Saturday, December 17, 2005





A Solution to the Fermi Paradox: The Solar System, part of a Galactic Hypercivilization? (Beatriz Gato-Rivera)

I introduce the Fermi Paradox and some of its solutions. Then I present my own solution which includes two proposals called the Subanthropic Principle and the Undetectability Conjecture. After discussing some consequences of this solution, I make some comments about brane world scenarios and their potential to strengthen the Fermi Paradox. Finally, in the appendix I have included some questions and answers that came up during this Forum.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

now yer talking! i read this after it was posted on ufo updates this morning, and i found it to be highly interesting. although at first i was taken aback by the question and answer session at the end: quite a contrast to the rationality in the body of the paper. but really i would not be surprised if the situation was similar to what was described by the person she talked to.

i also find it interesting that this paper was accepted by arxiv, considering that they censor far more mainstream papers that do not follow the status quo.

Mac said...

Yeah, this is good stuff. I hope it provokes much discussion.

KennyJC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KennyJC said...

Haven't read this yet, although the fermi paradox is always interesting. The reason being is that an actual answer could well be in there any article. Anybody can come up with 1,000 reasons for why we don't have solid evidence for the existence of ETI.

Two of the most likely theories I think are that there are no ETI close by, or that they are very much well aware of our blue planet and humans, but don't yet want to make their presence known, due to the primitive nature of our intelligence.

PS Had to delete the last post as it made even less sense than this one...

Carol Maltby said...

Leaving this universe for a better one? Listen, for all our faults, we may be the only universe with chocolate.

Something at the end about the telepathic conversion into other tongues got me thinking. Temple Grandin points out that she and other people with autism think in pictures, not in words. I wonder if any study could be done analyzing descriptions of telepathic contact by aliens, and sorting it by mode -- pictures, verbal, multisensory, or other? And then maybe see whether these modes are correlated with sensory preferences in neurolinguistic terms, or whether there is any notable presence or absence of those with symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, say.


Carol Maltby

W.M. Bear said...

I thought much of the paper was unoriginal, basically a retread of ideas I've encountered elsewhere. Especially disappointing, I thought, was the author's basic concept of aliens as still discrete bioentities like human beings, only with turbo brains. However, the Q.& A. part did get into some interesting "psychic" territory. I especially couldn't resist the following footnote:

Cats have the reputation of having great psychic powers and of being able to see all kinds of entities invisible to the human eye. The aforementioned T. Lobsang Rampa even claimed that his book ‘Living with the Lama’ had been written by one of his cats who dictated the contents to him telepathically, the introduction being written by another cat.

(When I read this, I couldn't help thinking of Mac's two cats....)

Anonymous said...

I thought much of the paper was unoriginal, basically a retread of ideas I've encountered elsewhere.

how interesting. can you say where you have encountered the ideas of "subanthropic principle" and "undetectability conjecture" elsewhere?

Mac said...

WMB--

OK, I admit. Spook and Ebe write this blog. I just type what they tell me.

JEFM said...

The thing is WMB, that this paper comes from a 1st line scientist. And I personally think is great that scientists are taking this issue seriously.

Thats A BIG difference.

Jon

W.M. Bear said...

how interesting. can you say where you have encountered the ideas of "subanthropic principle" and "undetectability conjecture" elsewhere?

Yes. The undetectability conjecture and the subanthropic principle both strike me as a somewhat updated version of the old "cosmic quarantine" idea where advanced ETs basically declare less advanced species "off limits" to any contact with far more advanced civilizations. The author has essentially taken this idea and given it a new spin and new scientific-sounding labels.

The thing is WMB, that this paper comes from a 1st line scientist. And I personally think is great that scientists are taking this issue seriously.

Thats A BIG difference.


This is more to the point, I think. Evidently, some of these ideas are gaining scientific respectability, which certainly can't hurt. And as I indicated, I thought the "psychic" territory she got into in the Q&A was especially interesting, considering the author's obvious involvement in the mainstream scientific establishment.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The undetectability conjecture and the subanthropic principle both strike me as a somewhat updated version of the old "cosmic quarantine" idea where advanced ETs basically declare less advanced species "off limits" to any contact with far more advanced civilizations.

In that case you have not read the paper at all. The "subanthropic principle" states that we are not typical observers in this universe since statistically typical civilizations would be hundreds of thousands or millions of years more advanced than us.

The "undetectability conjecture" is that advanced civilizations would be aware of the the dangers from other predatory civilizations and would employ various kinds of "cloaking" technology to conceal their presence.

In other words, you are just talking out of your ass and you don't have a clue. congratulations.

Mac said...

Anon.--

You are welcome to post here. But comments like "In other words, you are just talking out of your ass and you don't have a clue" have absolutely no business here. Persist and I'll have to delete any offending posts for sake of general civility.

Thanks.

W.M. Bear said...

In that case you have not read the paper at all. The "subanthropic principle" states that we are not typical observers in this universe since statistically typical civilizations would be hundreds of thousands or millions of years more advanced than us.

The "undetectability conjecture" is that advanced civilizations would be aware of the the dangers from other predatory civilizations and would employ various kinds of "cloaking" technology to conceal their presence.


You did not read my complete take on this:

The author has essentially taken this idea and given it a new spin and new scientific-sounding labels.

