The Extinction Challenge

Billy Brown (
Tue, 27 Jul 1999 14:36:50 -0500

I've noticed several casual mentions recently of the idea that spacefaring civilizations might die off for one reason or another. Since I've yet to se an even halfway-plausible explanation for how this could happen, I've decided to issue a challenge:

I hereby challenge anyone to come up with a disaster, natural or artificial, that could reasonably be expected to render an advanced spacefaring species completely extinct.

For purposes of clarification:
1) The target civilization is assumed to have self-sustaining colonies in several solar systems spread across a volume of at least a few dozen cubic light-years.

2) The target civilization is assumed to have advanced robotics, genetic engineering, non-sentient AI, and other such technologies. Just to give exterminators a sporting chance, we'll pretend that nanotechnology and sentient AI don't exist.

3) The target civilization is assumed to be at least as intelligent and diverse as modern-day humanity. So let's not see any proposals that rely on them all making exactly the same idiotic mistake at the same time.

4) A proposed extinction event must be consistent with current astronomical knowledge (i.e. either it would be invisible to us, or it is something we've seen).

Challenge format:
Just post your proposal. I'll reply with a specific explanation of how the target civilization could survive and rebuild, without recourse to ultratechnology or contrived foolishness. If you stump me, I'll post a message saying so. If you don't think my survival plan would work we can make a thread out of the argument (and we'll let the list judge which side makes more sense).

Are there any takers?

Billy Brown, MCSE+I