[ExI] Fermi Paradox - Weighted Summary
neptune at superlink.net
Sun Dec 2 20:55:47 UTC 2007
On Saturday, December 01, 2007 8:46 PM Dennis May dennislmay at yahoo.com
It is my view that the Fermi Paradox as expressed in Fermi's question
"Where is everybody?" actually consists of 3 separate questions:
1a. How old is the universe?
2a. How commonly [time and spatial density] do technological
civilizations evolve, how long do they last, and how far do they and
their signals/evidence spread before becoming extinct or
indistinguishable from background noise.
3a. Why don't we have open evidence that any such civilizations that
might exist within our range?
The fact that we do not have unambiguous proof that any alien life
exists comes down to two possibilities:
1b. Such life does not (yet) exist.
2b. We have not (yet) found it.
If possibility 2 is the case there are two possibilities:
1c. There are no advanced alien civilizations (yet).
2c. We have not (yet) found them.
If possibility 2 is the case we have four possibilities:
1d. The density is so small we will never find them before we go
2d. The density is small and they will be difficult to find.
3d. The density is not small but they will still be difficult to find.
4d. They are not that difficult to find - we have not given it enough
time/correct effort and/or there has been successful interference
with that effort.
Some commentary first:
The consensus of the moment is that the observable universe is 13.7 +/-
0.2 billions years old. I say consensus of the moment because during my
life time the estimated Big Bang age has varied from less than 9 billion
years to over 20 billions years from one time to another. That doesn't
even count the time when there was an even division between supporters
of a Steady State universe and the Big Bang. Even in the last year and a
half there has been suggestions that brightness observations of standard
candles can put the the Hubble constant off by as much as 15% [15.8
billion year old Big Bang] and lately [last couple weeks] the matter and
dark matter numbers are estimated to be off as much as 10-20%. Not to
mention the many other issues with the Big Bang hypothesis.
The clustering of galaxies and voids puts a Plasma Theory universe age a
minimum of 20X larger than a Big Bang universe age.
I have my own competing theory with the universe being infinite in age.
Depending on the results of question (2a) an old universe may or may not
be that significant to the question of the Fermi Paradox.
This question is the primary thrust of most of the current debate
related to the Fermi Paradox. There are hundreds of variables and many
interesting views as well as some very poorly conceived ideas. It would
take another book like "Where is Everybody?" to comment on all the ideas
The book is only five years old but some of the information is already
out of date.
Finally here is a summary of my views. There isn't a single answer to
the Fermi Paradox but rather a combination of factors leading to no open
evidence of alien civilizations. Rather than a single explanation we
should be looking at a consistent set of views leading to a high
probability of no observation. Due to the subject matter opinions vary
widely - I would expect little agreement about such a list.
Fermi Paradox - Weighted Summary - Totaling 100%
1. Alien Military Strategy: Weight: 50%
The more complex and advanced the civilization the less likely it is
they will engage in risky behavior - or they will not last to become
complex and advanced civilizations. We see evidence of this in the
behavior of individuals who live long lives, we see it in the risky
behavior of animals with large numbers and short lives versus those with
longer lives and small numbers, and we see it in civilizations whose
fate has turned on risky behavior.
Though Star Trek makes for entertaining theater the idea of contacting
[much less engaging in fist fights with] even one alien civilization is
extremely high risk behavior - much less contacting new ones often. In
the folklore of Star Trek they should have caused the annihilation of
all Earth life many dozens or hundreds of times over. I see almost zero
chance that an old advanced civilization would engage in such behavior
or they would not be old and advanced - they would be extinct.
It has been understood since at least the late 1980s' that advanced
military communication and radar would resemble wide band white noise at
low power levels and be burst/impulse rather continuous broadcasts. The
book "Where is Everybody" has sources from 1994 and 1999 - but it was
known elsewhere prior to that. Impulse black-body white noise is the
communication method of advanced civilizations [or something even more
stealth] - something we will not detect.
Of course this solution has implications concerning the place of
individuals in advanced civilizations having military concerns
magnitudes in advance of our own. The New York Times giving away secrets
to the enemy on the front page would hardly be tolerated - tolerance for
such behavior is historically unprecedented - eventually it is suicidal.
