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Thread: What do you think is the most likely explanation for the Fermi paradox?

  1. #1231
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    I personally doubt extinction by self-stupidity is totally inevitable. It's all well and good to call this tendency a "great filter" when we have an example of one, and we're not dead yet. There have been (a few) stable island cultures lasting long periods, after all. But it's purely speculative that it would apply equally to all humans, let alone all sapient species.

    I think it's hard to make it through such a stage, to be sure. That's why I'm a big proponent of colonizing space, in case Earth's population wipes itself out there'll be others who can try other paths elsewhere. But nothing's written in stone yet, it remains to be seen if our self-destructive capacity is not solvable. And if we do hang on somehow so could someone else somewhere else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Doesn't sound all that clever to me to lose vital resources.

    As they started to run out of trees, did they have "treeless deniers" who claimed there were still plenty of trees, there had never been that many trees anyway, and besides we can probably live without trees?
    There's a theory that the loss of trees in Easter Island wasn't caused by humans deliberately destroying them, but by rats which humans brought to the island inadvertently on their boats. Once the rats were among the trees, there wasn't much the humans could do. Except learn to survive by growing vegetables, which some of them did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I personally doubt extinction by self-stupidity is totally inevitable. It's all well and good to call this tendency a "great filter" when we have an example of one, and we're not dead yet. There have been (a few) stable island cultures lasting long periods, after all. But it's purely speculative that it would apply equally to all humans, let alone all sapient species.

    I think it's hard to make it through such a stage, to be sure. That's why I'm a big proponent of colonizing space, in case Earth's population wipes itself out there'll be others who can try other paths elsewhere.
    If a species can't live sustainably in the habitat where it evolved, what are its chances of living sustainably somewhere else?

    But nothing's written in stone yet, it remains to be seen if our self-destructive capacity is not solvable. And if we do hang on somehow so could someone else somewhere else.
    We may well hang on, like the Easter Islanders who learned to live on vegetables (and possibly rat meat) instead of fruits from trees and fish caught from wooden boats.

    And maybe other species hang on as well. Not by making bigger and bigger changes to their environment (such as, eventually, Dyson spheres), but by limiting the changes they make.

    Which makes the survivors a lot more difficult to detect than Dyson sphere builders would be, if Dyson sphere builders actually existed...
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2021-May-01 at 10:20 PM.

  4. #1234
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    If a species can't live sustainably in the habitat where it evolved, what are its chances of living sustainably somewhere else?
    We don't know if we can do it here or not, that's my point. We're just fortune-telling at this stage.

    We may well hang on, like the Easter Islanders who learned to live on vegetables (and possibly rat meat) instead of fruits from trees and fish caught from wooden boats.

    And maybe other species hang on as well. Not by making bigger and bigger changes to their environment (such as, eventually, Dyson spheres), but by limiting the changes they make.

    Which makes the survivors a lot more difficult to detect than Dyson sphere builders would be, if Dyson sphere builders actually existed...
    Or, by learning, and applying that knowledge for making sustainable changes. Even experiment with different combinations of life in artificial biospheres, like organoids used to study human organs. Learning to create new balanced ecologies would go a long way towards teaching one to maintain the old world, as well as how to build new worlds off planet.

    As for Dyson spheres, we already have several threads of their pros and cons, but my view is that a community so profligate that they block off their own sun for whatever reason, could not have learned long term lessons about balance. So they would probably overconsume and go all Rapa Nui on their homeworld long before reaching that level of technology. But building a Dyson sphere is neither necessary nor inevitable in reaching an advanced stage of technology or to colonize other stars.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    We don't know if we can do it here or not, that's my point.
    I agree that we donít know if we can do it here or not.

    My point has to do with something you said in your message just beforeÖ

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    That's why I'm a big proponent of colonizing space, in case Earth's population wipes itself out there'll be others who can try other paths elsewhere.
    You seemed to be saying that space colonies are a sort of Plan B (or Planet B?), in case it turns out that we canít live sustainably here.

