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Are we alone in the Universe?  Or, the Anti-Borg Equation…....
Posted: 31 October 2007 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve always ben a fan of science fiction, as well as science factual. That said, one of the key criticisms that I’ve always held for many of my favorite SciFi shows is that nearly every alien race ever depicted is highly unlikely given everything we know about evolution, and especially psychological evolution.

Human’s physiology, our emotional states, our communication styles, as well as our physical needs, emotional needs and social needs (as well as a ton of other things) makes us unique even in our own planet, but I think that any serious calculation of random similarities across the universe would have to conclude that the likelihood that we would have anything at all in common with an alien race is very remote.  Why?  Because they would have had to come down a different path, a very different path, a path that most likely would have taken approximately as long as our path has taken us.

So here’s a question, while there is little evidence of any advanced life outside our little planet, and as such, we can’t say what is out there, I think we now know enough about evolution to know what types of alien life are not out there.

I’m sure someone has calculated this before, but I’d never seen it and basically deduced it tonight, and found the answer so astonishing that I could not believe it.  And, granted, it very well may be because my math is off, but thank goodness for the internet because one quick post and I can get that reviewed by enough people.

So, here’s the question.

If there are approximately 10 billion (10^10) galaxies, each with approximately 10 billion solar systems each (10^10) that suggests that there are approximate 10^20 solar systems in the known Universe.  If an advanced civilization fully occupied a complete planet, and had the technology to inhabit other planets, and doubled in size every N years, how many times could they double before they occupied all planets in the universe.  So, assume an average of even 10 planets per system, and assume that all systems are inhabitable, and you get approximately an upper bound of 10^21 inhabitable planets in the universe.

Now for the fun.  log(10^21,base 2) = 69.76.  In other words, an advanced civilization that completely fills one planet, can double no more than 70 times, before they would occupy every conceivable planet, in every conceivable solar system, in every conceivable galaxy in the known universe, yes, in all 10 billion solar systems, in all 10 billion galaxies.  And if they doubled on average every N years, and kept that rate of growth, they would fill that space in (70*N years).

Humans, even under current health technology, are currently doubling every 38 years.  Slow that down to even once in every 100 years, and 70 cycles would only take 7,000 years.

At this point, I’d like to suggest that there is not an advanced civilization in the known universe, that has the ability to occupy planets outside their home planet, that is growing faster than a doubling rate of once every 100 years, and that has fully occupied its first planet more than 7,000 years ago.

Why? because any advanced civilization that’s doubling every 100 years, and had the space technology to do so, would have already had to occupy every planet in this solar system.

Knowing how short 7k years is in the time of Universe, and knowing that our solar system has yet to be overrun by alien life, and assuming that the math is even close to right, you then have to change one, or several of the assumptions.

1) Civilization with space technology?  But space travel really doesn’t seem all that impossible.  Sure, we’ve yet to fully figure it out, but how many years before we do 50?  100?  500? At some point I think we do.

2) Ability to occupy other planets?  Again, doesn’t seem all that difficult.  If you can live in space, then you can most likely live on other planets, and even if there are some you can’t that would seem to suggest a higher rate of expansion, or a time frame of less than 7k years.

3) A doubling rate of less than once every 100 years?  Ok, make it once every 1000 years, now you’re at 70x1000 years, or 70k years; still a very short period in universe time.

4) The lack of a need to occupy planets?  Ok, so maybe they can just hang out in giant systems build around stars?  Ok maybe?

5) Universe is larger than we think?  Ok, say its a billion times larger, that only adds about 27 cycles to the 70 cycles, and changes the estimated 7k years to 9.7k years, at 100 years per cycle.  Not sure we really slowed anything down here.


>>The human race is quickly coming upon the full saturation of our home planet, and at the very moment that we are, we are also gearing up for space travel.

As we do, I’d like to suggest that no other similar life-form in the history of the universe, has done so more than 10k years ago, and if it didn’t happen the the previous billions of years, the likelihood that it happened in the last 10k years is so low, that I’d like to suggest that it has yet to happen anywhere in the universe.

