by James & Gregory Benford
Talk of interstellar beacons invariably heats up the discussion, and I was fascinated to read not only Bob Krekorian’s take on the concept, but the follow-up comments of James and Gregory Benford, whose work on beacons has been examined previously in these pages. See A Beacon-Oriented Strategy for SETI, as well as Jim Benford’s Regarding METI and SETI Motives and Jon Lomberg’s Interstellar Beacons: A Silence in Heaven? for our treatment of this topic. Meanwhile, what about putting some constraints on how an interstellar beacon would operate? Here are the Benford brothers with a look at one way to proceed.
Bob Krekorian’s ideas invite comments. He takes a simple model which has the virtues of minimizing Doppler shifts in SETI beacons: an outward-facing array in an AU scale orbit around a star, fed by solar panels and radiating outward. The concept isn’t fleshed out quantatively, so can’t be compared to approaches such as ours. And of course he couldn’t say much in a short editorial. Perhaps he should write a detailed version of his idea, so comparisons can be made.
But this concept has the limitations of previous attempts at describing beacons: insufficient constraints, leading to little quantifying. There’s no condition placed on a beacon to estimate its principal features. That’s why we introduced cost as a driving factor (for a detailed discussion of Earth-based beacon costs, see James Benford, Gregory Benford & Dominic Benford, Messaging with Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons; for ET beacons, see Gregory Benford, James Benford & Dominic Benford, Searching for Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons.
This quantifying approach is sobering, as it forces tradeoffs on otherwise open-ended speculations. But it also advances the subject, which many beacon speculations do not do. It’s simply much clearer to pick a major organizing principle – economics – than generalize from a special design (“stellar orbital beacon hypothesis”). As we’ve argued, minimizing cost and effort are far more general traits, and we’ve given reasons for expecting this among any evolved species. See our ‘Searching’ paper for references to others who previously pointed this out.
Other specific comments on Bob Krekorian’s ideas:
- 1. The concept seems to assume that the galactic plane and the orbital plane of the beacon solar system are the same. That’s highly unlikely. For example, the angle between the plane the Galaxy and the ecliptic of our solar system is slightly more than 60 degrees. Almost all star ecliptic planes will be angled with respect to the galactic plane, with few exceptions: this beacon concept could be used only if the angle were near zero, an unlikely event.
- 2. Bob gets the number of stars vs. distance a bit wrong. In the near region, the distribution is uniform, so star numbers increase as the cube of the beacon range, but only out to about 650 ly, where the disk thins to half the density of the plane. Total disk depth is~1300 light years, so the stellar distribution is not spherical beyond that distance. Then it goes over to a number increasing as the square of distance. Bob’s numbers don’t fit either of these domains. He could get better numbers from Project Cyclops, pg. 54.
- 3. Of course, narrower bandwidth beaming is more efficient. But, quite generally, high powers radiators are not narrow band. Broadband emitters (~MHz) eliminate the need for all Doppler adjustments anyway (See appendix in ‘Messaging’).
- 4. It’s an old idea that the acquisition signal will be in the form of a pointer that directs us to the primary communications channel.
- 5. Of course, placing it very close to the star will rule out laser beacons.
A comment on John Hunt, who appears to believe that beacons are cheap. Our analysis says otherwise. With the very lowest price technology we have today, beacons cost $200,000 per light year. A more likely cost is about ten times that. So a 1,000 ly beacon will be 200 M$-2 B$. Making many of these ‘200 billion beacons’ would cost at least 40 T$.
To quote ourselves:
“We assume that if they are social beings interested in a SETI conversation or passing on their heritage, they will know about tradeoffs between social goods, and thus, in whatever guise it takes, cost. But what if we suppose, for example, that aliens have very low cost labor, i.e., slaves or automata? With a finite number of automata, you can use them to do a finite number of tasks. And so you pick and choose by assigning value to the tasks, balancing the equivalent value of the labor used to prosecute those tasks. So choices are still made on the basis of available labor. The only case where labor has no value is where labor has no limit. That might be if aliens may live forever or have limitless armies of self-replicating automata, but such labor costs something, because resources, materials and energy, are not free.
