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Tuesday's Debate: Jared Diamond, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee"



"Think again of those astronomers who beamed radio signals into space from Arecibo, describing Earth's location and its inhabitants. In its suicidal folly that act rivalled the folly of the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, who described to his gold-crazy Spanish captors the wealth of his capital and provided them with guides for the journey. If there really are any radio civilizations within listening distance of us, then for heaven's sake let's turn off our own transmitters and try to escape detection, or we are doomed. Fortunately for us, the silence from outer space is deafening."

- Jared Diamond, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee"

What do you think?



haha.. Jared Diamond.. what a load of old regurgitated twonk.

What a myopic little man, surely with the thinking he has we would still still be swinging through the trees with the greatest of ease.

I suggest he looks up the word paranoia and then looks in the mirror for a classic and exemplary example of the said definition.

There may not be a Chimp in the room Jared, but you certainly are a chump!

Go hide in the basement, Jared, humanity is headed for the stars.

I agree with Jared Diamond. We don't know who or what is out there, friend or foe. Caution is advised.

Why would any alien civilization be interested in stealing our resources when anything we have can be gotten cheaper & easier in space, without having to follow a weak radio signal for hundreds or thousands of light years? Caution is fine, but common sense trumps paranoia.

If alien civilizations were nearby and had an interest, they are clearly not THAT interested in that they haven't bothered to establish relations or launch an all-out war of conquest or theft of our resources (or it could be too expensive) ... it could be that we're not so special and that life is everywhere and that communications signals get scattered and scrambled and there could be a lot of chatter out there that we're missing and ours is simply ending up as so much noise

We started beaming television signals into space over 60 years ago, over a quarter of a century before Arecibo and there's nothing we can do to stop them now. Hopefully the immense distances between developed civilizations will keep us safe.

If an alien civilization is advanced enough to read our radio signals, they would be at the very least equally as intelligent or technologically advanced as us. While there are more imminent threats to humanity here among us now, he's correct in recognizing the similarity between what could happen to us and what did happen to the aborigines.

Has anyone else noticed the fear factor driving our culture for the last 40 years or so? Diamond's comments are just an example of our today's culture obsession with fear.

Radio astronomers in the '60s and 70s were conducting radio surveys on the search of ET and probes were lanched with messages on them if somebody find them. Now, a lot of voices like Jared Diamonds's saying that we should stick our head in the sand and stay quiet. But wait, um, aren't we slready broadcasting into space for nearly a century or so?

Up until the 80's space was the final frontier. Now space for many is a 'waste of money and resources'. And not only that, watch out, cause all the evil things hide in space, asteroids that will kill us, deadly solar eruptions, malevolent line ups of planets that will wreak havoc, hidden planets on a collision course. All nice and uplifting!

NASA was going to the moon at the 60's but at 2005 didn't want to go and service Hubble because of the risk factor to the shutle! I don't want to downplay the tragedy of the deaths of the shuttle astronauts at any extend! But the US went to the Moon despite the fact that the three men of Apollo 1 found tragic death on the launch pad and kept going after Apollo's 13 'succesful failure'. But oops, I forgot... we never went to the Moon, I know.

Colombus dared to to defy the dangers of the mythological sea creatures at the edge of the world, and found the New World because of his courage.

I'm not saying that space is not dangerous and cannot be deadly. It's just sad that our modern-day far richer, technologically superior and more 'mature' culture, compared to that of 50 years ago, shakes in fear and chooses to hide under the blanket.

Mr. Diamond is correct in recognizing there is some risk. However the solution of ceasing all radio transmission is quite impractical. First, we've already been emitting for quite some time so our signal is expanding outward in a shell. Second, we have become very dependent on radio transmission. Ceasing all radio transmission now might itself be very hazardous to humanity.

Perhaps we should consider another solution: invest heavily in research and technological development and continue or even accelerate humanity's rate of technological advance. Our signal hasn't had time to pass many star systems yet, and with any luck we're in the galactic hinterlands. We may have time to prepare for the conquistadors' arrival. If we start preparing now we will have our best chance to be prepared.

It's throwing the dice, really.
Aliens can be friendly or not, it's down to luck, probably.
They can also have bad intentions at the start and then become our friends and allies. But they can also start as friends and end up wiping us out.
Sooner or later something or someone will know Humans exist :-)

please stop considering our poor planet as a resourceful place, it`s nothing here that any advanced civilization would need. Remember the lame series "V" for example. Why would someone need the Earth`s water when you find entire ice or water planets, and uninhabited ? There are for example planets full of methane. Anything you wish is out there, just have a transport mean. Probably that`s why we are considered a nonthreatening civilization.

It's potentially true, just as it is potentially false. The reasoning, though, is incorrect - anything capable of crossing the gulf of space won't be doing so to retrieve riches and return home with them.

However, that's not to say there might be some technological "civilization" that consists of something we can't even conceive of. If it's a unitary mind, something that outcompeted everything on its home planet and spreads like a cancer, it might simply view us as a long-term competitor and destroy us out of reflex. On the other hand, it might be a Stephen Spielberg "E.T." and be relatively harmless.

It's too late to turn off the transmitters, though, so it's probably best if we just keep our fingers crossed.


I'm really interested in Galaxy news and luckily found your site in which let lots of information about this topic.

"Has anyone else noticed the fear factor driving our culture for the last 40 years or so?"

that goes back to the first religions, it's just now the plaything of government.

i spend my life explaining away god damn media exploitations and false democracies developed to cover the real progress being made by certain groups to scared folk who dont think any further than the next big headline.

people are suckers for it every step of the way.

but i guess i'm just another loon on the net.

@lol@the diamond geeser

You're no loon my friend. Religions and governments have always played on fear and what we many times see as 'democratic' governments are just oligarchies protected by the media that feed the public with fear every day. I don't know about the rest of the world, but you only have to come down here in Greece to see it happening big time. And when you point this, you're called funny names.

But that's a different topic altogether.

On the problem of broadcast transitions;

Given that a transmition will degenerate at the cube of the distance, the signal gets totally lost, merging with background radiation at about 5 LY, why would anyone be afraid of this?

I am sorry, I do not understand the apparent paranoia of Mr. (Dr.?) Diamond

i don't think it is possible to stop signals from getting out there, and there is nothing we can do about the 50 or so years worth of stuff already out there.

A lot of people seem to be missing Diamond's point, reinforced by Hawking's own worries about culture shock and unforseeable consequences when one civilization, more highly advanced technically but not socially, encounters less technologically advanced peoples, a la the North American Natives, et al.

Naturally, the mass-energy equations show that there isn't likely to be any physical resource that would be economically feasible to transport lightyears away. But the simple understanding that indeed we are not the products of some personal deity that made us in 'his own image' might be enough to shatter the bulk of humanity's fragile little psyches. Since the vast majority of this planet's population believes in some form of human 'exceptionalism' (sort of species-wide version of that American delusion) I suspect a lot of us will find this future encounter with such obviously technically-superior beings pretty damned uncomfortable.

Plato [this is for the G(r)eeks], talks about a man leaving a cave to discover the truth of the world outside and upon returning to the cave; the citizens of the cave are so challenged by the view put forward by the man of life on the outside, they end up killing him. I believe that Jarrod Diamond usually provides a well researched, frank an honest opinion. If his view has shaken the foundations of your knowledge silos (caves) don't kill the messenger, but go outside and find your own truths. We need people that challenge our minds by shaking the foundations of thought.

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