Just to restate the basic thought;
The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years advanced civilization.  In all likelihood, we are the first, if not the only, such civilization in the universe.

-baloo

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Posted: 31 October 2007 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You’ve asked a lot of questions and posited quite a few ideas, Baloo.  I’ll take a shot at a few of them, in no particular order.

1.  Startrek TNG had an episode that responded to the similarity of beings on different alien worlds -  a much earlier race that found the universe vacant of intelligent life seeded millions of worlds with their genetic core.  This led evolution on many of the worlds to move toward their physical makeup, including their brain structure, etc.  As such, social structures would vary but have some similarities, and similar limits.

2.  It’s quite likely that there is no such thing as wormholes, hyper-light speed drives, or any way to generate enough energy along with enough protection to allow ANY being to go from one solar system to another with compatible planets.  As such, it may be that even if there are thousands of sentient civilizations on those billions of worlds, none of them can ever connect with another, or even seed another world.

3.  The likelihood of species destroying disasters happening (asteroid collision, completely lethal virus, shift in solar energy output, pollution from civilization, etc.)is such that quite probably, no sensient species exists on any planet more than a few thousand years so your population increase calculations may be meaningless.

4.  The only planet that humans could even think of surviving on would be Mars, and the energy requirements to do so would be huge.  So we can forget about populating other planets in our solar system.

Occam

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Posted: 31 October 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s an interesting line of thought, Baloo, and one other people have considered as well. That said, there are a number of assumptions that might not hold true. Just to take one example, many people do believe that the world’s human birth rate is declining, and that we are likely to top out around (?) ten billion. This is because birth rate declines as countries become more developed and women become more educated. Obviously, if humans can achieve population stability, so too could other alien races.

There are further problems with interstellar travel. While people do talk airily about “warp drive” or even travel near the speed of light, it may simply be unfeasible to create spaceships that travel very fast at all. Travel near the speed of light may simply take up too much fuel.

Or civilizations may regularly destroy themselves when they get to a certain high level of development. Etc.

I am naturally skeptical of any theory that is “anti-Copernican” to the extent that it puts us in a historically or cosmically priveledged position. Such a theory is unlikely to be true.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Doug, I wonder if dilithium crystals would be cheaper.  LOL  Just kidding.  They don’t sound very cheap and the use of the metal they used in TNG for ships, is out of the question- at least for now.  As Picard said in “First Contact” the monetary system of the future is different.  Looking at the monetary system as it is now, we may have to scrap the current system.  Most of Europe has pretty much made the transfer to the Euro, in an effort to make trade between countries easier and currently the Euro is stronger than the dollar.  Even so, this planet is getting small in the terms of trade and it just maybe that we may have to go to a world monetary system.

That said, if we populated Mars, a planetary monetary system might not be a bad idea for Earth.  Mars would take time to populate because it would be a new frontier and colonists would be forming their own government and alike.  So, with one monetary system on Earth, that would leave us two monetary systems at least and if we colonized the moon, that would be at least three.

Now the problem is travel between the two, which at first would be costly, esp transporting food and alike.  However, there is a couple guys in Europe (I think) who believe they broke the speed of light.  If they did, it’s the first successful test, but we aren’t there yet.  At least not there to use it safely if at all.  Regardless, travel would be very difficult as well as costly.

I also think it will be a while before we meet people from other planets in other solar systems.  1.  we aren’t civilized enough to meet them (I know, but as a species, we aren’t ready)  2.  I not so sure they are anymore advanced than we are, so these cute little eggheads we see on TV (BTW, would someone feed them a decent meal, if they ever meet them.  They look a little thin.) maybe just a myth to get people excited.  Space travel for people on other planets maybe just a dream as it is for us.  They maybe struggling with costs just as we are.  If they did make it, I’m afraid calculating supplies might not be very easy, in which case, if they made it here, they’d need food and water desperately.  Those egg-heads (I mean that nicely, because I don’t know the name of their species), if they exist, might not be that thin naturally.  They could very well be dehydrated and malnurished, which would be one of the risks of space travel.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Occam - 31 October 2007 02:42 AM

You’ve asked a lot of questions and posited quite a few ideas, Baloo.  I’ll take a shot at a few of them, in no particular order.

