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[PATV] Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 23: Funding XCOM (Part 1)

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    ThornEelThornEel Registered User new member
    As others pointed out, the Drake equation is, in fact, mostly useless.

    I'll also point out that our appearance as a technological species on Earth do seem very special.
    While life appeared relatively early on Earth, it took its time to evolve. Two and a half billion years for multi-cellular life, half a billion more for the Cambrian explosion, half a billion more for us...
    Some of those major changes seem to have been caused by the evolutionary pressure of near-extinctions, which is a fine line between "no change" and "wiped out". And it happened several times (at one point, the human species was down to a few thousands individuals, for example).

    But the point is, it took more than three billions years of evolution. And it's more than what the Earth should have had.
    The Sun is gradually becoming brighter. Life on Earth should have lasted only one or two billions years before runaway greenhouse effect turned it to a second Venus. But for some reason, the Earth seems to have migrated away from the Sun, on a larger orbit, keeping the temperature relatively stable.

    And to focus on humans, it's not just a big brain and handy hands that made us tech-users. The big uniqueness of the human species is language (Sorry Disney fans, but animals don't talk. They communicate by using instinct-hardwired signs, not interpretable words). There is probably a correlation with how our brain develops: we are the only known animal whose brain isn't nearly mature at birth. For, say, monkeys, the brain is more or less mature after three months. For us, it really ends up maturing at 16. Which means that we have nearly nothing of this hardwired instinct thing.


    Then, there is the Fermi paradox. Oh boy, what lots of fun this can be.
    First, obligatory links there :
    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/aliens.php#id--The_Fermi_Paradox--The_Killing_Star
    http://atomicrockets.posterous.com/tag/aliens
    In case of doubt about SF and realism, check out Atomic Rockets.

    Then, there are possible explanations.

    We are alone. Variant : we are so nearly alone that anyone is out of reach (like, billions of light-years away)
    Boring.

    Intelligence is self-destructing.
    We are barely millennia (a mere instant at galactic scales) to build Dyson spheres and/or self-replicating probes that would fill the galaxy in bare millions of years. Which means, if we are an average species, that there are important chances for an average tech-civ to build those. As none of those is visible today, it can't be the only option.
    Though the idea that intelligence ends up either wiping itself out, devolving into non-intelligence again or decide that surviving is not worth the effort has a certain tragic ring to it.

    Apes-vs-Angels
    The Angels are simply so different that we can't detect them; for example they cease to use any form of EM-radiation and baryon engineering (e.g. "ascend to a higher plane). As the human state is probably so insanely short anyway, we won't interact with those. And go detect an ape with a radio-telescope...

    The Killing Star
    Anyone with interstellar abilities also has interstellar mass-destruction weapons (starships and missiles only differ in payload). Defence against those is improbable. So the smart move is to wipe your neighbour out as soon as you detect it. Actually, the variant is both more interesting and more credible.

    Variant : the hide-and-MAD.
    Anyone actually wiping out a neighbour would make a very, very loud bang doing so. A bang that is visible by other neighbour, that you may not have previously detected (and vice-versa). Neighbours that now know that you're the kind of civ to wipe other planets out. And may also have unstoppable missiles.
    So the winning move becomes, hide as much as you can, don't attract attention. Don't interact with anyone; they are aliens, so you will never be sure if you can really trust them anyway, particularly as the first to attack will wipe the other out. Try to detect the others, but don't let them know that you detected them. Wipe others out only in case of absolute necessity, and try to not make it too noisy. As there is no stealth in space, both are kind of hard...
    As a (wannabe) SF writer, this is actually the most interesting one for me. I'm currently trying to write a short story about those clueless humans shouting everywhere "Hello, is there someone there?" in a seemingly empty universe.


    And for funding an XCOM initiative? Well, if you were an Amazonian tribe of a hundred people, would you fund a XCOM initiative just in case both NATO and the Warsaw Pact decided that you should be wiped out? Yeah, didn't think so. After all, starship = star-missile, and that's if they don't have FTL. If they have, either they have time travel as well (and good luck fighting those), or their understanding of the Universe is so far beyond ours that they can probably hack its source code to flip the Earth's tectonic plates.

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    ThornEelThornEel Registered User new member
    As others pointed out, the Drake equation is, in fact, mostly useless.

