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An Economic Answer to the Fermi Paradox?

Those who ponder the Fermi Paradox might want to consider Myrhaf’s solution, one based on economics. If advanced technolgical civilizations really are out there, maybe they simply can’t afford to build interstellar spacecraft. Myrhaf assumes that the only realistic way to travel between the stars is via a slow generation ship, what Isaac Asimov once called a ‘spome’ or ‘space home.’ And he doubts anyone would attempt it.

Expensive? You bet. And maybe there’s no one with the deep pockets to build it. Governments are too inefficient, while capital investment is unlikely because interstellar travel has such a long timeline. Corporate heads looking for return on their investments aren’t likely to have enough patience for a slow boat to Centauri. Charity? Perhaps there’s a hope through what Myrhaf calls ‘committed visionaries,’ but we’re talking investment over the course of generations.

Does any culture have that kind of long-term vision once it develops the technologies that could build a generation ship? There’s a case to be made that by the time the tools are available, the will won’t be there, and thus the solution to the paradox is what Myrhaf says: “Where are the aliens? They’re at home watching TV. When their visionaries knock on the door, they say, ‘I gave at the office,’ then resume watching ‘Alien Idol.'”

Or maybe not. Posit this scenario: A culture at the end of its star’s life must make a decision about how to save itself. Its G-type star, much like our Sun, will swell into a red giant, destroying all life on the inner worlds of its system. But in the process, that star becomes the perfect launching pad for solar sail missions of enormous scope, the kind that could get a generation ship on its way.

Would government, private industry and charity all contribute toward a starship not for exploratory purposes but for survival? The betting here is yes, and in a galaxy filled not with Sagan’s million technological civilizations but perhaps five or ten, star-crossing expeditions like these would hardly be visible to astronomers on Earth. Myrhaf may be right about the cost and the political will, but sheer self-preservation may eventually get at least a few societies to other stars.

One other thought: never rule out the power of compound interest. Couple it with a truly long-term perspective — think centuries instead of single lifetimes — and philanthropy properly applied can work wonders.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ljk November 20, 2006, 9:43

    People really need to start thinking outside the box and get
    past some rather dated concepts about interstellar travel.

    Multigenerational star colonies? I can only see them happening,
    if at all, if something was threatening our planet and system in
    the relatively near future, and even then it’s doubtful anything
    serious could be done in time to save enough people to start a
    new society.

    Otherwise, giant ships carrying large groups of humans across
    the galaxy for ages only makes sense if the human species
    intends to remain essentially organic and wait for evolution to
    progress naturally.

    Ideas like this and visions of the USS Enterprise may be romantic
    (though anyone who has read SF novels like Heinlein’s Orphans
    of the Sky may not find such a situation so appealing), but putting
    current humans aboard a spaceship that will take a long time to
    reach another star system (and we have no evidence that the really
    nearby stars have any planets around them, to say nothing of ones
    we could inhabit) for any reason other than to save our skins is not
    practical and could very likely be fatal to such travelers.

    Some folks at least are starting to realize that small ships equipped
    with artificial intelligence (called Artilects) are a much more practical
    way to go and will likely be ready by the time we are truly ready to
    send star probes into the galaxy. Such beings (and they will be true
    intelligent life forms) will have knowledge and judgement capacities
    far beyond anything humans can muster on their own. They will also
    likely not suffer from the psychological conditions that have brought
    humans down for ages virtually every time a group of our species
    encounters a new environment and situation.

    Want to know why we haven’t met ETI yet, other than the possibility
    that intelligent life in the Universe is rare (and the thought that humans
    are at the top of such a pile on a cosmic scale is both utterly absurd
    and frightening to me)? Because any beings who do become a true
    galactic society will not be organic in nature (or at least nothing as
    primitive and unmodified as us) and will likely interact only with other Artilects. What would we have to say to/teach Artilects anyway, and
    what would they want to say to us?

    Of course there could be groups of organics plying the stars in big
    ol’ starships for all I know. As for the referenced article saying that
    organics being unable to live on such miniworlds without going nuts,
    anyone ever heard of virtual reality? By the time any species is
    capable of launching starships, VR should be quite sophisticated
    to the point that one would be unable to tell the difference between
    their artificial construct and the real world.

    Of Course Two, that leads to the next issue: Why bother to actually
    travel anywhere if you can visit any place you want in your mind
    without leaving your chair? Maybe that’s another reason we haven’t
    met ETI: They can’t be bothered to unplug to go exploring any more.

  • Bruce Irving November 20, 2006, 9:48

    Interesting thoughts (yours and Myrhaf’s). Although we have better ideas now on planet formation and the numbers of stars and galaxies, most of the factors in the Drake equation are based on a sample of one (us) supplemented by reasoning of one sort or another (surely with all those stars and planets…) and a large dash of hope for one’s own vision of the universe and our role in it. I too believe that Earth is probably not unique in having evolved life, and I hope that there are other intelligent civilizations too – but it’s mainly a hope, I know, and we ought to act more as if we ARE the only intelligent life in the universe and try harder to preserve it in the face of all the threats it faces from environment to superstition in all its forms. I believe one way to preserve it is to get some of us off this particular planet, but that’s another topic (sort of).

    But as far as the economic argument (that it’s too expensive for us, too long for ROI, etc.), that sounds awfully modern Earth-culture-centric to me – “if they are intelligent, they must be like us, and too self-involved to worry about exploring the Galaxy.” Maybe, maybe not. I could imagine (and SF writers often have) an advanced civilization for whom exploration and expansion into the Galaxy is in effect their global religion. Some of Europe’s cathedrals took generations to build, in a time where the wealth involved was a much bigger percent of the GDP than was (say) the Apollo program. There’s an awful lot we don’t know about the universe — I suspect we are far from knowing all there is to know about physics, for starters. To suggest that a separately evolved intelligent civilization would even use the same sort of reasoning (and transportation) as we do is a big and not very imaginative assumption IMO.

    I would go further and suggest that our current “comfort zone” (in American Idol land at least) is itself only a phase, and the restlessness and will to explore will win out in the long run (next few hundred years). I’ve just read Baxter’s “Evolution” and Dawkins’ “The Ancestor’s Tale” and I have a new appreciation of the wanderlust of all creatures on Earth and for the depth of time. The future space travelers may not be our biological descendents, but they will be our cultural and spiritual children. And they will run some version of Windows. ;)

  • Administrator November 20, 2006, 10:14

    Re Bruce’s comment:

    “I could imagine (and SF writers often have) an advanced civilization for whom exploration and expansion into the Galaxy is in effect their global religion. Some of Europe’s cathedrals took generations to build, in a time where the wealth involved was a much bigger percent of the GDP than was (say) the Apollo program.”

