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Fermi Paradox -- yes, again!

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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca

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Sep 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/26/96
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Chris Becke wrote:
>
> ...
> Now, it doesn't matter if only one race ever made it. Given the nature of
> exponential growth - a behavior we expect from at least one of the races that
> "made it"... and the sheer timescale over which they have had the chance to
> spread, this one race should be everywhere.

Growth wouldn't be exponential. It would occur on the edges of a sphere until
the Galactic edge was hit, then occur along the edge of a circle. Without
exponentiation, you can't just handwave about the time-period, but have to
get serious about figuring out a likely growth rate before you can come to
the Fermi Paradox.
>
> A little bit of thinking will reveal that humanity should not exist at all...
> Long before life even considered developing in this system, the colonists
> should have arrived...
>
> So, its not "asteroid/cometary mass extinctions" that are maintaining "the
> apparent rarity of technological intelligence". "rare" is not the problem
> here... its any number that is bigger than 0.
> ...

Many here are impatient with Fermi Paradox discussions on this newsgroup, but
I love them. It's the most interesting topic in sf. So I'm starting a new
thread.

I especially like the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret the
Fermi paradox. Does it mean that we are alone in the Universe? [1] Or that
interstellar travel is always so expensive that it provides the insurmountable
bottleneck which prevents the Universe from being overrun? [2] Or that cosmic
disasters happen often enough that intelligent life can never spread
significantly off its own planet? [3] Or what?

[1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really need. Do
we really have be smart enough to design fusion power plants [I'm sure
we'll get this problem solved eventually] in order to protect our
children from wolves at night? What if the almost inevitable progress
of evolution is merely to produce a species smart enough to outthink
the local equivalent of a wolf and, once that evolutionary niche is
filled, no smarter. Our excess intelligence could be a once-in-a
Universe freak, cosmic ray induced mutation. Nobody ever puts things
like that into the Fermi equation.

[2] My personal favourite, when I'm feeling depressed about the space
program, which is quite often since they gave up going to the moon.
The energy requirements for accelerating a single mega-tonne space
ship to 0.9c (and back down to zero again) are approximately (scribble
scribble) the equivalent of the output of 20 large nuclear power
stations over a period of 300 years. We couldn't afford it now, even
if we knew it would be a goldmine. Will we be better able to afford
it as our population doubles again and most resources are diverted to
keeping everybody fed? For a one-way, no-return venture? Anyway,
I've never seen a remotely possible design for an interstellar craft
with reasonable travel times. Humans are inventive ... the reason we
haven't come up with one could be that there simply isn't one.

[3] Interesting article in the New Scientist (Sept. 14) which got me
started on this post. The speculation is that neutron star mergers
should occur often enough, and produce enough energetic radiation to
explain the various periods of mass extinction on the Earth. What if
the Galaxy has been periodically flooded by death rays every few
million years? That would eliminate the "billions of years since the
Galaxys formed" which is at the root of the Fermi Paradox.

Cheers,
Geoff

Roy Brander

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Sep 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/26/96
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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

: [2] My personal favourite, when I'm feeling depressed about the space


: program, which is quite often since they gave up going to the moon.
: The energy requirements for accelerating a single mega-tonne space
: ship to 0.9c (and back down to zero again) are approximately (scribble
: scribble) the equivalent of the output of 20 large nuclear power
: stations over a period of 300 years. We couldn't afford it now, even
: if we knew it would be a goldmine. Will we be better able to afford

But the trouble with the Fermi Paradox is that once you start speculating
about space-travelling races millions of years old, you don't even need
really fast star travel. Even at 10% of the speed of light, you can
cross the Milky Way in 1 million years...which is the same as saying
that you could fill it with colonies in 2 million. The couple-of-thousand-year
"pause" on each new colony for that planet to be filled up and start
sending out its own ships would only add a second million (or so) to the
base travel time.

Or, if the race decides not to spread and colonize (are a hundred trillion
people "happier" than 10 billion?) but rather to adopt permanent ZPG, they
could still launch a 10%-of-c robot every century, so that their
descendants could benefit from the great TV it would laser back. A
million years is 10,000 probes, the furthest of which would have crossed
the Galaxy. (Granted, the TV return time is 100,000 years..).

If they really liked the virtual exploring and sent out a probe a year,
there would be one probe every couple of thousand light years. Hmmm..
maybe the nearest probe hasn't quite caught our early radio signals
yet.

Larry Smith

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Sep 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/27/96
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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

> [1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really
need.

I think what you meant to say is that they seem
to have far more brain than they really use. Any-
one who has watched our political system in action
who is not into conspiracy theories would certainly
not agree without that proviso.

> [3] Interesting article in the New Scientist (Sept. 14) which got
me
> started on this post. The speculation is that neutron star
mergers
> should occur often enough, and produce enough energetic
radiation to
> explain the various periods of mass extinction on the Earth.
What if
> the Galaxy has been periodically flooded by death rays every
few
> million years? That would eliminate the "billions of years
since the
> Galaxys formed" which is at the root of the Fermi Paradox.

There are a number of other possibilities along
the same line that are occasionally suggested.
However, Earthly extinctions occur with a cer-
tain regularity - many of these explanations
fail to provide it.

Jonathan Cunningham

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Sep 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/29/96
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In article <26SEP96....@cc5.crl.aecl.ca>,
edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

> The energy requirements for accelerating a single mega-tonne space
> ship to 0.9c (and back down to zero again) are approximately (scribble
> scribble) the equivalent of the output of 20 large nuclear power
> stations over a period of 300 years. We couldn't afford it now, even

(snip)


> I've never seen a remotely possible design for an interstellar craft
> with reasonable travel times. Humans are inventive ... the reason we
> haven't come up with one could be that there simply isn't one.

It's interesting to see when we *could* afford it, assuming economic
growth at, say, 3% a year. And a few hundred years later, private
individuals will be able to afford it. Assuming no limits to growth ;-).

(And when do we have to do what the Puppeteer's did, and move our planet
out to a further orbit? :-).

But what are reasonable travel times? It's fairly common now (here - and
I assume elsewhere) for people to take a year out after graduating to
travel the world. That's about 2% of their adult life expectancy. Maybe
with a life expectancy of 1000 years, a 20 year trip to another star
system might seem reasonable.

If we lived in a reasonably static society, with personal life
expectancies of, say 50,000 years, would you be willing to go on a 500
year round trip?

To me, the first and biggest problem in building starships is longevity.
Sort of the opposite of a Vinge singularity - assume that we eventually
hit the top of the S curve of technological progress, progress slows
down, but people live longer. Then there can still be significant progress
in a lifetime: it just takes longer. Maybe mature cilisations get slower
(remember the Martians in "Stranger in a Strange Land"). Which is another
answer to the Fermi paradox. (They're here, but haven't made up their
minds what to do about us yet.)

Take steam engines, for example. Isn't it a shame that they got superseded
so quickly? Given infinite time, a few hundred years of steam-age
technology, until we got bored with it, would have been great. Why the
hurry to discover electricity, invent diesels etc.? <Sigh> Not that I
would have liked to wait for medical advances ...

Jonathan


Beth and Richard Treitel

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Sep 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/29/96
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To my surprise and delight, edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

>I especially like the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret the
>Fermi paradox. Does it mean that we are alone in the Universe? [1] Or that
>interstellar travel is always so expensive that it provides the insurmountable
>bottleneck which prevents the Universe from being overrun? [2] Or that cosmic
>disasters happen often enough that intelligent life can never spread
>significantly off its own planet? [3] Or what?

My own favourite is "or what". Consider what I'll call the `Midas
paradox', which might have been propounded by a deep thinker a couple
of thousand years ago. It goes like this:

* We know that there are birds which lay white eggs, brown eggs, blue
eggs, and perhaps other colours of eggs, right here in Greece. So
surely there must, somewhere, be birds that lay golden eggs.
[There are many planets where life could arise, so intelligent star-
travelling life must arise on some of them.]