    I'll also point out that our appearance as a technological species on Earth do seem very special.
    While life appeared relatively early on Earth, it took its time to evolve. Two and a half billion years for multi-cellular life, half a billion more for the Cambrian explosion, half a billion more for us...
    Some of those major changes seem to have been caused by the evolutionary pressure of near-extinctions, which is a fine line between "no change" and "wiped out". And it happened several times (at one point, the human species was down to a few thousands individuals, for example).

    But the point is, it took more than three billions years of evolution. And it's more than what the Earth should have had.
    The Sun is gradually becoming brighter. Life on Earth should have lasted only one or two billions years before runaway greenhouse effect turned it to a second Venus. But for some reason, the Earth seems to have migrated away from the Sun, on a larger orbit, keeping the temperature relatively stable.

    And to focus on humans, it's not just a big brain and handy hands that made us tech-users. The big uniqueness of the human species is language (Sorry Disney fans, but animals don't talk. They communicate by using instinct-hardwired signs, not interpretable words). There is probably a correlation with how our brain develops: we are the only known animal whose brain isn't nearly mature at birth. For, say, monkeys, the brain is more or less mature after three months. For us, it really ends up maturing at 16. Which means that we have nearly nothing of this hardwired instinct thing.


    Then, there is the Fermi paradox. Oh boy, what lots of fun this can be.
    First, obligatory links there :
    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/aliens.php#id--The_Fermi_Paradox--The_Killing_Star
    http://atomicrockets.posterous.com/tag/aliens
    In case of doubt about SF and realism, check out Atomic Rockets.

    Then, there are possible explanations.

    We are alone. Variant : we are so nearly alone that anyone is out of reach (like, billions of light-years away)
    Boring.

    Intelligence is self-destructing.
    We are barely millennia (a mere instant at galactic scales) to build Dyson spheres and/or self-replicating probes that would fill the galaxy in bare millions of years. Which means, if we are an average species, that there are important chances for an average tech-civ to build those. As none of those is visible today, it can't be the only option.
    Though the idea that intelligence ends up either wiping itself out, devolving into non-intelligence again or decide that surviving is not worth the effort has a certain tragic ring to it.

    Apes-vs-Angels
    The Angels are simply so different that we can't detect them; for example they cease to use any form of EM-radiation and baryon engineering (e.g. "ascend to a higher plane). As the human state is probably so insanely short anyway, we won't interact with those. And go detect an ape with a radio-telescope...

    The Killing Star
    Anyone with interstellar abilities also has interstellar mass-destruction weapons (starships and missiles only differ in payload). Defence against those is improbable. So the smart move is to wipe your neighbour out as soon as you detect it. Actually, the variant is both more interesting and more credible.

    Variant : the hide-and-MAD.
    Anyone actually wiping out a neighbour would make a very, very loud bang doing so. A bang that is visible by other neighbour, that you may not have previously detected (and vice-versa). Neighbours that now know that you're the kind of civ to wipe other planets out. And may also have unstoppable missiles.
    So the winning move becomes, hide as much as you can, don't attract attention. Don't interact with anyone; they are aliens, so you will never be sure if you can really trust them anyway, particularly as the first to attack will wipe the other out. Try to detect the others, but don't let them know that you detected them. Wipe others out only in case of absolute necessity, and try to not make it too noisy. As there is no stealth in space, both are kind of hard...
    As a (wannabe) SF writer, this is actually the most interesting one for me. I'm currently trying to write a short story about those clueless humans shouting everywhere "Hello, is there someone there?" in a seemingly empty universe.


    And for funding an XCOM initiative? Well, if you were an Amazonian tribe of a hundred people, would you fund a XCOM initiative just in case both NATO and the Warsaw Pact decided that you should be wiped out? Yeah, didn't think so. After all, starship = star-missile, and that's if they don't have FTL. If they have, either they have time travel as well (and good luck fighting those), or their understanding of the Universe is so far beyond ours that they can probably hack its source code to flip the Earth's tectonic plates.

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    BarnesmBarnesm Registered User regular
    That's a great discussion, I love the surfing the declining EM generation graph.
    " as soon as meteors stopped slammin into us"

    looking forward to part 2. And I want an Xcom.

