The sun is expanding and in a few billion years we will fry if we do not move. A huge asteroid could hit us any second and wipe all life off our Earth. For these reasons we have a responsibility to make every effort to colonize other planets as soon as we can.

The possibility that requires the most careful consideration is the increasing danger of self annihilation. We are staring "The Filter" implied by the Fermi paradox so close in the face most people do not appear to be able to see it. Humanity must soon make the choice between becoming super-ethical or being wiped out. At www.copcutt.me.uk/SETI.htm I explain in more detail why this can be the only explanation, if we consider All the facts.

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My favorite explanation of the Fermi paradox has long been the strong suspicion that abiogenesis is extremely unlikely. Sure, amino acids and the like form readily under the conditions assumed to prevail on the early Earth, but the road from that to self-replicating systems is very long and may be very unlikely.

Sir Fred Hoyle famously likened abiogenesis to a tornado stirring up a junkyard and assembling it into a jumbo jet, and I consider this a good, though slightly exaggerated, analogy.

It's true that Hoyle's analogy ignores 3 factors making abiogenesis somewhat less unlikely:

1) Unlike a random junkyard, organic molecules at least have the ability to join up into the required combinations.

2) In terms of the analogy, it isn't necessary to get a Boeing 747 directly; something like the Wright Flyer will do. Once you have a self-replicating system, natural selection will refine it.

3) Finally, we're not contemplating a single tornado in a single junkyard over a short span of time but bazillions of tornadoes stirring up bazillions of junkyards over eons.

Even so, I suspect the probability of abiogenesis on one planet may be more like 10^-100 than 1.

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Nearly all discussions of this issue profoundly underestimating the amount of information astronomers actually have about the universe. We have spectroscopic data on not only billions of stars in our own galaxy (along with associated dust clouds and the like), but also on billions of other galaxies. They all look perfectly natural. Galaxies where most of the surfaces and illumination have been efficiently engineered would stick out in the spectra like sore thumbs.

Since out of billions of galaxies we've found none converted to artificial surfaces or illumination methods, something we should expect a significant fraction of ETI to have done over the many billions of available years, it's astronomically unlikely that we share our own galaxy with any other ETI.

Either that or all over the universe the aliens are all very good at hiding, like elves and dwarves.

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There is no value to be gained in the present by seeding the galaxy. It is evolutionarily pointless.

There is no reason not to believe that the Fermi Paradox may arise from the simple fact that evolution for intelligent species may favor comfort.

Consider that we're only a half century past Jack Kennedy's "we do these things not because they are easy" speech. And today a vast portion of our industrial output goes into LOLcat transceivers and dildos instead of trying to build sub-light speed space vessels.

Comfort may simply trump adventure.

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Only one explanation rings true. They are already watching us. We're in a kind of 'hands off' Procterate, along the lines of the Kenyan Preserve -- a huge planet sized Game Preserve. Which means goodness and love won, and God really is the aliens. And yes, they probably have far more interesting places to be than this single universe. So enjoy life -- we all in live in a Game Preserve!

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Your eden-like description of "time before the white man came" feels about as realistic as a Disney cartoon. Most indigenous peoples of the new world lived in precarious imbalance with giant civilizations rising and collapsing as they overextended their natural resources, engaged in wars with neighbor civilizations, suffered new diseases, and endured all sorts of tragedy that archeologists speculate on to this day. Even the Aztecs marveled at the ruins of the Teotihuacanos and wondered what could have destroyed an empire and civilization vastly greater than what they achieved.

I strongly recommend reading Chinua Achebe's _Things Fall Apart_ for a much more nuanced and realistic view of the clash between alien cultures. One conclusion I think is safe to draw from this book: However nasty modern human culture may be, it's still a significant improvement from even 100 years ago.

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On reflection, we should stop worrying about extraterrestrial life. We should realise that extraterrestrial contact has already occurred on this planet: the re-connection of Western, European peoples, and the indigenous peoples of the "New World" was such a meeting. And we can see how well that went: cultures that had slowly built up, over thousands of years, to live in delicate, balanced relationships with their natural environments, were disintegrated in the blink of an eye by a ravenous, overwhelming horde of alien invaders. We came off our ships and proclaimed sovereignty and declared the customs of those we encountered savage. Then we set about breaking open and harvesting their lands. We are almost at the threshold of the butchering of the earth's natural resources (or at least I shudder to think how much further this process might go). Now we live in a dying, consumed world, spinning fantasies about how "advanced" we might be in a million years time. But the truth is that none of our "advances" have challenged the basic realities of physics and ecology. Our advances have instead led us to the precipice of cultural and ecological self-destruction.

It is clear, then, that the realities of interstellar travel is that is impossible. So, all contact between alien cultures must remain terrestrial. And this has already happened, largely over the course of the last five hundred years. Yes. We have already met aliens: they are us.