“Our point is that all SETI search strategies must assume something about the Beacon builder, and that cost may drive some alien attempts at interstellar communication.”
Comments on this entry are closed.
“A comment on John Hunt, who appears to believe that beacons are cheap. Our analysis says otherwise. With the very lowest price technology we have today, beacons cost $200,000 per light year. A more likely cost is about ten times that. So a 1,000 ly beacon will be 200 M$-2 B$. Making many of these ‘200 billion beacons’ would cost at least 40 T$.”
An interesting paper. It appears that you are using current costs for estimating the cost of such a system. That is certainly reasonable for estimating what could be done now, but not necessarily for what might be done in the future or by another civilization. Do you have any insight into how the cost might drop in the future or how the cost for a microwave source with a fixed capability has fallen over time?
> With the very lowest price technology we have today, beacons cost $200,000 per light year.
Maybe I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t speaking about how much it would cost us to produce such beacons now with current technology but rather what it would cost to produce them in the future — specifically how much it would cost an intelligent civilization which had mastered nanotechnology and self-replicating factories. At that point the cost is in terms of R & D and not in producing of the beacon itself.
By way of analogy, let’s say that Craig Venter spends a billion dollars figuring out how to how to create an artificial bacteria from scratch which can reproduce and which can product whatever protein it is encoded to produce. How much does the first bacteria cost? A billion dollars. But the thing self-replicates. So how much did it cost to produce the second bacteria? The price of the growth media. How about the next billion? I don’t know…maybe the price of a pound of growth media. So, after ten thousand years of technologic advancement, an ETI ought to be able to produce a billion beacons for the price of their R & D and the cost of a ride up their space elevator. At that point they should be able to make themselves stand out to the lowest technologic civilization…IF they so chose.
“Messaging with Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons” — that’s really interesting, and promising. It is especially important because the economic crisis and their consequences will be with us for some time. And, nobody should say it will make no difference in the pertinent and notorious “long run”. When the crisis is over we may well be on a growth path significantly below the one we would be without the crisis. Good to know, we have the Benfords.
Troy: “Do you have any insight into how the cost might drop in the future …”
Why “drop”? There is inflation, i.e. money will be able to by less goods in the future. Above that, if governments continue managing most space-related things, then costs will go up, and, — slightly different — if governments continue financing those things, then costs will go up too.
I’m agree with John Hunt. Simply the cost of interstellar beacons depends upon their existing technology. No matter what is your technology. The another factor is that how common a technology is between them or us. I would like to give an example of computer. what if you are going to sell a desktop in medieval age? Knights would pay more than ten times of its cost because it wouldn’t be common between them. So there should be a point.
I am with John on the self-replicating factories. Compared with, say, starships, this is not very exotic technology and should be available to us within this century. Then, the cost of producing billions of devices will be given by the cost of designing and developing them, plus a few asteroids that would be eaten up during the construction phase (the growth media…).
Nevertheless, you would still want to design your beacon to be efficient, in order to reach more stars sooner.
Eniac, so you are saying we would have self replicating bots till this century lasted.
The idea of von neumann machines is still far fetched. John Hunt seems to be fan of such machines. There are no demonstrative evidence of such machines. claiming that this technology should be available to the last of this century is as vulnerable as claiming alien contact.
Bruceleeeowe: “I would like to give an example of computer. what if you are going to sell a desktop in medieval age? Knights would pay more than ten times of its cost because it wouldn’t be common between them.”
In the Middle Ages people had mindsets rather different from ours. A computer could very well have been seen as devil’s work, with the consequence of torturing and killing the salesman — and at the same time saying “… because to save his soul”. Funny times ;-)
Ah, before I forget: Where do the knights get the electric power? It needs a whole industrial civilization, you know.
