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Would the discovery of life on Mars be a bad thing? Options
jim
Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 6:43:59 PM

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Nick Bostrom wrote an interesting article for the MIT Technology Review about how he hopes that the search for life on Mars finds nothing. In it, he reasons that inasmuch as we haven't come across any signs of intelligent life in the universe yet, advanced life must be rare. But since conditions for life aren't particularly stringent, there must be a "great filter" that prevents life from evolving beyond a certain point. If we are indeed alone, that probably means that we have made it through the filter. But if life is found nearby, like in our solar system, then the filter is probably ahead of us, or at least ahead of the evolutionary stage of the life that we find. And the more advanced the life form that we find, the more likely that we have yet to hit the filter, which implies ultimate doom for us.

But I wonder about some of the assumptions in this argument. He argues that intelligent ETs must not exist because they most certainly should have colonized the galaxy via von Neumann probes but apparently have not done so because we do not observe them. It seems to me, however, that it is certainly plausible that a sufficiently advanced civilization can be effectively cloaked from a far less advanced one. Mastery of some of those other 6 or 7 spatial dimensions that string theory predicts comes to mind. Or invisibility via some form of electromagnetic cloaking. And those are only early 21st century ideas. Imagine the possibilities of being invisible in a couple hundred years.

Then there is the programmed reality model. If the programmers placed multiple species in the galaxy for "players" to inhabit, it would certainly not be hard to keep some from interacting with each other, e.g. until the lesser civilization proves its ability to play nicely. Think about how some virtual reality games allow the players to walk through walls. It would not be hard to maintain multiple domains of existence in a single programmed construct!

Thoughts???
stendec
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008 5:46:04 PM

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I started to read that article, very interesting stuff.

I also think that it's very difficult to make accurate predictions when dealing with such "un-knowables" as other intelligences (artificial or biological).

I remember reading a similar argument for there not being extra-terrestrial intelligence (perhaps also from Bostrum), which stated that there would be evidence, even in the form of the "debris" left over from their travels across the universe. Debris such as waste materials from whatever energy-sources they used, and also that there ought to be probes and devices scattered throughout the universe.

Well, a sufficiently advanced civilisation would probably be able to tap into the "zero-point" energy that is said to be available from the "vacuum" of space, and this would be infinitely more efficient that burning fossil fuels or even using nuclear materials.

Also, you've highlighted the possibilities for "nano-cloaking" in your post, and in your article about "swarms" of nano-bots that could easily hide structures from us.

It could be argues that it is futile to attempt to second-guess the behaviours, intentions and technologies of ETs, as they might be so far removed from our own logic / imagination that we might be staring right at them and not even see !
jim
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008 8:38:01 PM

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I totally agree. I feel like we humans (myself included) really have trouble thinking beyond a 50 year time frame, so we always speculate using contemporary physics and ideas. Scientists especially seem to be prone to this - I always hear things like the limitations of the speed of light and time travel being described as factual concepts, rather than "limitations based on our current understandings." Think
stendec
Posted: Monday, May 26, 2008 9:07:01 AM

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jim wrote:
I feel like we humans (myself included) really have trouble thinking beyond a 50 year time frame


Yes, I guess this is for two main reasons;

1) Our lifespan limits the possibility to imagine a time much further than itself, which also leads to political, economic and scientific goals which are relatively short-sighted (both individually, and collectively).

I would like to hope that we still have "pyramid and cathedral thinking" (that we can begin projects that will not be carried out in our own lifetimes).

2) Because science & technology hasn't yet reached a "singularity-point" where anything that can be imagined, can be created, so we still think in terms of what current technology can achieve, with a little bit of an imaginative leap thrown in.

The mythology of Star Trek is, I think, a good example, where humans are seen seen interacting with aliens, and have incredible technology that has harnessed physics, with "warp drive" and the teleportation of matter - yet we still don't have high-bandwidth intercommunication human-human and human-machine communication (though this is alluded to in some episodes, and also Star Trek Voyager).

I remember a programme where Professor of Physics Michio Kaku said (this will be a crude paraphrasing by me) "time travel is an engineering challenge, rather than a challenge to the laws of physics"
LadyBe
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 10:14:58 PM
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I think for the most part we are afraid of the possibility of life on other planets or from other solar systems. It seems most logical that there is other intelligent life out there somewhere even if we aren't presently aware of them. I think it is even scarier to think of intelligent life out there somewhere that is even more advanced than we are. We want to expect that they would look like us but that may not be even near what they look like. If they are more advanced than we are then we would be afraid of what their objective is by visiting us. I think this is why we are afraid of U.F.O.'s now. We know that they are more advanced than we are simply by virtue of how they travel. Since we don't have the kind of air travel that they do they must be more advanced. I think the government knows that most people are afraid of U.F.O.'s so they cover up reports of sightings. I really don't think that is a good idea though because at some point we are going to become aware of why U.f.O.'s are visiting us. I used to not believe in U.F.O.'s until I saw one (actually two were involved)some years back. I am interested in why they do examinations on various people when there is an abduction or about cattle mutilation stories.
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