What you describe is what I am calling the "spin" on this old idea. Sure, it's a development of this idea but it doesn't strike me as either terribly original or even all that interesting. The author's "subanthropic principle" and "undetectability conjecture" ARE extensions of the old "cosmic quarantine" idea under which we are essentially isolated in the midst of a galaxy of more advanced species because of our primitive level of development. As to the fact that our level of development is NOT typical (the "subanthropic principle"), this idea has also been around at least since Sagan's time -- in fact, a standing hypothesis of the reason for SETI's failure to date is just that our level of development is not LIKELY to be "typical," since (depending on the numbers you insert in the Drake equation) the odds are heavily against another civilization within our galaxy having reached more or less exactly the same level of development at exactly the same time. This idea has been around for DECADES.

And now that I have answered your obnoxiously worded (and unsigned) objection to my points, I can only agree with Mac, as well as express my pity for you that your parents failed to teach you any manners.

gordon said...

WMB, anon,

I have certainly read the "subanthopic principle" somewhere before, as well as the "undetectability conjecture" (I think the name was even the same) - I just can't recall where ATM (although I suspect it was one of Paul Davies' talks years ago), but I'll see if I can find references.

Regards,

Gordon

IamTenBears said...

Gordo-

If thats true than our girl may be a plagerist. In her previous paper:

http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0308078

she semms to be claiming coinage:

In the recent article ‘Conflict between anthropic reasoning and observation’
(gr-qc/0303070) Ken D. Olum, using some inflation-based ideas and the
anthropic premise that we should be typical among all intelligent observers
in the Universe, arrives at the puzzling conclusion that ‘we should find ourselves
in a large civilization (of galactic size) where most observers should be,
while in fact we do not’. In this note we discuss the intriguing possibility
whether we could be in fact immersed in a large civilization without being
aware of it. Our conclusion is that this possibility cannot be ruled out provided
two conditions are met, that we call the Subanthropic Principle and the
Undetectability Conjecture. The Subanthropic Principle states that we are
not typical among the intelligent observers from the Universe. Typical civilizations
of typical galaxies would be hundreds of thousands, or millions, of
years more evolved than ours and, consequently, typical intelligent observers
would be orders of magnitude more intelligent than us. The Undetectability
Conjecture states that, generically, all advanced civilizations camouflage their
planets for security reasons, so that no signal of civilization can be detected
by external observers, who would only obtain distorted data for disuasion
purposes. These conditions predict also a low probability of success for the
SETI project. We also argue that it is brane worlds, and not inflation, what
dramatically could aggravate the ‘missing-alien’ problem pointed out first in
the fifties by Enrico Fermi.

gordon said...

ITB, WMB,

The idea that I've read something similar before has been nagging at me, so I went back to look at some of the SETI papers I've downloaded over the years.

First, looking carefully at Gato-Rivera's paper, it would seem that this is a revision of her orginal paper which was first presented Aug 2003. So I may have come across the reference to the term "undetectability conjecture" from earlier reviews of her work.

The term doesn't explicitly appear in any of the papers I have. But one paper from 1983, by then scientist David Brinn would appear to contain the synthesis of both of GR's proposals.

Brinn's 1983 paper "The Great Silence: the Controversy Concerning Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life" was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Essentially just a summation of various scientific viewpoints, it contains much that is suggestive of the theories presented by GR. A combination of the 'non-exclusive principle' and the 'beserker probe' concepts seems to naturally lead to GR's undetectability conjecture (Brinn attributes these ideas to the SF authors Saberhagen and Benford). This combination is actully presented under the section "Approach and Avoidance".

So it would seem that GR's undetectability conjecture is a renaming of an older scenario that has been around since at least 1983. The addition of the Brane worlds ideas from M.Kjerulff's work is a nice touch.

IamTenBears said...

good work gordo. im sure that was the paper that bear was thinking of. ;-)

gordon said...

ITB,

" good work gordo. im sure that was the paper that bear was thinking of. ;-)"

Perhaps it wasn't, but it shows that the idea is not new and has certainly been around long enough to be the basis for other and more accessible commentary.

IamTenBears said...

my original "comments" to bear were prompted by the sad fact that someone who will speculate till blue in the face over nonsense, when faced with something actually interesting, only could muster "it wuz boring, i seen it all before".

gordon said...

ITB,

No, your facetiousness did not escape me. Yes, bear can speculate wildly at times, but _I_ was pointing out that, seeing as at least 3 SF authors (as Brinn is now a fiction writer) have written about this, it is quite possible that bear _had_ "... seen it all before."

W.M. Bear said...

someone who will speculate till blue in the face over nonsense....

Blue in the face? Moi? Anyway, speculation is the lifeblood of anomalistics. One must at least have a sense of what the POSSIBLE sources of anomalies are before one can begin to gather evidence and formulate theories, even ones that might "falsify" any real supramundane origins (and I count flying sorcerers, ancient Martians and hypercivilizations as beloning to this category). If you read my posts carefully, you will note that I always label theory and speculation AS such and try to avoid anything suggestive of a "true believer" stance even with respect to a lot of the stuff in the Rover pix that, I confess, I do have trouble "seeing" as anything but artificial in origin. (However, I'd be the first to admit that this an impressionistic response. I certainly wouldn't defend it to the death or even probably to a minor flesh wound.)

And anyway, Gato-Rivera's post is nothing if not speculative -- I can't and don't fault it on that score. But I still stand by my original point that her theories are not terribly original, being basically old ideas recycled under new scientific-sounding names with more cachet. I do not mean this in any kind of mean-spirited vein, only that my response to the article was one of genuine disappointment at not finding anything that struck me as novel. BTW, many thanks, Gordon, for your support. And BTW, iamtenbears (!?!) the Toltec sorcerers "theory" of Martian artificiality was, well, just a TRIFLE tongue-in-cheek?