You are right, a “factor is that how common a technology is between them or us”. A lot, really a lot of things must be compatible — including and beyond mindsets.
The future absolute cost of interstellar beacons won’t be the main thing that decides whether or not they’re built. It will be their cost/benefit relative to other things the same resources might be used for at the time. Frankly, while it’s a neat idea, it’s difficult to imagine interstellar beacons ever being a political/economic high priority. They’re more likely to have the same priority that SETI has for us.
I still have trouble understanding the positives of either creating, or indeed searching, for a beacon. There is no benefit for such endeavors, not for the sender and not for the searcher. So why bother?
A lot of people said that about ocean voyages in1492….
Depending on what is being transmitted, there can be huge benefit for the receiver, in terms of knowledge and even technology. Obviously, the simple knowledge that there indeed is someone out there sending is already very valuable.
You are right, though, that it is hard to come up with a concrete benefit for the sender, thus all the philosophical, cultural, ethical, and even religious arguments around this issue. Still, because of those latter considerations, the chance of someone intentionally sending is not zero. We ourselves have sent on a few occasions, puny as those efforts may have been so far. Add to that the possibility of stray transmissions not intended as METI, and you can see that if there are ETI, the searching might well pay off in a big way.
Not far fetched at all. It is an old idea, and recently automation technology has reached the point where it is feasible. A monumental engineering task, no more, no less. We have two working examples: Life and our industrial economy. One is not mechanical, the other is not autonomous, but together they have every precedent we need.
“A lot of people said that about ocean voyages in 1492….”
there was a specific economic reason for that – a shorter passage to India.
“Depending on what is being transmitted, there can be huge benefit for the receiver, in terms of knowledge and even technology. Obviously, the simple knowledge that there indeed is someone out there sending is already very valuable.”
This is the exact reason why I disagree with the notion that there will be a beacon. The transmitting civilisation cannot know the effects on the listening civilisation. You talk of the transmission of technology as being useful to the listening civilisation but I disagree. How do you distribute such info? How could it integrate into the socio-theological-economic structures without causing massive upheaval. Even the knowledge that someone is sending could be detrimental to the receiving civilisation.
About the benefit of communicating with alien civilizations
First, saying something like “other, now successful, endeavors have been questioned in the past” doesn’t imply nothing for the current topic, and second, I don’t buy, that just knowing that ETIs are out there would be enough to get a pay off.
But, let us assume, that we manage to communicate with an alien civilization, and I mean substantially more than exchanging data. In past comments I gave reasons why this may be very difficult, especially because there is a cultural component, which is necessary for successfully understanding each other. A necessary precondition is, that, as far as our experience on earth tells — I know, on earth only, but it’s everything we have –, this understanding grows only when acting together in everyday situations.
If an alien civilization is not nearly equal to ours, then it needs a special effort to simulate the aforementioned togetherness, e.g. by exchanging stories, movies, and virtual realities. Many scientists — from physics, biology, computer science, language science, etc. — and technicians and supporting industries will be needed. There may be a limit of alieness beyond which achieving togetherness is not possible any more, but, I think, there is hope, that it will work for some civilizations.
What I told so far, is already important for the question about benefits: *Managing* — doing this myriad of things for — cultural compatibility already creates cultural *and* technical benefits for both participants. And this will only be the beginning.
Just an idea: People may wish to visit virtual realities of alien worlds as tourists, paying money for this opportunity. This will be benefit too.
If I may, a question directed to all:
What could be the benefit for us here on earth from just knowing there is an alien civilization out there trying to communicate?
As I said above, I don’t buy, that there is some benefit from just this. But, may be, someone has real arguments. I’m interested. But — without intending to insult anybody –, please, not “interstellar brothers and sisters”, and not “deep inside all human beings …”, you know.
If shorter passage to India is viewed as something useful, why new technology is not ?
Also, if our civilization were so fragile that it were to collapse with each revolutionary technology, we would be dead a few dozen times already.
I do not have a problem with new technology. I believe that we need to “earn” technology through our own endeavours. In my opinion we are not ready for “outside help”.