* A bird that laid golden eggs would be a very valuable beast and
would probably be traded for high-value goods from distant lands, so
the species would spread all over the known world.
[It would spread all over the galaxy.]

* Nobody has seen any golden eggs in the market for as long as we can
remember, except for the fake ones with gold paint on them. [UFOs]

Well, once you understand some chemistry and biology, it becomes clear
that there isn't likely to be any such bird outside of the pages of
Isaac Asimov. My best guess about the Fermi paradox is that there is
some natural law whose existence we scarcely even suspect, maybe in a
discipline we don't even have a name for yet, and it has a strong
effect on one of the probabilities in the Drake equation. This is not
very flattering to human scientists, whom I don't wish to insult, but
it's more flattering than the alternative, which is to assume that
their observations are wrong. The whole point of the paradox is that
*either* our observations *or* the laws we use to make predictions
from them *are* wrong, or incomplete at best, since they lead to a
prediction which is not confirmed. And the scientific advances of
which I'm aware have involved adding new laws (which explain both old
and new observations) more often than throwing out old observations as
wrong.


>[1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really need.

"Seem" is the word. Brain tissue is very expensive in the
evolutionary sense, when you think about supplying it with
oxygen/sugar, protecting it, and getting it through the maternal birth
canal. Extra brain would have been discarded if it didn't confer an
advantage to compensate for these.

OTOH it maybe that the brain is very inefficiently configured, and we
could be just as bright with much smaller heads if we had evolved
differently. SFAIK human scientists are not yet in a position to
answer this one.

- Richard
------
What is (and isn't) ScF? ==> http://web.wco.com/~treitel/sf.html

A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.

Erik Max Francis

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Sep 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/29/96
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Jonathan Cunningham wrote:

> Which is another
> answer to the Fermi paradox. (They're here, but haven't made up their
> minds what to do about us yet.)

For hundreds of millions of years?

--
Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE http://www.alcyone.com/max/ m...@alcyone.com
San Jose, California ICBM 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W R^4: the 4th R is respect
"Gods are born and die, but the atom endures." -- Alexander Chase

Steve Brinich

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Sep 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/29/96
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Beth and Richard Treitel wrote:

> My own favourite is "or what". Consider what I'll call the `Midas
> paradox', which might have been propounded by a deep thinker a couple
> of thousand years ago. It goes like this:
>
> * We know that there are birds which lay white eggs, brown eggs, blue
> eggs, and perhaps other colours of eggs, right here in Greece. So
> surely there must, somewhere, be birds that lay golden eggs.
> [There are many planets where life could arise, so intelligent star-
> travelling life must arise on some of them.]
>
> * A bird that laid golden eggs would be a very valuable beast and
> would probably be traded for high-value goods from distant lands, so
> the species would spread all over the known world.
> [It would spread all over the galaxy.]
>
> * Nobody has seen any golden eggs in the market for as long as we can
> remember, except for the fake ones with gold paint on them. [UFOs]
>
> Well, once you understand some chemistry and biology, it becomes clear
> that there isn't likely to be any such bird outside of the pages of
> Isaac Asimov. My best guess about the Fermi paradox is that there is
> some natural law whose existence we scarcely even suspect, maybe in a
> discipline we don't even have a name for yet, and it has a strong
> effect on one of the probabilities in the Drake equation.

Where your analogy falls apart is that we _know_ that _one_ high-tech
civilization has, in fact, appeared in the Galaxy.

Now, try rewriting the first part of your "Midas Paradox" correctly,
to account for this:

* We know that there are birds which lay white eggs, brown eggs,
blue eggs, and perhaps other colours of eggs, right here in
Greece. So surely there must, somewhere, be birds that lay

golden eggs. _As we all know, ONE bird which lays golden eggs
has been found, and shown beyond doubt to be genuine_.

and see where it leads.

--
Steve Brinich ste...@access.digex.net If the government wants us
PGP:89B992BBE67F7B2F64FDF2EA14374C3E to respect the law
http://www.access.digex.net/~steve-b it should set a better example

William Baird

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Sep 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/30/96
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In article <324EC049...@alcyone.com> Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> writes:
>For hundreds of millions of years?

Two thoughts on this:

1. They came, saw, visited, took samples, and left. (They WERE here
but are gone).

2. They staretd to explore and died out eventually...species life on
earth is about 1 MY, so...100 MY would see the rise and death of 100
'human' species...

Will

>Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE http://www.alcyone.com/max/ m...@alcyone.com


Will Baird email: wba...@neunet.com http://www.neunet.com/~wbaird/
Phantoms! Whenever I think I fully understand mankind's purpose on earth...
suddenly I see phantoms dancing in the shadows...[saying] pointly as words,
"What you know is nothing little man; what you have to learn, immense." - CD

Erik Max Francis

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Sep 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/30/96
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William Baird wrote:

> Two thoughts on this:

Remember, for such an answer to qualify as a solution to the Fermi paradox, it
has to apply to _all_ civilizations, _everywhere_ (in our Galaxy, at least).
So:

> 1. They came, saw, visited, took samples, and left. (They WERE here
> but are gone).

All of them came and left?

> 2. They staretd to explore and died out eventually...species life on
> earth is about 1 MY, so...100 MY would see the rise and death of 100
> 'human' species...

What makes you think that a "'human' species" (whatever that means) has a
lifetime of only 1 My? Furthermore, we're talking about civilizations capable
of interstellar travel, so we're not talking about "'human' species" quite yet
. . .

--

Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE http://www.alcyone.com/max/ m...@alcyone.com

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca

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Sep 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/30/96
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j...@sofluc.demon.co.uk (Jonathan Cunningham) wrote:

:> The energy requirements for accelerating a single mega-tonne space
:> ship to 0.9c (and back down to zero again) are approximately (scribble
:> scribble) the equivalent of the output of 20 large nuclear power
:> stations over a period of 300 years. We couldn't afford it now, even
:(snip)
:> I've never seen a remotely possible design for an interstellar craft
:> with reasonable travel times. Humans are inventive ... the reason we
:> haven't come up with one could be that there simply isn't one.

:It's interesting to see when we *could* afford it, assuming economic
:growth at, say, 3% a year. And a few hundred years later, private
:individuals will be able to afford it. Assuming no limits to growth ;-).

An interesting question. Of course, the question can not really be answered
in terms of economic growth alone. If economic growth only matches population
growth, we gain nothing. We need the economic resources of individuals to
grow. This will mean that power supplies will have to grow faster than the
population for a good time to come [arguable, but possible] or the existing
imbalance between rich and poor will have to be maintained and widen [which
may lead to wars which will drain the Earth's interstellar capability away].

:
:(And when do we have to do what the Puppeteer's did, and move our planet


:out to a further orbit? :-).

[For that, I think we need new physics. Moving a planet would take a *lot*
of energy.]

:But what are reasonable travel times? It's fairly common now (here - and


:I assume elsewhere) for people to take a year out after graduating to
:travel the world. That's about 2% of their adult life expectancy. Maybe
:with a life expectancy of 1000 years, a 20 year trip to another star
:system might seem reasonable.

Another interesting question. But 20 years is still a long time, even if you
do live to be a thousand. And the effects of long life might be rather
negative as far as star travel is concerned. It could easily lead to *very*
cautious behavior by people who don't want to lose 970 years of life in an
accident [star travel is bound to be a fairly risky proposition] or to
complete lack of motivation. [An expedition to Tau Ceti? Maybe I'll go in
a couple of hundred years when they've got the bugs all ironed out. No
hurry.]

:If we lived in a reasonably static society, with personal life


:expectancies of, say 50,000 years, would you be willing to go on a 500
:year round trip?

Only in a very comfortable ship.

:To me, the first and biggest problem in building starships is longevity.


:Sort of the opposite of a Vinge singularity - assume that we eventually
:hit the top of the S curve of technological progress, progress slows
:down, but people live longer. Then there can still be significant progress
:in a lifetime: it just takes longer. Maybe mature cilisations get slower

:(remember the Martians in "Stranger in a Strange Land"). Which is another


:answer to the Fermi paradox. (They're here, but haven't made up their
:minds what to do about us yet.)

