"Humans May be One of the Early Intelligent Species in the Universe" (Weekend Feature)
Image of the Day: Google's Neils Bohr Doodle

Comment of Day --"Humans May be One of the Early Intelligent Species in the Universe"




"1. Where are they? We'll you might be able to ask that with a more informed position if in fact we had surveyed even say 20-25% of the visible universe. How far have we gotten on that front? Not very far at all. We may be the only known advanced civilization in the Milky Way, but what about the other 100 billion galaxies. What about the earliest galaxies in the universe. Surely they have had enough time to develop some form of intelligent life. 2. Is basically the same question as (1) Why haven't we detected them yet? Well that's even easier to answer than (1) Most of our study of the universe has centered around looking for coded radio signals from space. This assumes they would have been broadcasting radio signals like our civilization has.

"For all we know radio could be the lowest known form of cosmic communication. Yes radio waves travel at the speed of light, but as we all know the speed of light is a cosmic speed limit and therefore is bound by the distances separating us. There must be a quantum way of communicating that bypasses this natural speed limit. Making trans galactic communication possible. On the surface Fermi's questions make sense, and i see the logic in what he is trying to say.

"However there are just too many unknown variables to make an educated guess on this subject. It is one of the biggest questions the human race has ever attempted to answer. Second only to how did all of this begin?"


Read Original Post


Within probably the next 100 years we will develop the technology and capacity to launch self-replicating Van Neumann probes. Even assuming current propulsion technology levels, these probes would eventually land at and survey every planet and moon in the entire galaxy in under 100,000 years. This is the point of the Fermi paradox - it isn't about us learning to tap into some alien comunication technology, it's about the Von Neumann probes that aren't here now and the lack of any evidence of them having landed in the past.

An advanced technology in the Milky Way galaxy - advanced to a point just 100 years or so ahead of our technology - that arose more than 100,000 years in the past (a small increment given the current estimated age of the universe) should have made contact. Statisticly, there should have beeen thousands, possibly tens-of-thousands of races that have reached that point over the last 13.7 billion years - why haven't they contacted us?

That is the question that the Fermi paradox actually poses. If there are other intelligent races out there, then where are the Von Neumann probes?

Presumably the convere could be true. There may be gazillions* of intelligent life-forms in the Universe, so many so as to make us typical and uninteresting / not worth bothering with.



There are a couple problems with those assumptions of the Fermi theory as well.
Von Veumann probes you say should be everywhere on every planet and sending us messages and signals we can detect right?
Well what if the point of the probes is simply to explore and catalog, not to make contact and or disturb the natural progression of a species? What if they are designed not to leave any trace of their arrival behind?

These are all assumptions based on nothing more than the absence of proof in either direction.

Most of the discussion regarding finding intelligent life or estimating the occurrence of intelligent life leave out a key factor, IMHO.

This is: average rate of occurrence of intelligent life vs average lifespan of any given intelligent species.

There are a ton of X Factors that could greatly affect a prediction either way (is practical interstellar travel possible, is life bound to its own planetary system for the duration of its lifespan, will an advanced civilization use machines to explore, etc, etc).

But, I did some rough math a while back that shows how intelligent life could be commonplace over a long course of time, but extremely rare at any given "present time" (as we would refer to).

1. Intelligent life could arise in one out of every 100,000 stellar systems.

2. Intelligent life could arise within a 2-billion year "starting point" in those 100,000 systems.

3. An intelligent species could have a survival-span of perhaps 5 million years (this estimate is the hardest to peg . . . we have absolutely no way of knowing what the average would be).

Therefore, in our galaxy, you could say that 3 million intelligent species would arise over time (an estimate of 300 billion stars divided by 100,000 occurrences).

If it took an average of 2 billion years for each to develop, that would leave a pool of 750,000 that "could" exist at the same time in any given interval of 25% a star's lifespan (I used an average 8 billion year stellar lifespan as a yardstick).