    I question whether that is a sound argument for colonising space, because

    1. If we can live sustainably on Earth, we donít need a Plan B or Planet B.
    2. On the other hand, if living sustainably on our home planet is too difficult for us, wonít this Plan B be even more difficult?

    What Iím suggesting is a scenario like this:

    1. Species comparable to us, in terms of intelligence, teamwork, and tool use, have emerged multiple times in the galaxy.
    2. Some find ways of using their technology sustainably, and thereby surviving. Others donít.
    3. The survivors are those that apply their intelligence, teamwork and tool use to the challenge of surviving on their home world, not on developing a Plan B or Plan C.
    4. Expansion through the galaxy either does not happen at all, or else it happens over many billions of years rather than mere millions.

    As an answer to the question this thread is all about, the scenario I've just mentioned seems to me at least as plausible as any other I've seen....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    You seemed to be saying that space colonies are a sort of Plan B (or Planet B?), in case it turns out that we can’t live sustainably here.

    I question whether that is a sound argument for colonising space, because

    1. If we can live sustainably on Earth, we don’t need a Plan B or Planet B.
    2. On the other hand, if living sustainably on our home planet is too difficult for us, won’t this Plan B be even more difficult?
    1. It's a "just in case". We don't know the future of one planet and never can. Do you throw away all your lifeboats because your hull is sound? If we can live on Earth (and we'd better! It's where I keep all my stuff) or an alien race keeps their own homeworld, then nothing is lost by colonizing space as well. Eggs, basket, etc. The threat of self destruction may eventually move past its peak but it's a metastable system, there will always be that threat and capacity as long as the technology exists.

    2. Each individual habitat will be a bigger risk, yes. A smaller ecosystem will have much less resilience. But with many habs with modular compartments supporting each other, the loss of one is not fatal to all; that's not true of Earth. Earth has massive buffers but it's a single point of failure. You can build redundancy into a system. If you lose plan A, there's plans B, C, D, E, F, G....

    Also, Earth is essentially a closed system, the only useful input is sunlight. Resources have hard limits to growth. Run out of pie, and there's no more slices; learn to bake your own pies, it's a different story. But that's a separate thread.

    What I’m suggesting is a scenario like this:

    1. Species comparable to us, in terms of intelligence, teamwork, and tool use, have emerged multiple times in the galaxy.
    2. Some find ways of using their technology sustainably, and thereby surviving. Others don’t.
    3. The survivors are those that apply their intelligence, teamwork and tool use to the challenge of surviving on their home world, not on developing a Plan B or Plan C.
    4. Expansion through the galaxy either does not happen at all, or else it happens over many billions of years rather than mere millions.

    As an answer to the question this thread is all about, the scenario I've just mentioned seems to me at least as plausible as any other I've seen....
    But helping your home planet is not and has never been, mutually exclusive with space colonization. They are apples and oranges. You can do both, without either taking away from the other. Certainly humans, at least, do things that use far more resources and energy for far less gain, it just doesn't make the headlines (unless it's a sport). The aliens you describe would probably also develop a whole-planet economy of some sort, so they could afford it too.

    I cannot see how your scenario could apply universally to all sentient species. As a plausible scenario it's okay, as an excuse for universal silence it falls flat.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  7. #1237
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    This exposes the false hope of finding intelligent life elsewhere, which is found in the colonising Mars thread too. That somehow it‘s a lifeboat. You see the same false hope in wormholes. Sadly fiction does not become fact in these false hopes. We are probably in the last century of human growth on Earth. If we suddenly and against the evidence, get wise, we can save ourselves from Easter Island writ large. The islanders ended up fighting over dwindling resources. Their rock statues with their rock hats did not protect them. They lie unfinished in the ground.
    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 Noclevername View Post
    1. It's a "just in case". We don't know the future of one planet and never can. Do you throw away all your lifeboats because your hull is sound? If we can live on Earth (and we'd better! It's where I keep all my stuff) or an alien race keeps their own homeworld, then nothing is lost by colonizing space as well. Eggs, basket, etc. The threat of self destruction may eventually move past its peak but it's a metastable system, there will always be that threat and capacity as long as the technology exists.

