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View Full Version : Ep. 273: Solutions to the Fermi Paradox



Fraser
2012-Oct-08, 02:20 PM
In Episode 24 we presented the concept of the Fermi Paradox. In short: Where are all the aliens? Today we’re going to examine the theoretical solutions to this problem. Maybe they’re out there, but just don’t want to talk to us. Maybe it’s too hard to communicate? Maybe there are no other civilizations. Maybe civilizations wipe themselves out when they reach a certain point. So many solutions, none of them satisfactory.http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/astronomycast/~4/hSXy7JlCGtk

More... (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/astronomycast/~3/hSXy7JlCGtk/)

iquestor
2012-Oct-09, 12:12 PM
I watched most of the webcast... A lot of regurgitation of popular solutions, such as "We are Alone", "We are the first Civilization", "Zoo Hypothesis", etc.

I didn't hear them talk about the theory of post-biology machine intelligences, which is one of my favorites. basically it says that intelligences that survive and achieve space faring technology naturally migrate to developing technologies to overcome their biological limitations, ultimately resulting in pure machine intelligences that bear no resemblance to the original species. These machine intelligences would not be interested in communicatiorn or trade with biological species since their would be little commonality.

baskerbosse
2012-Oct-09, 01:19 PM
Asimov introduced an interesting solution in his stories, in that the earth having a large moon being essential for development of complicated life.
Probabilities then drop immensley for others in the galaxy..
Any thoughts on this?

John Jaksich
2012-Oct-09, 03:34 PM
To iquestor:
Even if most of what was presented may have been "regurgitation" ----> I am unsure if all of us have heard it. Granted that your suggestion has merit, machine intelligence implies a highly intelligent "designer" or "creator." It "may" also imply that the so-called "creator" has an evolved "evolution"--dare I say---> the creator "may have knew" it could evolve enough to explore the cosmos?

IsaacKuo
2012-Oct-09, 06:50 PM
I didn't hear them talk about the theory of post-biology machine intelligences, which is one of my favorites. basically it says that intelligences that survive and achieve space faring technology naturally migrate to developing technologies to overcome their biological limitations, ultimately resulting in pure machine intelligences that bear no resemblance to the original species. These machine intelligences would not be interested in communicatiorn or trade with biological species since their would be little commonality.

There are simply too many solutions to the Fermi Paradox for this sort of podcast to do more than summarize some of the most popular ones. I'm afraid that popular consumption blog posts will generally not go deeper than that.

There can be more detailed discussions of more possibilities on a web forum like this one, and I think this one (BAUT or whatever) has been among the best for Fermi paradox discussions I've ever seen. However, I'm kind of tired of the endlessly cycling discussions since it tends to be spoiled by the same people getting stuck on insisting upon the same ideas that they insist must necessarily be true and can't see any other possibilities. So, I don't hold out hope for an interesting discussion on the Fermi paradox even here.

As for your idea--I don't see any particular need for these intelligences to transform into machine intelligences. Even if they remain biological intelligences, they could plausibly not be interested in communication or trade with us anyway. Are we interested in communication or trade with other biological species? Even close relatives, like primates?

IsaacKuo
2012-Oct-09, 06:57 PM
Asimov introduced an interesting solution in his stories, in that the earth having a large moon being essential for development of complicated life.
Probabilities then drop immensley for others in the galaxy..
Any thoughts on this?

One of the most popular solutions to the Fermi paradox is that we are alone in the galaxy...or even the universe. I consider this theory to be a serious possibility, but that doesn't stop me from speculating about other solutions.

As for the specific issue of having a large moon--current science on planetary formation indicates that a large impact formed moon similar to our own is pretty common. According to simulations, it would only introduce a factor of 1/20 to the Drake equation. (Note that these simulations are significantly speculative, since our theories on planetary system formation are merely the best we can do with limited data.)

iquestor
2012-Oct-09, 07:00 PM
To John:

please understand that my use of "regurgitation" was not meant to be negative in any sense with respect to the content or presenters; perhaps my choice of words was bad.

