[extropy-chat] The Drake Equation and Spatial Proximity.

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Wed Oct 25 15:44:25 UTC 2006

Eugen wrote:

Pioneers are a primitive niche.

Sure, and I'm just now noticing that we don't have Amish, or Quakers or
Shakers (or other groups which reject "state-of-the-art" technology) all
over the surface of the planet.  The problem that you have with technology
moving quickly is that by the time you get "there", those who left behind
you (in the planes rather than the ships) get there before you.  When
technology is moving quickly you can't afford to remain primitive or go off
on colonizing "adventures" when you can be leap frogged.  It is *only* when
technology has been pushed to the limit *and* you can justify the mass and
energy costs of supporting some of the interstellar transport projects you
have proposed that colonization is even thinkable.  Then, if you, Eugen,
decide to take your share of the solar system resources and head out for
Star xyzzy, you still have the problem that Anders and I will not be looking
over your shoulder and take our share of the solar system resources (2x
yours) and get there before you do.  You have to "claim" ownership of the
development rights for Star xyzzy and get *everyone* who can must more
resources than you to recognize these rights and *then* hope the hell that
someone beyond our light horizon with greater resources hasn't already
started relocating Star xyzzy into their globular cluster development
project.  Your effort will appear fairly humorous 500 years from now when
this weak message arrives back from your colonizing probe, "oops, I missed".

You sometimes find animals far out at sea, where they are certain to
> perish. Many seafarers set out to sea, expending the then-equivalents
> of today's space travel, and perished. But some of them did not, and
> this is why you're able to read this message.

This argument only holds for something like intergalactic colonization
(really only for very distant galaxies).  Within our galaxy we will be able
to *see* everything.  We will have simulation capabilities and know within a
certain probability of error -- those systems which will never develop life
(or ATCs), those where the ATCs currently exist (e.g. globular clusters or
orbiting the galaxy) and those which are like us on the verge of the
singularity.  But the crystal ball will be quite fuzzy in this area beyond
say 500 light years distance.  All of the solar systems within say 500 light
years which could have evolved life, ATCs and allow rapid transitions
throught The Singularity (as ours does) will have made the transition to
MBrains and be essentially undetectable at our stage of development.  I
would also argue that until Pan-STARRs is fully functional our chances of
identifying systems under development near us is relatively low.  It is also
true that there is a low probability of systems in our neighborhood being in
development -- the development time (a few thousand years) vs. the
development window time (billions of years) makes it much more likely that
they are pre-development or post-development.  The real problem isn't the
lack of pre-development systems to develop it is knowing what the
post-development civilizations are doing with them.

The problem with near-relativistic colonization travel speeds isn't how long
it takes to get there -- it is the energy required for course corrections
when you discover where you want to go may not be where you are headed.

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