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    arataarata Registered User regular
    Just one little problem.... Even if the aliens do exist and they can reach earth and communicate with us, why would they want to. Actually how would they even know that we are, by their definition - sentient? Or for that matter that we actually exist? Case and point - Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. If the authors have not read "Solaris" or "Roadside picnic" and have an argument for why the model described in those books is out of the question then this episode and the discussion that follows has no meaning.

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    playestplayest Registered User regular
    Assigning probabilities to things that we don't understand (abiogenesis) is useless. Your just pulling all of this out of your ass.

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    lordshelllordshell Registered User regular
    Left out a few factors. One, the stars in question have to be at least second generation stars. Without the heavier elements from the death of previous stars, not only are you unlikely to get planetary bodies but even if you do they won't have the elements necessary for a civilization.

    Two, how USEFUL is intelligence, really? On an evolutionary scale, I mean. Plenty of rather mindless animals have existed far longer than we have and are doing fine.

    Three, the intelligent animal needs to be terrestrial. Too many industrial processes need combustion for an aquatic race to progress very far.

    Four, the intelligent species should be cooperative or pack animals. Intelligent loner sapients are pretty unlikely to advance very far.

    Five, they need to be tool-using. Without the ability to use tools in a precise manner, intelligence isn't too helpful.

    Six, languages or precise communications.

    These are just off the top of my head. There are plenty more. To summarize, we really don't have any idea how likely intelligent, tool-using civilizations are going to arise but a LOT of dominoes had to fall for us. I think sheer probability guarantees there are some out there SOMEWHERE, but I think we may have to find another galaxy before we run into them.

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    DanHibikiDanHibiki Registered User regular
    DanHibiki wrote: »
    I'd be a lot more worried about asteroids smashing in to earth then about aliens.
    Can we fund some kind of deathray project?

    Called it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21468116

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    PlanckEpochPlanckEpoch Registered User new member
    How useful is intelligence really? You typed up that question on a computer, 'nuff said. We wouldn't have these devices without intelligence.

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    DedwrekkaDedwrekka Metal Hell adjacentRegistered User regular
    edited February 2013
    arata wrote:
    Just one little problem.... Even if the aliens do exist and they can reach earth and communicate with us, why would they want to. Actually how would they even know that we are, by their definition - sentient? Or for that matter that we actually exist? Case and point - Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. If the authors have not read "Solaris" or "Roadside picnic" and have an argument for why the model described in those books is out of the question then this episode and the discussion that follows has no meaning.

    So, let me get this straight. If the EC crew hasn't read your pet favorite novel, then the Drake equation, the Fermi paradox, the SETI institute, and the entire discussion about extra terrestrial life needs to be chucked out the window? Because that's all the episode is doing, it's presenting the leading ideas about alien life, not generating them from their opinions on the subject.

    You realize that:
    1) The EC crew are not experts at this, they're simply presenting the two leading scientific ideas on the concept of extraterrestrial life. Both of which are based on the search for extra terrestrial life in the scientific community, not the science fiction community. It's the difference between searching for what we can measure and searching for what we can imagine, respectively.

    2) The search for extra terrestrial life, the basis of the Drake Equation and Fermi Paradox as well as the scientific search for life outside of earth, is all based around the concept of "Life as we know it". We don't have any method of understanding life as we don't know it, so we search for and account for life as we know it. You should look up Neil DeGrasse Tyson's conversations on the subject, where he goes into it in more detail.
    The conversation is not flawed, nor is it's basis, just because we cannot comprehend ideas that we cannot imagine or that we aren't talking about ideas that we cannot measure. In the grand scheme of things, the conversation is a small part of a larger whole, but then everything dealing with life, the universe, and everything is just that in the end. The conversation about alien life is about life that we can measure and understand, not about what might be out there.
    For all we know, there's a tableau of life that's more diverse than any science fiction we've yet imagined, but we have no way to check for sentient planets or body hopping clouds of gass or life that lives in the vacuum of space or basically anything other than carbon or silicon based life. That's an accepted limitation by the scientific community, but it doesn't invalidate the conversation.

    3) We have a very subjective view of sentience and intelligence that's constantly being challenged when new data is presented. But you know what. That's science. If something presents itself to us that challenges that idea (in real life, not in fiction) we're going to change or modify our view of sentience.

