From: John S
Location: Western MA
Was wondering what your thoughts were on this latest amazing finding from the Kepler team:
Do you feel it makes the Fermi Paradox even more puzzling, if that is at all possible?
From: Greg Bear
Very cool results. Fermi Paradox has never been much of a paradox to me: smart planets keep their mouths shut and lie low. There are wolves in the forest. Of course, not hearing ANYTHING indicates that maybe even the dumb planets don't use radio much after a time...
Humanity has only been broadcasting radio waves for about a hundred years. We've only been monitoring radio waves from space for a few decades. Perhaps we will only continue doing so for a few more centuries or millenia before collapsing as a civilization advanced enough to do so. Out of the millions of years of life on earth, a very small fraction of that time is spent sending and receiving radio waves as a form of communication.
Here is the bad sci-fi paradox: Any alien race hostile enough to attack earth will wipe itself out long before developing the means to do so. Conversely, the human race will not colonize other planets.
From: Greg Bear
All possibly true. The Spanish, however, could have destroyed themselves before invading the New World. (And they had no real idea the Indians were actually there...)
Of course, another possibility (though it might make for a more dull future from a sci-fi standpoint) is that there just aren't that many intelligent species out there.
That seems to be the direction of a major thrust in evolutionary biology at the moment: while life itself seems to arise easily and bacterial life may be common, because of the way bacterial life typically generates energy, it hits an "energy barrier" that evolution can't overcome.
Only freak chance can get around the limitations, as it did with the mitochondrial merger on Earth about 2 billion years ago. The fact that it took 2 billion years to come about is evidence of how unlikely an outcome it was.
Anyway, that's the thinking. Dr. Nick Lane, among others has written some very intriguing and approachable material on it.
To me, it leads to a few interesting conclusions. First of all, it makes me breathe a little easier, as the "wolf hypothesis" and related "intelligent species invariably get killed off" ideas are pretty darned scary.
Second, it means there's no real reason to suppose technologies such as faster-than-light travel won't eventually be developed. If intelligent life were common, our galaxy really should have been colonized by self-replicating machines by now. The farther away the next intelligent species is, the more room for expansion. We might have the galaxy to ourselves. That's potentially a very bright future.
And if that's true, to me it also adds urgency to ensuring our survival.
From: Greg Bear
Could be a lot safer out there... But also a lot less interesting!
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