    Absolutely right. Our addiction to short-term thinking and solutions may be a transitory thing, and we do have numerous examples from human history of the opposite. And as you say, we needn’t assume that extraterrestrials will share the same predilection for quick solutions that we do. I’m on the side of that exploratory restlessness you talk about (and I got a kick out of the Windows comment!).

  • Administrator November 20, 2006, 10:21

    One bone to pick with Larry — Singularitarians to the contrary, I don’t see a necessary imperative for the human species to give up an organic existence. I’m sure some will when the alternative becomes available, but a wholesale shift to a different level of existence seems unlikely to me. I do think that our early interstellar work will be via robotics, and have a hunch you’re right about AIs of some kind doing the actual traveling to other stars while we stay home.

    “Why bother to actually travel anywhere if you can visit any place you want in your mind without leaving your chair? Maybe that’s another reason we haven’t met ETI: They can’t be bothered to unplug to go exploring any more.”

    Larry, the above may be the most dismaying scenario you’ve ever created! I hope if we do as a species decide to sit out interstellar exploration (or if it’s just beyond our powers), we still manage to be something other than couch potatoes. Ouch, what a future…

  • andy November 20, 2006, 10:35

    “A culture at the end of its star’s life must make a decision about how to save itself. Its G-type star, much like our Sun, will swell into a red giant, destroying all life on the inner worlds of its system.”

    To bear in mind here, as a star ages its luminosity increases, even while in the stable main sequence phase of its life. The Earth is predicted to become uninhabitable Venus-style in less than a billion years, which is well before the sun even starts to turn subgiant, let alone a full blown red giant. Whatever Earth-based intelligence is around in a billion years’ time gets fried without the compensation of “the perfect launching pad for solar sail missions of enormous scope”

  • Administrator November 20, 2006, 10:52

    Good point, Andy, but I would argue that a technological civilization in these circumstances would gradually move outward in its own system, thus prolonging its survival around the parent star while planning a possible exit later. Throughout that process there should be increased luminosity that would be more and more useful for sail missions. Exactly how long the survivors would stick with their star as the situation worsens is a tricky thing to gauge!

  • ljk November 20, 2006, 11:44

    I cannot take credit for the virtual reality scenario I described.
    One place I saw it was in the 2000 SF novel Calculating God by
    Robert J. Sawyer:

    http://www.sfwriter.com/excg.htm

    An ETI that visits Earth reports the discovery of numerous systems
    where entire civilizations seem to have vanished, only they went
    deep underground their home worlds to live out virtual lives in
    relative safety. One species even went so far as to cause the
    premature supernova of Betelgeuse to remove any potentially
    disruptive civilizations in the vicinity so they could continue their
    VR lives undisturbed!

    Millions of people all over the planet are already spending hours
    of each day glued to their PCs and video games, lost in virtual
    worlds that do not even approximate what is envisioned down
    the road. Of course there will always be those who reject such
    technology in favor of reality, but will they be enough? And
    since many of these same folks also tend to reject technology
    and the trapping of civilization, how will they manage to change
    or overcome the majority who happily prefer their devices to
    the forests, mountains, oceans, and stars?

    Regarding the idea of everyone going AI or the possibility of AI
    becoming the next dominant intelligence on Earth – or more likely,
    leaving the planet to explore and settle the wider Universe – I do
    recognize that not everyone will want to go that way, even though
    the benefits are obvious. Nor will everyone have to. As we have
    seen in history, it sometimes only takes a few dedicated, focused
    people to accomplish a task and goal that the rest of the herd
    tends to ignore or even put down. Of course in the case of making
    Artilects and starships, it will require more than the eccentric
    scientist and his band of youthful enthusiasts working out of his
    home lab in the basement or garage to build such things.

    As to why I think creating Artilects are important and the only
    truly efficient way to explore the stars, my concern goes to the
    survival of the entire human species. We have not advanced as
    much as we like to think from our “caveman” days (Monkeys with
    car keys as has been put), yet we are now on our way to seven
    billion inhabitants of this single planet, which hasn’t physically
    grown in quite a long while. Neither have Earth’s resources.

    Yet so many people continue to act and live and war like they
    have for generations, as if all that exists or needs to be is this
    single planet which will somehow remain intact and continue to
    spew forth whatever we need when we need it.

    Natural biological evolution will not happen fast enough to make
    the necessary changes to preserve our species and the planet.
    If we don’t use our brains to make some radical changes now
    in ourselves, we face stagnation and extinction.

    I and others have also wondered if we are not the endpoint of
    the evolution of intelligence on Earth. Perhaps our minds have
    reached the capabilities they have so as to create not just a
    slightly better form of our species but an entire new one, one
    that is not imprisoned by eons of primitive survival genetics and
    prone to rash acts prompted by base emotional states rather
    than acting in accordance to preservation and development
    down the long road.

    Despite centuries of knowing on an intellectual level at least
    that we are not the center or focus of existence, too many
    people still act as if the Universe was made just for us. We
    may be in for quite a shock the day the Cosmos does something
    major to finally wake us out of that delusion. Our current selves
    may not survive such a change. That is why we need to advance
    ourselves, or at least get on track creating what Hans Moravec
    calls our Mind Children, so that something from this planet can
    survive and expand into the galaxy and beyond.

  • Kurt November 20, 2006, 12:48

    ijk is right. Consideration of intersteller travel without transhumanism is a non-starter. Unless something like the Heim drive gets developed in the next few decades, the bionanotechnology that will make us transhuman will be developed long before we go to the stars. We will probably become transhuman before we even get to Mars or the asteriods in any meaningfull way.

    There is Moore’s law in semiconductors and computers and there is something faster than Moore’s law in biotechnology. I do not see any comparible trend in space technology. I think any scenario for intersteller transport (let alone ETI) separate from transhumanism is a quaint, old SF idea; sort of like “Metropolis” or “Things To Come” from the 1930s.

    One possibility is that advanced civilizations do not leave their parent stars because the information band-width is too low in intersteller space. A posthuman (or postalien) civilization could be very gregarious.