    4) As our concept of extraterrestrial life is based on "life as we know it", and as that concept has informed our search for "habitable planets" as well as unconventional life forms that we can still measure and understand, and as that search has led us to believe that planets that will sustain "life as we know it", and hence any life that falls under the Drake Equation, are quite rare, then it's a logical leap to assume that any such species that falls under the criteria we're searching for and that is capable of space travel will eventually seek out not us, but our planet.
    So, whether they believe us to be sentient or not is not part of the question*, but whether they believe the planet to be worthwhile is.



    Also, both Solaris and Roadside Picnic assume supernatural elements or elements unexplainable by science, as well as both some thoroughly unscientific scientists and unscientific extraterrestrial life. Compared to both of those, the aliens in Independence Day were more scientific and intelligent.
    The picnic analogy is also somewhat easily refuted because there's no place in the world where life exists, and where that life will ignore a picnic taking place. Just as ants, birds and scavenging animals will descend upon a picnic, humans will descend upon unusual phenomena. Basically, if you're presented with unusual or new stimuli, events, or creatures and you don't take a keen interest in it's existence or at least put it somewhere in your mind, then you have to ask how that form of life evolved in the first place. Because anything that ignores it's own situational awareness is destined to die, much less to both make it outside of it's own atmosphere or to another planet. As humans we are curious by nature, and there's no unusual phenomena that we wont investigate as a group.



    *Quick aside, if we're assuming that extraterrestrial life has arrived and has concluded that we aren't sentient, then why the hell wouldn't they be public already? Why would they hide instead of plop down in the middle of a major city and take stock and catalog the local fauna. Hell when you send a biologist out to study creatures you stick around large groupings, not isolated communities unless that's the idea of the study.

    Dedwrekka on
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    arataarata Registered User regular
    Wow there Dedwrekka. Where do you get off calling Roadside Picnic unscientific? The main character, Redford Schuhart, although not a scientist himself, embodies everything it means to be a scientist. Although he does not realize it till the end of the book, but it is not the desire for fame or money that makes him come back over and over again into the "Zone" of physical anomalies left by aliens, it is the search for answers and the thirst for discovery, and ultimately the desire to make the world a better place ("Happiness...Free.....For everyone....And let no one remain disappointed....")

    Besides, I do not know what cliffs notes you read, but the question was not why humans could not detect an alien civilization right beside them, but whether the alien civilization can even comprehend our existence, and if they do why would they find us interesting, or worthy to spend their time on us? Your problem is that you are assigning human qualities like curiosity, greed, violence, desire for conquest, etc. to a civilization that is innately alien. That is not right even from a theoretical perspective.

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    arataarata Registered User regular
    Wow there Dedwrekka. "Unscientific scientists and unscientific extraterrestrial life"? Where do you get off? Solaris had a whole scientific space station studying the planet and it took those "unscientific" scientist almost a decade to theorize that the biological ectoplasm was actually a living thing. Guess they were using the wrong scientific method. Not to mention the whole novel takes place among scientists that use actual laws of physics to understand their surroundings, just because the book does not tell you how something happens does not mean that it is supernatural and unscientific. You know kind of like the thing that would actually happen, should aliens land on earth and expose our scientists to their advanced technology.

    As for Roadside Picnic, the main character - Redford Schuhart, although not a scientist himself, is practically the embodiment of what it means to be a scientist. Even though he does not realize it till the end of the book but he did not keep returning to the "Zone" of physical anomalies left by aliens for fame or money. It was something at the core of his being that longed for answers and discovery, and ultimately the drive to make the world a better place ("Happiness....Free....For everyone, and let no one remain disappointed.....).

    Now I am not sure what cliffs notes you read, but the idea behind the books was not that humans ignored the nearby presence of an alien civilization, humans were the ones studying that presence, but that this civilization was either unaware of the humans existence or simply did not find it interesting. That is the issue here. Why do you think that you can assign human qualities like curiosity, greed, violence, desire for conquest, etc. to beings that are by definition ALIEN. That is wrong even from a theoretical perspective. And if you want to throw big names out there then if my memory serves me, there was a major scientific conference in the 70s or 80s, including, among prominent science fiction writers, such actual scientists like Carl Sagan that found that communication with aliens is practically impossible on the virtue of the fact that our notion of what constitutes communication will be just that - ALIEN to them. That is not something that can be swept under the rug.

