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Where Have All the Spacemen Gone? reprise

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:08 pm
by Windwalker
Earlier, Chris posted a set of essays about Kardashev levels and the Fermi paradox. I recently ran into another explanation of the ETI silence, by evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller. To put it in a soundbite, he thinks that technologically advanced civilizations get addicted to computer games and virtual reality (without the intervention of Matrix-like Sentinels).

I am wary of evolutionary psychology, because many of its propositions are too sweeping and not quite testable. Nevertheless, Miller's essay struck a chord. Here are two representative snippets:

"Having real friends is so much more effort than watching Friends on TV. Actually colonizing the galaxy would be so much harder than pretending to have done it when filming Star Wars or Serenity."

"We have already shifted from a reality economy to a virtual economy, from physics to psychology as the value-driver and resource-allocator. We are already disappearing up our own brainstems. Freud's pleasure principle triumphs over the reality principle. We narrow-cast human-interest stories to each other, rather than broad-casting messages of universal peace and progress to other star systems."

The entire essay (plus more "dangerous questions" by other luminaries) is here: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#miller

Posted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:59 pm
by intrigued_scribe
Superficiality and certain kinds of self-absorption--mixed in with extreme consumerism--as a explanation for the ETI science is an interesting theory, and an unsettling one at that. Aside from placing some emphasis on how many individuals seek out the easier and more pleasurable alternatives to more substantial results, this brings to mind--and to me, ties in with--the idea of humanity coming to an evolutionary cul-de-sac, for this reason along with others (not to digress too much). Keeping Miller's speculation that more advanced extraterrestrial races might subject themselves to the same in mind, the implication that this might be the eventual fate of other civilizations strikes as even more disturbing.

In any instance, this makes for gripping and thought provoking material; thanks for sharing the link to this one.

Heather

Michaud's Contact with Alien Civilizations

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 8:36 am
by Walden2
A review of the book Contact with Alien Civilizations here:

Beep, beep, bop, be-bop. These could represent a new song or a communication from intelligent species on another world. With discoveries of more and more planets circling far away suns, there seems an increasing possibility that we have fellow, smart occupants sharing this universe.

Michael Michaud takes this consideration seriously in his book Contact with Alien Civilizations. In a very forwarding looking text, he puts sound reasoning into analyzing the issues about if and when we find we’re not alone.

Full review here:

http://www.universetoday.com/2007/06/07 ... lizations/

Re: Michaud's Contact with Alien Civilizations

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:57 am
by Windwalker
Walden2 wrote:Michael Michaud takes this consideration seriously in his book Contact with Alien Civilizations.

I think it's interesting that our ideas about contact have not changed very much since we started considering it seriously. Michaud's book sounds like a compendium of informed opinions by astrobiologists (broadly defined) and the devil's advocate passages are bound to be thought-provoking.

Another book on the topic just came out, Giancarlo Genta's Lonely Minds in the Universe: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. I suspect I'll end up reading both.

Posted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 1:55 pm
by intrigued_scribe
Windwalker wrote:

Michaud's book sounds like a compendium of informed opinions by astrobiologists (broadly defined) and the devil's advocate passages are bound to be thought-provoking.


I agree. This, and the other title mentioned here, sound like highly interesting recommendations.

Heather

Posted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 3:12 pm
by Windwalker
Speaking of missing space(wo)men, science fiction writer Charlie Stross just wrote an essay about the near-impossibility of space colonization by humans. There can be no quarrel with his numbers, although he strictly limits himself to current technology. He also does not take biology much into account, whether genetic engineering or future spontaneous evolution. Nevertheless, the essay is interesting, and definitely worth reading as a reality check: The High Frontier Redux

Posted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:31 pm
by intrigued_scribe
This is an effectively written and methodical essay; along with underscoring the impossibility of space colonization (at least, considering that current technological advances and biology are strictly adhered to in this), Stross does a fine job of emphasizing the reasons why it cannot take place, not the least of which are the inhospitality of space and the fact that humanity has evolved to thrive in far less hostile enviroments. Spontaneous evolution and genetic engineering--among other factors--could indeed be elements that may begin to make such undertakings possible, but as it stands, this essay makes for an interesting read. Thanks for sharing the link. :)

Heather

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 11:30 am
by Windwalker
A report just came out from the National Research Council, which formally states that our assumptions about life elsewhere are almost certainly too narrow. Here is the report summary: Life Elsewhere.

This is not new in terms of science, but it signals that NASA is finally ready to modify its approach when sending missions to Mars, Europa, Titan and Enceladus, each posing unique challenges to searches for life. You may recall I touched on this issue in my blog entry You Only Find What You're Looking For.

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 11:37 pm
by intrigued_scribe
The issue mentioned in your blog article definitely ties in with the subject matter of the report summary. Given the unpredictability of conditions of other worlds--and the evolution of their lifeforms, if said worlds are habitable in any fashion--more open thinking becomes a bit of a necessity. It will be interesting to discover what the broadening of horizons might lead to here, to say the least.

Heather

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:51 pm
by Windwalker
I just finished Giancarlo Genta's book that deals with ET life and intelligence. Instead of posting my own review, I found a review on another site that pretty much covers what I planned to say: Lonely Minds in the Universe