, but if the density of stars with hospitable planets is 1 in a 1,000, and there is no ready means of determining which those might be, then the task might well make Red-2 at the roulette wheel a near certainty by comparison.
There are more than a few things that seem to have hit technological barriers in our time, many having to do with travel. How much faster do planes go now than they did 30 years ago?
It seems to me far from certain that there are any technological solutions to the tremendous hurdles involved.
Hence, no paradox.