    2. Each individual habitat will be a bigger risk, yes. A smaller ecosystem will have much less resilience. But with many habs with modular compartments supporting each other, the loss of one is not fatal to all; that's not true of Earth. Earth has massive buffers but it's a single point of failure. You can build redundancy into a system. If you lose plan A, there's plans B, C, D, E, F, G....

    Also, Earth is essentially a closed system, the only useful input is sunlight. Resources have hard limits to growth. Run out of pie, and there's no more slices; learn to bake your own pies, it's a different story. But that's a separate thread.



    But helping your home planet is not and has never been, mutually exclusive with space colonization. They are apples and oranges. You can do both, without either taking away from the other. Certainly humans, at least, do things that use far more resources and energy for far less gain, it just doesn't make the headlines (unless it's a sport). The aliens you describe would probably also develop a whole-planet economy of some sort, so they could afford it too.

    I cannot see how your scenario could apply universally to all sentient species. As a plausible scenario it's okay, as an excuse for universal silence it falls flat.
    We know how to make baskets and life-boats, but do we know how to make a long-term self-sufficient habitat outside of Earth's biosphere?

    Where are the details that would enable a reliable estimate of how much energy and resources it would cost, assuming it could be done at all?

  9. 2021-May-02, 07:24 AM

  10. #1239
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    This is becoming a derail. We're not talking about human colonization, we have threads for that. I'll go back to talking about the topic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    This exposes the false hope of finding intelligent life elsewhere, which is found in the colonising Mars thread too.
    The unknown possibility of finding life elsewhere, you mean. Since we have no way of calculating the odds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The unknown possibility of finding life elsewhere, you mean. Since we have no way of calculating the odds.
    If we use our current technology based assumptions, travel to other stars is not feasible. That applies to us and aliens. That is a fair calculation. The odds of detecting life elsewhere is different, but not looking good even as we find more planets. It was always thought stars would have planets, so life processes are feasible. Intelligent life is feasible. Maybe inevitable. That is where the comparisons with Earth experience begin. Before prime movers, humans expanded with, presumably, only tribal conflict. Nevertheless they , we, changed the ecosystem.
    Therefore we might detect such changes on planets even without finding signals. I can see why that is scientifically fascinating. But the leap to being of practical use is a large one. The idea that failure to find signals is a paradox is, IMO, naiive in the extreme. It comes from a Utopian idea that intelligent life avoids conflicts and makes undisturbed progress. Our example suggests the opposite, that conflicts just get more serious, that we get better at wasting resources, that we over populate every potential living space.

    Oh and that having used up one space we just move on to another. Until we trap ourselves, like the Easter Islanders.
    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

  13. #1242
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    Like I said, fortune telling. You can assert any future you wish.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    If we use our current technology based assumptions, travel to other stars is not feasible. That applies to us and aliens. That is a fair calculation.
    It is? Travel to other stars with current technology would be very limited and high risk, but might be possible for a probe allowed to take tens of thousands of years to reach its destination. If we were desperate (like finding something expected to truly end the Earth), we might attempt to send seed ships containing caches of microorganisms to nearby stars, with some ability to direct themselves to a likely planet, so that Earth life might have a chance to continue. Keep in mind that in deep space in a cryogenic environment very little will affect a probe over time. It should be possible to design simple and redundant systems for such an application. CBR would be dealt with using shielding and hardening.

    Thatís us, but it wouldnít make sense to hold hypothetical aliens to the limits of current technology. Feasibility increases dramatically with extrapolated technology within the limits of known physics.