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    arataarata Registered User regular
    Wow there Dedwrekka. "Unscientific scientists and unscientific extraterrestrial life"? Where do you get off? Solaris had a whole scientific space station studying the planet and it took those "unscientific" scientist almost a decade to theorize that the biological ectoplasm was actually a living thing. Guess they were using the wrong scientific method. Not to mention the whole novel takes place among scientists that use actual laws of physics to understand their surroundings, just because the book does not tell you how something happens does not mean that it is supernatural and unscientific. You know kind of like the thing that would actually happen, should aliens land on earth and expose our scientists to their advanced technology.

    As for Roadside Picnic, the main character - Redford Schuhart, although not a scientist himself, is practically the embodiment of what it means to be a scientist. Even though he does not realize it till the end of the book but he did not keep returning to the "Zone" of physical anomalies left by aliens for fame or money. It was something at the core of his being that longed for answers and discovery, and ultimately the drive to make the world a better place ("Happiness....Free....For everyone, and let no one remain disappointed.....).

    Now I am not sure what cliffs notes you read, but the idea behind the books was not that humans ignored the nearby presence of an alien civilization, humans were the ones studying that presence, but that this civilization was either unaware of the humans existence or simply did not find it interesting. That is the issue here. Why do you think that you can assign human qualities like curiosity, greed, violence, desire for conquest, etc. to beings that are by definition ALIEN. That is wrong even from a theoretical perspective. And if you want to throw big names out there then if my memory serves me, there was a major scientific conference in the 70s or 80s, including, among prominent science fiction writers, such actual scientists like Carl Sagan that found that communication with aliens is practically impossible on the virtue of the fact that our notion of what constitutes communication will be just that - ALIEN to them. That is not something that can be swept under the rug.

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    arataarata Registered User regular
    I thought my post disappeared and I had to rewrite it. Sorry for the duplication.

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    maximaramaximara Registered User regular
    The concept of intelligence different from ours was explored way back in 1934 in Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" and its sequel "Valley of Dreams". It also explored the idea of Silicon based life and how it might function.

    One thing this glossed over is the point made in Olaf Stapledon's 1930 "Last and First Men" and Dougal Dixon's 1980 "Man After Man" where evolution and genetic manipulation results in variants in the space faring civilization to the point they might as well be different species.

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    DiEvAlDiEvAl Registered User new member
    I found this flash puzzle game: http://www.kongregate.com/games/krangGAMES/beloved
    I thought you might want to use it if you make another episode about sexual orientation in games.

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    achamiusachamius Registered User new member
    I like the tangental episodes - they're often interesting, fun, informative, and can be easily tied to gaming culture. However, I think these episodes (and really, two separate episodes on funding x-com seems like a bit much anyway) might be stepping too far outside a useful purview for this show; being enthusiastic amateurs works sometimes, but this is definitely one of those episodes where the EC treatment feels lacking. Why not take a look at how games have viewed alien-human interaction, maybe throw in a reference to the Drake equation and Fermi paradox, and let the viewer look them up themselves?

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    JakeMullitJakeMullit Registered User new member
    Episode 24?

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    TsshaTssha Registered User regular
    Wait 'till Wednesday JakeMullit. And I don't mean British Wednesday. Think West Coast United States Wednesday.

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    NephanorNephanor Registered User regular
    Let's look at a couple of examples of humans trying to think like aliens. I will use movies and TV as an example, because it is easier to reference them. Then we can give a basic guess of the chance an alien species will be like this.

    First we have the mass consumer alien, as defined by Independence Day. They have interstellar travel, but all they are using it for is to find new sources of raw materials. They aren't interested in much else. This is basically us taking our own actions, and projecting it on aliens. It could be accurate, as another species may have the same greed and self importance we have. As likely to meet them as we are to be met.

    Next we have the pure animal alien, as defined by Alien and Aliens. They aren't interested in culture or knowledge. They just exist to continue existing. They technically aren't evil, as they really don't have morality, they are amoral. So, they just keep doing what instinct tells them to. Very unlikely we will ever meet them except by pure chance. Since they aren't interested in meeting anyone else, except to eat them, we aren't going to find them looking for us.

    Then we have the High and Mighty aliens, as exemplified by the Goa'uld from Stargate. These aliens are quite intelligent and advanced, and don't really look at us as anything more than animals. They look at us the way we look at dogs, or maybe like a lion to hunt. They might think we are nice pets from time to time, but overall, don't really see us as a threat or an ally. A decent chance an alien culture will fit into this, as any species evolved enough to have space travel will not look to highly on us.

