[ExI] [Extropolis] Fermi paradox

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Mon May 10 19:59:33 UTC 2021

Human beings are not entirely peaceful.  Lawrence

Thanks for that - biggest laugh of the week.  In my fungus book I read
where traditional agriculture leaves fields nearly sterile of fungi and
many other creatures .  Too many assets that fungi bring to raising crops
to list here, but people are working on it.  I am highly encouraged - more
later.  bill w

On Mon, May 10, 2021 at 12:42 PM Lawrence Crowell <
goldenfieldquaternions at gmail.com> wrote:

> On January 6, 2021, a disorganized mob of Trump supporters batter-rammed
> their way into the Capital building of the United States and forced
> Congress to flee. Those supporting this action, and there are plenty still
> out there, saw this as the next “Spirit of 1776” revolution by true
> patriots. The image and parallels I get from this are far more disturbing.
> I might compare this to the first sacking of Rome in 410AD; an event that
> saw the beginning of the end of a civilization that over the next 66 years
> unraveled and collapsed. Even deeper though, this may suggest something far
> more deeply flawed about the entire human species and our prospects.
> Most interested in space and astronomy are familiar with Enrico Fermi’s
> question “Where are they?” concerning intelligent life. This so-called
> Fermi paradox poses the Copernican Principle, that any region of the
> universe is not unique and so life must be universal, conflicts with the
> lack of any evidence of intelligent life. So far, the SETI program has
> found radio noise and silence after several decades of looking. Of course,
> so far only a small segment of this galaxy has been searched, so the
> prospect is maybe still open. Yet, Fermi’s paradox remains, because if any
> form of intelligent life were to persist it suggests they, or maybe their
> robotic emissaries or successors, would move through the galaxy within a
> period of a million years or so. So far astronomical evidence reveals no
> instance of some intelligent life modifying a stellar system in any large
> manner. So, where are they?
> It is best to consider what we mean by intelligent life. Cetaceans are
> clearly intelligent in some way, even if very different from human
> intelligent. However, they do not modify their environment by controlling
> energy and materials. Humans do, and this started with a branch of Homo
> erectus called Homo ergaster that emerged around 600 thousand years ago.
> This species in the hominid lineage learned to control fire. At this point
> a life form on this planet learned to use energy outside of its metabolic
> needs, and to grow this energy use far beyond metabolic needs. Also, the
> manufacture of flint axes and stone tools began to accelerate. To make a
> stone axe requires a considerable amount of neural processing to know from
> the appearance of a flint the planes of crystallization and how it will
> fracture. With these developments it is evident hominids began to modify
> their environment and evolution was a coordinated selection process that
> saw modification of species and the ability to modify their immediate
> environment. With the evolution of Homo sapiens some 100 to 150 thousand
> years ago the adaptation of the environment by intelligent thought
> surpassed biological evolution. We now life in conditions where this has
> exponentially accelerated to extreme dimensions.
> Some conservative politicians complain we are on a Ponzi game. Sure, we
> have been in a Ponzi game for at least the last half million years with
> using ever more energy and environment.
> What does this have to do with Fermi’s paradox? Life on Earth, and
> presumably this would hold with life on other planets as well, evolves by
> natural selection. The white noise or Markovian statistics with single
> nucleotide polymorphisms and other mutations is run through a filter of
> fitness. The output is then a form of pink noise or sub-Markovian
> statistics that have structure. This is a remarkable process, and one that
> I think has deeper aspects in physics. In this way life evolves into forms
> that have greater complexity. Compare the complexity of an advanced mammal
> such as a human, whale, elephant and even a dog, with that of a fish. Or
> for that matter compare an insect with a bacillus. Such life forms evolve
> to fit an environment, and while such evolution does modify the environment
> as well, such species do not engineer their environment. We humans engineer
> our environment and in doing so we set ourselves in an environment that
> becomes ever more different than what we evolved to fit within. It is
> plausible that any form of intelligent life in the universe that engineers
> its environment may do much the same.
> There are several examples of this. Human beings are not entirely
> peaceful. As much as we want to think we are creatures of peace, there are
> plenty examples of subsistence or tribal cultures that engage in warfare.
> In fact, the African slave trade emerged from a practice of tribal raids
> that captured individuals for slaves. Archeological finds in the American