    The odds of detecting life elsewhere is different, but not looking good even as we find more planets.
    I donít see how such odds could be calculated. Our observation technology is getting better, and we can observe more exoplanets and in more ways over time. But is there life to be detected? Who knows?

    Our example suggests the opposite, that conflicts just get more serious, that we get better at wasting resources, that we over populate every potential living space.

    Oh and that having used up one space we just move on to another. Until we trap ourselves, like the Easter Islanders.
    Iím not so pessimistic, I donít think weíve established where humanity is going yet. Also, Iíve seen different arguments for Easter Island, but if nothing else it is a good argument for not keeping all our eggs in one basket.

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  15. #1244
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    Just adding, Easter Island is only one island. There are plenty of other island societies and other small isolated populations with varying degrees of success, stability, and sustainability. And that's just among humans. Alien species might be better or worse than us in this regard.
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    Travel to other stars in person has already been discussed in this thread, and others. We've established that our current technology and understanding of both ecology and social cohesion is not currently up to the task. So what? Are we stuck at this level of development? Are aliens limited to knowing only what we know?

    The premise that it's never able to happen is nonsense. It's just really, really hard. Possibly the hardest challenge any biological beings could face. I have no illusions about the massive efforts and research that would go into such an undertaking; it would take lots of practical field experience in closed-cycle biospheres... and closed societies as well, assuming they are social animals... plus a butt-kicking propulsion method and thousands of other technical challenges such as radiation protection.

    But it's not impossible or insoluble. If there are indeed multiple intelligences in the Universe and some of them are more technologically advanced than we are as the Fermi Paradox postulates, it's not at all unlikely that they could make sustained space habitats; and making an interstellar journey, while definitely a non-trivial expenditure of effort, could be done. It remains to be seen if it will by us, but it's not impossible.
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  17. #1246
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    Well the premise of the Fermi paradox is that in the several billion years timescale, we should have loads of evidence from other stars, because it would be hubris to assume we are the first to have telescopes. The inverse or corollary is that intelligent life is fleeting, or highly unlikely to radiate messages for some reason.

    I think the conclusion we should draw is that we really, really should look after our planet and learn to be better at that.

    Of course science is possible on multiple fronts and we are learning. Of all human activities, science seems best at internationalism. Thus we must try to get agreement on the conclusion that it is up to us here to pull back from the brink of yet another mass extinction.

    The Fermi paradox is reinforcing the message and that is its true value. The Easter Island statues look outwards in vain. We must avoid the same mistake while we still can.
    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 profloater View Post
    Well the premise of the Fermi paradox is that in the several billion years timescale, we should have loads of evidence from other stars, because it would be hubris to assume we are the first to have telescopes. The inverse or corollary is that intelligent life is fleeting, or highly unlikely to radiate messages for some reason.

    I think the conclusion we should draw is that we really, really should look after our planet and learn to be better at that.

    Of course science is possible on multiple fronts and we are learning. Of all human activities, science seems best at internationalism. Thus we must try to get agreement on the conclusion that it is up to us here to pull back from the brink of yet another mass extinction.

    The Fermi paradox is reinforcing the message and that is its true value. The Easter Island statues look outwards in vain. We must avoid the same mistake while we still can.
    I agree that we need to learn to live on our own planet. I have always maintained this, and never said otherwise.

    I still don't get what that has anything to do with space or the search for ET life, but whatever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Well the premise of the Fermi paradox is that in the several billion years timescale, we should have loads of evidence from other stars, because it would be hubris to assume we are the first to have telescopes. The inverse or corollary is that intelligent life is fleeting, or highly unlikely to radiate messages for some reason.
    Or --and this is gonna blow your mind-- they're too distant to see them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Or --and this is gonna blow your mind-- they're too distant to see them.
    Yes, quite so, the lifeboat idea is up against distance with no rescuers. So the challenge is to find a way to stop this ship sinking under our weight. The paradox is how can we be so smart and so stupid at the same time? That is much more perplexing.
    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 Noclevername View Post
    Or --and this is gonna blow your mind-- they're too distant to see them.
    But would they stay distant? And if so, why?

