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EdEarl

Habitable Planets are Bad News for Humanity

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Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the distance from a star in which we might expect liquid water, and perhaps life.

 

What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of near-term human extinction. This because of a concept known as the Great Filter.

Too little is known about Kepler 186f for it to affect our chances of continued survival much at this time, but the hypothesis of this story is interesting.

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Yet another reason for establishing a presence off-planet. If we're going to invent something that wipes us out, better to have some colonies that might survive.

 

And if we are alone in the universe, if other intelligent life developed but couldn't get past this technological filter that may doom high intelligence as an ultimately unsustainable species trait, then I still don't count us out. To me, that's all the more reason to work towards some of our other strong points as a species. Our cooperation and communication may be enough to offset our curiosity and tool use so we can agree NOT to engineer a bunch of nanoterminasties.

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The problem with people, and I think it may apply to other highly intelligent species, is that we don't long enough to go from "Can we do this?" to "Should we?"

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Greed/Envy seems to be at the root of so many of the problems that might lead some to develop a species-killing technology. But how do you suppress those traits without damaging competitive spirit and innovation?

 

It seems like the struggle makes us stronger, while having things too good may make us lazy and content to rest on our laurels.

 

It seems logical that, if we're going to survive to spread out in the universe, we need to cooperate globally as a species. A better idea is needed, but we also need to decide if we're going to cooperatively collaborate on this better idea, or have it forced on us by someone who's better idea isn't.

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Too little is known about Kepler 186f for it to affect our chances of continued survival much at this time, but the hypothesis of this story is interesting.

I don't understand the argument.

 

First it is stated that:

 

The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighbourhood in which life might evolve? As the namesake physicist Enrico Fermi noted, it seems rather extraordinary that not a single extraterrestrial signal or engineering project has been detected (UFO conspiracy theorists notwithstanding).

 

Then it is tated that:

 

If Kepler-186f is teeming with intelligent life, then that would be really bad news for humanity. For that fact would push back the Great Filter’s position further into the technological stages of a civilisation’s development. We might then expect that catastrophe awaits both our extraterrestrial companions and ourselves.

 

In my understanding, if intelligent life is found on Kepler-186f, it means there is no Fermi paradox and as a matter of consequence there is no Great Filter.

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I don't understand the argument.

In my understanding, if intelligent life is found on Kepler-186f, it means there is no Fermi paradox and as a matter of consequence there is no Great Filter.

The Fermi Paradox asks why haven't we received some signal from an exocivilization--assuming such civilizations exist because the universe is large and the chance we are alone seems remote.

.

If there were intelligent life on 186f and they had already contacted us, there would be no Fermi paradox. That they have not contacted us continues the Fermi Paradox. Perhaps they are not yet advanced enough, or have not been advanced for long enough for a signal from their civilization (if it exists) to reach us.

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The Fermi Paradox asks why haven't we received some signal from an exocivilization--assuming such civilizations exist because the universe is large and the chance we are alone seems remote.

.

If there were intelligent life on 186f and they had already contacted us, there would be no Fermi paradox. That they have not contacted us continues the Fermi Paradox. Perhaps they are not yet advanced enough, or have not been advanced for long enough for a signal from their civilization (if it exists) to reach us.

The Fermi paradox counts for everybody. I mean you can reverse it: For an observer on planet Kepler there is no Fermi paradox. If there isn't for him, there isn't for us.

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492 light years? Should we start the plan and race to Nuke it now, before it gets us? Or is it too late and their's is already on the way? >:D

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If your vision of the future is Humans or any other tool using lifeforms, has us never leaving the solar system, and never making the kind of high power trasmissions that would be detectable by SETI then indeed there is no Fermi's paradox. However if your brand of futurism involve colonising planets around other stars, or Von Nuemann probes, or any transmissions or space structures that will be visible from interstellar distance, then you must either question your vision of the future or suspect that life or more particularly hominid type tool users are so rare that humans will be the first to go interstellar in this galaxy.

Edited by Mr Monkeybat

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One can only hope that by the time we develop the means to colonize another planet, we will also develop the technology to avoid the mistakes we have made on this planet. Our history is full of mistakes, however thankfully we also exhibit the ability to learn from our mistakes. Though some lessons take longer to correct than other.

