"Preparing for Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life" --World's Scientists Gather to Discuss
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August 19, 2014

"Preparing for Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life" --World's Scientists Gather to Discuss

 

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How might humanity prepare for the possibility of discovering microbial or complex life beyond Earth? Scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the world will convene at the Library of Congress John W. Kluge Center for two days in September to discuss: “Preparing for Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial, Complex or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth."

“The science of astrobiology has revealed new discoveries about the conditions and possibilities for life, both extremophile life on Earth and potentially habitable exoplanets beyond Earth,” says Dick. “The possibility that simple or complex organisms may be discovered elsewhere compels us to ask how we might prepare to face such new knowledge.”

Four panels will address the historical, philosophical, theological and societal implications of astrobiology, including the scientific study of life’s origins and future.

One panel will investigate how to frame the question of the impact of discovering life: what approaches can and should be used? A second will address the challenge of moving beyond current conceptions of what constitutes life, intelligence and civilization—conceptions which are based on anthropocentric models. A third panel will specifically address the philosophical and theological implications of a universe potentially teeming with life. The final panel will assess the practical impact that astrobiology research has on society.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute will simulcast the symposium. To access the webcast, visit https://ac.arc.nasa.gov/loc/. Choose the option to “enter as a guest,” type your name in the field, and click “enter room.” Steven J. Dick, the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, will serve as host and lead the symposium discussion.

The Daily Galaxy via Library of Congress

Comments

It will be interesting to see how the everyday, always busy general population reacts to the news if we ever do find something. I'm betting most won't see it as something that will impact their lives & not be overly concerned or interested.

Oh, I think they'll be interested. Very. Science fiction and especially stories/movies dealing with alien life are popular. I don't think anyone will freak out though. That's just an elitist attitude towards the "masses", having no real contact with them. It's also good for ginning up funds for research and panels to discuss it. Every single panel issue mentioned has been hashed over for decades now.

If you wonder about the contamination of "the philosophical and theological implications" in a discussion about astrobiology, I googled up that Steven Dick is on the religious Templeton Foundation take. (Participated in, and edited a book from, a meeting about "theological implications" of the new cosmology; http://www.templeton.org/signature-programs/humble-approach-initiative/workshops/many-worlds-the-new-universe-and-its-theolog ; http://humbleapproach.templeton.org/Many_Worlds/#purpose ; http://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/media-room/publications/books/many-worlds-the-new-universe-extraterrestrial-life-the-theo ). Apparently it is their "humble approach" to infest science with factually erroneous religious creationism. :-/

Minor contribution but I feel that if we discover even a single indigenous extraterrestrial microbe within our own solar system then, by definition, the galaxy and universe will be absolutely bursting with life....

Bursting....

Um.... when is this thing happening?

I would imagine, since most of the world is religious and life outside of Earth would contradict at least some base of their beliefs, that most would consider it lies or blasphemy. I think we kid ourselves when it comes to estimating the consciousness level of our species.

If one accepts that we are not the only life in this universe, then one must accept that there are greater as well as lesser advanced life forms. Some life forms much more advanced. http://www.rael.org

Matthew, current tests between quantum and standard computers have shown that the quantum computers don't perform much if any better and certainly not moments to years. That was a pipe dream invented by theoreticians that failed to materialize.

If you are referring to the Dwave. This is not a true quantum computer.

Quote "Containing 512 quantum bits (qubits), the D-Wave Two processor was designed specifically to perform a process called "quantum annealing", which is a technique for finding the global minimum of a complicated mathematical function. Unlike "conventional" quantum computers – which are kept in a fragile quantum state throughout the calculation – quantum annealing involves making a transition from a quantum to classical system. As a result, D-Wave's approach might be more immune to noise, which can destroy conventional quantum calculations. However, a quantum annealing processor is not a universal computer like a PC and cannot be programmed to perform a range of tasks.

Also lets not forget what the original computers looked like, they took up entire rooms with huge banks of tape storage. A far cry from the ultra slim fast laptops we enjoy today. Give quantum computing 10 to 25 years and you will see some seriously impressive things happening.

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2014/jun/20/is-d-wave-quantum-computer-actually-a-quantum-computer

Matthew - OK, I *was* kinda trying to keep it within my lifetime.

On the serious side, if you're using that as the best we've got, then what your *hoping for* is the realization of true quantum computers. Lot of obstacles yet.

I've been in IT for forty years now and one thing I've noticed is that the machines have far outstripped the languages and I have a hard time believing we're going to do significant development soon in the types of programming true q computers will require. Much like AI, it will most likely be "just around the corner" for quite a while. I'm talking about the controlling architecture which will have to be just as weird as the q machine itself.


Hopefully, I'm wrong but I haven't been wrong about AI for at least twenty-five years.

Very true that a quantum system will require a completely new computer language, no doubt written by some child genius coder or computer scientist. I think that once this is in place though, humanity will have achieved a runaway exponential advancement. The Dwave is not the system i would recognize as a true quantum computer simply because of its design. Some universities on the cutting edge of this kind of work have working systems that make the dwave look like a childs toy. I try to keep up with current advancements in the field but as a layman the advancements happen so fast and so often i cannot possibly keep pace.
This is where i get all my information on the subject though.
http://phys.org/physics-news/quantum-physics/


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