Re: Re: Barely Detectable Aliens

Eugene Leitl (
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 00:23:26 -0700 (PDT) writes:

> Not interesting!? Maybe not to you...but if I became aware of an extrasolar
> presence I'd be damned interested in them. How did they manage it? How long
> have they been around? What do they know? This has to be the most absurd
> statement I've yet to read on this list.

Why can we now (imho) afford to kill the biosphere, and not to suffer the damage of associated biodiversity loss overmuch? Combinatorial chemistry can create and screen huge molecular libraries, and virtual screening (darwin in silico) is about to enter the pharma mainstream. The importance of the biosphere as a potential drug pool is thus dwindling rapidly.

Aliens are interesting because they are a pool of memetic diversity. Aliens without command of nanotechnology are not interesting _for a nano-civilisation_ because it can invent a low tech pre-nano civilisation, nuts & bolts and all, on a lazy afternoon. In fact, we can be right now be very well basking in such a petri dish. (The meaning of life? You're soaking in it).

> >If even one civilization took to the Nanotechnology path anytime in the last
> >5 billion years ago or so it would be obvious to anyone who had eyes that
> the >night sky had been engineered.
> Assuming that they _wanted_ to engineer the cosmos. Again, this

Look, we are talking about a population of civilisations which consist of populations of individua. Such a substrate can amplify a certain molecular- or quantum-scale event (=a bright idea) to cosmic scale. Do I really need to berate the obvious, and explain the implications of this?

> pronouncement is ridiculous. And what's with the capital "N" on
> "nanotechnology"? It's a technology--a tool--not a damned religion. Must we
> all bow our heads in awe to the Great God of Nanotech, Without Which

You've not done your homework, and it shows. Nanotechnology, if it works, is really, really Major News.

> Interstellar Travel is Impossible? (That bit about non-nano aliens not being

You're not listening, interstellar spacetravel with nano rides hard the edges of the light cone without assuming any funky new physics, try repeating that trick with flesh. There might be some flesh travellers somewhere at the edge of time frozen in transit, they will be certainly very surprised when they arrive at their destination.

> interesting anyway was a blatant cop-out, completely removed from informed
> speculation.)

This argument works both ways.

> An alien civilization is not some abstracted phenomenon out to prove its
> existence to the galaxy (or, more accurately, to John K. Clark). There are
> any number of worthwhile things it could spend its time doing. Assuming that
> the nanotech diaspora scenario is the _only_ scenario is a dangerous
> make-believe designed to cut intelligent discourse in the bud, serving to
> police "non-Extropian" memes.

Another scenario: 20 years from you build your spaceships, I build my nanocomputers, we both being individua, members of the same population. You embark on a journey to Alpha Centauri, while the world behind you explodes in a developmental Singularity. Nanotechnology is a critical enabler for it, but it may not stop at that -- but extrapolate beyond that is pointless speculation. While you spend 10 kYears in transit, the sphere of nanoprobes has colonized a volume hardly less than 20 k light years in diameter. Now, think how many civilisations there might be in the volume of the observable universe. Of course, the light coming from there is too old, and they all might be hatching semisynchonously with us. However, 100 kYears is next to nothing in geological time scales, and there are billions of stars in our very own local galactic system.

> As a possibility, I have no trouble with it whatsoever. Maybe it's even
> likely--but I'm not going to go beyond my data and proclaim that it's "nano
> or nothing."

Assuming above scenario, you (monkeys in speeding cans) are not observable. The gaping hole in the skies few 10 k light years across is however is very much observable. The very absence of such observably transformed regions imposes a whole lot of contraints. I'm sure there are thousands of people all over the world going bananas over that dilemma.

> >We see nothing of the sort, thus I conclude that quite probably their are no
> ET's, >or if there are they're too dull to bother with.
> Oh, man, you're _so_ erudite! How can I learn to be this cool and dismissive?

I do not always agree with John, but he's hardly cool and dismissive, he's just very succinct. He delivers results, but does not give a braindump explaining the reasoning behind it.

> >Nanotechnology may or may not be near on a human time scale, but from a
> >cosmological perspective it will happen instantaneously, this very instant.
> Nanotechnology isn't a "done deal," but I tend to agree with this last
> statement. We're more than likely on the verge. But it's premature speaking
> in absolutes, when a variety of scenarios demand attention. If we're going
> to discover some alien intelligence in the future, it's _not_ going to be
> through the blinkered reasoning of these last several posts.

I think we as a species are going to be at least as interesting as aylieuhns in a short brief while. Phone home, I need to phone home now.