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Thread: The Fermi Paradox II — Solutions and Ideas

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    The Fermi Paradox II — Solutions and Ideas

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fQkVqno-uI

    Where are all the aliens? The universe is too big and too old, why have we not met aliens yet?
    Some interesting reasons given here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z9NtQFeyN8

    #7, humans are in a galactic zoo and dont know it. Best explanation there is.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GnkAcdRgcI

    "Intelligent life is very rare". wisest words of anyone else.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU6cRxdwNr8

    but... ants dont make youtube vidoes, nor nukes, nor fire, nor pizza.
    So, even if aliens are 2million years ahead, they would recognize high-tech on Earth, and which species has it.
    Last edited by Gomar; 2015-Dec-15 at 12:37 AM.

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    Being a sci-fi nut i like the zoo theory but its probably extreme wishful thinking on my part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gomar View Post
    Hey Gomar, you know that we don't allow links to videos without specific notes about what to watch for, and what is meaningful about the videos. Just saying you like #7 is not good enough.
    Please post some notes about these four links, or we will take them down and supply you with some more points.
    Forming opinions as we speak

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    Number one assumes visits only-- so no one hangs around?
    Number two-- we're in an undeveloped corner of the galaxy. What should any part remain isolated accidently, given ample time for hugely advanced civilizations to have already spread throughout the galaxy, even at sub light speeds.
    Three-- Habitat expansion is very common in a very wide range of life on our planet. Why should life on earth be unique in this respect?
    Four-- Even if some advanced communications technology is undetectable to us, the presence of advanced life forms themselves on Earth or nearby should be pretty obvious.
    Five-- ETs live in other dimensions. Assuming such dimensions actually exist, in the required sense, and ET remain in them consistently, essentially unprovable and not disprovable.
    Six--Secret conspiracy on Earth to conceal ETs presence? not a serious proposal, I think.
    Seven-- Galactic zoo- makes sense to me, and should become testable at some point in our development.
    Eight and nine-- predators or super predators-- Then shouldn't we have been preyed upon by now? We've been fairly conspicuous on a galactic scale for some time now, given a good enough detection technology.
    Ten--Artificial reality built for us alone. If it's good enough would we be able to detect it at all? If not, it can't be proved or disproved.

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    "Hangs around", "For some time now". These snippets seem to indicate a profound misunderstanding of the timescales involved, just as the Fermi "paradox" fails to account for distance scales.

    Compared to life on Earth as a whole, we've existed for a tiny fraction of a moment, and only got telescopes and radio a heartbeat ago. Aliens could have come and gone a million times and hung out for a million years; if it was anything but extremely recent, we'd never know. Our bubble of radio emissions is microscopic by galactic distances and barely audible by our nearest neighbor stars. If we were a couple of light years away, we could not detect Earth.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    It seems to me, the key question is, how long should we expect it to take for an advanced civilization to spread through the galaxy, and once they have done that, how long should they survive? It seems likely that if any civilization did succeed in covering a significant fraction of the galaxy, then at least one of them would still be here. It also seems pretty likely that had they done that, we'd have encountered them by now (or they us), unless they had a special desire to avoid interfering with planets that already have life on them.

    So in my mind, there are two possibilities:
    1) there is a dominant galactic species, but it has kept upstart civilizations in check, enforcing a no-intereference policy, or
    2) there has not yet been time to develop a dominant galactic species.

    If it's #1, there's no Fermi paradox. If it's #2, there's only a Fermi paradox if we think the timescale to get at least one dominant galactic species is less than a few billion years. But it's not clear we should think that. Indeed, given that #2 seems more likely than #1 to me, I'd say we have reason to think the timescale is longer than a few billion years, which also means it may not be common for any galaxy to have that occur. There could be many reasons for that-- life is rare, intelligent life is rare, intelligent life is short-lived, or interstellar travel is not so easy over a period of time that we would regard as not "short lived" for an advanced species. I have no idea which of those provides the best answer, but my guess would be a combination of all of them except the first.

    If I had to pick one to dominate the rest, I would say that it is unusual for advanced intelligence to develop at all. It seems likely that life appears in many places, but it does not last long enough to become technologically advanced. Even on Earth, there have been many species that never evolved advanced intelligence, and some that may have gone extinct after evolving the intelligence but not the technology. And the Earth may be a very special place-- it may be much more common for disastrous catastrophes than even the history of those that we have had. So I'd say it's still plenty possible that species in the position that we are now in could have been quite rare in the galaxy, we might even be the first. If so, there is no reason for pessimism about our future. However, if I'm wrong, and thousands of species have arrived at our current state over the last 5 billion years or so, then I'd say it is necessary to conclude that advanced intelligence is unfavorable to survival over time periods necessary to develop interstellar travel, which presumably is significantly less than a million years.

