Friday, December 03, 2010

Life Jim

Filled in the numbers on the Drake Equation (for calculating how much intelligent life is out there) with my estimates and got 39. SETI reckon 20 to 30 thousand, but then they have to justify their funding. Seems to me that if technological sophistication increases exponentially (as ours appears to have) then the window for a civilization being within our range of experience (i.e. smart enough to be contactable but not too smart for us to not have anything worth talking about) is going to be short. We flatter ourselves that a higher intelligent species would either invade us or guide us, whereas in fact they might simply study us like "a scientist who studies the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water" because having a conversation with us would bore them silly. We have come to realize that interfering with the lives of other living things on Earth, even with the best intentions, is not often a good idea and the consensus view seems to be to let nature take its course - so they could take the same view of our planet.

39 then, is my number of civilizations at roughly our level of sophistication. Which is essentially zero, given the scale of our galaxy. Given the timelag on any communications across these kind of distances, it's not going to be a very interesting conversation anyway - a bit like telegrams in a foreign language that take years to arrive and concern events that you don't understand in a place where you'll never visit.


Blogger Rowan Collins said...

My suspicion has always been that the most likely scenario is that we would find aliens but not realise it because we didn't recognise them and they didn't recognise us. The equations and predictions always assume similar life, requiring similar conditions, and achieving similar ends.

A civilization of beings based on the computational power of quantum interactions could attain consciousness and shape their environment in ways that we would simply describe as "complex physics". They might not even experience time in the same way as us, so that their manipulations would appear to be eternal from our vantage point.

Rather than the amount of time and space we can examine, the sheer wealth of possibility for genuinely alien aliens is surely the greatest challenge to their discovery. And like trying to predict fundamental breakthroughs, you can't quantify that, because you don't know what it is you're quantifying.

9:24 AM  

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