  • Kurt November 20, 2006, 12:54

    Assuming no breakthroughs in physics (like HQT), Frank Tipler describes the most likely scenario for intersteller migration: (http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/518/1/From-2100-to-the-End-of-Time/Page1.html).

    Thats assuming we don’t all end up being uploaded into a Matrioshka brain.

  • andy November 20, 2006, 12:59

    I doubt gradual migration as a star toasts formerly-habitable planets, while not engaging in interstellar travel, is a likely possibility. There are going to be intervals between a habitable planet going runaway greenhouse and the next suitable planet thawing out. There might not be a next suitable planet – Mars is probably not sufficiently massive to retain a habitable environment. Beyond that you have the ice moons of gas giants: again low mass, and there wouldn’t be any land above the water.

    In any case, significant terraforming effort would probably be needed – these planets are going to thaw out anoxic. The sheer technological expenditure and long-term planning required to terraform a planet is probably comparable to, if not more challenging than, an interstellar migration.

    While interstellar migration will probably need some terraforming effort (since even habitable planets are likely to have the wrong abundances of trace elements and suchlike), at least this would enable the choice of world to be made so that the requirement to terraform would be minimal. Given a choice of Mars or an extrasolar Earth-mass planet in its system’s habitable zone to terraform to human requirements, I’d take the extrasolar Earth.

  • Administrator November 20, 2006, 13:16

    Great discussion. Andy’s comment on the expansion of habitable zones as stars turn into red giants makes sense, but I could also see a space-savvy civilization building a variety of habitats on the outskirts of their systems to maintain survival. But I’m with him on this: “Given a choice of Mars or an extrasolar Earth-mass planet in its system’s habitable zone to terraform to human requirements, I’d take the extrasolar Earth.” Exactly so.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen November 20, 2006, 13:34

    Perhaps a the creation of a “Manned Interstellar Trust Fund” at the start of 2007 is in order. Simply put $10,000 or more in a turst fund for 100 years, let it accumulate interest, and viola, there’d probably be enough interest to fund a multiple of interstellar missions for a few generations or two by 2107.

    There is perhaps a simple test that might answer the riddle of Fermi’s Paradox. The recently developed metamaterials that allow for invisiblity were created when a scientist decided to determine if there was a real world analog to time travel that would work. He reasoned that if time travel wasn’t possible, then there should be no analog to it in the real world that would work. Metamaterials is the working, real world analog to time travel.

    So if its possible to travel FTL, then there should be a real world analog to hyperspace or the medium that allows FTL travel. And if you can travel, you can also come up with a means to detect who is traveling.

    Of course, a scientist working on this problem would be limited by the amount of his grant.

  • ljk November 20, 2006, 15:14

    Since we are already discussing the idea of Artilects being
    the only “crew” onboard any serious future starship plans –
    actually they would BE the ship – wouldn’t terraforming other
    worlds be rather pointless then?

    To me this is yet another example of how inefficient having
    a human crew will be for a real, non-Hollywood starship.
    Artilects won’t need Earthlike environments and can study
    alien worlds far more pristinely than any human expedition.

    For those who might be wondering how engaging a space
    mission might be without an on-site human presence, ask
    yourselves if it was any less exciting to witness the Voyager
    missions to the outer planets or the current expedition of
    the two Mars Rovers across the plains of the Red Planet.

    By the time we are ready to seriously explore the galaxy,
    our notions of how it will be done will be more quaint than
    Jules Verne’s concept of going to the Moon.

  • Paul Dietz November 20, 2006, 16:20

    There are other reasons to colonize other star systems than just species survival. For example, to really learn about another star system, the best and most economical approach would be to send self-replicating investigators — that is, colonists — there. These colonists may or may not be biological, but adding the ability to grow biological entities after the machines have a foothold is probably not that big a step.

  • Frank Smith November 20, 2006, 19:43

    My two cents is that the economic argument does not hold water. The coming age of robotics will make construction costs very low (at least for robotic spacecraft). I see no economic reason that our solar system is not swarming with Von Neuman probes.

    I do have one thought that I have not seen discussed before. Remember when there were science fiction stories about the horrors of overpopulation? Remember novels like “Stand on Zanzibar”?

    Well it seems that the true peril is just the opposite. Given cheap, effective birth control many, if not most, people choose not to reproduce. The last I read there were over 40 countries where the birth rate had fallen below replacement. In the Middle ages, the Black Death killed a quarter of Europe’s population in 50 years. The population of Europe is expected to decline 25% in the next 50 years because of the lost birth rate. The birth rate in Europe and Japan is not just declining, it’s crashing.

    Maybe citizens of advanced civilizations have very long life spans——- and birth rates that approach zero.

    Maybe when an advanced civilization reaches the technological level that they can solve the engineering problems of interstellar transport, there’s just not enough of them left to bother with it…

  • Brian November 20, 2006, 21:36

    Governments are too inefficient, while capital investment is unlikely because interstellar travel has such a long timeline. Corporate heads looking for return on their investments aren’t likely to have enough patience for a slow boat to Centauri. Charity? Perhaps there’s a hope through what Myrhaf calls ‘committed visionaries,’ but we’re talking investment over the course of generations.

    There are organizations that have centuries of institutional patience and the willingness to think really long-term. Consider how long the Roman Catholic church has been around, now posit a holy order dedicated to good works on the high frontier – terraforming Mars, expeditions to the Kuiper, and expedition to Alpha Centauri ..

    Via Starelus

  • Adam November 21, 2006, 0:29

    Hi All

    Brian’s suggestion is akin to Baxter’s fictional Superet Church of Enlightenment (or whatever it’s called) which funds the big trans-time projects in the early Xeelee stories, and fixed the greenhouse effect a millennia before that. Multi-thousand year organisations might be feasible with life-extension technology.

    Another thing unmentioned is the implied dichotomy between humans (Fleshers) and Artilects. What if humans get an upgrade and we become essentially immortal? Greg Egan posits a future in which a neurologist develops an ultra-hardy system for encoding the human mind that eventually takes over from our mushy fat-ware computers we call ‘brains’. People are freed from personal death, just having to occasionally face local death when an instantiation is destroyed. But since everyone has back-ups stored everywhere this is only a few lost memories, temporary amnesia, not a true death. To travel you beam a copy of your mind and body-state to your destination and freeze your local body. At destination the beamed copy is run on a generic body which modifies itself to your body’s current state, even showing scars etc. you might have kept as heirlooms.