For example, in this day and age, how would the received technology be distributed fairly to everyone – as everyone is surely entitled it. Would it be in fact held back, for use by some select few, until the rest of as are “ready” for it? I not going down the conspiracy road but should a matter/anti-matter engine be available for everyone to buy and own? Which countries get in on the knowledge, which do not? China? North Korea? France?
Just as we don’t allow children to drive cars, should we be allowed access to technology that we have not earned?
Most of us would consider knowing itself to be a benefit. Would we be asking the question if we did not want an answer? In a broader sense, why do we point telescopes towards the depths of the universe, and dig huge tunnels to collide atoms ever more violently. For practical applications? A “passage to India”? I think not.
@tesh. this is flat wrong. Neither we ‘earned’ gunpowder nor the compass. Nor the Japanese earned steam engines. Neither Americans earned rocketry( they just took von braun from the germans) neiher did the russians research nuclear energy on their own.
Each each new technology spreads the same way regardless whether it has been invented or acquired by other means. ( copied,m outright stolen, bought, etc. )
“without causing massive upheaval”
There is nothing wrong with massive upheavals.
Why do we keep talking to tribes in the Amazon? Why do people have pen pals? Why are you talking to me right now? What possible thing can you gain from reading my comment? I’m probably from a completely different culture than you. You might be reading this through translate.google.com and missing some context. I have nothing to gain personally by helping you understand my point of view, so why am I trying? It may be evolution or game theory related, but I think to some extent cooperation is natural. Anti-cooperative aliens wouldn’t make it to the SETI point.
“What could be the benefit for us here on earth from just knowing there is an alien civilization out there trying to communicate?”
For one thing, we’d know that high intelligence and technology are not species-specific to humans, an idea that I tend to agree with, although I’d happily be proven wrong — which this discovery would do.
About the benefit for us here on earth from just knowing there is an alien civilization out there trying to communicate?
Eniac: “Most of us would consider knowing itself to be a benefit.”
Why? Just restating this does not make anything clear, and doing what most of us do does not justify much.
“Would we be asking the question if we did not want an answer?”
Then why do we want an answer? This is still the point.
“… why do we point telescopes towards the depths of the universe”
and …, say why!
“…, and dig huge tunnels to collide atoms ever more violently.”
and …, say why!
“For practical applications? A “passage to India”? I think not.”
Then for what? Tell it!
A person asking what the benefit is of *just* *knowing* — nothing else! –, that there is an alien civilization out there trying to communicate, is no bonehead. Being not satisfied by the usual answers, but asking again “why?” may sound childish to some, but it is not childish, but the way of grown-ups, the way of scientists, the way of great examples like Newton and Einstein.
Be sure, that I do not ask for nothing. I have looked for an answer for a lot of years now. I did it, because because again and again somebody makes this interesting and amazing statement (and similar ones, e.g. for the question why we should communicate at all; but see my comment further above). And because there is the other side of people notoriously wanting to suppress information (more than enough examples with respect to the internet). They have a *lot* of “good reasons”. “We” need a strong position, we need arguments, good arguments, and — sorry — no commonplaces, and no spurious arguments.
I suppose there are as many motivations as there are people, but from a scientific perspective, there are many questions that can’t be answered if we have e.g. only one example of life (Earth’s) or intelligence (ours) to work from. It’s virtually impossible in that situation to know if what we observe in our one example are minor oddities or reflect some more generalized principles.
By the way, I find the tone of your (Duncan Ivry) posts a bit odd. I’m sure you’re not a bonehead but I doubt that Newton and Einstein beat themselves over the head about why the wanted answers to their questions either. If a question occurred to them that in itself was a reason to seek an answer.
While it is amusingly paradoxical, Duncan’s asking of the question why we ask questions ultimately has to be answered biologically. Those born with curiosity would know more, and those who knew more would trounce those who were ignorant. I think Sir Francis Bacon said it best: Knowledge is Power.
