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Cosmos & Culture: A Review

By Larry Klaes

Tau Zero journalist Larry Klaes gives us a look at a NASA publication whose authors tackle the biggest questions imaginable for our culture. Usefully, this volume, whose authors include major names in fields ranging from astrophysics to cultural evolution, is available online at no charge. As Larry points out, it deserves wide readership, for the issues of our place in the universe and how we respond to potential extraterrestrial contact via SETI will guide our future, both on Earth and in space.

It is often difficult to get a wider perspective on existence, especially when you and the rest of your species have been stuck in one place for all but the smallest and most recent of times. This has certainly been the case with the species known as humanity. While a few ancient philosophers guessed that we live on a world surrounded by an immense amount of stars and space, it has only been in the last few centuries that both the scientific and general communities came to accept this state of existence as a fact. It has been an even shorter period of time – mere decades – since we have sent our mechanical emissaries and a relative handful of actual humans into the nearest regions of our cosmic neighborhood.

Why are we fascinated with a realm that is unimaginably vast, difficult to attain, and even dangerous? Does that which occurs in space affect life on Earth, and in what ways? Are there other intelligent beings in the Universe and what may result if we should ever encounter one another? What will be the fate of all life far down the cosmic road?

Tackling these mighty subjects is a book titled Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context (NASA SP-2009-4802), edited by Steven J. Dick and Mark L. Lupisella. Most NASA publications deal with the illustrious history of the US space program, often going into great detail about the people, processes, and machines. Cosmos & Culture looks at the ultimate reasons why we want to explore and settle space and how that decision will affect our society and species.

Image: The sky confronts us nightly with the immensity of the cosmos. Here we’re looking at southern skies from the vantage of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory atop a Chilean mountain. Look carefully and you’ll see both the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, along with the great band of the Milky Way at right and the Southern Cross just to the right of the 4-meter telecope called Blanco. Credit: Roger Smith, AURA, NOAO, NSF.

This topic is refreshing to see in a work from the space agency: With many space missions, one can sometimes get only vague platitudes as to why we seek to know what is out there. This sometimes creates a sense that the rest of the Universe — and why science goes about studying it — has no real, immediate relation to human society. With Cosmos & Culture, professionals from a variety of fields look at the Universe from their particular perspectives and attempt to bring it all together to show why and how the evolution and development of the Cosmos is anything but esoteric for our own biological and cultural development.

The result is a combination of fascinating ideas that go beyond the usual NASA literature, though sometimes they tend to get rather bogged down in their own explanations. Add to this the fact that many of the ideas presented in this book are admittedly speculation and one tends to worry that the results will be akin to reading a tract on a new form of religion. Nevertheless, the authors are sincere and excited in their efforts here and one knows that even if some of the answers are not what the questioners assumed or hoped for, they do succeed in bringing home the fact that we are an integral part of a much larger world than most of our forbearers could even consider. This is an idea that could literally and ultimately be the difference between either evolution or extinction for humanity.

One of the more important themes in this book is that of extraterrestrial life. The authors on this subject want to know if alien beings exist for three main reasons:

  • To see how other creatures have evolved
  • To find out if we can communicate with each other
  • To understand how our interactions will change us as we expand into the galaxy and beyond.

The authors examine not only what kind of minds could exist besides our own and how they might affect us on various levels, but how our attempts and plans to explain ourselves and our world to alien intelligences shape our perspectives and ultimately our very existence in the process. As Douglas A. Vakoch, the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at The SETI Institute, says in Chapter 12: Encoding Our Origins:

“Although the focus of SETI is on making contact with intelligence beyond Earth, the exercise of portraying ourselves in interstellar messages provides us with an opportunity to cultivate greater intelligence on our own planet.”

Image: Another look at southern skies, with the Milky Way and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds framed by cacti from the Atacama desert in this superb photograph by Stéphane Guisard.

Though some chapters are easier to digest than others at a first sitting, Cosmos & Culture makes for a fascinating read. One is guaranteed to learn quite a few new facts and concepts even from a brief swim in these waters thanks to the variety of professionals who have come together to share their ideas. One also realizes how important this book is for our species to grasp the grander picture of reality, for we cannot even afford to pretend to be the focal point of existence any more if we want to avoid societal stagnation or worse. Cosmos & Culture does not claim to have all the answers, but this collection has certainly pointed the way towards some very interesting paths.

Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context is available online.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • henk July 1, 2011, 9:50

    the problem is you do not know how many inteligent species there are in the universe. what is rare. If there are 1 billion intelligent species spread around 125 billion galaxies then it is still rare. Then around every 25 galaxies will have one intelligent species. Even if ftl is possible we will probably not meet with them.

    If we ever find another inteligent species in this galaxie then we can say that inteligent life is common. But I think we will never find others like us. They will probably be a few galaxies away from us. I think we are not alone but that they are so far away we will never meet with them

  • Martin J Sallberg July 1, 2011, 10:16

    I have corrected my email address. The wrong was a simple lack of a dot.

    Good that someone has realized that space exploration is not a waste of money. Based on Francisco Lacerda`s research on the importance of infant directed speech about “here and now” for language acquisitation, I think physical travel is the way to learn how to communicate with aliens. Trying to interpret messages sent across interstellar space is like the task most cryptologists have, or worse because the alien language is not just unknown which but totally unknown, but physical contact gives possible access to a Lacerdan shortcut that may be crucial. I do not agree with Noam Chomskys poverty of the stimulus argument because it is based on the assumption that learning should require evidence that is either absolute positive or absolute negative, overlooking the possibility of learning from the accumulation of non-absolute indications, from what is BETWEEN 1 and 0. Probabilistic computers have, without any grammatical hardwiring, detected grammatical patterns in newspaper texts that they could then apply in new contexts, which Chomsky actually admitted (the evidence was so overwhelming even he had to!), but he said that he does not think human brains are probabilistic.

    But experiments with robots show that robots with probabilistic control units can circumvent unplanned obstacles, while robots with deterministic (boolean) control units cannot. And since life in the wild is full of unplanned obstacles, evolution should have given all living beings probabilistic brains. And guess what? Neurology has proved that human neurons can fire at different intensities and that the difference in intensity affects how other neurons in the same brain react to the signal. I am not claiming that a fruit fly, with its minimal brain capacity, can learn language, but I am claiming that taking a random animal and boosting up its brain capacity to something like human level would produce a being capable of learning language.

    A different pessimistic argument against communication between intelligent species is about senses, that different senses should make the perception of the world(s) so different that meaningful communication becomes impossible. That argument overlooks the fact that there is multiple paths to perceiving the same objective reality. A deaf being with good vision and a blind being “seeing” through ecolocation, seeing (or “seeing”) the same object would both detect its general shape, even if the path is completely different. We know that there is wavelengths that our senses cannot perceive, so why should other intelligent species not know or be able to learn that there is wavelengths that their senses cannot perceive? We make x-ray images from space telescopes and have radio astronomy, so why should not blind aliens be able to invent optical instruments and astronomy? And for the argument about different levels of intelligence making communication pointless, there is the fact that while brain size and intelligence do correlate in animals, they do not correlate in humans with the exception of pathological extremes of small brains. Modern research on dementia shows that the first cognitive symptoms can be delayed through brain exercise, but for those who do so the cognitive deteroration goes much faster when it begins, and that the limit where deteroration becomes inevitable is slightly below half the “normal” neuron count, coinciding with the traditional and cultural-archaeologically based anthropological demarcation between Australopithecus and Homo at slightly below half modern human brain size (all primates have similar neuron densities). This means that beings with extreme brain capacity are not smarter than humans just like multibillionaries are not happier than middle class people and that the analogy between racism and UNQUALIFIED speciesism is more valid than should intuitively be expected (the animals lie below the saying that brain size do not matter for intelligence just like homeless unemployed people lie below the saying that money does not matter for happiness). This opens a possibility to unify neurological proof of continuity between animal and human brains with cognitive proof that apes cannot ask questions or investigate reasons of faliure.

    Asking questions and investigating reasons of faliure requires a potential ability to simulate all possible outcomes, which requires a brain capacity so big that a further increase in brain capacity cannot matter for intelligence. It seems that meaningful communication with aliens is indeed possible.

  • Duncan Ivry July 1, 2011, 12:38

    Thank you for pointing to this promising book. I have always been very interested in both the science of physics and cultural topics, and (as can be seen from previous comments of mine), I think, that, when it comes to contacting aliens, cultural aspects will be very important and perhaps very difficult to cope with. I will start reading immediately.