    I mean...

    If two or more species emerged in the same galaxy, both with technology comparable to ours today, would they remain distant from each other? Or would one or more of the species add a few bells and whistles to its technology, and then expand through the galaxy at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, until the species couldn't avoid meeting each other?

    This is not my own question, but a much-discussed topic, at the heart of serious speculation about the Fermi Paradox.

    And it's a topic that can hardly be addressed without considering questions like feasibility of interstellar space flight, and feasibility of interstellar colonisation.
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2021-May-03 at 01:04 AM.

  22. #1251
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    But would they stay distant? And if so, why?

    I mean...

    If two or more species emerged in the same galaxy, both with technology comparable to ours today, would they remain distant from each other? Or would one or more of the species add a few bells and whistles to its technology, and then expand through the galaxy at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, until the species couldn't avoid meeting each other?

    This is not my own question, but a much-discussed topic, at the heart of serious speculation about the Fermi Paradox.

    And it's a topic that can hardly be addressed without considering questions like feasibility of interstellar space flight, and feasibility of interstellar colonisation.
    That is a fair point and I think the scale effect is important. We assume that particles cross interstellar space, so life forms such as spores could also survive the huge times involved. We also assume that intelligent life requires a larger scale and is mortal. We have a theory of evolution.

    Alternative life forms like a thinking, feeling cloud, or a living meteor, also need an evolution story and an alternative mechanism to survive long time passages. It is an easy escape to just invoke unknown technologies. Of course we can be guilty of thinking we understand enough to lay down limiting factors like the speed of light .

    The seeding of life by travelling is within our understanding. The reception of EM signals is understood. This still leaves a big scale factor in macro interstellar travel. So it is quite possible to imagine two or more intelligent evolutions within a galaxy. It is possible to imagine they manage to avoid self destruction for long enough to detect each other by EM. We tend to assume the same drives as humans so deliberate attempts to communicate, with the delays, then seem probable. But travel remains a block.
    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 cosmocrazy View Post
    I'm thinking more towards the limits of the known physical laws restricting technological advancement. So for example - warp drives, they may well be conceivable but not attainable. There are also many conceivable ideas that are currently sci -fi, plausible but unattainable; wormholes, time travel... etc
    A craft powered by nuclear fusion seems closer to attainable than warp drives, wormholes or time travel. The H-bomb demonstrates how much energy a fusion reaction can release, and how fast. It's a rate of energy release that could, in theory, enable crewed or un-crewed missions to nearby stars with a travel time of 50 years or so. See Project Daedalus.

    The apparent possibility of technologies like this, is the basis for Michael Hart's argument that a high-technology civilisation would expand steadily through interstellar space — not at Star Trek speeds, yet fast enough to fill the Galaxy in a million years or so, which is a very small fraction of the Galaxy's age.

    I find this a serious enough argument to make the Fermi Paradox (or the Fermi-Hart Paradox, as it's sometimes called), seriously interesting...
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2021-May-04 at 12:59 PM.

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    I am cynical about any evolved intelligent life being stable for long periods but it is different for AI. You could assume either AI self motivated or AI motivated to terraform planets for people. It is conceivable that advanced AI could colonise a new planet, self replicate and moe on, the problem with short organic life no longer limits expansion. You have to assume the AI has motivation to do that, from earlier programming or some alternative evolution. The path to that scenario still has many obstacles. One is the chance of serial extinctions to provide a path to land loving, opposed thumb, vulnerable social animals loosely like us. Our history has stable periods with dominant species that have no desire to space travel, nor to generate artificial assistants. The human problem of selfishness may also be fundamental in evolution, and it limits the cooperation needed to travel to other stars just as it spurs on the much easier task of exploiting one planet.