    To sum up, I'd say it seems quite likely that either the galaxy is peppered with places like Mars (that once had life but lost the ability to sustain it before it developed interstellar or even interplanetary travel), or with places like Easter Island (that did develop advanced intelligence but could not use that intelligence to extend their longevity, and may even have shortened it). If the galaxy is peppered with Marses, we have no reason to be pessimistic about our future, we can simply be glad we live on Earth. But if it is peppered with Easter Islands, then our prospects seem dim, since I certainly could not point to any features of our species that would give us better than average chances!
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Dec-15 at 12:28 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    "Hangs around", "For some time now". These snippets seem to indicate a profound misunderstanding of the timescales involved, just as the Fermi "paradox" fails to account for distance scales.

    Compared to life on Earth as a whole, we've existed for a tiny fraction of a moment, and only got telescopes and radio a heartbeat ago. Aliens could have come and gone a million times and hung out for a million years; if it was anything but extremely recent, we'd never know. Our bubble of radio emissions is microscopic by galactic distances and barely audible by our nearest neighbor stars. If we were a couple of light years away, we could not detect Earth.
    I would not expect ET to find us by our radio signature. its possible they (assuming they exist of course) have very advanced spectroscopy and would be able to identify we are a living world. An ET CIV might be able to do a wide survey and identify which stars are more likely habitable and then analyze the planets for bio signatures.

    Probes are another possibility -- for a very old civilization; Vonn Neumann probes could cover quite a lot of ground.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    "Hangs around", "For some time now". These snippets seem to indicate a profound misunderstanding of the timescales involved, just as the Fermi "paradox" fails to account for distance scales.

    Compared to life on Earth as a whole, we've existed for a tiny fraction of a moment, and only got telescopes and radio a heartbeat ago. Aliens could have come and gone a million times and hung out for a million years; if it was anything but extremely recent, we'd never know. Our bubble of radio emissions is microscopic by galactic distances and barely audible by our nearest neighbor stars. If we were a couple of light years away, we could not detect Earth.
    For 'hangs around', read: remains on Earth, more or less permanently. The length of time the human chemical signature has been detectable depends on the proximity of a supposed predator species, and how good their detection technology. Perhaps human-kindled fires could be distinguished from natural ones, which would have indicated the stirrings of intelligence, as long ago as several hundred thousand years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross 54 View Post
    Perhaps human-kindled fires could be distinguished from natural ones, which would have indicated the stirrings of intelligence, as long ago as several hundred thousand years.
    How would they be distinguishable? Burning wood is burning wood.

    For 'hangs around', read: remains on Earth, more or less permanently.
    They moved away 65 MY ago when their Kentucky Fried Dinosaur franchise was lost.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    "Hangs around", "For some time now". These snippets seem to indicate a profound misunderstanding of the timescales involved, just as the Fermi "paradox" fails to account for distance scales.
    I disagree on both counts. A sufficiently advanced civilisation could 'hang around' indefinitely, until the Heat Death or Big Crunch; similarly it could colonise the local universe over a relatively short timescale by geometric expansion. The question remains - why has this not occurred?

    Aliens could have come and gone a million times and hung out for a million years; if it was anything but extremely recent, we'd never know.
    Why would a million-year-old civilisation disappear? What limiting factor prevents a million year-old civilisation becoming a billion year old one? I'm not asking these questions to try to refute you, or to be argumentative; I'm asking them because they are the really interesting questions about the Fermi Paradox. Once an advanced civilisation appears, it should have sufficient competence to persist indefinitely, otherwise it is not really sufficiently advanced. What factors cause all civilisations to be limited in time and space and in competence?
    Last edited by eburacum45; 2015-Dec-15 at 04:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    I disagree on both counts. A sufficiently advanced civilisation could 'hang around' indefinitely, until the Heat Death or Big Crunch; similarly it could colonise the local universe over a relatively short timescale by geometric expansion. The question remains - why has this not occurred?
    Why would it? What would be the motive for colonizing everything? It seems like a civlization that old would lose the biological motive for massive expansion, and would potentially have plenty of stars already to satisfy the survival motive. Exploration does not require a permanent residence here. What purpose for sticking to our Solar System remains?