1.  Startrek TNG had an episode that responded to the similarity of beings on different alien worlds -  a much earlier race that found the universe vacant of intelligent life seeded millions of worlds with their genetic core.  This led evolution on many of the worlds to move toward their physical makeup, including their brain structure, etc.  As such, social structures would vary but have some similarities, and similar limits.

2.  It’s quite likely that there is no such thing as wormholes, hyper-light speed drives, or any way to generate enough energy along with enough protection to allow ANY being to go from one solar system to another with compatible planets.  As such, it may be that even if there are thousands of sentient civilizations on those billions of worlds, none of them can ever connect with another, or even seed another world.

3.  The likelihood of species destroying disasters happening (asteroid collision, completely lethal virus, shift in solar energy output, pollution from civilization, etc.)is such that quite probably, no sensient species exists on any planet more than a few thousand years so your population increase calculations may be meaningless.

4.  The only planet that humans could even think of surviving on would be Mars, and the energy requirements to do so would be huge.  So we can forget about populating other planets in our solar system.

Occam


Hi Occam,

Re 1: yes, this is the very type of science fiction that I’m talking about.  As it completely ignores everything we know about evolution, and everything we know about the blind watchmaker.  If we believe in the blind watchmaker, then the probability that 2 blind watchmakers in two very different environments, make anything closely similar is so improbable that I would sooner believe in intelligent design before I could believe in the ST TNG theory that hundreds of blind watchmakers all over the Universe would create senescent beings that all had two legs, two arms, two eyes close together, with two ears on the outside, that had similar reproductive organs, etc, etc, etc.  A Vulcan/Human cross breed is so incompatible with the theory of the blind watchmaker, that to put such a thought forward would be to deny everything we know about our own history.

Re 2: Ok, yes, doing the math of the time to travel, I guess its very possible that travel time becomes a determining factor in how much space a civilization could occupy.  And, yes, I agree this travel time pretty much debunks, even further if that were possible, the seeding theory.

Re 3: I’ve heard this before, but assuming space tourism, space hotels, etc.  I find it somewhat unlikely that you could have a cosmic event that completely wiped out an advanced civilization.  Once you reach the space travel level, I think think the probability of continuous survival goes up pretty high.

Re 4: Yeah, which is why I wonder if its not more likely that the space hotels, or even death-star sized man-made environments aren’t a more likely destination for future generations.

-baloo

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Posted: 31 October 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 31 October 2007 07:42 AM

It’s an interesting line of thought, Baloo, and one other people have considered as well. That said, there are a number of assumptions that might not hold true. Just to take one example, many people do believe that the world’s human birth rate is declining, and that we are likely to top out around (?) ten billion. This is because birth rate declines as countries become more developed and women become more educated. Obviously, if humans can achieve population stability, so too could other alien races.

There are further problems with interstellar travel. While people do talk airily about “warp drive” or even travel near the speed of light, it may simply be unfeasible to create spaceships that travel very fast at all. Travel near the speed of light may simply take up too much fuel.

Or civilizations may regularly destroy themselves when they get to a certain high level of development. Etc.

I am naturally skeptical of any theory that is “anti-Copernican” to the extent that it puts us in a historically or cosmically priveledged position. Such a theory is unlikely to be true.

Hi Doug,

So Birthrates…. my wife also argued that they are in decline in many ‘more developed countries’.  The above math, and the implications thereof still seems baffling to me. 

For example, at the current rates, we’ll be at 10 billion in much less than 100 years.  In that same period of time, how far will we have extended the average lifespan?  Average age: 100 years old?  150 years old?  200 years old?  Lets say the average lifespan goes to 150 years.  And, in that time, you can produce only one replacing offspring. Which takes what like 20 years?  What happens to the rest of our lives?  What are we doing?  How slow will we have to slow evolution down to maintain a stable population?  When we go from an average lifespan of 150 years to 200 years, we’ll have to slow the birthrate even slower because more generations will be able to survive.  In fact, if a generation is 20 years, then with an average lifespan of 200 years and a max population of even 100 billion, each generation couldn’t be larger than 10 billion each.  If the max is 10 billion, than each generation could only be 1 billion people.  A number we have long passed.