    You know that topological hairy sphere that shows you cannot have stable weather on a planet? Well an extension of that idea would show that you cannot have stable world government of an intelligent evolved species. That is a limiting factor in intelligent colonisation of distant planets. The distances require stability over very long times. I think the answers to that paradox can all be found by taking a cool look at our history as a case study of evolution by survivable catastrophe.
    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 profloater View Post
    Yes, quite so, the lifeboat idea is up against distance with no rescuers. So the challenge is to find a way to stop this ship sinking under our weight. The paradox is how can we be so smart and so stupid at the same time? That is much more perplexing.
    And if we fail we all die. No more humanity. So, lifeboats. It's called a contingency plan.

    Also: Rescuers? Really?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And if we fail we all die. No more humanity. So, lifeboats. It's called a contingency plan.

    Also: Rescuers? Really?
    the lifeboat metaphor links to real lifeboats which normally rely on rescuers. That is my objection to the wishful thinking. The contingency has to judged by its cost and its benefit. That is the cost and benefit to those who stay on Earth.

    The ďwe all dieĒ is hyperbolic, if there is a population catastrophe, it will not be total on even the most pessimistic predictions, not for a billion years or so, so in that more plausible event, how does a Mars colony benefit the Earth bound survivors? The only solid argument is ďbecause itís thereĒ and that is the way to judge whether the project makes sense.

    I admire Musk enormously but he blew his credentials for me over Bitcoin. He knows Bitcoin is an environmental disaster and he knew he could push the price up by buying and publicising. That was a betrayal. i wonder into what, the Mars project will morph?

    (Maybe in the wrong thread, I did not spot the morph)
    Last edited by profloater; 2021-May-08 at 02:14 PM.
    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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    It's physically possible that a sufficiently motivated species might colonize the galaxy. What's at question is, 1) Is it plausible that they could? 2) Is it plausible to maintain such an intensely motivated effort over millions of years?

    1) The fastest theoretical spread is of course a Spherical Cow, disregarding any delays or changes to technology or resources available. In practice it also relies on nonphysical factors but that's addressed below. As far as technical plausibility I doubt it would be at anywhere near the speed presented as minimal. Each new established civilization would need time to build industrial capacity sufficient to build habitable starships. AI consciousness could be transported much more easily but there's no guarantee that such form of consciousness is even possible, and if so, how the required tech level compares to that of interstellar colonization. There might be a long gap where only biological travel is possible.

    2) Physics requires it would indeed be an extreme effort requiring the use of massive commitment of energy and resources. Each newly established colony/civilization would have to have a significantly large fraction of their efforts dedicated to starting new starships and spreading to other stars ASAP. We aren't talking simple probes, either, but mass transport of living beings or their equivalent. To remain at fast spread, it would need to be a strong priority maintained over many changes to culture and society. How that particular driving force would be sustained is unclear, especially in a species with a mature biotechnology and/or population control.

    Certainly the situation of "Moties" where a space faring species reproduces without limit is not realistically practical, they would be unable to keep a functioning industrial society. If they do so, it's because they've found a way to adapt to and manage their situation, such as systematized infanticide or sterilization. How they could reach space in the first place is left as an exercise for the reader.

    To exist in space requires a method of limiting use of resources, especially if you're stuck in a starship in the void. Any species that cannot do so, will remain dependent on planets.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  28. #1257
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    the lifeboat metaphor links to real lifeboats which normally rely on rescuers. That is my objection to the wishful thinking.
    The metaphor is imperfect, of course. "Rescue" is by making sure there will be habitats that can support humans.

    What alternative do you present if Earth is a failure? And please don't just repeat "We won't let that happen", which is not a given at all. What would you suggest in case it does?