Thus we ask questions, but for the most part not to such a ridiculous extent that we ask for each question why we are asking it. That would be way too many questions….
“@tesh. this is flat wrong. Neither we ‘earned’ gunpowder nor the compass. Nor the Japanese earned steam engines. Neither Americans earned rocketry( they just took von braun from the germans) neiher did the russians research nuclear energy on their own. ”
I won’t argue against those points, they are of course true. My inability to articulate my points of view is the problem here. I think that the main emphasis of my point is that we, humans as a whole, should develop technology ourselves and develop it uses through need and experience. We should not look for short cuts and silver knights to sweep us off our collective feet and deliver us to some golden age of utopian paradise.
Though I cannot argue against those points you so eloquently made, I will say that technologies received by parties who have no experience in their uses have led to some very drastic social upheavals. Not just for the party receiving the technologies but also for neighbouring parties as well. I do not believe that we as humans are ready for receiving any game changing technologies just yet.
Back to the beacons, I am unmoved from the notion that if a broadcasting civilisation cannot predict precisely what happens to the receiving civilisation, then in good conscious, it should not be broadcasting. I would like to think that an enlightened civilisation will not broadcast its presence as it will be wary of the potential damage it can cause.
I tend to agree with Eniac in the discussion with Duncan Ivry concerning the benefits of ‘just knowing’.
Though of course we first and foremost need to take care of our basic needs and future survival (e.g. mundane issues like sustainable energy), it is the questions that do not directly relate to these immediate survival needs, the more ‘philosophical’ ones that relate to our origin, existence and place in the universe, that distinguish us as an intelligence and civilization.
It is no coincidence that all religions and philosophies have tried to give answers to these questions. Plus the fact that we are willing to spend large amounts of money and effort on things like particle accellerators, space telescopes and the like. Apparently we do find them rather important. It is what makes us human.
Furthermore (without too much ‘interstellar brotherhood’ or ‘manifest destiny’), the mere discovery of ‘others’ might enhance a kind of cosmic awareness and vision, and, even more importantly, a sense of global unity as human beings. As I have argued before, even a perceived sense of potential external threat (if limited, not leading to all-out hysteria or panic), might work beneficially, a driving force toward greater unity and purpose.
The sudden and rapid unification of Europe (imperfect and bumpy as it may be) was driven, not only by increasing prosperity, but also by improved education and communication, and the perceived threat by a common enemy, the former Soviet Union.
@ NS, Eniac, Ronald
Thank you for taking the time commenting. Of course, I will think about what you said.
So far … I do *not* “ask for each question why we are asking it” — not for *each*. But for *some* questions, in rare cases, I have learned by listening to knowledgable people and through my own experience, that asking why we ask is very well appropriate. Sometimes we get the most out of seemingly paradoxical questions. This should be nothing new to participants of discussions on Centauri Dreams.
Well, from my point of view, the main question has not found a satisfying answer, whereas the least important has. You are not surprised, are you? But, again, thank you for taking the time.
P.S. Regarding the tone of my posts (plural, really?), I am sorry if I had upset somebody here. May be, it’s a language or even cultural barrier, or it’s my biography being rather different from that of others here, … well, not even with the best will of the world I’m able to recognize something odd. And imagine the problems, when a real alien comes along ;-)
And the justification for that is ? Why you are adding more restrictions to the game than there actually are ?
I will say, that any game changing technology no matter how you acquire it, will cause drastic social upheavals. And I will also add, that that is often a good thing.
I do not believe that we, or anyone can be ever ready enough for any game changing technology. If we had to wait till we are ready, we would be still waiting for the ‘simple tool use’ clearance.
One may also say the same thing about any action. If you don’t know exactly all consequences of an action, then one should not act. But that is not consistent because ( besides the fact that anyone embracing this philosophy would end up catatonic ), neither all consequences of inaction are known, thus this criterion would prohibit both action and inaction at the same time which is inconsistent.