I also can’t help thinking how this will change society.  Is the family unit still intact?  Does it need to be?  At a reproduction rate of one offspring per person per 200 year lifespan, do we even want couples producing 2 similar kids?

This also leads to a very interesting conclusion about anyone who believes ‘Family Values’ or that the family unit is the core unit of society.  While I know healthcare is a huge hot button topic these days. It seems to me that the above suggests that the largest bottleneck in maintaining the family as a core unit is our ‘space travel speed’  or perhaps our ability to ‘live outside our home planet’.  Certainly doubling the average lifespan doesn’t seem to help the family unit much.  If anything, it would necessitate a birthrate decrease in direct response to any extensions in lifespan.

What’s this suggest about any advanced civilizations that might exist outside our own?  Well in all likelihood, they are not a ‘married 10+ years with 2.5 kids’ type of society.

-baloo

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Posted: 31 October 2007 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

5) Universe is larger than we think?  Ok, say its a billion times larger, that only adds about 27 cycles to the 70 cycles, and changes the estimated 7k years to 9.7k years, at 100 years per cycle.  Not sure we really slowed anything down here.

I think a common misunderstanding about the universe is not grasping the hugeness off it.  Unfortunately we are at the mercy of our senses.  There is a limit to the visible Universe about 46.5 billion years in all directions.  Also, it is theorized that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.  This is already happening faster than the speed of light.  I don’t know how that is possible, but that is what they talk about on the “astronomy cast” podcast (free), I highly recommend it.  It has something to do with stretching silly puddy, relativity and walking on escalators.  If this or something similar is true, then beating light speed is a significant hurdle and may not be possible.  If it isn’t possible, then you can’t make the theory that…

Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years advanced civilization.  In all likelihood, we are the first, if not the only, such civilization in the universe.

What is equally if not more likely is that the universe produces these civilizations all the time, but eventually they run into barriers like extinction well before their expansion is noticeable by our limited technology.  There are a plethora of celestial hurdles and doomsday events that stand in the way of consistent expansion on this scale.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, re. declining birth rates and its link to economic development, see for example HERE. The data is quite clear, e.g., HERE. (And it has declined markedly even in the past seven years!)

As for the future, increasing lifespans, etc., I don’t know how one can predict such things. Presumably we will be able to live longer, but that does not necessarily imply that we will be having more children while doing so. If increasing lifespan goes along with a non-replacement birthrate (at or below 2 children per couple), the world could end up with a stable population of ever-older people.

Since we are biological entities with biological drives, I don’t believe that the centrality of the family will ever go away. People’s cares and concerns will always be centered around family and close friends. But that doesn’t imply that the average family has to have more than two children, of course. Many more modern families in Europe, for example, do not go through standard marriage ceremonies and may have few or no kids. So I don’t see any necessary conflict between the notion of having a family and our ability to survive on the earth without overcrowding.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Baloo,
I think you’ve raised some interesting questions, and I copletely agree that our imagination is too limited in that we conceieve of alien life as entirely too much like familiar earth life much of the time. Still, I think there are a lot of assumptions and guesses involved in trying to make statements about the liklihood of life elsewhere, and I think the same limits to our imagination may make those statements just as unrealistic. What kind of life, what kind of civilization, what kind of technology, what kind of reproduction, etc is all so hard to imagine outside of what we are familiar with, I think it’s right up there with trying to prove God doesn’t exist—ultimately, we just have to live with not being able to really know.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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retrospy - 31 October 2007 10:35 AM
Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

5) Universe is larger than we think?  Ok, say its a billion times larger, that only adds about 27 cycles to the 70 cycles, and changes the estimated 7k years to 9.7k years, at 100 years per cycle.  Not sure we really slowed anything down here.

