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Aww, no alien empires yet
I used to think about the Fermi paradox pretty often, i came up with several theories.

I think that life is common in the universe but is microscopic. When life does evolve into complex possible intelligent organisms, it is in places that are jail like. Imagine an intelligent species developing a hi tech civ in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf or the submerged oceans of an icy moon or a supercritical ocean on hi-temp waterworld.

I made a mental list of all the barriers that can prevent the rise of spacefaring civilization.
(04-16-2015, 09:06 AM)Fsci123 Wrote: When life does evolve into complex possible intelligent organisms, it is in places that are jail like. Imagine an intelligent species developing a hi tech civ in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf or the submerged oceans of an icy moon or a supercritical ocean on hi-temp waterworld.
Even on a "technology friendly" planet like Earth, some of the more complex lifeforms are creatures with minimal or no manipulative limbs.

It certainly could be that evolution often produces near-sophont minds, but the evolutionary pressures that drive minds geared toward "complex" technology (e.g., tools with multiple parts, each requiring different skills to manufacture) are rare.

One hypothesis I heard was that the final evolutionary leap to brains able to develop increasingly complex technology on a regular basis occurred ~80k B.C.E. when genetic data suggests the human population was very low. Environmental changes, perhaps due to volcanic eruptions, meant that surviving humans were under intense pressure to develop more complex technologies such as stockpiling water canteens made from ostrich eggs, animal bladders, etc. to permit hunting and / or gathering parties to travel in desert and (later) salt water environments.
(04-16-2015, 01:15 AM)iancampbell Wrote: Your point about birth control and the like is well taken, but we can't know that it applies to all lifeforms. For an example where it doesn't apply because nobody has discovered effective birth control without undesirable side effects, see the Moties.

Another example of a sapient lifeform that wouldn't have the attitudes of humans might be one that produces huge numbers of offspring without investing much in them, and accepts enormous levels of infant mortality - much as Earth organisms such as amphibians and fish do. Sapient frogs wouldn't think like us in this respect - or many other respects, for that matter.

Possibly. But would any such lifeform survive long enough to produce an interplanetary civilization, let alone an interstellar one or a one capable of building a dyson sphere or equivalent? Personally, I never found the Moties particularly convincing, although I did enjoy the story itself. Modern genetic engineering makes them even iffier - why not engineer themselves to not need sex to survive? In many ways, I've always considered the Moties to have more to do with a commentary on the human condition and possibly Malthusian concerns of the day.

Coming at this from another direction, most thinking on advanced civs seems to assume that a civilization will build a dyson sphere (an idea from the 60s) and then just...stop. But would that actually be the case? What do they do with the next few thousand (or million) years? For that matter, since dyson's were conceived other options have been proposed. Both Matrioshka Brains and Criswell Structures would be rather harder to detect than Dyson Sphere's IIRC. And they might turn out to be nothing like the ultimate forms that advanced civs might end up taking.

Our searches keep turning up huge planets in extreme proximity to their stars - Jupiter brains built to suck up lots of solar energy?

IIRC Dyson suggested that sphere's might be built in a few thousand years or so. That's almost nothing compared to a million years or so. So what might a civilization that is a million years more advanced than our own look like?

The Undetectability Conjecture posits that "all advanced enough civilizations camouflage their planets for security reasons, so that no signal of civilization can be detected by external observers, who would only obtain distorted data for disuasion purposes." This is not to camouflage them from low-tech civilizations like ours, but to conceal themselves from other advanced civilizations that might pose an existential threat.

Even if all advanced civilizations did not pursue this course of action, those that did not might be viewed nervously by those that did, perhaps nervously enough to prompt the occasional pre-emptive strike against such incautious upstarts. Natural selection then works to ensure successful civilizations are those that do not advertise their presence to the Universe at large.

Another thing to consider is Schroeder's corollary to Clarke's Law, namely that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature." In other words, the works of advanced civilizations may be in evidence all around us, yet we are unable to distinguish those works from natural objects and/or processes (much as an ant crawling across a roadway is unable to determine the surface he/she is traveling on was not created naturally, but was instead created by a technologically more advanced species).

These two conjectures, if taken together, suggest that advanced civilizations, in their struggle to hide from their peers, may disguise the already natural-looking traces of their technologies to look even more like Nature. As natural objects and/or processes are much easier to invoke as explanations for various phenomena than the products of alien technology, it is not unexpected that the results of any search for advanced civilizations should come up empty.

"I'd much rather see you on my side, than scattered into... atoms." Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe
It's the crystal spheres. The races that break out of them get killed by comets unless they're as awesome as humans.
Mike Miller, Materials Engineer

"Everbody's always in favor of saving Hitler's brain, but when you put it in the body of a great white shark, oh, suddenly you've gone too far." -- Professor Farnsworth, Futurama
There are very few reasons aliens would hide their equipment. Is warfare possible? Yes...but the abundance of rescources in space would make warfare across large regions of interstellar space impractical.
A somewhat more positive version of the Undetectability Conjecture might be that, as civilizations become more advanced, their technology becomes ever more efficient. And since most of the ways suggested to detect xenosophonts rely on detecting their waste energy - it may be that they produce so little waste energy that we simply don't have the means to pick it up (yet).

Tight beam and efficiently encoded transmissions, highly advanced drive systems that focus the majority of their energy into thrust and minimize 'glare' in other directions, and habitats that either absorb energy to Matrioshka levels or beyond or use some other design that is is even more efficient. Etc.

Just some thoughts,

So, what do you think? Is it a good idea for humanity to indulge in "Active SETI" even though humanity hasn't resolved the Fermi Paradox yet? What are your personal opinions on this?

As about my own personal opinion: Since the possibility of "griefers" cannot be ruled out (yet), it may be better to "keep quiet". So I'm on the side of people like Stephen Hawking. It's interesting to note that Hawking compared the arrival of Artificial General Intelligence to the arrival of representatives of a highly advanced interstellar civilization:

Quote:If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, "We'll arrive in a few decades," would we just reply, "OK, call us when you get here – we'll leave the lights on"? Probably not – but this is more or less what is happening with AI.
"Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people." -- Edward Robert Harrison
We do leave the lights on- that is part of the problem.
A lot of people talk about the undetectability of our own civilisation - how our radio and TV signals would be undetectable at a light-year range and so on. They seem to forget that this assumes that they aliens are using detectors comparable to the ones we have already built. It is not unreasonable to assume that an advanced civilisation might have built detectors that are more sensitive by many orders of magnitude. If they can't detect our radio wavelength transmissions then they could detect the lights from our cities using sufficiently large optical telescopes. In short- in there is an advanced civilisation anywhere within a thousand light year range they could (eventually) detect us - we don't need to send out METI or active SETI messages.
I don't think we are that detectable. Besides our emissions have been declining ,because of more efficient communication equipment, during last two decades.
What I am worried about though is sending messages out. Up to this point were all such attempts pretty much meaningless. Short, low powered, poorly targeted transmissions, more symbolic than anything else but, if we target some specific place where we know large scale civilization is present...

That could end badly.

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