BOK Globules --Leading Scientists Ask: "Could They be Prime Habitats of Advanced Machine-Based Civilizations?" (Today's Most Popular)
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March 12, 2012

BOK Globules --Leading Scientists Ask: "Could They be Prime Habitats of Advanced Machine-Based Civilizations?" (Today's Most Popular)

 

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If AI-powered machines evolved, we would be more likely to spot signals from them than from the "biological" life that invented them.

"But having now looked for signals for 50 years, we are going through a process of realizing the way our technology is advancing is probably a good indicator of how other civilizations - if they're out there - would've progressed. Certainly what we're looking at out there is an evolutionary moving target," according to SETI Chief Astroniomer, Seth Shostak.

Shostak believes that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centers of galaxies.

"I think we could spend at least a few percent of our time... looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out." Shostak thinks SETI ought to consider expanding its search to the energy- and matter-rich neighborhoods of hot stars, black holes and neutron stars. 

Data centers like this generate a lot of heat, and keeping them cool is a major challenge for modern computing. Intelligent computers would likely seek out a low-temperature habitat. Bok globules (image at top of page) are another search target for sentient machines. These dense regions of dust and gas are notorious for producing multiple-star systems. At around negative 441 degrees Fahrenheit, they are about 160 degrees F colder than most of interstellar space. 

This climate could be a major draw because thermodynamics implies that machinery will be more efficient in cool regions that can function as a large “heat sink”. A Bok globule’s super-cooled environment might represent the Goldilocks Zone for the AI powered machines, says Shostak. But because black holes and Bok globules are not hospitable to life as we know it, they are not on SETI's prime target list. 

“Machines have different needs,” he says. “They have no obvious limits to the length of their existence, and consequently could easily dominate the intelligence of the cosmos. In particular, since they can evolve on timescales far, far shorter than biological evolution, it could very well be that the first machines on the scene thoroughly dominate the intelligence in the galaxy. It’s a “winner take all” scenario.” 

According to the British physicist Stephen Wolfram, intelligent life is inevitable. But there is a hitch. Although intelligent life is inevitable, we will never find it -at least not by looking out in the Milky Way. As evidence Wolfram points out In order to compress more and more information into our communication signals - be they mobile phone conversations or computer- we remove all redundancy or pattern. If anything in a signal repeats, then clearly it can be excised. But this process of removing any pattern from a signal make it look more and more random - in fact, pretty much like the random radio "noise" that rains down on Earth coming from stars and interstellar gas clouds. 

According to Wolfram, if someone beamed our own 21st-century communication signals at us from space we would be hard pressed determining whether they were artificial or natural. So what chance do we have of distinguishing an ET communication from the general background radio static of the cosmos?
ET artifacts coordinated by computers would look far more like a natural artifact. It is easy to distinguish a technological artifact such as a car from a natural object such as a tree. The tree is far more complicated.

But, says Wolfram,"this is simply because our technological artifacts are primitive. As they become more complex - with computer processors enabling them to make a moment-by-moment decisions - they will begin to look just as complex as trees and people and stars." We have slim chance, he suggests, of distinguishing an ET artifact from a natural celestial object.

If Wolfram is right and ETs are out there but we will not be able to recognize them - either in their communications or their artifacts - then of course they could be here in the Solar System and we would not have noticed. 

Wolfram thinks ETs will not want to travel to Earth -  or anywhere else for that matter. In Wolfram's view, everything in the Universe is the product of a computer program. In fact, he imagines an abstract cyber-universe of all conceivable computer programs, all the way from the simplest up to the most complex. This "computational universe" contains everything from the Apple Macintosh operating system to a programme for creating a faster-than-light starship

Wolfram believes he has found nature's big secret - how it generates the complexity of the world, everything from a rhododendron to a tree to a barred spiral galaxy by applying simple rules over and over again as a simple computer programs. Wolfram came to this remarkable conclusion in the early 1980s when he discovered that the simplest kind of computer program - known as a cellular automaton - can generate infinite complexity if its output is repeatedly fed back in as its input.

Wolfram has found evidence that the kind of computer program that produces endless complexity can be implemented "not just systems of biological molecules but in all sorts of physical systems - chaotic gas clouds, systems of subatomic particles and so on. He concludes that all over the Universe life - though definitely not life as we know it - will spring up spontaneously. It is a fundamental feature of matter."

The existence of this computational universe is the crucial thing.  But the reality is it would be it easier and more efficient for an ET civilization to stay at home and use a computer to search the computational universe for useful programs rather than try to get the same information by hunting for ETs to talk to among the 200 billion or so stars in the Milky Way. "It's a simple numbers game," says Wolfram.

Everything is generated by computer program,"and that includes you and me," says Wolfram. "Someone halfway across the Galaxy could have found the computer program for you and conversing with you at this very moment."