I'm no fan of the Fermi Paradox, but that particular answer is kind of weak.
The question is why they didn't land here a couple of million years ago when
the planet was wide open for the taking. [Assuming they had the resources
to change the planet so that they could live here.]

:Take steam engines, for example. Isn't it a shame that they got superseded


:so quickly? Given infinite time, a few hundred years of steam-age
:technology, until we got bored with it, would have been great. Why the
:hurry to discover electricity, invent diesels etc.? <Sigh> Not that I
:would have liked to wait for medical advances ...

:Jonathan

I remember a short story along these lines. The inevitable progress of
intelligence was a *very* gradual progression to higher technology and aliens
all spent thousand of years gradually working their way through each stage.
That's why they were all stunned when the started receiving radio signals
from out star, which had been surveyed only a couple of million years ago
and found to be without intelligent life. [It was one of those "but that
star's about to go nova -- we'll have to launch a rescue mission" stories.
But when the FTL ships arive at Earth, they find it completely deserted,
the natives having already removed themselves in STL ships. Anybody remember
the story?]

GeoffE

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca

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Sep 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/30/96
to

tre...@wco.com (Beth and Richard Treitel) wrote:

To my surprise and delight, edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

:>I especially like the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret the
:>Fermi paradox. Does it mean that we are alone in the Universe? [1] Or that
:>interstellar travel is always so expensive that it provides the insurmountable
:>bottleneck which prevents the Universe from being overrun? [2] Or that cosmic
:>disasters happen often enough that intelligent life can never spread
:>significantly off its own planet? [3] Or what?

:My own favourite is "or what". Consider what I'll call the `Midas


:paradox', which might have been propounded by a deep thinker a couple
:of thousand years ago. It goes like this:

:* We know that there are birds which lay white eggs, brown eggs, blue
:eggs, and perhaps other colours of eggs, right here in Greece. So
:surely there must, somewhere, be birds that lay golden eggs.
: [There are many planets where life could arise, so intelligent star-
:travelling life must arise on some of them.]

:* A bird that laid golden eggs would be a very valuable beast and
:would probably be traded for high-value goods from distant lands, so
:the species would spread all over the known world.
: [It would spread all over the galaxy.]

:* Nobody has seen any golden eggs in the market for as long as we can
:remember, except for the fake ones with gold paint on them. [UFOs]

:Well, once you understand some chemistry and biology, it becomes clear
:that there isn't likely to be any such bird outside of the pages of
:Isaac Asimov. My best guess about the Fermi paradox is that there is
:some natural law whose existence we scarcely even suspect, maybe in a
:discipline we don't even have a name for yet, and it has a strong

:effect on one of the probabilities in the Drake equation. This is not


:very flattering to human scientists, whom I don't wish to insult, but
:it's more flattering than the alternative, which is to assume that
:their observations are wrong. The whole point of the paradox is that
:*either* our observations *or* the laws we use to make predictions
:from them *are* wrong, or incomplete at best, since they lead to a
:prediction which is not confirmed. And the scientific advances of
:which I'm aware have involved adding new laws (which explain both old
:and new observations) more often than throwing out old observations as
:wrong.

Yes, the Drake equation is open to attack because of our ignorance of the
intermediate steps. One of those steps might conceivably be a bottleneck and
we can't see the absence of the forest because we're standing in front of
this one gigantic tree. Still, the technique behind the Drake equation is
a powerful and common one among questions. How many piano teachers are there
in Chicago? What if you decided there were a couple of hundred and there
turned out to be none? That's telling you *something*.

:>[1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really need.

:"Seem" is the word. Brain tissue is very expensive in the
:evolutionary sense, when you think about supplying it with
:oxygen/sugar, protecting it, and getting it through the maternal birth
:canal. Extra brain would have been discarded if it didn't confer an
:advantage to compensate for these.

Big brains seem mostly to be an advantage in intra-human conflicts, not in
conflict with the environment. So we can't afford to give them up -- it's
like a nuclear arms race. However, if the last evolutionary step had left us
with average IQs of, say 70, instead of 100, this would still have been enough
to leave us top 'dog' in our natural environment, but with little chance of
gaining star travel technology. Would intra-human conflicts still select for
big brains? Maybe, maybe not. Is brain size increasing amongst animals?

:OTOH it maybe that the brain is very inefficiently configured, and we


:could be just as bright with much smaller heads if we had evolved
:differently. SFAIK human scientists are not yet in a position to
:answer this one.

:- Richard
:------
:What is (and isn't) ScF? ==> http://web.wco.com/~treitel/sf.html

:A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.

Actually, I have little problem with SF authors who make their science seem
magical. It's those who offer explanations who usually manage to get their
books hurled against the wall.

Cheers,
Geoff

Damien Broderick

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
to

> [It was one of those "but that
> star's about to go nova -- we'll have to launch a rescue mission"
> stories.[...] Anybody remember the story?]
>
> GeoffE

Isn't memory weird? You were *so* close... (In case my header is occluded:
Arthur Clark's wonderful `Rescue Party', half a century old this year.)

----------------------------------------------------------------
Damien Broderick / Associate, Dept. English and Cultural Studies
University of Melbourne, Parkville 3052, AUSTRALIA
@: dam...@ariel.its.unimelb.edu.au
bio/biblio: http://www.vicnet.net.au/~ozlit/broderic.html

Bill Dugan

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

snip

>Another interesting question. But 20 years is still a long time, even if you
>do live to be a thousand. And the effects of long life might be rather
>negative as far as star travel is concerned. It could easily lead to *very*
>cautious behavior by people who don't want to lose 970 years of life in an
>accident [star travel is bound to be a fairly risky proposition]

snip

That's a common theme in SF, but I'm not sure it's really true. Among
humans, it's often the young, with the longest remaining lifespan, who
are bold, while older folks, with less to lose, become cautious. I
suspect that there's something about physical youth that influences
these attitudes more than conscious knowledge of life expectancy.

snip

>I remember a short story along these lines. The inevitable progress of
>intelligence was a *very* gradual progression to higher technology and aliens
>all spent thousand of years gradually working their way through each stage.
>That's why they were all stunned when the started receiving radio signals
>from out star, which had been surveyed only a couple of million years ago
>and found to be without intelligent life. [It was one of those "but that
>star's about to go nova -- we'll have to launch a rescue mission" stories.
>But when the FTL ships arive at Earth, they find it completely deserted,
>the natives having already removed themselves in STL ships. Anybody remember
>the story?]

It was one of Arthur Clarke's stories. I don't remember the title.

William Baird

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
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In article <324FD7D9...@alcyone.com> Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> writes:

>> 1. They came, saw, visited, took samples, and left. (They WERE here
>> but are gone).

>All of them came and left?

Possibly, tho less likely. Would we be able to detect a civilization
that was here? Even for a million years?

>What makes you think that a "'human' species" (whatever that means) has a
>lifetime of only 1 My?

I was speaking of the average life time for a species here on Earth.
Assuming that we're nothing more than another animal, then it's quite
likely that we will be unable to interbreed with our descendants in a
million years time. If this holds true, then humans as we know them will
be extinct in a million years and posssibly leave no descendents (how
many dead ends have there been in the past 100 million years...? How
many hominids are there for example (# of species)?)

If you assume that because we're sophont that we'll last longer (10x?), I
still doubt that humans will be about in 100 million years to be blunt...

Even still, if a world has a species life time of 100 times that of
earth, it also means that evolution will be slower. If it has a species
life of x times longer then, it may well be that it will have an x times
slower evolution and thus not produced a sophont species yet. Likewise a
faster evolutionary cycle (species die out faster), means that they may
be extinct by the time we evolved and were capable of encountering them.

Basically, what I am saying is that the asumption that a species can
explore and fill teh galaxy is simply assuming too much...based on
biology.