    If the people back home care enough to, they can run at much slower speeds and spend the same subjective amount of time aware as you. In Egan’s fictional world this is done for well-loved emissaries on official missions to other systems.

    Alternatively in Egan’s Universe there are people who opt to be pure software and live in VR worlds. Or others who embody as advanced androids rather than enhanced bodies of flesh. If and when embodiment becomes “optional” we may know what such a world will allow us to do across interstellar distances.

    Adam

  • dagon November 21, 2006, 5:03

    For me, I am stark raving terrified by the idea of Fermi’s Paradox, even though it is frightfully soon to argue the pros and cons. I favor the idea that intelligent life is rare, has many options in virtual reality or maybe as outlandish stuff as create their own expanding universe or phase to adjecent quantum dimensions. But whatever the explanation, it will be based on stuff we as humans do not have a clue about yet.

    The most sensible speculation based on what we do know is depicted in the online setting Orion’s Arm, but even they raise quite a few troubling issues.

    As for spacetravel – I am kinda worried about attaining relativistic speeds with a big vessel. A mote of dust I can barely see hits a vessel with the power of a nuclear weapon if it strikes at .2 C. I am kinda worried these extreme velocities will carry an extremely high incidence of crashes.

  • Adam November 21, 2006, 8:54

    Hi dagon

    With active defenses a starship at 0.2 c will be able to vaporise trouble and/or move out of its way. Some current starship designs use ultra-powerful lasers to ionise relativistic pellets fired at them for propulsion, so the same kind of lasers can be aimed forward to tackle the much less frequent threats from space debris.

    But it’s quite an issue for near-light speed travel as reaction times become distorted by red-shift and time dilation. For that reason IMO most advocates of ultra-speed starships are engaging in wishful thinking. A speed of 0.2 c is probably enough.

    Interestingly Ursula LeGuin’s NAFAL (Nearly-As-Fast-As-Light) starships go into a parallel space to avoid the radiation and debris issues.

    Adam

  • andy November 21, 2006, 8:59

    I personally don’t buy the AIist argument that we’ll all be transferred into robotic bodies, or we’ll create AIs to supplant us in the interstellar migration. For a start, computer circuitry is also vulnerable to radiation and can degrade quickly in the space environment. An AI would find interstellar travel as dangerous as humans I would think. To survive the journey, you’d need to use fairly bulky circuit components, which might remove or significantly narrow the mass advantage.

    Technological trends have changed before (remember that the future was predicted to be robotics-dominated, but in the end the path we took was computers not robots). The singularity is not inevitable, as Moore’s Law is not a physical law. As for quantum computing, there may be unforeseen problems which severely reduce its effectiveness.

    As for reasons to go to another star system, why bother unless there is resource pressure or the original system becomes uninhabitable? There are already proposals for telescopes that could image continents on an extrasolar planet. Combine larger space-based telescopes with increasing power of computer simulations and we won’t have to go there to experience an alien world.

  • Ron S November 21, 2006, 11:25

    I think Brian made an interesting point about attention span. Religions, and also organizations like China (1400-1900) and more recent communist states, derive their longevity from the application of negative feedback. That is, they have effective mechanisms to cancel deviations from the norm. However it comes with a high price. That price is stagnation, an avoidance of newness.

    Interstellar travel and ETI contact are anathema to such an organization, since they invite change and the new. Much like China circa 1400, stability was in part achieved by focusing inward and forbidding external exploration.

    Further, such a society is fragile because the rest of the world is changing and will in time cause disruption of one form or another. The RC church has largely avoided this by eschewing statehood, and mostly accepting decreasing political influence, and my guess is their stability will finally crack.

    However, if you could get a worldwide society with this negative feedback mechanism, it could perhaps last a long time. It also would not support exploration.

    I think we’ll just have to deal with open-ended organizations, and their extreme messiness, if we are to have at least the possibility of exploration. Unfortunately, so far, this form of organization isn’t interesting in generational projects.

    So both fail but for different reasons. In time this deadlock would likely require technology/science advances that radically change the economics (making long term project initiation less difficult) or that bring ventures within a single lifetime (faster travel or longer lives!).

  • Edg Duveyoung November 21, 2006, 13:25

    The body is the mind.

    The type of “thoughts” that get created by a “system,” are a small sub-set of all-thoughts-possible.

    What do porpoises think? How many “alien being” thoughts do they have before they have even a single “conceptually close to a human” thought?

    A robot brain, unless it absurdly tries to match, quark for quark, a human configuration, will come up with its own agenda and the thoughts to support it. It will not be human. Though we try to program it to be “human,” it cannot be.

    Do humans have thoughts that benefit porpoises? — only a few. If we create machines that think, we won’t be pretending they’re human for very long — they’ll disabuse us of that in short order, and if they have any power-over-humans, BEWARE! — they’ll use it, and like porpoises caught in tuna nets, humans will get a surprise when machines begin to “seek their kind of food.”

    The discussion here has not touched upon the spiritual evolution of humans as time passes and nervous systems get bathed in new paradigms. What has historically happened to human cultures from the sudden shocks of change? What did the huge European ships do to the Native Americans when they appeared? What did the Native Americans think about their canoes — and their minds that did not imagine, let alone invent, the European engineering masterpieces?

    These are spiritual events.

    Nanotechnology will produce “swarm minds,” that will, at some point, begin to evolve when its sub-units have gotten complex enough to talk to each other and cooperate communally. These minds will not come up with human thoughts about how to “fight global warming,” or “seek cures for human diseases,” or “have a steak for dinner,” etc. No, it will be thinking uncountable billions of nano-agenda thoughts at the speed of light — how many thoughts will a swarm mind have per second? Per human thought?

    Humanity as it is now would be as naive upon meeting a nano-swarm-mind as Native Americans were about the thoughts and the technological achievements of the Europeans. What does one say upon meeting, say, ten billion micro-brains singing in one voice? How does humanity even survive ONE such “conversation?” What happens when the best human minds cannot fathom the swarm’s “take on reality,” and cannot predict, let alone harmonize, with that swarm’s needs?

    Fear is what happens, but when Big Blue became the chess champion, who shuddered? Only a few knew what happened. And fewer still saw through that portal to AI’s coming challenge. What happens when AI asks for the right to vote? What will it do if we say “no?”