  • Alex Tolley July 1, 2011, 15:01

    There is a huge difference between brain size affecting function, and dementia where the neural architecture is being broken. This should be obvious as seriously demented people can barely feed themselves, yet even a healthy mouse has no problem with this.

    I’ve no doubt we might be able to talk to aliens in principle, but assuming that their intelligence is bounded seems unwarranted, especially if they are allowed prostheses.

  • Schneider July 2, 2011, 6:41

    1/ Another book: Astronomy and Culture, IAU Symposium 260, just printed:
    I have put the Content at http://luth7.obspm.fr/Astro-Culture-IAU260.pdf

    2/ How naive is the book edited by Dick & Lupisella.
    – No philosophical reflection about “what is Life?”, “what is time?”, “what is
    intelligence, mind..?”
    – Rests on the prejudice that ‘mind’ emerges from a mindless universe. This
    is logically impossible, as ’emergence’ rests on the concept of time, which
    is a production of ‘mind’ and ultimately of *human* natural language,
    and is different from the parameter t in Cosmology.
    See for instance “On the ‘History’ of the Universe and the
    beginning of time” at http://luth7.obspm.fr/SF2A06-Schneider1.pdf
    As put by S. Freud, “The Universe is not a nursery”.

    Jean Schneider

  • Tarmen July 2, 2011, 8:17

    The lifeforms on Earth (this northern summer) seem to follow a cycle. Great ’empires’ of ants, or fields of ‘imperial’ tallgrass, or solar power forests of green leaves . The tree will outlast the leaves.
    I think that constructed alien artifacts would outlast the living aliens . I envision a long bell curve. Slow eons toward intelligence, then a civilization’s sudden blossoming of genius that can’t last long. Perhaps a season of interstellar colonization. A decline then a collapse and a long tail of empty cities and star probes reporting to no one . Did any of those aliens’ colony ships succeed ?? Or are they now dead artifacts drifting in the night ? I think star systems will act like storm drains, collecting litter from many past seasons of alien cultures. There may be some collected near Sol.

  • Martin J Sallberg July 2, 2011, 9:40

    @Alex Tolley
    My comment about broken correlation between brain capacity and intelligence did not only rely on the research on dementia (your comment about “seriously demented people” also do not apply to the early stages that can be made symptom-free which the research I referred to was about), but also on the evidence that brain size and intelligence do not correlate in humans except in extremely small brains, while they do correlate in animals. This actually proves that there really IS no correlation between brain capacity and intelligence above a certain “fulfillment” threshold of brain capacity, and that almost all humans are past it. Your comment about “bounded” intelligence is based on the spurious assumption that “human stupidity” should be caused by limitations of brain capacity, when desinformation, bad education and possibly shortage of subjective time are better explanations (shortage of subjective time actually IS biological, it just has nothing to do with brain size).

  • Martin J Sallberg July 2, 2011, 9:48

    Then there is also the theoretical argument that a brain capacity so big that a further increase in brain capacity cannot affect intelligence is absolutely crucial for asking questions and investigating the causes of faliure, because asking questions and investigating causes of faliure requires the ability to potentially simulate all possible outcomes in the brain, and a brain that potentially can simulate all possible outcomes self-evidently already have so much capacity that size no longer matters for intelligence. Human lack of imagination are the result of indoctrination and boring schools, as proven by the unlimited imagination of children. Alien intelligence do not have to be fundamentally bounded, just like human intelligence is not fundamentally bounded.

  • Alex Tolley July 2, 2011, 18:54

    The bounded capacity argument is the subject of this month’s Scientific American which argues we are fairly fully optimized (at least for the maximum intelligence). Whether it proves correct or not, I agree with you that it should not be an a priori constraint on alien intelligence or even human intelligence with prostheses.

  • Duncan Ivry July 2, 2011, 20:14

    Martin J Sallberg: “… the unlimited imagination of children.”

    Children can be cruel, because they are not able to fully imagine how other human beings feel. This changes with growing up, if everything goes well.

    Over and above that, I think, the position that “human intelligence is not fundamentally bounded” is not supported by any evidence, it’s — sorry to say — pure well-meaning ideology.