Assuming Von Neumann machines even THEN it gets to be assumign too much.
In 100 million years its possible that they'd evolve into their own
ecologies that have little if anything that have to do with terrestrial
worlds like our own...after all, a Von Neumann machine is lil different
than life as we know it, really, save that it is based on other
things...it has a programming (instincts) and can self reproduce...so....

Unfortunately, the simplest explanation/conclusion that we are alone or
at best we're first (the anthropic principle).

I don't like it, but that's simplest one yet...the Mars bugs argue that
life ain't hard, so that seems to put up its own interesting paradox...
that life ain't hard, but life seems to have (as far as we can tell) to
have survived 50% of the time...which argues that the Gaia model may not
be the case...*shrugs*

>Furthermore, we're talking about civilizations capable
>of interstellar travel, so we're not talking about "'human' species" quite yet
>. . .

Nope, not yet one can hope relatively soon tho...:)

Will

>Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE http://www.alcyone.com/max/ m...@alcyone.com

Will Baird email: wba...@neunet.com http://www.neunet.com/~wbaird/

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
to

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

snip

>Another interesting question. But 20 years is still a long time, even if you
>do live to be a thousand. And the effects of long life might be rather
>negative as far as star travel is concerned. It could easily lead to *very*
>cautious behavior by people who don't want to lose 970 years of life in an
>accident [star travel is bound to be a fairly risky proposition]

snip

wkd...@ix.netcom.com (Bill Dugan) wrote:

:That's a common theme in SF, but I'm not sure it's really true. Among


:humans, it's often the young, with the longest remaining lifespan, who

:are bold, while older folks, with less to lose, become cautious. I
:suspect that there's something about physical youth that influences


:these attitudes more than conscious knowledge of life expectancy.

Get rid of our teenagers on long one-way interstellar voyages? It could
catch on. But would they really want to go? How could you look cool in
deep space, and wouldn't the dating scene be a little limited?

GeoffE

Erik Max Francis

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Oct 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/1/96
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William Baird wrote:

> I was speaking of the average life time for a species here on Earth.
> Assuming that we're nothing more than another animal, then it's quite
> likely that we will be unable to interbreed with our descendants in a
> million years time. If this holds true, then humans as we know them will
> be extinct in a million years and posssibly leave no descendents (how
> many dead ends have there been in the past 100 million years...? How
> many hominids are there for example (# of species)?)
>
> If you assume that because we're sophont that we'll last longer (10x?), I
> still doubt that humans will be about in 100 million years to be blunt...

What difference does it make how long a civilization will last as a single,
distinct species? Fermi's paradox is interested in how long a civilization
lasts, now how long it lasts as a single species without drift.

(I still don't know where you got the 1 My figure from.)

> Even still, if a world has a species life time of 100 times that of
> earth, it also means that evolution will be slower. If it has a species
> life of x times longer then, it may well be that it will have an x times
> slower evolution and thus not produced a sophont species yet. Likewise a
> faster evolutionary cycle (species die out faster), means that they may
> be extinct by the time we evolved and were capable of encountering them.

I don't see how you come to this conclusion. You pick an arbitrary figure and
call it "the lifetime of a species." You then argue that any species which
lasts longer than this figure must be evolving more slowly . . .

> Basically, what I am saying is that the asumption that a species can
> explore and fill teh galaxy is simply assuming too much...based on
> biology.

. . . And then you conclude that this means that a civilization cannot fill
the Galaxy based on biology. I honestly don't get it.

The Fermi paradox is about civilizations, not species. It doesn't matter if,
in a Galaxy-spanning civilization, one side of the Galaxy is populated by
species A, and the other is populated by species B, both of which originally
drifted from the homeworld species X (which itself may have drifted). Who
cares? We're not talking about species, we're talking about civilizations.

And remember. All it takes is just one.

> Assuming Von Neumann machines even THEN it gets to be assumign too much.
> In 100 million years its possible that they'd evolve into their own
> ecologies that have little if anything that have to do with terrestrial
> worlds like our own...

Uh, I think you're missing something. You have von Neumann machines
self-reproducing and spreading throughout the Galaxy. Then one machine
mutates into something that sets up a local ecology and sits down to mind its
own business and forgets its original programming. Uh, I think you forgot
about all the other zillions of machines that are exploring.

Remember. All it takes is just one.

> Unfortunately, the simplest explanation/conclusion that we are alone or
> at best we're first (the anthropic principle).

This is not what either the weak nor the strong anthropic principle says. The
anthropic principles merely say that the laws of physics are the way they are
because, if they weren't, we couldn't be here to ask that question. It has
nothing to do with saying the Universe is designed _for us_ or that we're the
only intelligent species here.

--

Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE http://www.alcyone.com/max/ m...@alcyone.com

Bill Dugan

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
to

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:


>edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

>snip

>>Another interesting question. But 20 years is still a long time, even if you
>>do live to be a thousand. And the effects of long life might be rather
>>negative as far as star travel is concerned. It could easily lead to *very*
>>cautious behavior by people who don't want to lose 970 years of life in an
>>accident [star travel is bound to be a fairly risky proposition]

>snip

>wkd...@ix.netcom.com (Bill Dugan) wrote:

>:That's a common theme in SF, but I'm not sure it's really true. Among
>:humans, it's often the young, with the longest remaining lifespan, who
>:are bold, while older folks, with less to lose, become cautious. I
>:suspect that there's something about physical youth that influences
>:these attitudes more than conscious knowledge of life expectancy.

>Get rid of our teenagers on long one-way interstellar voyages? It could
>catch on. But would they really want to go? How could you look cool in
>deep space, and wouldn't the dating scene be a little limited?

ROFL.

What I really meant was that immortalized, or very long-lived, humans
might revert to the psychology of youth, including the willingness to
take risks.

Beth and Richard Treitel

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
to

To my surprise and delight, Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> wrote:

>Jonathan Cunningham wrote:
>
>> Which is another
>> answer to the Fermi paradox. (They're here, but haven't made up their
>> minds what to do about us yet.)
>

>For hundreds of millions of years?

Well, y'see, one of the unsuspected drawbacks to high intelligence is
that your brain starts to work slower ... and slower ...


John Park

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
to

Bill Dugan (wkd...@ix.netcom.com) writes:
> edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:
>[...]

>>I remember a short story along these lines. The inevitable progress of
>>intelligence was a *very* gradual progression to higher technology and aliens
>>all spent thousand of years gradually working their way through each stage.
>>That's why they were all stunned when the started receiving radio signals
>>from out star, which had been surveyed only a couple of million years ago
>>and found to be without intelligent life. [It was one of those "but that
>>star's about to go nova -- we'll have to launch a rescue mission" stories.
>>But when the FTL ships arive at Earth, they find it completely deserted,
>>the natives having already removed themselves in STL ships. Anybody remember
>>the story?]
>

> It was one of Arthur Clarke's stories. I don't remember the title.
>

I think it was called "Rescue Party".

--John Park


Jeff Smith

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
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ste...@access.digex.net wrote:
>Beth and Richard Treitel wrote:
> > My best guess about the Fermi paradox is that there is some natural law
> > whose existence we scarcely even suspect, maybe in a discipline we don't
> > even have a name for yet, and it has a strong effect on one of the
> > probabilities in the Drake equation.
>
> Where your analogy falls apart is that we _know_ that _one_ high-tech
>civilization has, in fact, appeared in the Galaxy.

I wouldn't count the human race as a "high-tech civilization" quite yet.
We certainly don't have the technology or resources to send a probe to another
star, let alone a colony ship. Further, our radio signals are weak and not
intended to be heard many light-years away; it is doubtful whether we are
noticable at distances greater than a few light-years.

So, to stretch the analogy past the breaking point, the appropriate part
of the Midas Paradox should read:

* We know of one bird that might someday lay a golden egg if, indeed,
such a thing is possible. We've never seen any other bird, but we
have fossil evidence from another country (Mars) of something that
might have eventually become a bird,

smith
--
"Plain and simple, robotics are the wave of the future."
-- BATTLE OF THE BIKINI SUBHUMANOIDS: CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH PART IV

Londo Mollari

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
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Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> wrote:

[snip]


> This is not what either the weak nor the strong anthropic principle says. The
> anthropic principles merely say that the laws of physics are the way they are
> because, if they weren't, we couldn't be here to ask that question. It has
> nothing to do with saying the Universe is designed _for us_ or that we're the
> only intelligent species here.