    Why would a million-year-old civilisation disappear?
    You misunderstand. I didn't think they'd disappear, just that I cannot see a motive for staying here specifically instead of moving on to explore elsewhere.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Why would it? What would be the motive for colonizing everything? It seems like a civlization that old would lose the biological motive for massive expansion, and would potentially have plenty of stars already to satisfy the survival motive. Exploration does not require a permanent residence here. What purpose for sticking to our Solar System remains?
    If we take ourselves as an example there seems no limit on human greediness, so I΄m not convinced advanced aliens arrive at some stage where they might lose their appetite for exploration of new things, or plain old greed. If they had a strong instinct for survival as does humanity, which seems almost a certainty for the fact they become old long living civilisations, then i would not assume they reach some level where they can reign in their natural instincts. And for this sort of brake to occur on a level across a whole species distributed across many star systems then it assumes some sort of centralisation of authority.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetlack View Post
    If we take ourselves as an example there seems no limit on human greediness,
    I'm not quite sure what you mean. No limit? That would seem to imply that like bacteria, we eat until everything is gone and then starve. But in fact we deprive ourselves of immediate pleasure to save for the future. Most of us seem pretty content to maintain a habitual level of living.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetlack View Post
    And for this sort of brake to occur on a level across a whole species distributed across many star systems then it assumes some sort of centralisation of authority.
    It really doesn't. It merely assumes a common history, which informs their present cultures.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not quite sure what you mean. No limit? That would seem to imply that like bacteria, we eat until everything is gone and then starve. But in fact we deprive ourselves of immediate pleasure to save for the future. Most of us seem pretty content to maintain a habitual level of living.
    Yes we conserve food for future which is a survival instinct. But as in no limit I meant human capacity for power and wealth. I dont see those instincts have changed hardly in the few millennia of recorded civilisation. So I think its΄s a big ask to assume those traits decrease as a civilisation progresses. On an individual level there are exceptions but I think there will always be those which need to be more powerful or more wealthy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It really doesn't. It merely assumes a common history, which informs their present cultures.
    Sure but even on Earth cultures are quite different say between Chinese and Swedes. We share our earth culture but still have quite different priorities or ethical beliefs. I dont think just because a spread out civilisation all share the same original home-world they would necessarily share the same culture or beliefs about further colonisation or exploitation of the cosmos.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetlack View Post
    Sure but even on Earth cultures are quite different say between Chinese and Swedes. We share our earth culture but still have quite different priorities or ethical beliefs. I dont think just because a spread out civilisation all share the same original home-world they would necessarily share the same culture or beliefs about further colonisation or exploitation of the cosmos.
    No, but they will have been through the common experience of having expanded into space and travelled between stars. That would teach certain hard life-or-death lessons about population control and resource usage, as well as strict care of one's environment. Generations of surviving in space will make their own evolutionary selections; those who cannot follow these rules just won't make it.

    Also, as biotechnology improves, the animal instincts would become more and more controllable. And a post-biological citizen would lack the instinct entirely.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    No, but they will have been through the common experience of having expanded into space and travelled between stars. That would teach certain hard life-or-death lessons about population control and resource usage, as well as strict care of one's environment. Generations of surviving in space will make their own evolutionary selections; those who cannot follow these rules just won't make it.

    Also, as biotechnology improves, the animal instincts would become more and more controllable. And a post-biological citizen would lack the instinct entirely.
    I΄d like to think humanity could progress with those sentiments and ethics but perhaps I΄m a little jaded. I can see humans sort of splitting off into various views of the universe. Of course both scenarios depend on interstellar colonisation to some extent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetlack View Post
    I΄d like to think humanity could progress with those sentiments and ethics but perhaps I΄m a little jaded. I can see humans sort of splitting off into various views of the universe. Of course both scenarios depend on interstellar colonisation to some extent.
    It's not a matter of ethics, I think, but of basic survival instincts. Humans living in space could easily turn those necessary views into a ruthless "Cold Equations" philosophy, where individual lives matter less.
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    Many authors in this field seem to be coming to the view that the galaxy has not been habitable for as long as was thought before.

    The frequency of GRBs and supernovae reduces over time, and it may be that it is only recently (comparatively) that there are regions of the galaxy unaffected by such events for long enough periods of time.