    Next we have the Helpful from on High aliens, as defined by the Asgard from Stargate. These are basically the opposite of the previous ones, who see us with potential, and are willing to help us. They may see something of their own past in us, or something they don't possess in us. They could even be enlightened to the point where they want to help the entire universe. This one actually sounds lovely, but less likely. After all, a species that wants to help advance everyone is bound to advance the WRONG species, and end up getting themselves killed. if they are smart and have a 'Prime Directive' style system holding back advancement, but helping the culture, they may last longer.

    This leads us to the final type I can think of. That being the Help Your For Our Own Reasons aliens, easily shown by the ones from V the TV Show. They aren't here for altruistic reasons, no matter how much they want you to believe it. They are here for something else. Be it a natural resource, enslavement, or they just think we are delicious, some aliens may be here for no good reasons. This type is also just as likely as any other type.

    Now, of course, we have no idea how a culture will develop, but we can make a few assumptions. Any species capable of travelling in space is doing so for a reason. While "to explore" sounds like a plausible reason, unless the society has advanced beyond currency and territorial nature by the time they are travelling the stars, that is very unlikely the reason. Some common viable reasons include: colonization (overpopulation at home), resource gathering (lack of them at home), scientific exploration. I am sure there are more, but are we advanced enough, culturally and scientifically, to understand them?

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    NephanorNephanor Registered User regular
    Now, based on the 3 main types of reasons aliens are out exploring the galaxy, how many of them would they view us as rivals? All but one, and even that one may spell the death of us. There might be a reason we are being probed...scientific exploration!

    But as was mentioned, any species capable of travelling great interstellar distances is going to be FAR ahead of us technologically, and so we don't stand a chance. Unless their technology has a flaw (one they can't think of because of the way they all think but which we can figure out quickly) we are probably screwed. So having a viable defence is a joke, unless that defence is based on technology stolen from an alien species of at least comparable strength to the ones we would be fighting.

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    MrdeedsMrdeeds Registered User regular
    The assumptions taken in this video are so incredibly optimistic, they are too exaggerated to be considered seriously:

    - We know NOTHING of the origin of life. Assuming that 100% of planets in habitable range have life is not slightly optimistic. it's straight up wishful thinking. They use 100% in the drake equation because otherwise the equation has no point.
    - that there is 7.5 civilization in our galaxy following the drake equation is fundamentally wrong. The level of human intelligence is so incredibly NOT ordinary in the realm of earth (it is likely that all life from bacteria to vegetation to mammals given millions more years of evolution would not at all give a single new specie that had any aspiration to LEAVE earth) that it is ridiculous to estimate that 90% of life on other planets have intelligent life that consist of more than just: smash a deer's head with a stone.

    I already saw the Xcom 2 video and the paradox present is a question for which I have no answer either. Maybe they just haven't visited in the recent past and we have no recollection of it since recorded history. Doesn't really matter

    but please do more realistic numbers next time

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    lordshelllordshell Registered User regular
    @PlanckEpoch You miss my point. The entire thrust of evolution is to replicate DNA. It works but it works like a blind man in a maze: it will get there but rarely in an optimum manner.

    From our DNA's 'viewpoint', how it gets replicated is irrelevant. Plenty of species are mindless but do just fine (viruses, bacteria, etc.) And our intelligence is a HUGE drain on resources for a species. To get our level of brain activity isn't free. Every erg of caloric power put into a big brain has to be diverted from something else (strength, speed, etc.) So the payoff has to be huge, because the gamble is huge.

    And raw intelligence isn't enough. How successful would we be as a species if we couldn't properly communicate or create tools? All the dominoes had to fall JUST RIGHT to allow us to thrive and there's decent evidence that we nearly died off at least once.

    It may well be that sapient, cooperative, tool-users are a longshot that just happened to pay off in our case. At least so far . . .

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    lordshelllordshell Registered User regular
    @PlanckEpoch You miss my point. The entire thrust of evolution is to replicate DNA. It works but it works like a blind man in a maze: it will get there but rarely in an optimum manner.