And of course if the laws of physics were different, maybe some other
kind of life not possible in our universe could ask the same kind
of question. :-)

--
"The Universe is a great place to visit,
but I'd sure hate to live there."
- Alfred Bester

Jerry Bryson

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Oct 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/2/96
to

> Isn't memory weird? You were *so* close... (In case my header is occluded:
> Arthur Clark's wonderful `Rescue Party', half a century old this year.)

Not to mention Schmidt's _Sins of the Fathers_ in which he blows up the
whole Galaxy...

Beth and Richard Treitel

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Oct 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/3/96
to

To my surprise and delight, Steve Brinich <ste...@access.digex.net>
wrote:

> Where your analogy falls apart is that we _know_ that _one_ high-tech
>civilization has, in fact, appeared in the Galaxy.
>

> Now, try rewriting the first part of your "Midas Paradox" correctly,

>to account for this:


>
> * We know that there are birds which lay white eggs, brown eggs,
> blue eggs, and perhaps other colours of eggs, right here in
> Greece. So surely there must, somewhere, be birds that lay

> golden eggs. _As we all know, ONE bird which lays golden eggs
> has been found, and shown beyond doubt to be genuine_.

Then I'd say that there must be *something* unusual about the place
where that golden bird lived. Perhaps sveral things.

A biologist would come to tell me that, though there are places on
Earth where such birds would just die out, it's very unlikely that
every other country is like that. An economist would come to tell me
that, though there may be cultures where gold is not used as a medium
of exchange or regarded as valuable, it's very unlikely that every
society is like that. A political theorist would come to tell me
that, though there are governments with such strong control over their
people that they could conceal all evidence of their possession of
golden eggs, it's very unlikely that every state is like that. A
travel agent would come to tell me that, though there are some trade
routes which have to pass through regions populated by bandits who
steal gold or salamanders who eat golden eggs for snacks, it's very
unlikely that every golden egg suffers a fate like that. Many other
learned and knowledgeable folk would come to tell me similar things.

I would point out to them that when you consider enough very unlikely
occurrences, it gets quite likely that one of them does occur. I
would also tell them what Holmes so famously told Watson, and suggest
that, instead of bickering about whose theory is most unlikely to need
changing, they start acting like scientists, and try to develop
theories that explain the data. I might challenge them as to whether
all their unlikelihoods were statistically independent.

When they started asking me for resources with which to gather some
more data, life would get interesting. Because from what I remember
of the Drake equation, the numbers that we plug into it come more from
guesswork than from observation.

Wim Lewis

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Oct 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/3/96
to

In article <324EC049...@alcyone.com>,

Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> wrote:
>Jonathan Cunningham wrote:
>> Which is another
>> answer to the Fermi paradox. (They're here, but haven't made up their
>> minds what to do about us yet.)
>
>For hundreds of millions of years?

It's still in committee.

As it turns out, the dominant form of life in the Universe is not any
particular biological organism, with all the limitations and failings
of matter and flesh, but is instead a mind-bogglingly huge bureaucracy,
which immediately incorporates any newly-evolved life of sufficient
complexity.

Perhaps, to answer the question "why aren't they here yet?" one
merely needs to go down to the local Department of Licensing ...


--
Wim Lewis * wi...@hhhh.org * Seattle, WA, USA
PGP 0x27F772C1: 0C 0D 10 D5 FC 73 D1 35 26 46 42 9E DC 6E 0A 88

Joseph Dineen

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Oct 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/3/96
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wkd...@ix.netcom.com (Bill Dugan) wrote:

>edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:

>snip

>>Another interesting question. But 20 years is still a long time, even if you
>>do live to be a thousand. And the effects of long life might be rather
>>negative as far as star travel is concerned. It could easily lead to *very*
>>cautious behavior by people who don't want to lose 970 years of life in an
>>accident [star travel is bound to be a fairly risky proposition]

>snip

>That's a common theme in SF, but I'm not sure it's really true. Among
>humans, it's often the young, with the longest remaining lifespan, who

>are bold, while older folks, with less to lose, become cautious. I


>suspect that there's something about physical youth that influences
>these attitudes more than conscious knowledge of life expectancy.

YEah they believe their immortal
>snip

>>I remember a short story along these lines. The inevitable progress of
>>intelligence was a *very* gradual progression to higher technology and aliens
>>all spent thousand of years gradually working their way through each stage.
>>That's why they were all stunned when the started receiving radio signals
>>from out star, which had been surveyed only a couple of million years ago
>>and found to be without intelligent life. [It was one of those "but that
>>star's about to go nova -- we'll have to launch a rescue mission" stories.
>>But when the FTL ships arive at Earth, they find it completely deserted,
>>the natives having already removed themselves in STL ships. Anybody remember
>>the story?]

>It was one of Arthur Clarke's stories. I don't remember the title.

bla...@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca

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Oct 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/4/96
to

Wim Lewis (wi...@netcom.com) wrote:

: As it turns out, the dominant form of life in the Universe is not any


: particular biological organism, with all the limitations and failings
: of matter and flesh, but is instead a mind-bogglingly huge bureaucracy,
: which immediately incorporates any newly-evolved life of sufficient
: complexity.

: Perhaps, to answer the question "why aren't they here yet?" one
: merely needs to go down to the local Department of Licensing ...

That sounds somewhat like the idea behind _The Wanderer_.

===================== ====================================
BLAINE GORDON MANYLUK email: bla...@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca
EDMONTON, AB

Chris Lawson

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Oct 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/4/96
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> Big brains seem mostly to be an advantage in intra-human conflicts, not in
> conflict with the environment. So we can't afford to give them up -- it's
> like a nuclear arms race. However, if the last evolutionary step had left
us
> with average IQs of, say 70, instead of 100, this would still have been
enough
> to leave us top 'dog' in our natural environment, but with little chance of
> gaining star travel technology.

I hate to be picky, but the definition of 100 IQ is the mean score of
the population (but I know what you mean). The main reason I bring
this up is as an excuse to mention a great anecdote...

One of the earliest IQ tests was the Stanford-Binet. As the name suggests,
it was partly developed at Stanford, where the basic testing was done.
Now Stanford is a university town, so the general population was pretty
smart and well-educated and experienced in sitting tests.

When the Stanford-Binet test was first used in the US Army, the average
GI was being compared to a biased sample. Of course the average IQ of the
army subjects came in at less than 100. This lead to shock reports in
many newspapers. One carried the wonderful headline: "More than half
of all Americans have below average intelligence".


> :A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.
>
> Actually, I have little problem with SF authors who make their science seem
> magical. It's those who offer explanations who usually manage to get their
> books hurled against the wall.

Bad explanations, I hope you mean :-)

> Cheers,
> Geoff

Damien Broderick

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Oct 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/5/96
to

Chris Lawson wrote:

> I hate to be picky, but the definition of 100 IQ is the mean score of

> the population [snip]


> When the Stanford-Binet test was first used in the US Army, the average
> GI was being compared to a biased sample. Of course the average IQ of the
> army subjects came in at less than 100. This lead to shock reports in
> many newspapers. One carried the wonderful headline: "More than half
> of all Americans have below average intelligence".

This is not *all* that ridiculous, Chris. You're blurring `mean'
and `modal'. Consider: 90 percent of Americans (in a room, say) have an IQ
of 100, while 10 percent score 130. More than half are thereby `below
average'. In reality, IQ is bimodal, IIRC, with bulges at both ends. But
since IQ can be impaired by developmental defects, which don't often have
synergistic good fairy influences, we'd expect *more* people to be `stupid'
than `bright', which is another but related point...