    The other factor that we know more about these days is stellar system architecture. Going by current appearances, our solar system is a rare type. Yes, some exoplanets have been claimed to be "habitable" but it truth we don't know that they really are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kzb View Post
    Going by current appearances, our solar system is a rare type.
    Part of that is the limits of our current detection methods, which impose a filter on which systems we can get a good glimpse of. Our system's planetary structure may not be rare so much as it is a hard to read type.
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    Intelligent life does seem unlikely, we needed a helpful moon, water, tectonics and then the clinchers, a series of near extinctions. Too few or too many and we would not be here. Then the survival duration of intelligent life seems tricky too, for the same reasons. Then the progress of intelligent life is held back by the same characteristics that allowed its rise, self limiting and dangerous. Our experience so far measured in thousands of years leaves interstellar travel way out of reach. The technology that might make such travel possible is closely related to weapons that can wipe us out in droves. The best chance seems to be with AI and robots which can overcome the limitations of biological life and wait for millenia to find suitable planets, where they might find bacteria. (Or old robots with flat batteries.) Right now our best chance might have to be another near extinction, which indeed seems more likely than meeting aliens. Is that too depressing? Its just projecting from the past as we currently understand it. Anyone for an ice age?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Right now our best chance might have to be another near extinction, which indeed seems more likely than meeting aliens. Is that too depressing?
    It's a bit confusing. What is near-extinction our best chance for?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It's a bit confusing. What is near-extinction our best chance for?
    I am not sure if I am joking, but given the drives of people, too many people is counterproductive, they fight over resources for one thing. It is only massive natural disasters, really massive that seriously dent population, but the regrowth after such a disaster allows progress, perhaps. I tend to think the ice ages were hugely helpful long term and indeed all of modern history happened after the last ice age while humans have been struggling along for a million years.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross 54 View Post
    Three-- Habitat expansion is very common in a very wide range of life on our planet. Why should life on earth be unique in this respect?
    I haven't looked at the videos, so I might be misinterpreting, but I assume this is referring to the possibility that no ET race has expanded into interstellar space. You mention that life has expanded into many habitats on earth, and that is true. But also note that no species on earth has ever expanded its habitat into outer space (we have only visited using artificial habitats). And I think the reason is that essentially, it is not a habitat. There is insufficient energy and resources to sustain life. So it would have to be a deliberate choice to go out into interstellar space, essentially bringing a habitat with you.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    How would they be distinguishable? Burning wood is burning wood.
    A wildfire tries to consume everything in its path that is at all burnable. It seems reasonable that humans would have learned fairly quickly to select dry wood for the most satisfactory fires. This would make for chemical differences in the two types of fire. For example, the outfall of human fires would presumably contain less water vapor than natural fires. Human fires would probably occur again and again in the same areas, on a frequent basis. Wildfires would use up the fuel in an area and then there would be no more fires for a relatively long period of time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Part of that is the limits of our current detection methods, which impose a filter on which systems we can get a good glimpse of. Our system's planetary structure may not be rare so much as it is a hard to read type.
    Yes I agree. But what I am saying is let's concentrate on the new information, the things that were only assumptions back in the days of Carl Sagan et al.

    Back then, it had to be assumed that our stellar system was typical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kzb View Post
    Yes I agree. But what I am saying is let's concentrate on the new information, the things that were only assumptions back in the days of Carl Sagan et al.

    Back then, it had to be assumed that our stellar system was typical.
    Funny though because I remember watching a BBC science documentary end of the 1970s and the consensus amongst the scientists (which included Stephen Hawking) was that other stars did not have planets around them, as if our solar system΄s planetary system was a fluke or rare. I remember feeling terribly disappointed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jetlack View Post
    Funny though because I remember watching a BBC science documentary end of the 1970s and the consensus amongst the scientists (which included Stephen Hawking) was that other stars did not have planets around them, as if our solar system΄s planetary system was a fluke or rare. I remember feeling terribly disappointed.
    OK, but I don't remember that programme. I still think that the consensus at that time was that stars would routinely have planets, and using the principle of mediocrity assume they would have a similar pattern to our system.

    Certainly I have an Asimov book from that era which states this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kzb View Post
    OK, but I don't remember that programme. I still think that the consensus at that time was that stars would routinely have planets, and using the principle of mediocrity assume they would have a similar pattern to our system.

    Certainly I have an Asimov book from that era which states this.
    I think the BBc doc was trying to play down hopes of ET etc...And folks like Sagan and Asimov, both also scifi writers, would have been more optimistic.
    Last edited by Jetlack; 2015-Dec-16 at 05:52 PM. Reason: spelling

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