I think a common misunderstanding about the universe is not grasping the hugeness off it.  Unfortunately we are at the mercy of our senses.  There is a limit to the visible Universe about 46.5 billion years in all directions.  Also, it is theorized that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.  This is already happening faster than the speed of light.  I don’t know how that is possible, but that is what they talk about on the “astronomy cast” podcast (free), I highly recommend it.  It has something to do with stretching silly puddy, relativity and walking on escalators.  If this or something similar is true, then beating light speed is a significant hurdle and may not be possible.  If it isn’t possible, then you can’t make the theory that…

 

Hi Retrospy,

So I really need to catch up on my astronomy, and the podcast seems like a good way to do that.

Quick question, so is the assumption that the total mass of the universe is not increasing still true?  While its expanding its not increasing in mass yes?  If so, this suggests that the universe is getting less dense.  Again, if the calculation to populate the entire universe would only take 7k years, but the time to travel from one side to the next would take 93 billion years, and by the time you got there, what was there was another 93 billion light years away, it still seems like there is an upper bound as to how many planets any one civilization will ever have available to it. And that the overall limiting factor to this number, is how long it takes a civilization to reach very fast space travel.

retrospy - 31 October 2007 10:35 AM
Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years advanced civilization.  In all likelihood, we are the first, if not the only, such civilization in the universe.

What is equally if not more likely is that the universe produces these civilizations all the time, but eventually they run into barriers like extinction well before their expansion is noticeable by our limited technology.  There are a plethora of celestial hurdles and doomsday events that stand in the way of consistent expansion on this scale.

From the above posts, I think possibly the inaccurate portion of the following “The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years advanced civilization.  In all likelihood, we are the first, if not the only, such civilization in the universe.” is not the first statement, but the second, the thought that we may be able to sustain this rate of growth.  The fact that the estimated 10^21 hypothetical planets are not currently occupied still acts as a nice piece of evidence that “The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years advanced civilization” as this would be impossible without occupying them.

That said, I agree, there are a number of obstacles to any civilization doing so, but these look very similar in difficulty to every stage of any advancing evolutionary development.  99% luck, 1% natural selection.  wait, whats the difference between luck and natural selection?

That said, any issues with the statement ‘The Universe has yet to produce its first space traveling, planet settling, doubling in population every 100 years, for more that 10k years, advanced civilization.’?

-baloo

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Posted: 31 October 2007 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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dougsmith - 31 October 2007 10:44 AM

Well, re. declining birth rates and its link to economic development, see for example HERE. The data is quite clear, e.g., HERE. (And it has declined markedly even in the past seven years!)

As for the future, increasing lifespans, etc., I don’t know how one can predict such things. Presumably we will be able to live longer, but that does not necessarily imply that we will be having more children while doing so. If increasing lifespan goes along with a non-replacement birthrate (at or below 2 children per couple), the world could end up with a stable population of ever-older people.

Since we are biological entities with biological drives, I don’t believe that the centrality of the family will ever go away. People’s cares and concerns will always be centered around family and close friends. But that doesn’t imply that the average family has to have more than two children, of course. Many more modern families in Europe, for example, do not go through standard marriage ceremonies and may have few or no kids. So I don’t see any necessary conflict between the notion of having a family and our ability to survive on the earth without overcrowding.

Ah, ok.  So I guess if we define ‘family’ as ‘couple’ or some other similar group of adults, I think ‘family’ could continue.  That said, is it safe to say that the “(Average 2.5 kids per family)family” is a societal norm who’s days are numbered? Even if they do number 10k years?

-baloo

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Posted: 31 October 2007 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:20 PM

... is it safe to say that the “(Average 2.5 kids per family)family” is a societal norm who’s days are numbered?

Well, the data would suggest so. Birth rates in Canada, the US and Europe are already at or below two kids per couple. The only reason why the US is seeing an increase in population (birth rate > 2 per couple) is because of immigration, and the higher birth rates that first generation americans have. If the US were to close its borders, our birth rate would decline below two as well.

Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:20 PM

Even if they do number 10k years?

Erm, I think we can look into our fuzzy crystal balls and see average life expectancy increase to 100, maybe 120 years. But much beyond that and we’re totally speculating. The brain’s information storage and retrieval mechanisms are designed to last a few decades. We do know of some people—likely genetically lucky—who are able to survive with relatively focused minds into their late nineties. But 1000 years? Or 10,000? We’re now no longer talking about creatures that are very much like homo sapiens at all. We’d have to be talking about heavily genetically altered cyborgs or the like. And then what can we say about them? Not much. We’re off in lala land, like Romans trying to predict what would be going on in the year 2000.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 11:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

Humans, even under current health technology, are currently doubling every 38 years.  Slow that down to even once in every 100 years, and 70 cycles would only take 7,000 years.

At this point, I’d like to suggest that there is not an advanced civilization in the known universe, that has the ability to occupy planets outside their home planet, that is growing faster than a doubling rate of once every 100 years, and that has fully occupied its first planet more than 7,000 years ago.

Why? because any advanced civilization that’s doubling every 100 years, and had the space technology to do so, would have already had to occupy every planet in this solar system.

-baloo

 
Great topic.  Great point—if the population is increasing exponentially, what does that mean.
And once again the
[Fermi Paradox—Where Are They?] which gives a theme to many science fiction stories.

1. Someone has to be first. The Earth-Centric Anthropic Principle says we are Here—so maybe we are the first…
2. I also like the idea of seeding our DNA through the stars.  There are science fiction stories of robots playing Johnny Appleseed in the cosmos…

Anyway, I hadn’t thought about the doubling issue and its relation to the galaxy. I agree with Doug, one scenario is that the growth tapers off—I think this is likely but who knows.

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Posted: 01 November 2007 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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mckenzievmd - 31 October 2007 11:50 AM

Baloo,
I think you’ve raised some interesting questions, and I copletely agree that our imagination is too limited in that we conceieve of alien life as entirely too much like familiar earth life much of the time. Still, I think there are a lot of assumptions and guesses involved in trying to make statements about the liklihood of life elsewhere, and I think the same limits to our imagination may make those statements just as unrealistic. What kind of life, what kind of civilization, what kind of technology, what kind of reproduction, etc is all so hard to imagine outside of what we are familiar with, I think it’s right up there with trying to prove God doesn’t exist—ultimately, we just have to live with not being able to really know.

Hi Brennen,

I think part of the Anti-Borg Equation is like the god question, but I’d like to suggest that part of it isn’t.

1) (the part that is) I don’t think that mathematics, or probabilities can tell us what ‘is’ out there.

2) I think that what we know about just how much of our evolutionary path happened here on Earth, makes the vast majority of our current depictions of alien life very unlikely.  Or, restated, anyone who believes in the blind watchmaker, and believes that that same blind watchmaker principle would be the basis of any alien civilization, would have to conclude that the probability of any two blind watchmakers coming up with the same watch is very unlikely.  Take that to most SciFi shows, say the top 500 SciFi movies in the last 50 years, and I think we would have a very hard time finding probable candidates for the results.  We really can’t believe in both ‘seeding’ and evolution at the cellular level at the same time.

3) (the part that is very different from the god question) I think that simple mathematics can explain what ‘is not’ out there.  IE, a civilization that has saturated its home planet, and doubles the number of planets it occupies every 100 years, for the last 7k years, is definitively ‘not’ out there.  Because there simply are not that many planets.  Its a mathematic impossibility, and as such, I think we are on safe ground saying that such a civilization does not exist.

So, again, I think I split the question up a little, a) there are things we don’t know, b) there are things that are highly improbable or in inverse highly probable, and c) there are negations that we do know.  Thus, I called it the Anti-Borg Equation, as such a growth pattern is impossible to maintain for more than 7k years.

Additionally, knowing how short 7k years is, and how big the window is, I’d like to say that the probability of such a civilization coming of age in the last 7k years, is somewhere in the range of 7k divided by how many billion years wide we think the window is.  A very low number.