I don't believe hippie protesters or whiskey drunk teenage aliens are
going to leak out information about their civilization or do a drive by
as we expect would happen if we suddenly had warp-drive on Earth. Those
civilization which do permit it exist for short times at high risk.
Our human experience with civilizations indicates that contact with new
civilizations is dangerous and sometimes fatal. This was true before
advanced weapons and true within a single species. It is not clear what
happened to several of our hominid cousins along the way but I'm sure
two hominid species occupying a common area was a problem. It is clear
that humans have had little tolerance for animals that preyed on humans
for food. Alien species might have many things to offer but they might
also cause death and destruction. Every contact could be a species fatal
2. Advanced Alien Civilizations are Rare: Weight: 25%
Though I believe primitive life in the universe to be extremely common -
increasing complexity requires stability and a favorable environment on
timescales not likely to be found many places. Even when complex
multi-cellular life evolves it is not obvious that much of it will
evolve past the levels seen for a hundred million years on Earth. Even
when human levels of intelligence are achieved we see human history did
not produced a technological civilization for a very long time with some
set backs lasting hundreds or thousands of years. In our recent past
many events could have set humans back long periods of time - on the
other hand there have been many lost opportunities where we could have
advanced more quickly and been ahead of where we are now. In the world
today vast numbers of people support primitivism which would set
humanity back again if enacted. We are not in space in any significant
way - with our level of technology we have only been in the game for a
single human lifetime. Besides the environmental and biological
challenges - the cultural challenges to becoming an advanced
civilization likely means they are rare.
3. Recent Technological Civilizations Would be Rare and Hard to Find:
If any recent technological civilizations appears and are broadcasting
it is unlikely we would receive their signal. If they are recent it is
also unlikely they will be close or have visited. The power required is
overwhelming unless you broadcast in a narrow frequency range in a
pencil beam - steered in a single direction. Such broadcasts are
extremely hard to find unless you know where to look - in both direction
and frequency - and you have to hope it stays on target for some time to
confirm its origin. With our current technology such signals would have
to be purposeful and have to happen to be directed at us. The chances
increase with greater receiving capabilities and more investment. We
might get lucky but I place the chances at less than 1-2% of
intercepting purposeful signals any time soon. Most alien civilizations
will not engage in this behavior for long - nor will we.
4. Earthly Military Issues: 5%
Given that the military controls [directly or indirectly] much of the
high technology on Earth - from my experience I would expect that any
evidence which can be controlled from entering the public domain will be
prevented from doing so. There are opportunities for evidence to enter
the public domain but there are many more opportunities for the military
to intercept and/or discredit such public disclosures should they
happen. Disinformation is a strong military tactic - to be used both for
and against such evidence depending on the circumstance. It is not
obvious that any proof that can be controlled will ever see the light of
day. Advanced military groups divest themselves of their greatest
advantage any time they let technical information slip out that could
have military application. It is assumed that all alien information
could have military implications.
5. Individuals Have the Evidence: 3%
Some years ago I concluded that depending on the circumstances evidence
of alien civilization might be best kept secret in private collections.
Collectors of other objects of lesser value have made such conclusions
in the past. Many items of value lay hidden in private collections - in
several important cases that is all that preserved them from being lost
forever [dispersal of the Vatican Library]. Public collections of
anything important can become a political target at some point [Library
6. Already Publicly Have the Evidence and Don't Know it: 2%
History is full of examples where the evidence of something is clear in
hindsight. The evidence may already exist in multiple forms and simply
not be understood in the proper context.
In the future I suspect any long term successful technological human
descendants will employ the Superstealth tactic [Stealth, Nomadic,
Dispersed (SND)] in order to dull the effectiveness of Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WoMD) in space. There is certainly no harm in listening for
alien signals as long as it does not involve giving away the fact that
you are listening. In a similar vein it is worth prospecting for
evidence of lost alien civilizations - the ruins of which may be almost
anywhere. There is no doubt we will look for life of any kind and
fossils wherever we go. It is also important to look for what might be
background residual evidence of technological processes.
The Fermi Paradox is interesting to discuss - solutions require constant
updating as technology, mathematical modeling, and the sciences evolve.
Please feel free to pass this on to other groups or individuals who
might be interested.
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