Where is gets sticky, is if each intelligent species survives for 5 million years, then by dividing a 2 billion year "development threshold" by a 5 million year "survival period", you'd only have 400 intelligent species existing at the same time in the entire galaxy. Out of 3 million intelligent species that could have arisen and died out, in we would call our "present time frame" there might only be 400 in existence.

So, intelligent life could be relatively common (three million in total) . . . but the chances of species existing in the same "present" given the massive time scale could be very rare (only an average of 400 existing at the same time).

The major factors are the average "intelligent species lifespan" vs rate of occurrence, IMHO.

Intelligent? 30,000 nuclear warheads on the only little spaceship that it will ever call home!

I just read a very interesting article about locating advanced civilizations by trying to detect the presence of a Dyson Sphere. A theoretical machine designed to harness the power of a star. Very interesting, and in my opinion more plausible than finding probes.


@story musgrave

"Intelligent? 30,000 nuclear warheads on the only little spaceship that it will ever call home!"

Granted. But, I doubt evolution is keeping tabs on the rate or manner that intelligence leads to long-term survival. Nor, does any intelligent species get to ask evolution for a specific type of behaviors that could lead to long-term survival. It's a cosmic crap-shoot, with some big winners, some big losers, and an of course an "average" duration of survival.

Also, I think everyone knows when the word "intelligence" is used in these discussions, it denotes self-awareness and the ability to form complex concepts. A long-lived, peaceful and advanced Type II intelligent race that developed the ability to tap the power of a star, but inadvertently made a mistake that destroyed themselves, wouldn't be classed as unintelligent . . . they'd simply be unlucky losers in the long-term survival game.

I'd say yes , if you consider Human as a state of Being beyond and not limited to a physicality such as body type or being the sole property of Homo sapiens ! Tally-Ho .....and an Amen/hear hear/Aye/what he said!... to Dr. Story Musgrave's comment

the ''absence'' of other intelligences may in fact be due to the ''denial'' of and not a ''lack'' of evidence .

I prefer to see intelligent life currently coexisting on E. We have the remarkable Boskop skulls and evidence of elongation of Egyptian royal skulls also. Is that evidence of our planet off gassing radon? And other gases? Could this be the result of a heated core? What galactic processes could heat our solar system cores?
And then there is evidence we prefer not to see. Plant element transmutation. Yes, that is intelligence. Eels that can exist on the surface even tho born to deep ocean. Can they mimic humans? They certainly have the prerequisite: meat eating.
What is more interesting than our own planet; L Thomas, (Lives of a Cell) said he got 1/2 way across his back yard one summer.

In as much as we specie are less than the 10 my old age of the Centauri nova, who had the throne before us? In our 4.5 billion y planet, we 5 my are late-comers.

someone has to be first. Why does everyone seem to think that it shouldn't be us? may-be it takes this long? May-be we are here to help others climb up the ladder.

Who knows either way? It'll be fun to find out though :-) Just hope I live that long.

Why not use evolution and competition as theoretical background? The species have always competed for resources and space. Why don't iterstellar civilizations do the same?

Our best evidence shows that the only space-faring example, humans, is predatory (wars, etc). I propose that this competitiveness is true also in any system with limited resources (energy, space, etc.). We should assume that galactic civilizations are predatory because we are that too. Evidence also shows that all things living have an urge to secure their own existence, be it a predator or prey. This leads to mandatory selection of strategies and tactics on how to secure the existence of species. Whatever those might be, generally there can be no advantage from being easily detected by other species, i.e. lack of clandestiny.

Therefore, I propose the following: The great silence is a survival strategy that most, or all, civilizations have chosen. They are concerned about their survival in the cosmic evolutionary scale. Therefore, they do everything in their power to prevent detection and possible future demise. This leads to the use of communications that can not be tracked by third parties, use of camouflage and so on.

The end result: We can not see them because they don't want to take the risk.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)