You may claim that it does not extent to any action, but then you would be required to justify why you single out interstellar broadcasting and not all other actions. And AFAIK there is no reason to do that.
The whole reasoning of you is full of baseless fear, even paranoia towards new things. May I know the reason for that ? Why you are afraid of new things ?
“The whole reasoning of you is full of baseless fear, even paranoia towards new things. May I know the reason for that ? Why you are afraid of new things ?”
New things are not what I fear here. How do you safely integrate the fact that you have an extra terrestrial civilisation with the different world views that people hold? A world view that is so dependent on either where you are born or what socio-economic group you are born into. Too may times in our past we have sacrificed the lives of people in the name of “new things, a new way of life, progress and so on”. Not to sound dramatic but what is the price of acquiring “new things”. One life, 10, 100??? Maybe we should put a price on the acceptable collateral damage. I believe that that price s too costly. I would rather we concentrate on bettering our situation before wading in on the extrasolar society that may or may not be around.
When you talk about action and inaction, you are correct about your premise that if you only act when you know all of the consequences of all your actions, you would end up being “catatonic”. However, there is a difference between carefully thought out actions and actions borne out of disregard for consequences. Further, I do not advocate inaction on our behalf. On the contrary, I believe that we should concentrate on bettering our situation first. That includes an all out effort to beat all diseases, eliminate hunger, establish a robust human space flight program and colonize the solar system with a long term view of moving out to near by star systems. I just hope that when we are able to seriously broadcast our presence, we do not!
Looking for little green men is not a high priortiy for me.
I think both sides have points, but I also detect some errors in logic and several false parallels. Btw, Tesh, if we wait to cure all diseases before launching SETI probes, we’ll never launch them.
All this makes me itch to write an article I promised Paul a while ago (tentatively titled SETI, METI, Yeti) but it will have to wait until some immovable deadlines are met.
Athena Andreadis, “Btw, Tesh, if we wait to cure all diseases before launching SETI probes, we’ll never launch them”.
This is not fair. I said, “That includes an all out effort to beat all diseases, eliminate hunger, establish a robust human space flight program and colonize the solar system with a long term view of moving out to near by star systems. ” I said an all out effort to beat all diseases. I did not say we have to beat all diseases – this is and will not possible.
The problem with game changing technology is this. Yes it can be beneficial but it can also be detrimental. Let us err on the side of optimism and say that 99/100 it is beneficial. That leaves 1/100 times where it is not. I would still rather not take those odds.
Our game changing technologies have come at a certain pace and have always come through our struggles. Game changing technology, being broadcast by some ET would be technology that we don’t fully understand or technology that has not been borne out of our struggles. This type of technology could not by definition have come to us by chance. Yes, you can discover things inadvertently but you have to have the scientific awareness and background to spot that you have discovered it. Then you go back and try to understand it. Then you put it to work. Further, in the past all of our advances in technology have had a limited range. Even things like gun powder, steam engines, nuclear power, bio-tech and so on, appear in one area (sometimes a few) and spread slowly. Some have a positive effect, some negative and some indifferent. Let us not get onto who the effects are positive or negative for as invariably there are always winners and losers. So, for a game changing technology to suddenly appear and allow interstellar travel at the speeds in excess of Light or 1000 year life spans or the ability to teleport to anywhere instantaneously, I think, will lead to chaos. So for a civilisation to broadcast new tech here there and everywhere would be disastrous to us (at least in our present state) and irresponsible of them.
Humans are an N of 1, i.e. we have all our eggs in 1 basket. Any game changing technology that would risk us dropping those eggs would be a concern to me.
This is the exact reason why I disagree with the notion that there will be a beacon. The transmitting civilisation cannot know the effects on the listening civilisation….
Interesting thought. Would a moral civilization create a beacon when its
affects on another civilization could be negative. Would they possess the
arrogance to think they should just randomly interfere with other
cultures they might or might not even know exit and which might be so
alien as to be impossible for them to fully understand.