Damien (whose developmental defects were on other scales, thank heavens)

Chris Becke

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Oct 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/5/96
to

Some people wrote:

> > :A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.
> >
> > Actually, I have little problem with SF authors who make their science seem
> > magical. It's those who offer explanations who usually manage to get their
> > books hurled against the wall.

Ah! I thought I was the only one who hurled bad SF against a wall!



> Bad explanations, I hope you mean :-)

Chris.
--
<mailto:chr...@vironix.co.za> | Checkout NetFerret, a fast and easy Web
<http://www.vironix.co.za/chrisb> | search tool that searches multiple engines
Vironix Software Laboratories | <http://www.vironix.com/netferret>


Kai Henningsen

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Oct 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/5/96
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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote on 26.09.96 in <26SEP96....@cc5.crl.aecl.ca>:

> Chris Becke wrote:
> >
> > ...
> > Now, it doesn't matter if only one race ever made it. Given the nature of
> > exponential growth - a behavior we expect from at least one of the races
> > that "made it"... and the sheer timescale over which they have had the
> > chance to spread, this one race should be everywhere.
>
> Growth wouldn't be exponential. It would occur on the edges of a sphere
> until the Galactic edge was hit, then occur along the edge of a circle.
> Without exponentiation, you can't just handwave about the time-period, but
> have to get serious about figuring out a likely growth rate before you can
> come to the Fermi Paradox.

Actually, that doesn't make a difference.

Estimate the galaxy diameter (for BOTE purposes) at 100000 light years.
Estimate travel speed at 1% c. That's 3000 km/s, hardly a real problem.
Now you can travel across the galaxy in 10 million years.

Factor in travel stops of 1000 years every 100 ly. Makes for another
million years, not even a significant difference.

It's actually *hard* to blow this up into evolutionary significant times.

It seems a pretty reasonable assumption that you can easily get from any
place in the galaxy to any other in less than 1e9 years, if you expand at
all.

> I especially like the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret the
> Fermi paradox. Does it mean that we are alone in the Universe? [1] Or that
> interstellar travel is always so expensive that it provides the
> insurmountable bottleneck which prevents the Universe from being overrun?
> [2] Or that cosmic disasters happen often enough that intelligent life can
> never spread significantly off its own planet? [3] Or what?

You forgot [4] after "Or what". Actually, it's my preferred answer :-)

> [1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really need. Do
> we really have be smart enough to design fusion power plants [I'm sure
> we'll get this problem solved eventually] in order to protect our
> children from wolves at night? What if the almost inevitable progress

Look out. It's easy to confuse these two types of question:

1. Do parrots need to be smart enough to imitate human speech?

2. Do parrots need to be able to imitate human speech?

The answers might well be 1:yes, 2:no. And the same goes for fusion
reactors.

> of evolution is merely to produce a species smart enough to outthink
> the local equivalent of a wolf and, once that evolutionary niche is
> filled, no smarter. Our excess intelligence could be a once-in-a
> Universe freak, cosmic ray induced mutation. Nobody ever puts things
> like that into the Fermi equation.

My hypothesis is that once you are intelligent enough to solve nearly all
your problems by outthinking the rest of the world, you are automatically
smart enough to design fusion reactors - actually, designing fusion
reactors may well turn out to be simpler than some of the problems you
originally needed your intelligence for!

Remember how long it took us to discover fire, or the wheel, or (for an
equally important, but more abstract thing) democracy. We haven't tried
nearly that long at the fusion reactor problem, and we have promising
first results already.

> [2] My personal favourite, when I'm feeling depressed about the space
> program, which is quite often since they gave up going to the moon.


> The energy requirements for accelerating a single mega-tonne space
> ship to 0.9c (and back down to zero again) are approximately (scribble
> scribble) the equivalent of the output of 20 large nuclear power
> stations over a period of 300 years. We couldn't afford it now, even

> if we knew it would be a goldmine. Will we be better able to afford
> it as our population doubles again and most resources are diverted to
> keeping everybody fed? For a one-way, no-return venture? Anyway,


> I've never seen a remotely possible design for an interstellar craft
> with reasonable travel times. Humans are inventive ... the reason we
> haven't come up with one could be that there simply isn't one.

Actually, IMHO, we *have* come up with quite a lot of very reasonable
designs.

[4] For example, it *may* just be that we are either the first to make it,
or at least reasonably early that nobody else has yet managed to make it.
We might be a fluke that way. (It's the same sort of fluke that makes us
the first industrialized species on this planet - not necessarily the
last.)

Kai
--
Internet: k...@khms.westfalen.de
Bang: major_backbone!khms.westfalen.de!kai
http://www.westfalen.de/private/khms/

Londo Mollari

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Oct 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/5/96
to

Chris Lawson <claw@LOCALNAME> wrote about a classic case of bad science:

[snip]
> When the Stanford-Binet test was first used in the US Army, the average
> GI was being compared to a biased sample. Of course the average IQ of the
> army subjects came in at less than 100. This lead to shock reports in
> many newspapers. One carried the wonderful headline: "More than half
> of all Americans have below average intelligence".

[snip]

Actually it is very much possible that more than half of Americans have
below average "intelligence." The average is not necessarily the same
as the median. To use an extreme example lets consider the average
wealth of H. Ross Perot's neighborhood. In likelyhood only one
person in the neighborhood has above average wealth for the neighborhood
and everyone else has below average wealth. Now if more than half
of Americans have below median intelligence, then we have a problem....

And of course if you have a crappy test, it does not help either.
For those who do not know this test was given to those who entered
the American Army in World War I.

That test was a load of crap even ignoring that it was biased sample.
A lot of the army draftees taking that test barely understood
English and were expected to take the test as if they did.
It is sort of like calling someone an idiot for not understanding
the Japanese instructions if he does not know Japanese.
In addition, the text asked some fairly culturally biased questions.
At least some of the questions depended on knowledge of certain
trademarks -- which certainly hurt anyone not exposed to advertisements
for brand whatever and in those days someone living an extremely rural
environment probably would not be exposed to them.

But the text did produce some interesting results when more competent
researchers looked at the data in the following decades. Someone noted
that blacks who lived in the North came out brighter than whites who
lived in the South. An good piece of ammo for those helped destroy
the academic "basis" for racism.

Bruce Baugh

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Oct 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/5/96
to

In article <52rlaj$o...@bubba.NMSU.Edu>, wba...@nmsu.edu (William Baird) wrote:

>Possibly, tho less likely. Would we be able to detect a civilization
>that was here? Even for a million years?

Depends on the nature of the civilization; this comes up in the context
of hypothetical sentient dinosaurs, too.

If they dig mines, we'd find either holes or oddly regular places where
layers mix unnaturally. If they build with durable construction
materials, traces will remain - even if they did this a long, long time
ago, there'd be a thin layer with all sorts of unnatural materials in
it. There are places like the Laurentian Shield which have been
essentially undisturbed for a gigayear or more; visitors who did
anything on places like those would leave traces.

If, on the other hand, they did everything with bioengineering timed to
break down, then we might well not find any traces.

--
Bruce Baugh <*> br...@kenosis.com <*> http://www.kenosis.com/bruce
See my Web pages for...
Daedalus Entertainment, makers of Feng Shui and Shadowfist
Christlib, the mailing list of Christian & libertarian ideas
New sf by S.M. Stirling and George Alec Effing er
Unsolicited commercial e-mail will be proofread at $50/hr, min $100

Peter Kwangjun Suk

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Oct 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/6/96
to

In article <6IGXk...@khms.westfalen.de>, k...@khms.westfalen.de (Kai
Henningsen) wrote:

> > [1] Human beings seem to have far more brain than they really need. Do
> > we really have be smart enough to design fusion power plants [I'm sure
> > we'll get this problem solved eventually] in order to protect our
> > children from wolves at night? What if the almost inevitable progress

> > of evolution is merely to produce a species smart enough to outthink
> > the local equivalent of a wolf and, once that evolutionary niche is
> > filled, no smarter. Our excess intelligence could be a once-in-a
> > Universe freak, cosmic ray induced mutation. Nobody ever puts things
> > like that into the Fermi equation.