The Daily Galaxy via SETI and wolframscience.com

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Comments

There is a really cool old Disney movie called. Flight of the Navigator. In which a young boy has goes missing for 8 years and suddenly reappears to find his family has moved and gotten older. He's taken to NASA for testing only to find he's been in contact with an advanced alien artificial intelligence (a space ship the government has somehow captured), who's mission it is to search the universe for signs of life. The space ship is controlled entirely by this artificial intelligence called max. The reason he was gone for 8 years was due to traveling faster than or close to the speed of light when the ship took him to study humans.
It's really an amazing movie. I have always thought the writers of the movie were way ahead of their time.

Who or which computer program can generate everything as Wolfram says? Who wants sloppy germs everywhere? The master programmer stinks. If everything is generated by a computer, then what generates the computer that generates everything? Wolfram is presenting nonsense. What we call a computer program is a buggy virus needing to be deleted for a better technology

@ holo

It's obvious to me that the points made by the article are clearly beyond you're understanding of mathematics. He's simply stating a theory that all things created in the universe as we understand it can be explained and created threw mathematics. What are computer programs? Just mathematics that are used to "create" a desired response from a machine. E=mc2 is a mathematical equation which defines the relationship between matter and energy. A human computer named Einstein created it. What he's saying certainly isn't nonsense. What i wasted 30 seconds to read in you're post is what i would call nonsense.

To say that organic life is not inherently machine-based is narrow thinking. There maybe a different goldilocks zone for silicon based life as silicon's orbital makeup is similar to carbon, but may remain stable for complex reactions at much higher temperatures. Is there a simple liquid solvent for complex silicon molecules, and at what temperature/pressure ranges are these functional?

What is an alien? An alien is life not of this world so if anyone doubts the existance af aliens they doubt the existance of any form of life in the universe other than the life that is on the planet earth, very absent minded indeed. No doubt many of you will have seen on youtube a lady who states she can communicate with aliens, well let me assure you all she is a fake, all she comes up with is, WE are ok you are ok etc etc, No information whatsoever. What I am now going to tell you all is going to be hard to believe but for the past 5 years I have genuinely been receiving alien messages which provided me with explanations of many past mysteries of our planet that is still baffling scientists today, Unlike that fake on youtube I would lovee to be cross examined by a panel of experts to prove these messages. What I have done is write a book on my experience and in that book you will find irrefutable evidence of alien on the plaanet earth thousands of years ago. Even after finishing my book titled ALIEN Mysteries solved, I have continued to receive alien messages regarding our present and our future and these latest messages have been aimed at the American president Obamma,

Too scarily reminiscent of Fred Saberhagen's "Berserkers."

What I'm getting from this is a proposition that the universe we live in exists as a computer program created by an ancient extraterrestrial civilization who has advanced so far that they've gone beyond organic bodies and melded together as a technological civilization that we cannot detect or perceive -- who, I guess, were in turn created by another such civilization that's even more ancient, and so on ad infinitum -- and who created all of this basically as an exercise in curiosity.

And this, I gather, is more believable than the idea that we were created by a loving, all-powerful God.

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this thinking?

How about a slightly different perspective...perhaps we, as a species, are the program. Perhaps DNA is the source code created by some ET or AI race to overcome the limitations of a purely mechanized or virtualized existence. Even more plausible, perhaps we are the tool used to explore and experience those environments in this universe/dimension and report back when our program ends...return to the core as it were. Would it then make sense that our limited purpose prevents us from perceiving the broader spectrum of "life" where our program originated?


@William Swithin >> the more i read your comments across the science articles the more i believe that you have gone insane. The claim of receiving alien messages make us laugh. you may be a goo human being but pls stop making yourself a laughing stock. God bless you.

Great thread! Wolfram is investigating a fascinating and viable hypothesis. I'm not sure that our tiny brains can be relied on to even define life. Sentient? Well, that's a start. People, we are talking INFINITY here. In space AND time. For a start that means it's almost a certainty most aliens existing (somebody define "now" for me, please") are billions of years more advanced than us. They could consist of any kind of atoms (larger or smaller than any we know about). They could consist of gravitational waves, or even organised galaxies. What about phenomena we are not aware of. Yeah, we probably wouldn't recognise them, and they probably wouldn't be interested in us.

No, Bob Greenwade, you're not only in your view of this poppycock. I won't repeat my posting regarding the view of the universe as a giant quantum computer, but I think you hear the silliness of this sort of thing very clearly. What bothers me is that people who flatter themselves as scientifically acute put on this sort of badly-written sf, as if their scientific authority made it more real. No good thinker sees any point in following a chain of thought which leads to infinite regress.

You guys are going to abstract yourselves into absurdity.


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