We should hope not. Any civilization we are likely hear broadcasting
among the stars is likely to be millions of years beyond us. If they decide
they have the right to interfere with us in any way we would be powerless
to stop it.
Maybe that answers the question of why the universe is so silent. Makes a
lot more sense than some of the possibilities put forward in the past like
There is nothing wrong with massive upheavals.
Depends on just how massive of an upheaval we are talking about. An
upheaval that involves the use of nuclear weapons and knocks us back
three or four centuries is something I would find very wrong. Currently
nuclear weapons are rather hard to make. Technology that puts them
in the hands of a doomsday cult could be very bad. And nuclear weapons
are something we already know about and can make – we can not predict
the effects of our achieving knowledge a million years or two beyond
what we currently possess. Whether or not we could survive it would be
a toss of a coin.
Tesh, there is already an all-out effort to cure all diseases. What is your metric of sufficient?
As for aliens sending us notes about genetic engineering: it would be for nothing. Even if we have undergone convergent evolution (via functional outcome) to be quasi-similar, the details will be so different that neither their methods nor their points of intervention will avail us.
Regarding genetic engineering itself, I hope to have an article soon in H+ magazine about several aspects of the topic. I will let people know when it appears.
As for the impact of superior technology beamed to us literally from above, I assume everyone here has read Jared Diamond’s two books (the famous one and its less famous sibling). Bottom line: depending on the physical and mental context of a culture, it may be able to absorb the shock (example: Japan) or it may end up becoming deracinated and devolve into a cargo cult.
Technology that puts them (nukes) in the hands of a doomsday cult could be very bad.
I’m guessing we’re not going to send plans for building nuclear weapons as our primary METI signal. Also, nuclear weapons are not impossibly hard to design. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_Country_Experiment That’s back in 1967.
If Ewoks have survived to the point to send METI signals with advanced technology, they’re probably not super villians hell bent on shooting the Earth out of the night sky or tricking us into building Pandora’s box. Posting on internet forums or saying “hi” to someone in public isn’t arrogant. I think some of you are trying to convince me to not read a book. Eve, pass the apple.
david lewis: “Depends on just how massive of an upheaval we are talking about. An upheaval that involves the use of nuclear weapons …”
You are right, but you don’t have to go so far as taking the case of the use of nuclear weapons. There have been upheavals in human history, not only in the far past, very much below the nuclear level, leading to a lot of harm. I would even say: The point of view of there being nothing wrong with massive upheavals is not only false, it is unscrupulous.
I find it very disturbing to think about a civilization “a million years ahead of us”. What does that mean? Does this timescale make any sense when talking about technological progress? I do not want to speak for the singularitists, but technological progress is accelerating, not slowing down. Even to think a hundred years into the future is mindboggling, a thousand or a million makes no sense unless we imagine some sort of slow down followed by stasis, i.e. a stable status quo which has everyone happy and with nothing important to do, except perhaps, until the galaxy is filled, work on that expanding light-speed boundary. Still even that work would have to become routine after thousands of years….
More likely, there is no such thing as a million year old civilization, but then, what IS going to happen to us?
tesh, thank you for demonstrating the very phobia I was talking about.
You wrote that you don’t fear new thing, yet you wrote
implying that progress is a merciless meat grinder that works only by slaughtering people en masse.
And a thing like that is definitely something a reasonable person is, and ought to be afraid of.
It seem that you are speaking from both sides of your mouth here.
You declare that we are so fragile that we can’t handle even something as trivial as different world views.
That we are so dependent on them that our fragile egos would shatter if we ever learned to see things from a different perspective. So we ought be afraid of new, and potentially upsetting things.
You also claim that you are not prepared to take any risks, even if the result is a net positive.
which means, you are against any game changing technology en block.
( we would be forever stuck at the chimp level if our ancestors had your attitude, but I digress )
and then you claim
but that is inconsistent, because even a try at those will require a lot of game changing technologies.
So, at the end of the day, we are left with the simple assertion, that you are just afraid of new and big things
so you make up horrid stories about what could happen regardless whether it is likely or even possible.