    Better have a plug that can be pulled quickly, eh? — say, about one attosecond after we see that the swarm mind is out to have at us. Better have some machine to watch the machines, because our bio-speed rate of decision making will be too slow.

    Also, here’s the rub: the human body is exquisitely refined — billions of years of evolution behind it — a design tested by the vagaries of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Most “owners” of a nervous system are like “little old ladies driving their 400 horse power Caddies to church” — hardly using the potential of their minds.

    And it’s not the potential most surmise.

    Long we’ve heard from every established religion about the human potential to contact “deities” — deities so subtle that they cannot be measured by our present technological instrumentation, deities that are poo-poohed by science as not worth the “looking for,” since they are more illusive than gravitons to grasp, track, resonate with. Yet, every Buddhist (substitute your favorite religion here) who acts as his/her religion suggests, who dwells inwardly for thousands of hours, WILL — as surely as a chemist knows that carbon and oxygen combine in an atomic dance — come to understand, to see, to resonate with, to harmonize and surrender to an agenda that “most know not of.”

    A deeper agenda resides within us all that is as revolutionary, as life altering, as BOMBASTIC as European ships coming over the horizon. Consider that each of our brain cells is a nano-entity — each communicating with up to hundreds of other units like it. How far are we from understanding the “built in agendas” of our own “swarm of cells?”

    The scientists presently spending billions of dollars, throwing hundreds of nervous systems of humans into researching quantum level knowledge. That’s a heap ol’ churnin’, eh?

    Why the surprised look then? Why even the slightest friction between religion and science, when scientists always support subtle and deeply considered awareness of “reality?” The meditating monk/nun in almost any religion is doing that same sort of research — finding out how their body-mind works, and they’re taking on that challenge with a dedication that few ivory tower “gurus” are aware of. They’re doing the research — good research — and scientists are not reading those “journals.” Spiritual types are taking notes. They’re conceptually grasping the exceedingly quiescent operations of the mind. They’re going deep into existential abstractions. And the tools they’re using to do this data-collection are far more subtle than merely the intellect. We know that we have “certainty” about specific knowledge sets — for instance, the game of baseball is “known,” but the game is also FELT. What’s your favorite sport? — to answer that, you consult your heart more than your mind. Who compares baseball to basketball in conceptual terms by asking questions like “Which sport gives more thrill per minute?” Oh, we can do that, somewhat anyway, but picking a favorite is an affair of the heart….a very refined tool that humans use daily but seldom inwardly.

    Scientists today lose very little of the respect of the public when it is admitted by them that they cannot come up with an easily understood, easily planned for, way to “handle the weather” or “exceed the speed of light.” Yet, the same public will laugh up its sleeve when a monk says that he cannot yet safeguard all humankind from egoism, narcissism, power mongering, etc. The public snobbery asks: “What’s your religion worth if your typical practitioner can’t even levitate yet? Where’s your control of natural processes — like splitting the atom? What can you actually DO that is worthy of today’s media blasted, neo-tech, survivalists’ attention? What’s your congregation got that my gang-O’-PhDs don’t?”

    As technology advances into the realm of “being magic” to most folks, religion’s mystical foundations won’t seem so out of place anymore. I expect inner research to come to the fore again — not as an authoritarian blitzkrieg from a fascistic and invasive army of door-knocking proselytizers — but as an individual hunger for a deeper level of resonance with reality that wells up within the world’s cultures in variegated forms. Each individual saying, “I will go to the shore of my nervous system, and I will meet the visitors from the huge potentialities floating on my horizons. I will find out about this meat-robot’s coding and see for myself if it is serving my life, or “creating the illusion of a claustrophobic tiny version of me,” or ? ? ? I will take the chance that my inner swarm will have a higher purpose than getting laid or winning at pong. I will take the chance that who I am now will be utterly transformed, and my old self will wither during the onslaught and flood of my realization of my truer and deeper resolves. I won’t care if my whole life’s productivity is to be cast aside so that I might venture forwards on paths new discovered within.”

    As humankind digs deeper into individual experience of existence, our species will expand the definitions of itself. That’s the same as digging a deeper hole to build a taller building. That’s when humankind will begin to yearn for an interstellar expression of humanity to match the inner-souler depths that are achieved — dug — by grasping one’s greatness.

    And then, well, maybe then the aliens will come visiting — smiling that we’ve finally “gotten it” that spirituality and technology are one beast. Maybe then they’ll land and say, “Finally, we can announce ourselves and know that you folks won’t panic into insanity.”

    Edg

  • Ron S November 21, 2006, 22:44

    Edg, a few brief comments and I’ll shut up.

    1. Excessive extrapolation is almost guaranteed to yield nonsense. This is true even with something as tractable as classical dynamics, let alone biology and psychology.

    2. There have been controlled experiments, with and without pharmaceutical aids (sorry, I have not researched specific references, though you may want to) that show resulting hallucinations bear striking similarity to certain religious and meditative experiences.

    3. Be careful when throwing around phrases like “exceed the speed of light.” It breaks no known physical laws (that is, it’s perfectly ok) to travel from here to Alpha Centauri in 5 minutes or less. There are just the small issues of achieving the needed acceleration and surviving it.

  • Brian November 22, 2006, 2:27

    Andy
    As for reasons to go to another star system, why bother unless there is resource pressure or the original system becomes uninhabitable?

    For the same reason that it’s a prudent idea to settle other worlds in this solar system; we don’t want our species eggs in the same basket.

    In the same light, the Polynesians didn’t have to trek across the Pacific and settle a thousand different islands – they went because of a very human need to go and see what is beyond the horizon.

    Watching another planet on TV is not going to satiate that need.

    Ron S.
    However, if you could get a worldwide society with this negative feedback mechanism, it could perhaps last a long time. It also would not support exploration.

    The Church (Holy Roman) was if not behind then was a motivating factor behind the explosion of Western Europe into the world. But aside from that ..

    You need not have millions of people involved with an effort like this to give it shape and drive it forward. Consider that the Society of Jesus has had an impact on history and culture far out of proportion to their numbers. You only need a few thousand people dedicated to (say) terraforming Mars to make it happen. The Via Sterrelum society (my Latin is non-existent, sorry) runs the project, has key managers in place and hires any contractors they need to fill in the gaps.