  • Rob Henry July 2, 2011, 23:15

    Martin J Sallberg,
    Your statement that human brain size and intelligence do not correlate interests me. I know that this was the consensus about 20 years ago when skull size was used as a surrogate for brain, but since studies using computed tomography became available, it is my understanding that a clear link has been established. Actually I do not know of any such study that has not made such a link, typical they gave a Pearson’s correlation coefficient of about 0.4. I have not followed this work for half a decade or so and would be grateful if you could point me to any modern CT study that indicated no such correlation.

  • Martin J Sallberg July 3, 2011, 3:01

    For the last time, it is not “bounded” intelligence, it is just that our brains have the potential capacity to simulate all possible outcomes, scientifically confirmed by the fact that we can ask questions and investigate causes of faliure (which REQUIRES a potential ability to simulate all possible outcomes) as well as the fact that brain size and intelligence, while they do correlate in animals, do not correlate in humans except in very rare extremely small brains. That human intelligence is POTENTIALLY unbounded is thus supported by lots of hard scientific evidence. Calling it “pure well-meaning ideology” is as unscientific as calling evolution “pure communist ideology” and ignore all the hard scientific evidence of evolution. The statement that “children can be cruel, because they are not able to fully imagine how other human beings feel” perpetrates several fallacies. The one that is most relevant to this discussion is that it confuses potential imagination, being able to come up with as an idea, with experienced imagination, knowing something for sure and not merely speculating about it. In fact, if they were not capable of imagining how others feel from scratch, as potential imagination, they would never, regardless of upbringing and experience, be able to learn it either. Experience works by sorting out the possible from the impossible. Children CAN imagine that others feel pain when they are hit by a baseball tree, it is just that they can also imagine that the baseball tree hit just tastes like sugar and infinite other possibilities, and do not have the EXPERIENCE to know which is right and which is wrong.

  • Martin J Sallberg July 3, 2011, 9:00

    @Robert Henry

    No, I did not mean skull size, I meant brain size. Intelligence in humans is not proportional to brain size, which has been shown by studies of the size of the actual brain itself. For instance, Albert Einsteins brain was 15% smaller than average. Of course, with “correlation” I actually meant absolute intelligence roof proportionality (such as “that cognitive task is absolutely impossible below 1275cc brain volume” or something like that), a statistical correlation like the one you write about may be the result of nutrition or blood flow affecting the learning velocity, because formal IQ tests do not distinguish between experience and absolute simulation ability. I mean that above roughly 45% of average human brain capacity, there is no absolute intelligence limits.

  • Martin J Sallberg July 3, 2011, 9:25

    The fact that brain capacity itself is not a direct cause of intelligence in humans is empirically confirmed by studies of people who had large parts of the brain (almost an entire hemisphere) removed as small children. It hardly seems to affect their cognitive abilities at all. Google mind, brain and education for reference.

    And so there is the theoretical evidence that asking questions and investigating causes of faliure requires the potential ability to mentally simulate ANY outcome, if brain capacity constrains that, answers are mentally omitted, making question-asking pointless.

  • John Q July 3, 2011, 10:08

    The book (with a glorious cover) is also available at Amazon.com (link below). Unfortunately there are no reader comments and apparently no sales either. At $60 the book may be too steep for most, so it is probably best to whip out your kindle/ipad, access it at the on-line location, and go to it.


  • Duncan Ivry July 3, 2011, 10:25

    Martin J Sallberg: “… scientifically confirmed by the fact that we can ask questions and investigate causes of faliure (which REQUIRES a potential ability to simulate all possible outcomes) …”

    This — for being able to ask questions and investigate causes of failure, there is the necessary precondition of having the (potential) ability to simulate all possible outcomes — is not conclusive.

    As far as I’m concerned I’m very well able to ask questions and investigate causes *without* being able to simulate *all* possible outcomes. A recent example: My doctor told me something about a part of my body using a word I have never heard before, and I asked him “what is this?” immediately, without having simulated anything.

    And no, up to a certain age children are *not* able to imagine that others feel pain under certain circumstances. Newborn babies and small children do not have a mature brain. Neuroscience has shown, that certain abilities are only built up when the brain matures. As far as I know, full empathy is one of these abilities.

  • Paul Gilster July 3, 2011, 13:06

    We’re also drifting well off topic here, so let’s ease off the personal theories of neurology and get back to Cosmos & Culture.