> southwest have found kivas filled with burned remains of people, who were
> evidently burned alive by people from another tribe or culture. Of course,
> our history is packed with examples of wars. Then with the end of World War
> II came the atomic bomb and the realization that total war is not possible,
> However, humans persist in building or trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
> It may only be a matter of time before something goes terribly wrong.
> Another example to this is our impact on the planetary environment. Humans
> are erasing arable land and active biology on this planet by an area equal
> to about one Belgium per year. Human populations are growing, and declining
> arable land is a problem. The oceans are dying off at an alarming rate and
> at end of this decade the mass of plastic in the oceans will exceed that of
> ocean life. Of course, then comes the warming of the climate by our burning
> of fossil fuels that produce CO_2. This may in time render this planet
> uninhabitable, and already regions are becoming difficult with fires.
> We might think that we can solve these things. However, increasingly we
> seem paralyzed by ourselves. Of course, a part of this is the massive
> denial of any problem with the environment, and in particular climate
> change. There has been a growing “alt-science” cult development, and this
> extends in general to what Trump’s spokeswoman Kelly Ann Conway said with,
> “We have our alternative facts.”  We have seen the rise of anti-vaccination
> movements, at a time of a nasty pandemic, and the rise of increasingly
> tribalistic politics that seeks to raise conflicts between people. These
> things are becoming ever more political.
> This rise of denialism saw its first rise with the creationist movement
> with fundamentalist or evangelical Christians in the United States. The
> rejection of biological evolution, something that began to rise in force in
> the 1970s, saw the social rejection of a branch of scientific work.
> Biological evolution has a massive amount of data to support it, and this
> extends from the paleontological work with fossils to molecular biology of
> genes. Yet fully 50% of American refuse to admit evolution, and this trend
> is being proselytized into the rest of the world. This “alt-science”
> denialism has found other expressions from anti-vaxxers, climate denialism,
> geocentrism and in recent years the ultimate absurdism with flat-Earth
> ideas. This reflects very possibly the advance of mythic based psychology
> over reasoning, and this is finding a wide variety of forms. It is also
> being promoted most successfully by the computer, which is ironically a
> device developed by the epitome of rational thinking.
> The idea human intelligence evolved primarily to solve rational problems
> is probably false. It probably mostly evolved to promote communications
> between members of any group. Think of this as the evolution of language.
> The evolution of language probably came about to communicate information
> about the environment. This involved probably the projection of the human
> mind onto the world combined with the ability to express this in a
> narrative format. Projection is a power psychological tool, and the young
> Einstein in effect projected his mind onto a reference frame moving at the
> speed of light to realize a paradox. We do this in fiction with structuring
> fictional characters, and we project our minds onto the world in the form
> of spirits or gods. This may have had a survival advantage in communicating
> information about the environment in a story format.
> With this has come religions and narratives about supernatural beings,
> that in late ancient periods of history and religions from the iron age
> involved an infinite being. By the medieval period monotheist religions had
> a firm grip on societies from the Indus Valley to Ireland. This changed
> with the rise of science, where with Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo the
> culminating in Newton saw a world view completely at odds with theology.
> The return of Halley’s comet in the later 18th century saw calculation as a
> predictor work, while prophesy waned. The age of enlightenment came and
> brought about the idea that reasoning, measurement and phenomenology were
> the basis of the world. Even Christianity amongst the educated turned into
> deism, a shadow of its former self.
> In modern times this has shifted again. With the rise of monotheism was
> the rise of alpha-numerical formats. Paleo-Hebrew and the Greek linear-b
> script were a part of a transition from pictograms to complete symbolic
> forms. The Commandment “Though shall have no graven image” in its strict
> form means there are to be no pictures, certainly not of people and even
> more against images of God. It takes little thought to realize with
> television and now computers this has been overturned utterly. While
> Christians obeyed this commandment in serious breech, consider the barrage
> of pictures of Jesus, at least most information was communicated by
> writing. Now in this age of the internet and social media we have utterly
> turned about. We may in fact be approaching a post-literate age or culture.