  • Robin Goodfellow November 22, 2006, 2:40

    Ron brings up an excellent point with regard to excessive extrapolation. And, despite all the fanciful imaginings, that’s really the essence of the “singularity” idea: a stage of development that is too far advanced for us, today, to understand, a point past which we cannot extrapolate. Even without breakthroughs in molecular nanotechnology, or other near-magics, the advancement of “mundane” computation and fabrication technologies will almost assuredly bring human civilization to such a state (from the perspective of today) in the not too distant future. So speculation at this point, though interesting and to some degree worthwhile, is not terribly useful in terms of arriving at the correct answers. It’s a bit like trying to figure out the power source for the Sun without understanding nuclear fusion.

  • Adam November 22, 2006, 7:47

    Hi All

    Robin, when the early astrophysicists looked at the Sun and realised it wasn’t giving out energy via Helmholtz-Kelvin style contraction they pretty quickly figured out the rough parameters of the power source. They even had a ‘red herring’ for a while when Bethe proposed the CNO cycle was powering the Sun, but eventually it was figured out by the 1950s.

    So right now, Ante-Singularity, I feel like Eddington figuring out the rough shape of the unknown heart of stars. I can imagine all sorts of outcomes from our advances in neurology, computing, robotics, medicine, manufacturing, nanotech etc. but only get it roughly right when it does arrive and totally surprises us all. Afterwards we might remain much as we are, but it will be optional, and all the evolutionary baggage that unconsciously puppets us individually and as societies will be open for all to see and retain, retrain or refrain as we see fit.

    I think much of the current speculation is too extreme and too unlikely, but then there’s a lot about our world which no one expected.

    Adam

  • Edg Duveyoung November 22, 2006, 10:53

    Ron S, you say: “There have been controlled experiments, with and without pharmaceutical aids . . . that show resulting hallucinations bear striking similarity to certain religious and meditative experiences.”

    I say: Yep. Stick an electric probe into certain brain parts and the person can relive whole events in a way that seems as if it actually is happening — the person says it’s not like the experience is being merely remembered or dreamed. That’s cool stuff.

    By the way, I’m not a Buddhist, but I am very pro-meditation. There’s been a ton of studies of brain waves and other physiological parameters of meditators, and, I’ve done my own personal spiritual research within for decades, and for my money, electrically or chemically induced hallucinations — which I’ve also researched somewhat, ahem — are experiences that are completely different beasts than the menagerie one encounters in deep meditations. I won’t try to beat this dead horse, just google “brain wave synchrony” and wade through the bogus stuff until you find some nuggets, and they can be very convincing — there’s gold at the bottom of our “mind-shafts.”

    And it’s not mastery of materiality to be searched for down there — powers of the mind, psychic skills, mind over matter controls — they’re mere distractions, something to engage the intellect or heart, addictions only — no, the real gold to be found is clarity about identification.

    Identification. What is it that so convinces one that one is a body-mind? What keeps the bird in the gilded cage despite the door being wide open? That’s the holy grail of psychological/spiritual research — to find out that one HAS NEVER BEEN a body-mind system and all its glorious abilities. The allure of being a human — slurping those experiences — is the deepest addiction of them all. A Hindu will tell you that angels drool for a human lifetime! They’re in heaven; they are in the living presence of God, but they’ll jump ship and take on a human life with nary a second thought.

    Why? Because they know that if they can break the imprisoning walls of identification, if they can free themselves from thinking that they’re a human body-mind, then they can escape the fate of being a mere angel. The “human drug” is the most addicting “substance” that God has ever invented — and if they can escape thinking that wanting human experiences, then they will have gained the ability to move beyond thinking that angelic existence (perfect nervous systems but a closed universe) has anything to offer them.

    And what’s beyond? Final immersion with the Godhead, unity, freedom from being some THING, some nervous system, some set of experiences, some history, some snapshots in a brain-scrapbook, an egoic individual who is separate and limited. If you’re an angel and see God 24/7 being unlimited, well, angelic powers are utterly claustrophobic. Only the freedom from identification will do. Only identification with the source of EVERYTHING will do.

    I’d say, that at today’s level of sophistication in understanding consciousness, western research is at the “alchemy” stage. Researchers are futzing around playing with lead-into-gold theorems, trying to find tools for manipulating the mind or the world. It’s a dead end they’re heading for — no matter what powers or clarity can be gained, there will always be MORE to be gained. The human mind has no end. Thoughts can be refined infinitely. One will never run out of nuances to be garnered. That’s the addiction, you see? Every nuance achieved gives a bliss hit — a rush from a drug injected via a conceptual needle. Da Vinci kept the Mona Lisa with him all his life — adding a dab here and there — never ending, see?

    That’s what angels fear — a doingness that never ends, and sacred silence is the only cure.

    Seeking the ends of the universe, or seeking the end of one’s insides — same deal — a never ending seeking that can so tire out a soul, you know?

    That’s why I’m pro-meditation. Inwardly, as one refines thought, as one begins to see thoughts actually in the process of being manufactured, one begins to get a distance from them and they become less able to instantly grab one’s identity. One finds that one “doesn’t have to own that thought as ‘mine.'” When that begins to happen, the world begins to dissolve, the processes of identification weaken, and one begins to reduce one’s calling for the brain to deliver another hit of that addictive bliss — a bliss that Adam first knew when he began to name the beasts — began to experience the first concepts.

    In Buddhist paintings, one sees the wondering monk as a tiny creature on a vast canvas. Those artists knew how tiny a “life” can be. They knew that identifying with ALL OF IT was the hat trick — and, here’s their secret — “all of it” means also the silence between thoughts….the canvas of life is silence.

    And when humanity knows that both ends of existence are, well, UNending, the middle path beckons. Surrender to the unknowablility; comfortably reside in the unfathomable. Abandon the intellect which never will shut up. Dwell in the silence of the heart, and then, having gained comfort with the “mere being” of the heart, suddenly, leap out of all systems, all thoughts, all being-anything — and know the freedom beyond experience.

    What a piece of work is man
    How noble in reason
    How infinite in faculties
    In form and moving
    How express and admirable
    In action how like an angel
    In apprehension how like a god
    The beauty of the world
    The paragon of animals

    I have of late
    But wherefore I know not
    Lost all my mirth
    This goodly frame
    The earth
    Seems to me a sterile promontory
    This most excellent canopy
    The air– look you!
    This brave o’erhanging firmament
    This majestical roof
    Fretted with golden fire
    Why it appears no other thing to me
    Than a foul and pestilent congregation
    Of vapors

    It’s a small small universe, kids. As small as a sand box.