    From our DNA's 'viewpoint', how it gets replicated is irrelevant. Plenty of species are mindless but do just fine (viruses, bacteria, etc.) And our intelligence is a HUGE drain on resources for a species. To get our level of brain activity isn't free. Every erg of caloric power put into a big brain has to be diverted from something else (strength, speed, etc.) So the payoff has to be huge, because the gamble is huge.

    And raw intelligence isn't enough. How successful would we be as a species if we couldn't properly communicate or create tools? All the dominoes had to fall JUST RIGHT to allow us to thrive and there's decent evidence that we nearly died off at least once.

    It may well be that sapient, cooperative, tool-users are a longshot that just happened to pay off in our case. At least so far . . .

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    BennyPendentesBennyPendentes Registered User new member
    "we may come up with other forms of communication that don't involve as much EM radiation"

    Or, as the past few decades have shown, we may come up with better and better crypto(/compression/transmission) protocols such that the EM we do leak into the galaxy becomes more and more indistinguishable from random noise.

    All crypto seeks to diminish patterns: cereal-box decoder rings scramble the frequency distribution of letters in the ciphertext as compared to normal text (i.e. in English, the tendency of the letter E to be the most numerous letter, with other letters falling into place according to their relative popularity: ETAONRISH...etc), but Enigma sought to do away with such patterns altogether, making the frequency spectrum look like pure noise. HyperTransport (I think; it might have been another chip-to-chip protocol) uses pseudorandom number generators to create a bitstream that gets XOR'd to the real data; a big motivation behind this was power (so big banks of pins flipping from, say, 0 to 1 don't cause the power to sag/ring/etc) but it also encrypts the bits in the process, in such a way that the number of 1s and 0's are always close to equal - i.e. hiding the data by disguising it as noise.

    If we're doing these things, and if the Drake Equation's focus on technological societies holds true, we might need to add another term (or adjust an existing one): how long do they broadcast EM in a manner recognizable as signal? Because - to go out on a limb here - the universe could be so full of communication that we don't recognize it as such, choosing to interpret what we can detect as (say) the microwave background radiation that fits our big bang theories rather than recognizing it as the highly encrypted, highly compressed communications of the rest of the universe. This answers Fermi's question quite nicely: where are they all? Everywhere.

    And in the grand scheme of things - we are talking about the universe, or at least our galaxy, after all - assuming that other cultures would communicate via EM might be like some assuming that since their tribe communicates via smoke signals or pounding on hollow logs. We're already looking at quantum-entanglement as both method of transmission and crypto... if we succeed at this, WE will be broadcasting less in the EM bands.

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    BennyPendentesBennyPendentes Registered User new member
    "we may come up with other forms of communication that don't involve as much EM radiation"

    Or, as the past few decades have shown, we may come up with better and better crypto(/compression/transmission) protocols such that the EM we do leak into the galaxy becomes more and more indistinguishable from random noise.

    All crypto seeks to diminish patterns: cereal-box decoder rings scramble the frequency distribution of letters in the ciphertext as compared to normal text (i.e. in English, the tendency of the letter E to be the most numerous letter, with other letters falling into place according to their relative popularity: ETAONRISH...etc), but Enigma sought to do away with such patterns altogether, making the frequency spectrum look like pure noise. HyperTransport (I think; it might have been another chip-to-chip protocol) uses pseudorandom number generators to create a bitstream that gets XOR'd to the real data; a big motivation behind this was power (so big banks of pins flipping from, say, 0 to 1 don't cause the power to sag/ring/etc) but it also encrypts the bits in the process, in such a way that the number of 1s and 0's are always close to equal - i.e. hiding the data by disguising it as noise.

    If we're doing these things, and if the Drake Equation's focus on technological societies holds true, we might need to add another term (or adjust an existing one): how long do they broadcast EM in a manner recognizable as signal? Because - to go out on a limb here - the universe could be so full of communication that we don't recognize it as such, choosing to interpret what we can detect as (say) the microwave background radiation that fits our big bang theories rather than recognizing it as the highly encrypted, highly compressed communications of the rest of the universe. This answers Fermi's question quite nicely: where are they all? Everywhere.

    And in the grand scheme of things - we are talking about the universe, or at least our galaxy, after all - assuming that other cultures would communicate via EM might be like some assuming that since their tribe communicates via smoke signals or pounding on hollow logs. We're already looking at quantum-entanglement as both method of transmission and crypto... if we succeed at this, WE will be broadcasting less in the EM bands.