What I meant was that the solutions presented to Fermi in the webcast were the general ones that are popular. I was hoping to [edit: hear some new ideas]. Most people here on this forum are familiar with the solutions such as "we are alone", "we are first", "we have a zookeeper", "Intelligence is rare", "intelligences blow themselves up", "Gamma Ray Bursts clear the stage", etc.

One Idea presented made the case that if a civilization achieves a high level of technology (and uses up most of the resources required by such technology) and then collapses, future societies will have less technology to build with which could prevent them acheiving spacefaring technology again. This idea was repeated several times by Dr. Gay.

I think you have misunderstood the concept behind The Post Biology Machine Intelligences solution. It is based on machine intelligences arising from biological beings, which overcome their biological limitations, such as disease, death, and need for specific environmental resources and conditions such as air, water, climate, etc. By your response below, you seem to have missed that point.


Granted that your suggestion has merit, machine intelligence implies a highly intelligent "designer" or "creator." It "may" also imply that the so-called "creator" has an evolved "evolution"--dare I say---> the creator "may have knew" it could evolve enough to explore the cosmos?

We may well become one of these Machine Intelligences if we survive long enough, however we will then cease to be human. Our constant progress in extending life, preventing death, and eradicating disease are all efforts to overcome our natural biological limitations. Ultimately, we may transfer our consciousness into a machine body which will not need to breathe, take in food or water, and allow us to operate in extreme environments from ocean depths to the vaccum of space.

Consider the future of humanity if we can do these things. We will not need to live on planets, no need to reproduce, breathe, eat, have companions, or fear death. human emotions are mostly tied to biology and will have no real meaning to a machine intelligence, and will fade away or be replaced with something unfathomable to biological intelligences. If even curiosity or the drive for knowledge also dies with biology, then I fear the machines will be short lived. Such beings will no longer be human, and probably have no real reason to seek out other biological societies.


Asimov introduced an interesting solution in his stories, in that the earth having a large moon being essential for development of complicated life.
Probabilities then drop immensley for others in the galaxy..
Any thoughts on this?

Brownlee and Ward present having a large moon as a requirement for life in "Rare Earth". Moons create tides which is an energy source for water life and and slows the main planets rotation which equate to a longer day/night cycle which some people beleive will also give life a boost. Of course we need more examples to work with. :)

iquestor
2012-Oct-09, 07:06 PM
As for your idea--I don't see any particular need for these intelligences to transform into machine intelligences. Even if they remain biological intelligences, they could plausibly not be interested in communication or trade with us anyway. Are we interested in communication or trade with other biological species? Even close relatives, like primates?

Isaac, see my post, above. The idea (not mine) is that biological intelligence will naturally seek to extend their lives and limitations of their biology which could culimnate in machine intelligences. I think this idea has lots of merit however of course, its speculation until we have some data to work with.

No I don't trade with non human primates. or dolphins. They do not have technology and have nothing I would want to trade for, or the ability to comprehend the concept of trade for that matter. If there were an intelligent species of non-human primates who had something we wanted, I am sure we would trade with them, or try to take it.

IsaacKuo
2012-Oct-09, 08:15 PM
Isaac, see my post, above. The idea (not mine) is that biological intelligence will naturally seek to extend their lives and limitations of their biology which could culimnate in machine intelligences. I think this idea has lots of merit however of course, its speculation until we have some data to work with.

I'm just saying that there's no need to posit a biological-to-machine transformation for the rest of the solution to be valid.


No I don't trade with non human primates. or dolphins. They do not have technology and have nothing I would want to trade for, or the ability to comprehend the concept of trade for that matter. If there were an intelligent species of non-human primates who had something we wanted, I am sure we would trade with them, or try to take it.

We would try to take it. That's what we do when non-human creatures have something we want. Human civilization is built upon a foundation of agriculture, which is a practical demonstration of how efficiently we can take what we want from non-human creatures on massive scales.

It is exceedingly implausible for any sort of aliens to be interested in any Earth life forms for food or fuel or cosmetics or any of the other things we do with what we harvest of other Earth creatures. Mankind's technology and capabilities would plausibly be insignificant compared to those of an interstellar civilization millions or billions of years old. What would we have to offer that they'd even care about? Plausibly nothing at all.