-baloo

[ Edited: 01 November 2007 12:53 PM by Baloo ]
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Posted: 01 November 2007 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Baloo,

1) (the part that is) I don’t think that mathematics, or probabilities can tell us what ‘is’ out there.

I agree, at least insofar as the mathematics has to be based on solid data to begin with, and I don’t think we have much for these questions.

2) I think that what we know about just how much of our evolutionary path happened here on Earth, makes the vast majority of our current depictions of alien life very unlikely.  Or, restated, anyone who believes in the blind watchmaker, and believes that that same blind watchmaker principle would be the basis of any alien civilization, would have to conclude that the probability of any two blind watchmakers coming up with the same watch is very unlikely.  Take that to most SciFi shows, say the top 500 SciFi movies in the last 50 years, and I think we would have a very hard time finding probable candidates for the results.  We really can’t believe in both ‘seeding’ and evolution at the cellular level at the same time.

Agreed.

3) (the part that is very different from the god question) I think that simple mathematics can explain what ‘is not’ out there.  IE, a civilization that has saturated its home planet, and doubles the number of planets it occupies every 100 years, for the last 7k years, is definitively ‘not’ out there.  Because there simply are not that many planets.  Its a mathematic impossibility, and as such, I think we are on safe ground saying that such a civilization does not exist.

Here’s where I disagree. I think the assumptions that fo into this are, in essence, the same as those you reject in point 1. Namely, that reproduction, structure of civilization, type and use of technology, etc would be sufficiently recognizable to us to make these calculations meaningful. They may be, in which case I think your reasoning is certainly sound. But the more general conclusions in your first post IMHO go too far. What intelligent life elsewhere would be like or be capable of is just too hard to imagine for us to rule it out as you seem to lean towards doing. Anyway, I guess I’m biased since as I said in another thread, one of the things I would most like to see happen in the world before I die is confirmation of life off of earth, so maybe I just don’t want to agree with you here? grin

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Posted: 01 November 2007 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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dougsmith - 31 October 2007 01:51 PM
Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:20 PM

... is it safe to say that the “(Average 2.5 kids per family)family” is a societal norm who’s days are numbered?

Well, the data would suggest so. Birth rates in Canada, the US and Europe are already at or below two kids per couple. The only reason why the US is seeing an increase in population (birth rate > 2 per couple) is because of immigration, and the higher birth rates that first generation americans have. If the US were to close its borders, our birth rate would decline below two as well.

Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:20 PM

Even if they do number 10k years?

Erm, I think we can look into our fuzzy crystal balls and see average life expectancy increase to 100, maybe 120 years. But much beyond that and we’re totally speculating. The brain’s information storage and retrieval mechanisms are designed to last a few decades. We do know of some people—likely genetically lucky—who are able to survive with relatively focused minds into their late nineties. But 1000 years? Or 10,000? We’re now no longer talking about creatures that are very much like homo sapiens at all. We’d have to be talking about heavily genetically altered cyborgs or the like. And then what can we say about them? Not much. We’re off in lala land, like Romans trying to predict what would be going on in the year 2000.

Hi Doug,

I think the birthrate has less to do with lifespan than it does with population saturation.  Basically, the impossibility for a civilization to grow exponentially means that any average birthrate that is exponential, which is all birthrates that cause the total population to double, is unsustainable for more than 70 doublings past the saturation level of a single average sized planet.  That said, as mentioned above, the time required travel to new planets in the Universe, is actually a much greater restriction, one that would restrict the 70 doublings to a time frame required to travel to all planets in the universe.  Which, if the universe is several billions light years across, and travel happens at a speed slower than light, then the 70 doublings can’t happen any faster than that same time period, putting the average time to double at 70/billions of years, ie a very slow pace.  And, again, even that pace is only sustainable until the universe is saturated, ie at the end of the 70 doublings.

Thus because the average birthrate of 2.5 kids per couple, is higher than the birthrate that doubles the population every billion years, its unsustainable, and thus its days are numbered.

-baloo

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