October 29, 2010

Finding Fermi

BarnaclesInviting invasion: deep space advertisments and planetary security (Practical Ethics) - I blog about the ethics of sending adverts into space. Basically, I don't think they make things better or worse.

I did not have the space in the article to list my full list of the Fermi paradox "solutions", but here they are:

  • Aliens exist, but we see no evidence
    • Human limitations
      • Human beings have not been searching long enough (Freitas Jr 1983; Freitas Jr. 1985)
      • Human beings are not listening properly
    • Practical limitations
      • Communication is impossible due to problems of scale
      • Intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space or time (Wesson 1990)
      • Communication is impossible for technical reasons
      • They only recently emerged and have not yet had the time to become visible. This could for example be due to synchronization due to a declining rate of gamma ray bursts that sterilize much of the galaxy (Annis 1999; Cirkovic 2004).
      • Civilizations only broadcast detectable radio signals for a brief period of time before moving on to other media.
      • It is too expensive to spread physically throughout the galaxy (Landis 1998)
    • Alien nature
      • They are too alien to be recognized
      • They are non-technological and cannot be detected except by visiting them.
      • They tend to experience a technological singularity becoming unfathomable and invisible.
      • They develop into very fast, information-dense states that have no reason to interact with humans (Smart 2002; Cirkovic and Bradbury 2006)
      • They migrate away from the galactic disk for cooling reasons (Cirkovic and Bradbury 2006)
      • They tend to (d)evolve to a post-intelligent state (Schroeder 2002)
      • They choose not to interact with us
    • They are here unobserved
      • Earth is purposely isolated (The Zoo or "Interdict" hypotheseis) (Ball 1973; Fogg 1987)
      • Earth (and nearby parts of space) are simulated (Baxter 2001; Bostrom 2003).
      • They secretly deal with the government or other groups.
  • No other civilizations currently exist
    • We are the lucky first civilization
    • Intelligent, technological life is exceedingly rare
      • Rare earth hypothesis
      • Life is very rare (Wesson 1990)
      • Intelligence is very rare
    • Intelligent, technological life is very short-lived
      • Intelligent life is wiped out by external disasters at a high rate
      • Technological intelligent life exhaust its resources and dies out or becomes nontechnological
      • It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.
      • It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy others.

Most of these are problematic because they assume uniformity of motive: every member of every civilization needs to agree to behave the same way. Given that new data on the age of Earth relative to other planets in the galaxy and better estimates of how life has evolved, it also becomes sharper. And almost whatever the answer is, it is going to tell us something significant about our own species future. Unless it is all about us using the wrong kinds of antennas.

Posted by Anders3 at October 29, 2010 10:54 PM