> With this has come the rise of what I might call cybermythos, or the
> emergence of world views that are very specific, even tribal with tribes
> defined ideologically, and not based on reasoning or evidence. There is a
> fragmentation of cultish tribes, from reptilian-people ideas, to
> flat-Earth, to QAnon and of course traditional religion. We should be aware
> how this all involves a lot of magical thinking. The book of Revelations
> has Jesus coming back and sweeping all the clouds away, and the story of
> Cinderella has her “wish upon a star” and her fairy godmother comes to turn
> a pumpkin and mice into a horse drawn carriage that in the end takes her to
> “happily ever after.” The thinking is really the same. Magical thinking,
> where we might at least cite the story of Cinderella as honest in admitting
> it is a fairy tale, while the second coming of Jesus keeps being hustled
> off as ontological or truth. The rise of conspiracy narratives, I avoid the
> term “theory” because these are not theories, is a sort of magical
> suspension of reasoning and the belief in some guru, Alex Jones comes to
> mind, and a focus on there being a “plot” we must all beware of.
> Maybe we are backing away from this, if at least in a temporary and
> halting way. The electoral defeat of Donald Trump, where there is a sizable
> cult following saying he was in fact elected, may be some response to this.
> However, there are problems with the political left as well. George Orwell
> in his treatise on the psychology of totalitarian power, written in
> fictional form 1984, warned of the compression of language and its
> reduction to tiny, fragmented terms, and we see this on both the left and
> the right. Trumpism brought us MAGA, Stop the Steal and Q (amazing a
> political ideal can be compressed into one letter), but on the left we have
> BLM and Defund Police and other calls. The whole language is reduced to the
> smallest possible, and it reflect our trajectory into a post literate
> culture, which has a pernicious effect of leading us into a post-truth
> culture,
> What does this have to do with the Fermi paradox? It points to how we are
> emerging into conditions that are impossible to sustain. I have done a fair
> amount of computer programming in my time, and a post-symbolic or
> post-literate culture will fail to cultivate people who can actually
> program computers. Will AI ever get to the point it can program itself?
> That remains to be seen, and the short science fiction video “PETS” makes
> some point about this prospect. This might mean the format for promoting
> this cybermythos may not be long lived in the future. Further, if humans
> are thinking this way, we will become ever less capable of solving
> problems. Through my lifetime there is only one environmental problem that
> was nearly completely solved, the CFC induced ozone hole problem. With
> everything else we have honestly not really solved anything. We still have
> nuclear weapons, and this contradicts our warring tendencies. Curiously,
> this inability to solve much corresponds a lot with the rise of right
> winged politics. We have in effect developed an environment that we are not
> adapted to or have evolved to fit into. This in various ways may occur to
> intelligent life in the rest of the universe.
> The late comedian George Carlin has a routine, “Saving Planet Earth.” It
> starts out as an anti-environmental rant, where George was cleverly
> prepping the audience. He then transitions with the line “Earth is not
> going anywhere. WE ARE! Pack your shit folks, we are going away.” He then
> makes the point that Earth will survive. 20 million years from now life on
> Earth will probably be carrying on very well. We will not be here. He
> further makes some interesting comments of a cosmic nature. Is there any
> cosmological reason for us being here? Maybe John Wheeler was onto
> something with his idea of a self-excited universe, this is maybe a
> possibility. Wheeler also proposed how a measurement made at one time can
> select states at an earlier time, the so called Wheeler Delayed Choice
> Experiment. This has been experimentally demonstrated. Possibly, if we
> measure neutrinos or even gravitons from the early universe, we may select
> the quantum states or even the strength of coupling constants that make the
> observable universe possible. Think of this as a cosmological Wheeler
> Delayed Choice experiment. It might be possible, though I have no idea how
> we can ever know we end up playing this role. Maybe intelligent life in the
> universe forms a statistical sample space of such outcomes that in some
> average selects the quantum states of the observable universe.
> It might be that George Carlin’s “big electron” or this sort of
> self-excited cosmology are real. It though does not seem as likely
> intelligent life develops in most science fiction paths as star faring
> beings. If this happens for even a significant fraction of them, we would
> probably know it.  I suspect intelligent life in the vast majority of cases
> develops an environment they are not really evolved for and then snuffs
> themselves out.
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