(I do not insist upon that being the only answer, though. I can think of many possible things on Earth that might interest curious aliens--not necessarily related to mankind. But maybe there really is nothing of significant interest.)

iquestor
2012-Oct-11, 12:06 AM
Isaac I agree with your post.

ALiens might be intersted most in earth life as a field of study or perhaps to study our civilization, but probably not our technology.

Assuming the more dramatic solutions are not valid (ie, "we are alone", "first", or "we are quarantined") , I do not think there is only 1 solution to Fermi.

Cougar
2012-Oct-11, 12:31 AM
Asimov introduced an interesting solution in his stories, in that the earth having a large moon being essential for development of complicated life.
Probabilities then drop immensley for others in the galaxy... Any thoughts on this?

I'm pretty sure I read that in one of Paul Davies' books as indeed being the case. The justification was that otherwise the slow wobble in a planet's spin axis would periodically 'wobble' all the way over, the poles eventually swapping places. Although this would happen very slowly, it would make for a very inconsistent and varying environment on the planet surface. Not good for developing life. Apparently the orbiting moon stabilizes this action.

I'm not sure what the required planet-moon mass ratio has to be, but many planets do have moons, so perhaps the "probability drop" is not that big....

IsaacKuo
2012-Oct-11, 12:55 AM
By the way, our own Solar System has two planets with huge impact formed moons. Well...depending on your definition of "planet". :)

baskerbosse
2012-Oct-11, 01:29 AM
It is exceedingly implausible for any sort of aliens to be interested in any Earth life forms for food or fuel or cosmetics or any of the other things we do with what we harvest of other Earth creatures. Mankind's technology and capabilities would plausibly be insignificant compared to those of an interstellar civilization millions or billions of years old. What would we have to offer that they'd even care about? Plausibly nothing at all.

(I do not insist upon that being the only answer, though. I can think of many possible things on Earth that might interest curious aliens--not necessarily related to mankind. But maybe there really is nothing of significant interest.)

Good point.

If the galaxy is indeed teeming with budding civilisations like ours, why would the more advanced ones want to study us?
Perhaps there is plenty more interesting study objects in more dense parts of the galaxy, no need to bother with going all the way out here to study us..

Besides, how would they notice us? We're not making very much noise, and haven't been doing it for very long..


/Peter

iquestor
2012-Oct-11, 11:19 AM
Good point.

If the galaxy is indeed teeming with budding civilisations like ours, why would the more advanced ones want to study us?
Perhaps there is plenty more interesting study objects in more dense parts of the galaxy, no need to bother with going all the way out here to study us..

Besides, how would they notice us? We're not making very much noise, and haven't been doing it for very long..


/Peter

Spectroscopy. They could filter the light from our sun after it has passed through earth's atmosphere. the presence of Water vapor, oxygen, methane and chlorophyll (or its results) would convince them there is life here. pollution (if its detectable) would tell them there is industry.

Inner Prop
2012-Oct-17, 12:10 PM
I disagree that we don't communicate or trade with other species. Those other species may not like the way we do it, and may not really have a choice.

Domestication is trading life for the attributes we want. There are far more dogs in the world than wolves. Wolves may even go extinct, but as long as there are humans there will most likely be dogs. And we communicate with dogs as well. Don't we learn what different barks and sounds mean; don't we learn what different actions and postures mean; don't they learn commands and vocal intonation?

There is probably very little else we want from dolphins other than entertainment and communication.

In my opinion, there is no strength in the argument that we are a lower inteligence and that is why ETs don't want anything from us or to communicate with us.

swampyankee
2012-Oct-23, 12:02 PM
Asimov introduced an interesting solution in his stories, in that the earth having a large moon being essential for development of complicated life.
Probabilities then drop immensley for others in the galaxy..
Any thoughts on this?

Sure. One of the requirements John W Campbell had for stories he accepted was that humans invariably dominate; Asimov eliminated aliens from his works because he did not believe in the intrinsic superiority of humanity, possibly because of his ancestry: his parents were Russian Jews. After eliminating aliens, he needed an excuse since his sf needed a lot of habitable planets.