Our excess intelligence is likely due to an evolutionary arms within our
own species. Not only do we have to compete with wolves, but we also have
to compete with other humans. This fuels an evolutionary arms race of
intelligence. Just look at the behavior of fellow primates. Some monkeys
will deceive each other by faking distress calls so that they can get
food. Some chimpanzees have been observed using garbage can lids to make
noise to scare off competitors. Think about how complex social
interaction is. Once you get to the point of having the rudiments of
language, intra-species competition can get very complex.

> My hypothesis is that once you are intelligent enough to solve nearly all
> your problems by outthinking the rest of the world, you are automatically
> smart enough to design fusion reactors - actually, designing fusion
> reactors may well turn out to be simpler than some of the problems you
> originally needed your intelligence for!

Right on!

--
There's neither heaven nor hell
Save that we grant ourselves.
There's neither fairness nor justice
Save what we grant each other.

Peter Kwangjun Suk <s...@pobox.com>
Musician, Computer Science Graduate Student
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Peter Kwangjun Suk

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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In article <536fnv$3k4...@mighty-jack.superspies.tpc>, br...@kenosis.com
(Bruce Baugh) wrote:

> In article <52rlaj$o...@bubba.NMSU.Edu>, wba...@nmsu.edu (William Baird) wrote:
>
> >Possibly, tho less likely. Would we be able to detect a civilization
> >that was here? Even for a million years?

Why would a starfaring civilization bother to establish itself on the
surface of a planet? Access to materials would be much more convenient in
orbit. Perhaps some would go down to do sightseeing or science, but
otherwise, why bother? Once you've solved the social and technical
problems with interstellar travel, you've likely eliminated the need for
planets.

--PKS

edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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Answer to the Fermi paradox. The first race to colonize the Galaxy is
xenophobic and stamps out emergent civilizations as they appear. There's
no trace of them on Earth, because they prefer Jupiter. They'll get around
to us when their current millenium of fasting and praying ends early next
century.

Answer to the Fermi paradox. The Casimir quantum-FTL drive wake is horribly
annoying to the horrible *things* which swarm in interstellar space. They
respond by converging from all directions and eating the planet.

Answer to the Fermi paradox. Technological civilizations are annoying
parasites on Gaian ecosystems. The universe is full of planets exterminating
local infestations of pests. Any civilization which survives such treatment
does so by becoming a purely space-based civilization which never goes near
terrestrial-type planets.

Geoff

Jim.Francis

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Oct 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/7/96
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edwa...@cc5.crl.aecl.ca wrote:
>
> Many here are impatient with Fermi Paradox discussions on this newsgroup, but
> I love them. It's the most interesting topic in sf. So I'm starting a new
> thread.

>
> I especially like the fact that nobody really knows how to interpret the
> Fermi paradox. Does it mean that we are alone in the Universe? [1] Or that
> interstellar travel is always so expensive that it provides the insurmountable
> bottleneck which prevents the Universe from being overrun? [2] Or that cosmic
> disasters happen often enough that intelligent life can never spread
> significantly off its own planet? [3] Or what?

> Cheers,
> Geoff

If I had to guess (and I am), I would say that we do not see alien
civilizations knocking down our doors [1] because I think interstellar
travel will remain very, very difficult, and [3] because while life may
be abundant in the galaxy, civilizations with the will and means to
expand may be quite rare.

Here are my arguments:
1: Intelligent life may not have had many billions of years to take over
the galaxy. Life as we know it requires planets rich with heavy
elements, which are synthesized the cores of early-generation stars. It
is reasonable to suggest that the planets (if there were any) of first
or even second-generation stars were too poor in elements heavier that
Helium to support much life. If this is true, then the amount of time
life has had to arise could be measured not in tens of billions of
years, but in billions of years. Also, life on our planet took a very
long time to evolve past a very primitive phase -- for most of the 3+
billion year history of life on Earth, there was nothing more
sophisticated than a microbe. If this pace is typical of the evolution,
then there may not have been any complex life forms (intelligent or
otherwise) in the galaxy much more than 500 million years ago.

2: People often assume that the existence of extraterrestrial life
equates to the existence of extraterrestrial civilization, which is not
necessarily so. Though life may well be common in the galaxy (as I think
likely), civilization-building species may well be very rare. Again, we
have only our own world as an example, but... sophisticated species
existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years that could have
produced civilizations such as ours, but did not. Also, there are a
number of reasonably intelligent, even tool-using species here that have
existed for many millions of years without any pechant for civilization.
Our own species was around for a very long time before they quite
recently began building what we would call a civilization. I don't mean
to suggest that human civilization is unique or the only one of its
kind, but I think it quite possible that intelligence and civilization
are not the inevitable "end-products" of evolution that everyone seems
to think they are (evolution, after all, is not a straight path, but a
branching, almost Brownian tree...). (However, it must be noted that
once evolved, a civilized species is extremely resistant to extinction
(except, perhaps, at the hands of another (or the same) civilized
species); therefore, the few races that did appear would probably still
be around in some form or other, so I think mass-extinction is an
unlikely explanation of the Fermi paradox). And, at the risk of sounding
smug, there is the remote possibility that we are one of the first
technological races to emerge in this galaxy (somebody, after all, had
to be first).

The upshot of points 1 and 2 are that alien civilizations may be quite
rare, or at least not terribly ancient (which also suggests why SETI
hasn't picked anything up). Still, why haven't they traveled here?

3. What we know about physics suggest that space is big and hard to
cross, no matter what your technology level. Barring the discovery of a
mythical FTL technology, aliens are going to expand slowly, if at all.
Establishing colonies means sending out many sub-light probes to find
suitable targets, and then moving enough material to start a new world
over tens of light-years. If possible at all, this is going to be a
damned expensive (20-50% GNP?), time-consuming (100+ years?) venture
that can show little short-term or even long-term benefit for the race.
It's unlikely that enough individuals can be moved often enough to
relieve population pressure, and the individuals who will have to pay
for this venture may not even survive to see it completed. While having
more than one planet is an advantage for the overall survival of the
race, this alone may not be enough to sell the venture. Only the most
wealthy and adventurous civilizations will make it to the stars. Even
those that do will find it slow going... many decades to set up a new
colony, and then centuries before that colony itself will be able to
produce another colony. Even a million-year-old civilization with a
perchant for exploration would have done very well to have established a
few thousand colonies... a pitiful fraction of our billion-star galaxy.
Many more civilizations may never bother. Even assuming thousands of
technological, starfaring races with a good head start, the odds we are
near one of them are remote.

Are we alone in the universe? I doubt it. Will we ever meet our
neighbors? We may have a long wait.


-Jim Francis

Beth and Richard Treitel

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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To my surprise and delight, Damien Broderick
<dam...@ariel.its.unimelb.edu.au> wrote:

>In reality, IQ is bimodal, IIRC, with bulges at both ends.

Unless you're referring to my head and my feet, no. In the US (where
I've seen the figures) its distribution is roughly Gaussian, with
slight excesses at the tails (meaning that the number of people at 150
*is* less than the number at 140, just not as low as would be
predicted by the error function).

- Richard
------
What is (and isn't) ScF? ==> http://web.wco.com/~treitel/sf.html

A sufficiently incompetent ScF author is indistinguishable from magic.

Damien Broderick

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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Richard Treitel wrote of my too-hasty post:

> >In reality, IQ is bimodal, IIRC, with bulges at both ends.
>
> Unless you're referring to my head and my feet, no. In the US (where
> I've seen the figures) its distribution is roughly Gaussian, with
> slight excesses at the tails

I expressed myself clumsily, as usual. Of course IQ is a `bell-shaped
curve', but it was those lumps at the ends I meant to gesture at, with the
bigger of the two at the low end.

Luckily, this doesn't alter the basic point, which is that a population
*might* have an excess of people with less than the `average' IQ.