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    PunchgroinPunchgroin Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    @Mrdeeds

    Well hold on a second. I wouldn't say the numbers are innacurate. We don't know what the accurate numbers are, so we are making an educated guess. It's not the same thing. It's also an equation with a lot of hidden variables, and the output is only Human-like sapience.

    All of us know this is a fools errand. We are guessing wildly with next to no data. But it's an important topic, both practically and philosophically. The universe is big. Preposterously big. 100 Trillion Stars in our galaxy (roughly!) 100 Trillion galaxies in the visible universe. (roughly!) And the visible *bubble* is now believed to be only a very small part of the whole. (A grain of sand compared to the size of the earth) And we may live in an infinite multiverse. (For my part, I think this is fairly likely) All that... just for us?

    Well, maybe. The Anthropic bias is much more powerful than it gets credit for. Basically, it means that while it seems sapience is fairly plausible (after all, it happened at least once) That doesn't mean it actually is. Everything seems to have gone right for us here. Actually a preposterous amount. But does that really make us special? The (multi?) universe is so preposterously big it actually lowers the overall required probability for sapient life to form. It's simple logic, we only know that it happened once, so the minimum probability is 1 over every system in the (multi?) Universe that a system will have sapient life. Assuming the infinite multiverse, this is a null set. Assuming the visible universe, it sets a probability absurdly low as a baseline.

    But if you roll the dice often enough, the unlikeliest things can happen. Just because we are here doesn't mean its likely. We are here to observe the universe. We seem special because we are here observing and interpreting the natural world. We are puzzling out our own origins, the nature of life. But how small is one observing mind compared to the cosmos? How insane is it to be here? How unlikely? Well, there is a reason you are here, observing rather than on Venus. Life evolved here. The unfolding of time conspired to put your observing mind right here in this moment, of all possible places and moments. Every second of life is an improbable chance that just happened to come up with the jackpot that is this moment one time.

    I'm having a hard time articulating observational bias here. Better minds than mine have articulated it to me. Observation *is* power in our universe. I don't mean philosophically, I mean that observation has a physical effect on the universe itself. Quantum Physicists actually have used the word *eery* to describe it. Observation, in a lot of real, measurable ways, calls the universe into order. Outside of our little bubble of observation, what's there? Unmeasured, unfettered chaos. Schroeder's cat. Over a large enough sample size, astronomically small probability can come into being. Things we could never, possibly have predicted are out there, we just need to look.

    Hell, if we live in a multiverse, the probability of sapient life forming could be as low as say, half a percent per universe... or lower still. Universes with conditions that can allow life could be absurdly rare... and there could be an infinite number of them.

    Does modern astrophysics kick God's ass? I didn't think so until I considered the multiverse and the anthropic principle. (What I have stated is more a corollary to the principle than the literal thing.)

    These topics aren't a wacky aside. They are core philosophical issues. Finding another sapient species would be a huge revelation and boon to humanity. (Assuming they didn't obliterate us. I have a hunch though that a technologically advanced race would tend to be curious like us.) Sharing this dauntingly huge desert of a universe, and sharing the burden of sapience could be what elevates humanity into something truly great. It might shake off some of the malaise and in curiosity off many of the ignorant. Raising the mind to wonder at, instead of fear the unknown.

    This is turning into a god damn essay. Sorry, I think about this topic kind of obsessively.

    Punchgroin on
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    zardoszardos Hartford, CTRegistered User regular
    @Punchgroin

    That's all well and fine, but the numbers thrown out there seem to show a little bit of a huge bias towards technological intelligence. Our knowledge on evolution is that bacterial life going from prokaryotes to eukaryotes took the largest amount of time (between 1 bil to 2 bil years to accomplish). Life could easily exist on other planets and still be in the very earliest formation of life, such as our own planet's journey. It took Earth roughly 4.5 bil years to get the internet up and running.

    With such huge numbers in time it takes life to develop, I think it's incredibly radical to assume that while 50% of planets have intelligent life 90% of that intelligent life is technological. I would put that estimates in the high teens at best. Technology has helped mammals, but insects have owned this world many times without it, and certainly every dominant species before us did fine, too.

    The fact is, we have one case study in the Milky Way for life and we don't even know how it began.

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