    How much will your sell your soul for? Would you take a twenty-five billion light year wide universe and all its contents?

    You did!

    It’s a bum deal; demand your payment back.

    Edg

  • Stephen November 22, 2006, 11:25

    The Sun is heating up. There are three technologies to save the Earth for much later.

    First, it appears that with current technology, though quite a bit of money, like the entire US military budget, a swarm of satelites could be launched to L1 (where SOHO, etc., are now), and provide a 10% Sun shade. This may be a temporary fix for global warming. It could let us use the Earth as Eden until the Sun is 10% hotter.

    Second. With technology that is easily in reach, we can move the orbit of the Earth. The idea is that you steal orbital energy from Jupiter and give it to the Earth (moving the Earth out from the Sun). This is achieved by guiding a bigish minor planet into a looping orbit between Jupiter and the Earth. As long as it doesn’t accidently hit the Earth, what happens is that on each pass, the Earth gets a little boost, and Jupiter is slowed somewhat. Calculations suggest that we have plenty of time to move the Earth out to, say, the orbit of Mars, as the Sun gets warmer.

    Third. You’d expect that since the Sun will eventually run out of fuel, that to prolong it’s life, you need to add more fuel to it. This is incorrect. The correct thing to do is to remove material from it. This reduces the pressure and fuel consumption rate in the core, which prolongs the life of the star. Can material be removed from the Sun? Yes. Magnetically. We don’t have this technology yet, but there don’t seem to be any show stoppers in developing it. Again, we appear to have time.

    The upshot, is that if we start acting soon, and i mean in the next million years or so, we could get on track to extend the usable life of the Earth and the Sun by billions of years. This seems so reasonable to me that i think we’ll do it. The US military has SUCH as high budget because it is justified by the logic that it ensures the safety of the citizens. The current superpower could justify this kind of spending for the safety of the Earth’s citizens on the same grounds. For evidence, consider GPS, Glonass, and Galileo. These are available for free for navigation by anyone on Earth with an appropriate receiver. The first two are military. Galileo is not yet operational.

    Once we figure out that there’s only Earth life on Mars, we’ll terraform it, and make it a nice place to live.

    Going to other stars will be a big project. One way to reduce the cost is to wait until a promising star system comes closer to us. Epsilon Eridani is headed our way, and has a very young star and system. That would give such a colony a very long time. That happens in only ten or so million years.

    They say that a species only lasts maybe 7 to 10 million years. I have no doubt that our descendants will be wildly different that us very soon. We will not be able to avoid tinkering with our own genome. We will continue to grow smarter, and probably longer lived. The accelerated evolution may be so fast that old people will be more obsolete than worn out.

    The cheapest way to put together a Noah’s Ark to bring Earth Life to another star system is to just send the information. Once we can robotically assemble life, we’ll be able to recreate entire ecosystems elsewhere, by sending the robot fleet out. We can even beam out updates. This sort of colonization could spread very fast, as Fermi suggested. In that case, the only reason I can think of for why it hasn’t happened, is that others haven’t yet felt the need to do it.

    Individuals are mortal. Life itself has so far been immortal. But Earth life’s real immortality will happen when at least 30 star systems have been established with it. For myself, I’m rather excited by the idea of infecting the Galaxy. Then Andromeda. Then the Local Group. Then, to infinity, and beyond!

  • ljk November 22, 2006, 13:21

    Thinking Machines

    Technology Review Nov. 22, 2006

    Danny Hillis talks about the
    real-world challenges of creating
    artificially intelligent…

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=6111&m=25748

  • dfg November 23, 2006, 1:16

    An economic answer to the Fermi paradox? Here’s one possibility: humanity as a whole is no smarter than yeast. We grow, we consume all easily available resources (most importantly, energy in the form of fossil fuels), desperately struggle for a while to maintain a high-tech civilization and end up going through a serious collapse.

    Many species in nature go through cycles of growth, overshoot and collapse. In case of technological civilizations, the first cycle is perhaps destructive enough to be the last.

    (I’m not sure if I really believe the above, but things look worse and worse every day. Most people do not seem to realize the precariousness of our current situation.)

  • Edg Duveyoung November 23, 2006, 9:57

    dfg Says: (I’m not sure if I really believe the above, but things look worse and worse every day. Most people do not seem to realize the precariousness of our current situation.)

    Forty years ago, I was a reality hater. I had reasons. No need to spell it all out — the same reasons are still there.

    Before our eyes, humanity exhausts the planet. Whole cultures are hunkering down into foxhole mentalities.

    Dafur. Osama. Globalism. — doesn’t matter what cause or person or ism we use to justify indulging in hate.

    As they say Jesus said, “The poor are with us always.” If we want to wallow in despair, take a number, put in your order, and all will be served with a steaming hot plate of angst.

    When Nelson Mandela got out of prison, he hit the ground running with a love blasting heart. He could have just festered for the rest of his life about the quarter century of misery he’d been unjustly forced to endure by the whites. Instead he just came out with a full agenda of harmony, and hatred was simply left in his dust.

    That’s a person I’d invite to my Thanksgiving table to say the prayer. Someone with a song still singing inside.

    He wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    It is this kind of thinking that will get humanity to the stars.

    Here’s the good news: You already are infinitely passed the stars. If you see your loved one across a room, who could convince you that that distance is too much for you to love that person very well? The few photons that reach our telescopes from even the most distance stars, photons that might be fifteen billion years old, are all that’s needed for us to feel “WITH” those stars, to identify with the concept of being nearer to them. See? Already, we’ve visited them, just as surely as you know that a glance from across a room connects you so deeply with another.

    I might have twenty years more to live. Maybe thirty — I exercise vigorously every day, watch the nutrition, so maybe, just maybe I’ll someday hold a fistful of Martian dirt in my hands. The headline: “Oldest Tourist Lands On Mars — Insists On Visiting Victoria First.”

    Or not. Doesn’t matter. I’ve been to Mars, now, a thousand times. Just like you, right? I’ve stood on the edge of Victoria and gasped. Just like you, right?