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When I hear people discussing the possibility of alien civilizations, and wondering why we have not caught sight of them yet, I cannot help but think of the Combine from Half Life 2. To me the Combine is the most likely variety of interstellar civilization we would encounter - a monstrous, all-consuming swarm, an unrecognisable blend of technology and biological, sweeping across the universe enslaving and devouring all in their path. It seems to most likely that if an intelligent species were to leave their homeworld en masse, it would most likely be one that had already nigh-killed its own home, and such an effort would be led by members who had the least qualms about consuming other worlds. The difficulties of transporting species adapted for planetary ecosystems leads me also to believe that such an interstellar species would be one that had abandoned all of its values of caring, nurturing, natural existence, a species that, driven by insanity and hatred, would extirpate basic values of respect and dignity, turning their bodies and minds into fuel for experimentation.

I could see humans fulfilling this ideal.

However, the much easier answer is that interstellar travel is so prohibitively slow and expensive that it will never be accomplished by any species. We should be thankful. Look at what a disgusting mess we have made of our planet. Look at how Europeans have destroyed the beautiful, ecologically-attuned indigenous societies of the Americas, Africa, and Australasia. Why should we want to let our greed and inhumanity spread out from this planet? Why should we wish the fate of our own world on any other?

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Human bodies relative to ants are very powerful, and of course they are capable of self-destruction, but they are also capable of crossing entire seas where ants cannot. If enough humans worked as a body it could cross the ocean of space -- the individual cells merely need to cooperate and have sufficient high-level mechanisms for destroying cancers that arise in its lifetime, if the analogy be that a body needs to survive especially long to cross this ocean. If evolution has found a competitive niche to create billions of massive clunky humans despite the advantages of comparatively decentralised single-cellular life then I think society can think of reasons to centralise humans into cooperative societies that can even have mechanisms to extinguish existential disaster.

(My thoughts are not at all set.)

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If the observable physical universe was just a narrow part of a much bigger reality that we are currently unaware of, and this 'bigger reality' was far superior (in terms of resources, economics, etc) , then all the advanced civs will have migrated to this other place.

Think 'The Hall of Worlds'. I suspect the 'physical universe' that we know about comprises 'narrow corridors' in a much broader platonic 'hall' of pure math forms. In theory we should be able to enter the hall of worlds from any point in space and time. The creation of FAI will give us the 'access key' , 'turning the locks' of ordinary space-time to open a portal to this dazzling wider reality. It is likely we will then all pass out of the observable universe, and join all the other 'powers' of the universe in the hall.

Just one additional assumption explains the Fermi Paradox. Once you enter the hall, you cannot return to the ordinary physical universe (or at least, there are severe restrictions on your exit points).

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The USSR didn't have collective ownership, everything was “owned” by the Communist party and controlled by the senior officials for their own power.

The problem is power concentration. Doesn't matter if that power is private or public. If that power can be exercised so as to gain more power, then the system is unstable.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Productivity in the US was greatest in the 1960's.

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Here's a link to some progress on understanding the evolution of differentiated multicellularity:


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To captain obvious: I consistently get numbers ~ 100 per galaxy sized like our own (this puts the average distance to one at about 8,800 light years) with very low rates of formation that are probably on par with yours but much longer average lifetimes than most people seem to give. I have a background in biology and a bit of astronomy, and my estimations of the probability of creatures arising with general intelligence is somewhat low. But I don't consider the implosion/exponential expansion through the universe dichotomy to be a valid one. I'm fairly convinced the universe as a whole is pretty hostile to self-replicating systems, and that we are living in an extremely atypical era of human history full of exponentiation that warps our expectations of the future. I see little reason that our progeny couldn't be living on Earth 5 million years from now, not having ever left our solar system with anything self-replicating.

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Interstellar travel doesn’t depend on cryonics, brain emulations, or sending ships of humans. We will just send machines.

What for?

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You're right - the USSR no longer exists. It imploded, because large-scale "collective" ownership of wealth is, in practice, totally unworkable. ONLY private ownership of wealth (and more specifically, voluntary transactions thereof) provides the freedom that we deserve and the improvements in productivity that we need to advance.

I mean seriously - aside from some early successes in the space race, what technological advancements has a "collective ownership of wealth"-type society produced? Look at the track record over the past 100 years of collectivist vs capitalist economies!

And yes, people can be self-centered, uncaring, and downright cruel. But that's people for you, and they're an unavoidable component of any society - so man's sometimes-overly-ambitious nature is not an honest argument against capitalism, just a lame attempt at rationalizing something you already believe in.

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Billy, a civilization doesn't get beyond its own first planet unless it has a social system that can tolerate it. Right now, humans don't have one that can tolerate it.

What would the US do if China put a manned base on the moon? Would the US cooperate with the Chinese? Or would the US destroy it? How powerful would the US allow the Chinese moon base to get? What if Iran put a manned base on the moon?

Right now humans can't agree on what to do about AGW. In the US they can't agree on fixing what is broken (roads and bridges) when there is manpower to fix it (super high unemployment in construction) when borrowing money is cheaper than it has been in generations.

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