    The contingency has to judged by its cost and its benefit. That is the cost and benefit to those who stay on Earth.
    The cost is minimal relative to a planetary economy. It will not inconvenience a planet's population to also spread their own kind to space. The benefit is survival of the species.

    The “we all die” is hyperbolic, if there is a population catastrophe, it will not be total on even the most pessimistic predictions, not for a billion years or so, so in that more plausible event, how does a Mars colony benefit the Earth bound survivors?
    Wishful thinking, indeed.

    We are more than capable of depopulating our world and getting more so as our technology advances. Other beings would likely be just as capable if their technology lets them reach the stars.

    But benefit to one planet, while there would be some indirect benefits, is not the point. Your argument against life boats seems to be "If we can't save everyone don't save anyone." That is nonsensical. If that's not you argument, please explain what you actually mean. People generally do not want human extinction and will willingly pay the relatively small costs of allowing at least a few to survive. Any social species that is so selfish that they only consider personal benefits and not the greater good, is not a social animal, nor is it likely to have a spacegoing civilization.

    The only solid argument is “because it’s there” and that is the way to judge whether the project makes sense.
    An absolute strawman. You just pulled that out of nowhere.

    I admire Musk enormously but he blew his credentials for me over Bitcoin. He knows Bitcoin is an environmental disaster and he knew he could push the price up by buying and publicising. That was a betrayal. i wonder into what, the Mars project will morph?

    (Maybe in the wrong thread, I did not spot the morph)
    As you say, Mars is not relevant to the discussion of Fermi's paradox.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  29. #1258
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It's physically possible that a sufficiently motivated species might colonize the galaxy. What's at question is, 1) Is it plausible that they could? 2) Is it plausible to maintain such an intensely motivated effort over millions of years?

    1) The fastest theoretical spread is of course a Spherical Cow, disregarding any delays or changes to technology or resources available. In practice it also relies on nonphysical factors but that's addressed below. As far as technical plausibility I doubt it would be at anywhere near the speed presented as minimal. Each new established civilization would need time to build industrial capacity sufficient to build habitable starships. AI consciousness could be transported much more easily but there's no guarantee that such form of consciousness is even possible, and if so, how the required tech level compares to that of interstellar colonization. There might be a long gap where only biological travel is possible.

    2) Physics requires it would indeed be an extreme effort requiring the use of massive commitment of energy and resources. Each newly established colony/civilization would have to have a significantly large fraction of their efforts dedicated to starting new starships and spreading to other stars ASAP. We aren't talking simple probes, either, but mass transport of living beings or their equivalent. To remain at fast spread, it would need to be a strong priority maintained over many changes to culture and society. How that particular driving force would be sustained is unclear, especially in a species with a mature biotechnology and/or population control.
    An argument mentioned by Robin Hanson (who came up with the term Great Filter) is that competition will favour species (and variants within each species) that spread fast. They will get access to resources which others don't.

    Hanson writes: "we would also not be surprised by a great diversity among the different parts of an explosion, and especially among different explosions [Hoerner 78]. We would expect, for example, different cultures, languages, and body form details. We expect much less diversity, however, regarding choices which would put a civilization or entity at a strong competitive reproductive disadvantage."

  30. #1259
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The cost is minimal relative to a planetary economy. It will not inconvenience a planet's population to also spread their own kind to space. The benefit is survival of the species.
    That would a strong argument, IF it was an established fact that self-sufficient space habitats can be built at minimal cost relative to a planetary economy. But is that an established fact?

  31. #1260
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    That would a strong argument, IF it was an established fact that self-sufficient space habitats can be built at minimal cost relative to a planetary economy. But is that an established fact?
    Exactly! We have Earth habitats that are scientifically interesting and resource rich. Antartica, deep oceans, deserts, mountains. Yet we do not colonise them. It would be technically possible but the costs outweigh the benefits. Once you add in the travel costs , it becomes very unlikely. Unlikely as in unsustainable .
    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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