  • Mike July 3, 2011, 14:48

    Perhaps we could steer the conversation toward a discussion of the Brain Nebula? For those who find Wolf-Rayet stars mentally challenging.
    Anyhoo, Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day to our rebellious cousins south of the border.

  • Athena Andreadis July 3, 2011, 15:43

    The cover, from one of the essay images, is indeed lovely but a $60 price is shooting yourself in the head.

    I am partway through the book; so far, Kathryn Denning’s essay is the standout item. If I’m sufficiently happy (or unhappy) I’ll write a review/evaluation of it when I’m done.

  • Schneider July 4, 2011, 11:34

    The big (huge, unsolvable?) problem with the notion of ‘alien minds’ is that we think of them in terms of human (i.e. non alien) mind.
    In a sense it is similar to the Achilles and Tortoise paradox: how to think of motion in terms of static concept such as a set of (static) positions?
    So the problem is “How to jump out of human mind?”

  • Rob Henry July 4, 2011, 17:57

    Paul, surely cross species communication is an equally important topic above. In that regard our difficulty deciphering unknown written language from lost cultures inevitably comes up, as does the extrapolation to how much harder decipherment must be between species. To me an astonishing fact is that typically the most sophisticated military encryptions of know languages are broken within months, whereas understanding the written form of the known Mayan language took decades, and linear A, whose base language is unknown remains uncracked. Note that that which our best and brightest designed to stand as a written testament forever is unreadable, but that which our elites designed to be secret is read. Is this a human (language) fault or a strange universal property of communication itself?

  • Athena Andreadis July 4, 2011, 20:36

    The difficulty of trying to conceive of non-human minds becomes obvious in science fiction — all aliens end up as essentially human archetypes/stereotypes.

    There are two major reasons why Linear A still remains undeciphered. One, indeed, is that the base language is unknown. The second is that there are extremely few Linear A artifacts. That’s why a cipher of a known language is never unbreakable — there is a plethora of examples around for correlations — whereas we can “read” Etruscan but cannot understand it. Both limitations will apply with an alien transmission, even if it is in a medium we recognize and can access cognitively and technologically.

  • Duncan Ivry July 5, 2011, 8:46

    Athena Andreadis is right regarding “science fiction — all aliens end up as essentially human archetypes/stereotypes”. The reason for this situation is, that science fiction aims at human consumers. Most authors have to earn their living with these products, and nearly all consumers want to have something about humans or human archetypes or stereotypes, respectively.

  • ljk July 5, 2011, 14:13

    Stanislaw Lem was fairly successful at creating ETI that were definitely not human. It also meant that the humans who tried to understand them generally failed. Lem even famously said in Solaris that humans did not want to find other planets, they wanted mirrors. I wonder if other intelligences have the same thoughts and behaviors as they evolve?

    Funny how we claim to want to know the Universe and say we are seeking out alien worlds and beings, but our focus seems to be on finding Earth-like worlds. And Star Trek has done quite the job to make people expect that the aliens we find will look and act only a little different from us and we will be able to relate enough to each other to form a galactic club.

  • Athena Andreadis July 5, 2011, 15:44

    Finding earth-like worlds fulfills a specific need: namely, finding alternative future homes. Finding human-like aliens fulfills a different need, that of like-minded companions. Although, judging from human interactions, we seem to be a bunch of alien species that happen to be able to interbreed (*small snerk*).

    Besides Lem’s Solaris, a few other SF authors attempted real aliens: James Tiptree in A Momentary Taste of Being; Ted Chiang in The Story of your Life. Even Star Trek made a decent attempt with the Horta, only to drop the ball spectacularly (and predictably) by endowing it with maternal feelings.

  • Rob Henry July 5, 2011, 18:04

    Surely all you here are being slightly too harsh, and evolution would provide many commonalities. Solaris is very different because it seems to take place in some post-evolutionary phase of life, which may be illogical unless it is set up by an intelligence, presumably with more similarities to humanity. Having said that I acknowledge that the Gaia hypothesis has had a few success here.

    From evolution there must be some traits that are more often imbued than others, and the maternal instincts that was mentioned might be high on that list. The one I always wonder about is interspecies empathy – a property that allows clever predators to optimally hunt their prey, and in my opinion might help develop a ‘theory of mind’ that could lead to sentience.