Wake up from your nightmares, man. We are not that fragile that learning new things would destroy us.
If we were, we would be dead a thousand times or more.
I know, that one can not be talked out of phobia, but at least, you should acknowledge you have a phobia.
Wonder how that should work. OMG there are aliens sending us a message ! Let’s nuke our neighbor !
Most likely not. Nobody is willing to use nukes against other country first. So nobody will use them. No matter what technology the aliens send us. ( as long as there will be not something that effectively neutralizes nukes to the extent that they don’t do more harm than conventional bombs, but in that case a nuclear exchange would be not something threatening our entire civilization ).
T_U_T: “Wonder how that should work. OMG there are aliens sending us a message ! Let’s nuke our neighbor !
Most likely not. …”
I’m completely with you. May be, I haven’t expressed myself correctly, but, sorry, what you said, has no connection to my comment, which is *only* about characterizing the point of view of “there is nothing wrong with massive upheavals”, the nuclear weapons being used mainly as an introduction. Especially there is nothing in my comment how something will “work”.
Obviously, I did not say that all massive upheavals were a good thing.
Even in the nuclear age we had disintegration of the soviet union, and, it did not escalate into a nuclear war, and was definitely a good thing.
So, what was true before, is still true in the nuclear age.
someupheavals are good, some upheavals are bad.
If you say that is unscrupulous, then, please, help me to understand, how is the fall of a communist dictatorship that killed dozens of millions of people not a good thing.
T_U_T, can we at least agree to disagree? Probably not.
I’m off to hang with the chimps!
Most likely not. Nobody is willing to use nukes against other country first.
Hrm, they have already been used. So much for the argument nobody is
willing to use them first. There are a number of groups that would use them
again if they thought they could get away with it. It’s not as though we
humans are squeamish about killing each other.
Eniac April 7, 2010 at 14:19
I find it very disturbing to think about a civilization “a million years ahead of us”. What does that mean? Does this timescale make any sense when talking about technological progress?
Probably makes no sense at all in terms of trying to predict what such
a civilization would look like. Or act like. Or be capable of. Disturbing
There is a difference between using nukes when you don’t know the consequences, and when you do. We used them once, we saw what they can do to us, and nobody is willing to use them again.
There is a difference between using nukes when you don’t know the consequences, and when you do. We used them once, we saw what they can do to us, and nobody is willing to use them again.
Wish I had your faith in the goodness of humanity. I just don’t see it however. 160 million dead in the 20th century from conflicts. I can’t imagine hating someone enough to want to kill them, yet I know there are tens of millions of people out there who are quite willing to kill others. And those who advocate for the use of nuclear weapons. After knowing the affects of using nuclear weapons still about 61 percent of americans approve of the use of nuclear weapons on hiroshima and nagasaki. And from the comments of the following article there are plenty who are willing to use them today.
Our conflicts are probably the only reason we haven’t already built our first space habitats. And is probably the only thing that can keep stopping us. The cost of a years worth of our global military would fund a moonbase along with a dozen keplers. Not to mention funding the development of a better launch vehicle. Heck with that sort of funding we might even have spotted one or two alien biospheres by now.
T_U_T: “Obviously, I did not say that all massive upheavals were a good thing.”
This could go on endlessly ;-) I did not say, that you said that.
“someupheavals are good, some upheavals are bad. If you say that is unscrupulous, …”
Sigh! I did not say that “that” is unscrupulous.
Sorry to everybody, some meta-comment may be appropriate:
Recently I have been attacked elsewhere by several people playing the same game, i.e. supposed quotes of mine containing something I never said, typically “if you this, then you that” with false “ifs”, etc. Please, do not start something like this here. It is, sadly, not unusual on the web. It destroys discussions. Let us be friendly!
In any case, back and forth head-butting between individuals can take the focus off the topic, which is why it’s best to relegate it to emails. Let’s stay on topic and heed Duncan’s call to keep it friendly.