Chow, Damien

Chris Becke

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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Jim.Francis <Franc...@ccv.com> wrote:
> If I had to guess (and I am), I would say that we do not see alien
> civilizations knocking down our doors [1] because I think interstellar
> travel will remain very, very difficult, and [3] because while life may
> be abundant in the galaxy, civilizations with the will and means to
> expand may be quite rare.

The Fermi paradox is an observation based upon the results of the Drake
equation. The drake equation is used to estimate the number of alien
civilizations in the universe or galaxy we expect to find at any one time.
Therefore we can drop your points [2] and [3] as irrelevant in a discussion on
the Fermi Paradox. If you wish to argue about the Drake equation however...
that is a seperate (albeit connected) issue.

Your argumant also centers a lot around "most" of the alien civilizations
rejecting expansion as "expensive". We cannot make the mistake of assuming ALL
aliens are going to be as shortsighted as humans. Do you thing that argument
holds if humans "fixed" their genes to make them (nearly) immortal? Whats a
couple of hundred years travelling to another star system anyway?

Also note that the most efficient way to expand your civilization would seem to
involve the sending out of explorer robots to scout out new systems. These
robots would (should) be von Newman machines - capable of making copies of
themselves.

And, all it takes is just ONE alien civilization to ?infest? the universe. And
the drake equation would indicate that enough civilizations should exist / have
existed that there is a statisticlly high probablity that this one race has
existed. Several times!

And, it is a lot easier to justify the conquest of the entire galaxy than you
may think - all it takes is the paranoia to realise that somewhere out there
might be another race with similar paranoid leanings - and we have to expand,
and find them, and kill them first! - and sitting on this planet arguing over
how expensive it is to expand just makes us helpless bait to the first race
that decides to limit the competition be lobbing a small black hole this way...

Erik Max Francis

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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Chris Becke writes:

> The Fermi paradox is an observation based upon the results of the Drake
> equation. The drake equation is used to estimate the number of alien
> civilizations in the universe or galaxy we expect to find at any one time.

Actually, it doesn't even entirely involve that. All it involves is a
calculation to see how long it would take one civilization to spread across the
entire Galaxy at some reasonable colonization speed. These estimates can range
from 10-100 My, which is much, much less than the total lifetime of the Galaxy
(12 Gy).

All it takes is _one_ other civilization to start colonizing, and then you have
your Fermi paradox. It doesn't matter whether alien civilizations are common or
uncommon.

> Your argumant also centers a lot around "most" of the alien civilizations
> rejecting expansion as "expensive". We cannot make the mistake of assuming ALL
> aliens are going to be as shortsighted as humans. Do you thing that argument
> holds if humans "fixed" their genes to make them (nearly) immortal? Whats a
> couple of hundred years travelling to another star system anyway?

Yes; uniformitarian arguments don't work with the Fermi paradox, because all it
takes is _one_.

> And
> the drake equation would indicate that enough civilizations should exist/have
> existed that there is a statisticlly high probablity that this one race has
> existed. Several times!

The Drake equation makes very poor evidence, as all but one term (namely, the
rate of star formation in our Galaxy) are entirely guesswork -- there is no
empirical data on any of the other terms.

The Fermi paradox merely involves the anlysis of how long it takes a
civilization to colonize the Galaxy; it really doesn't have much to do with how
common those civilizations are, as all it takes is one. (That is, all it needs
is a frequency of civilizations high enough that the odds that _at least one_
colonial civilization arises, at some point more than 100 My ago or so.)

--
Erik Max Francis | m...@alcyone.com
Alcyone Systems | http://www.alcyone.com/max/
San Jose, California | 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W
&tSftDotIotE | R^4: the 4th R is respect

Erik Max Francis

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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Charlie Stross wrote:

> Ah, the Greg Bear scenario. Not much fun, eh? But consider this: going
> forth and exploring the galaxy _makes_ you a target. A nice big target
> that is more likely to be found by accident! The real solution is to not
> look like an intelligent civilization; so that when the conquering
> berserkers enter your solar system they don't see anything worth attacking.
>
> Thoughts ...?

I've posted about this earlier.

The "berserker" scenario (note they're not necessarily Saberhagen Berserkers;
we're just talking about a paranoid species -- or their tools -- that
destroys anything it comes across) is unfortunately a hopeless one.

Consider: For it to be a reasonable explanation of the Fermi paradox, the
attack has to be prompt and absolutely devastating, such that the probability
of survival of a forthcoming species is quite small.

In fact, we've been broadcasting the fact that we are a technological
civilization for quite some time; it's called radio and TV. In essence the
genie is out of the lamp; if someone was listening there is no way we can
convince them that we are not here. (If we played dead, they'd still have to
come get us -- remember, for it to be a solution to the Fermi paradox it's
got to be thorough.) And the attack has to be absolutely devastating -- as
in, complete gravitational destruction of the Earth, raising the entire
surface of the planet to 10 000 K, something of that nature.

What you end up with is a strange, oppressive Galaxy, where the only
non-berserker forms are developing lifeforms whose days are numbers, or those
few refugees that escaped their homeworlds before their destruction, hiding
from the berserkers who will take every opportunity to kill them once they
are discovered.

Not a very pleasant place to live.

And as a final note, remember what this means: They are on their way, and
there is nothing we can do to stop them.

Charlie Stross

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Oct 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/8/96
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"Chris Becke"<chr...@vironix.co.za> wrote
(in article <01bbb509$fbd82440$d265...@shalom.vironix.co.za>):

>Jim.Francis <Franc...@ccv.com> wrote:
>> If I had to guess (and I am), I would say that we do not see alien
>> civilizations knocking down our doors [1] because I think interstellar
>> travel will remain very, very difficult, and [3] because while life may
>> be abundant in the galaxy, civilizations with the will and means to
>> expand may be quite rare.
>
>The Fermi paradox is an observation based upon the results of the Drake
>equation. The drake equation is used to estimate the number of alien
>civilizations in the universe or galaxy we expect to find at any one time.

Have a cigar; you hit the nail on the head.

My preferred solutions to the Fermi paradox are twofold:

a) Tipler is right -- we're the first (hence the lack of von Neumann
probes clogging up the asteroid belt)

or ...

b) The Toolmaker Koan solution: because intelligent life is effectively
Lamarckian in the way it passes on acquired characteristics, it evolves
technological and ideological extensions much faster than pre-intelligent
life forms: with the result that the average life span of a technological,
space-faring civilization is measured in years or decades, rather than
millenia, before they blow themselves to pieces.

Note that I don't think we've opened the real Pandora's box yet -- even
though we've had the threat of nuclear devestation for a few decades,
it is as nothing compared to the mess that we'll be able to make with
the technologies of the next century.

>Also note that the most efficient way to expand your civilization would seem to
>involve the sending out of explorer robots to scout out new systems. These
>robots would (should) be von Newman machines - capable of making copies of
>themselves.

Yup. But what are the prerequisites for a von Neumann probe? Answer: a
basic self-reproducing robotic technology, plus interstellar rocketry.
If the basic self-replication technology is itself liable to result in
catastrophic destruction (Drexler's Grey Goop hypothesis) then any
civilization that goes down the von Neumann probe path is liable to
self-destruct before it matures enough to launch one.

>And, it is a lot easier to justify the conquest of the entire galaxy than you
>may think - all it takes is the paranoia to realise that somewhere out there
>might be another race with similar paranoid leanings - and we have to expand,
>and find them, and kill them first! - and sitting on this planet arguing over
>how expensive it is to expand just makes us helpless bait to the first race
>that decides to limit the competition be lobbing a small black hole this way...

Ah, the Greg Bear scenario. Not much fun, eh? But consider this: going


forth and exploring the galaxy _makes_ you a target. A nice big target
that is more likely to be found by accident! The real solution is to not
look like an intelligent civilization; so that when the conquering
berserkers enter your solar system they don't see anything worth attacking.

Thoughts ...?

--
Charlie Stross cha...@antipope.demon.co.uk http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~charlie/
If you don't shoot the fish in your barrel, your barrel will soon be
full of fish. -- Tim Mefford