    I postulate that in a few quirks we may even find ourselves closer to an alien contactor than our fellow mammals, after all it is a notable perversion of humanity that we fail to mate in public, and this seem such a good innovation to build cooperative spirit that it may appear in other sentient creatures.

    Finally I note that communication through any known human language is very often open to grand misinterpretation, and also that Leibniz felt that it was possible to develop a language within which any logical fallacy would become immediately apparent. Would clearer alien languages also be as hard for outsiders to crack?

  • ljk July 6, 2011, 10:04

    Athena, regarding your comment on the Horta being maternal: With an intelligent species, would it be possible to say nothing of wise to have parents who simply “make a baby” and then leave them to their own devices? I know this happens a lot in the animal world, but with the higher species on this planet, the smarter the creatures the longer time they need with their parents to develop properly.

    As for the Horta, I presume the series makers had to do something to make the audience sympathize with what was basically a moving pile of rocks. And there were a few other aliens in Star Trek that did not fit the “actor in the rubber suit” mold: ST:TNG had that living starship in one episode and some giant fish-like creatures that lived in space in another. It was the one where a baby of the species thought the Enterprise was its mother and started nursing on its engines!

  • Athena Andreadis July 6, 2011, 15:05

    Not quite, Larry. You could have a species like that of Aldiss (I think) Case of Conscience, in which the offspring are born non-sentient and develop sentience as they go through metamorphoses. Or you could have hive-like communities which act sentiently only in unison, like an evolved bee or ant colony.

    I agree (and said so, implicitly here and explicitly in my book) that the Horta and the living starships of both TNG and Farscape are specifically given these attributes to trigger sympathy. Other aliens are given neotenous traits for the same reason. The “language without logical fallacy” shows up in Mieville’s recent Embassytown (which I haven’t read) but the bottom line is: the moment you make an analogy or craft a metaphor , you have invented lying. In the best possible way, of course, but lying by definition.

    No matter what language ETIs use, it won’t be clear to us regardless of commonalities. I do recommend reading Chiang’s The Story of Your Life — a very original and enlightening take on this issue.

  • Duncan Ivry July 7, 2011, 8:49

    Regarding “language without logical fallacy”

    As a mathematician, I should contribute something related: If a language is “interesting and substantial enough”, then there are statements of this language for which it is not possible to decide whether the statement is true or false.

    What do I mean by “interesting and substantial enough”? If someone works in the area of the science of physics — and uses language to communicate this –, then mathematics is used as a tool, which will include at least the elementary theory of numbers (i.e. numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, …, addition, multiplication, induction scheme, other axioms). Even this simple theory is *not* decidable — and the same is true for the well known arithmetic with real numbers. An undecidable theory infects all theories built upon it or using it as a tool. This is especially the case for the science of physics.

    So, if some alien culture has a science of physics similar sophisticated and capable as our science, then this alien culture does *not* have a language without “problematic” statements. Sorry, aliens can’t help us here ;-)

  • Rob Henry July 7, 2011, 19:51

    I have often wondered how far the great Gottfried Leibniz got with this language that he apparent spent so much time trying to create. Surely it’s purpose could not be just to express tautologies or state only true theorems. I have long had the gut feeling that its real advantage was meant to be that when a logical sounding argument was presented, and its flaw noticed by anyone, all who had the intelligence to understand the language could immediately see the correctness of this observed flaw, even if they did not quite have the intellectual skill to understand the theorem itself.

  • julian grajewski December 28, 2011, 14:40

    political economy is the queen of the sciences, but i see precious little of this approach in the nasa compilation. since the renaissance the human species has been developing exponentially in terms of population growth and material and energy consumption. we have gone from 700 million human beings utilizing 70,000 kilocalories per capita per day to seven billion today untilizing 300, ooo per capita per day.

    sentience being an universal, (creativity by definition is infinite in scope and effect and any aliens we meet would be on the track of this infinity) any sentient beings that may be out there will also be developing exponentially. one understanding we can make of this is that, unless these beings are close by, there is little point in listening for their signals because they would be developing scientifcall so quickly that they would arrive ahead of their signals and in their millions and billions, no coy waiting around until we become less warlike, etc.
    why aren’t we using political economy and sociological insights to ground our thinking and come up with fertile insights like the one i have just proposed?