    So take your proper stand on this day of giving thanks. Stand out there, say, twenty billion light years out, and take a good look back at EVERYTHING. It’ll will be a golden egg — called Hiranyagarbha in Hindu scriptures. And it will be as inviting, as wondrous, as lovable, as holy as a child’s laugh.

    Do not despair.

    There are miles to go before we sleep.

    Edg

  • tmayes1999 November 23, 2006, 12:24

    It is more probable then not there is about 30 or so technological space faring civilizations in the galaxies core. If there are other civilizations in our part
    of the galaxy they are likely to be less advanced technologicaly then we are
    and . they may be pre-dindustrial & pre modern civilizations in fact.
    tim

  • george scaglione November 23, 2006, 12:33

    yes tim,most people don’t give much thought to “aliens” who are still in their “horse and buggy” days!! …thank you! george

  • tmayes1999 November 23, 2006, 12:46

    If a multi-generational star ship is launched it will probably be propelled
    by an Orion class thermonuclear bomb pulse propulsion system. Only orion
    can carry the kind of pay load mass required for a multi-generational world
    ship. It can gp up to 10 % of light velocity however. People on such a craft
    are possibly more likely to become a nomadic interstellar city traveling through
    the galaxy then they are to settle on a planet and live there.
    tim

  • tmayes1999 November 23, 2006, 13:03

    If any aleins are technologicaly advanced to just our level and they are any where within 50 light years of the solar system they should have alread detected
    us or we should have already detected them./
    tim

  • ljk November 23, 2006, 18:14

    Carl Sagan estimated if that there are even one million
    technological civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy (meaning
    we have a chance to detect teir signals and vice versa),
    the nearest one to us on average is 200 light years distant.

    So that may be one reason we haven’t found any yet.
    We’ve only had radio for just over one century and much
    of that time we couldn’t have detected anything other than
    a very powerful signal – and we weren’t looking much, either.
    And Optical SETI – that didn’t get popular until perhaps a
    decade ago. As for other methods of communication, they
    are still on paper, at best.

    Same thing with searching for ETI starships, be they probes
    or big ships carrying colonies. How long have we been looking
    for them? Even less than “regular” SETI, to be sure. If a sign
    was detected, what astronomer would even try to determine if
    it is artificial in nature, considering that he or she would be
    laughed out of their profession.

    Granted I would not want otherwise professional scientists
    claiming everything to be from alien intelligences, but I have
    the feeling that there are indications of extraterrestrial activity
    in the galaxy which we are not able to recognize yet.

    Orion starships – yeah, they seem neat and are certainly a
    quick way for our level of technology to get something to the
    next star system in less than two centuries, but I will surmise
    that an advanced culture would find them both crude and quite
    dangerous and have other methods of interstellar transportation
    at their disposal. Laser sails, magnetic sails, fusion, and
    antimatter are some that come to mind.

  • ljk November 23, 2006, 18:22

    Regarding George S.’s comment about scientists “ignoring”
    ETI in the “horse and buggy stage” (would they actually have
    horses and buggies? :^)): I don’t think they are being ignored
    as a possibility (certainly there may be more of them than the
    advanced versions). It is just that at our current level, we will
    not be able to detect them. Even the powerful telescopes being
    touted on this forum could image nothing smaller than continents
    on nearby alien worlds. Maybe if they created huge geometric
    symbols across their planet, as we once planned to do in the
    Sahara Desert and Siberia to get the attention of the Martians.

    Perhaps if they are polluters of some sort we might be able to
    detect their emissions. I know one potential source for finding
    life elsewhere is methane, which is produced by cows in
    abundance. Doesn’t mean that life is intelligent, though.
    Just gassy.

  • Adam November 23, 2006, 20:18

    Hi All

    Tim, if there were ETIs within 50 light years launching starships just how do you propose we might’ve already detected them? Robert Zubrin analysed that puzzle a few years ago and even with extreme energy-hungry drives, like photon drives, rockets don’t produce much of a visible trace except within about a light-year. Magnetic sails produce a huge observable signal in radio, but too low in frequency to observe except from space and AFAIK such an experiment hasn’t been conducted as yet.

    When, and if, it is conducted we’ll know if anyone is using magnetic sails out to several hundred light-years, which will put significant limits on the abundance of ETIs or the style of space-drive being used.

    Good point about space-nomads though. If you spend so long in a ‘spome’ you might not want to do anything more in a star-system than have a look and fuel-up for the next destination.

    As for danger… Larry you know as well as I do that beamed-energy drives are propelled by terawatt power-beams that can fry planetary surfaces across significant fractions of a light-year. A few megaton fusion bombs don’t really compare to one of those.

    Adam

  • ljk November 23, 2006, 23:57

    Adam said:

    “As for danger… Larry you know as well as I do that beamed-energy drives are propelled by terawatt power-beams that can fry planetary surfaces across significant fractions of a light-year. A few megaton fusion bombs don’t really compare to one of those.”

    Yes, but let us presume that such advanced ETI with that kind
    of space drive would not use them for such a nefarious purpose,
    otherwise I assume we would not be having this conversation
    right now. Like a nuclear bomb on this planet, perhaps all one
    needs to do is advertize that they have such a device and the
    rest of the galaxy leaves you alone.

    Or maybe that is one reason we haven’t had much luck with
    SETI yet: The holders of the beamed energy drive had to use
    them on aggressive species that didn’t think they’d have the
    fortitude to use them.

    Plus they are still less messy than a nuclear bomb spewing
    radiation all over the place while jolting the ship across the
    stars. A rough ride, even with a pusher plate and shock
    absorbers.

    If you were an advanced, sophisticated species with a high
    degree of culture and aesthetics, wouldn’t you prefer to be
    seen flying around the galaxy in a beautiful sail ship being
    romantically pushed by a beam of light, as opposed to a hunk
    of metal with bombs exploding out the back end leaving a
    trail of radiation wherever you go? Only the primitive, too
    eager species go for the latter method and are easily found
    and avoided by the higher civs.

    I know, it depends on the species and their tastes.

    As for those who imagine advancd ETI are using cosmic
    wormholes or astral projection or some other kind of
    metaphysics, I suppose they could, but until we have
    any kind of scientific evidence that such things are more
    than abstract concepts, I think we should keep some kind
    of grounding on this matter. If they do arrive in our skies
    out of some rip in the fabric of spacetime and want to
    uplift us to a higher spiritual plane, then we can have a
    better grasp on the concept.