Other problems are also more difficult to solve than others (energy crisis). There is a solid chance that by the time we can colonize another planet, we will also have a sustainable power supply that isn't as harmful to the planet as fossil fuels. In many ways were still a young species, our technology advances is limited to a few 100 years. Naturally we learn as all creatures do by trial and error, though this isn't the only means, however very common.

 

If an alien species was looking for colonization and looking for a new habitable planet or resources, there is plenty of other planets for resources than Earth. If they are capable of space travel then they are capable of mining resources on planets that don't have a technological species to compete with. As far as colonizing a habitable planet, well lets just say if I was an alien with interstellar capabilities. I would take one look at Earth and the damage we have done to its environment, and keep looking. Not to mention wars are expensive, the chances of habitable planets are probably higher than we realize, we have great difficulty detecting smaller planets than larger ones. Probably plenty of planets around that you don't have to worry about going to war with. Although a war with another race, might just be the thing we need to finally unite our race. I certainly don't hope that is the case, and that we can finally unite without the need of a common survival cause. There is always hope, we do have greater world wide cooperation now than we did 200 years ago.

 

On the subject of habitable planets, a planet in the habitable zone is simply one of the considerations, as well as the mass. The mass is part of what atmosphere the planet can support, so is certainly important. There is some articles I found interesting in habitable zone planets.

 

On the origin and evolution of life in the Galaxy

http://eprints.port.ac.uk/3478/1/On_the_origin_and_evolution_of_life_in_the_galaxy.pdf

 

http://arxiv.org/abs/1301.6674 "Habitable Zones Around Main-Sequence Stars: New Estimates" Various authors

 

this one discusses the possibility of life around red Dwarf stars.

The "Living with a Red Dwarf" Program

http://arxiv.org/abs/0901.1860

Edited by Mordred

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You cant appeal to the size of the galaxy like that Mordred if species creates colonies around other stars and they are able to sustain themselves they will have children and eventually create other colonies. A simple back of an envelope calculation shows that even with a really slow population growth rate doubling only once a century within 20 thousand years the collective weight of human body mass will be greater than the galaxy stars and all. So if like all life these Aliens reproduce exponentially when habitat is available all planets will be consumed later generations will not have the luxury of choosing any planet in the galaxy to colonize. If there was lots of planets with a biohistory similar to Earth the is no reason a species could not be where we are now in technology over a hundred million years ago. Even if first encounter was now if you have the tech to travel between stars you can also flatten every human city in minutes we would pose no military threat. If they have not invented good robots yet perhaps we could make useful slaves, maybe keep a few pets in zoos like we do.

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Actually in this I can appeal my feelings any way I choose. There is no scientific evidence to even base a conjecture on. We do not know the number of habitable systems and we do not even know the likely hood of another technological species there may or may not be other than our own. All models or conjecture on such are simply statistical conjecture. Yes I do know the math involved. Yes I do feel it is highly likely that life exists elsewhere, no I will not be worried about it. No I do not feel it is likely we are in danger of alien attack. Yes I am aware of the statistical probability of a technological life form like our own. The likely hood increases with the growing number of planets we discover. Both the great filter and the Fermi Paradox are both statistical conjectural arguments plain and simple. Their numbers will continuously vary, as our knowledge increases. Let us not forget they are arguments based out of sheer statistics.

Quite frankly the very title of this thread shows it belongs in the Speculation forum. Beyond the science news of finding a potential habitable planet the article mentioned is simply conjectural.

 

take the Fermi paradox for example which is essentially with all the potential habitable planets and the statistical probability of another technological species why haven't we detected aliens life forms.

 

we can barely detect planets how does he expect one to detect aliens? We certainly cannot expect to spot spaceships when we can barely see planets. We certainly cannot tell if life exists or not on a habitable planet except through potential hydrocarbon spectrum analysis. Even then we can only conjecture its possibility.

 

Th great filter also has similar problems, it doesn't account for our inability to even detect life on other systems

Edited by Mordred

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All life is subject to Darwinian evolution if alien life started spreading between stars a million years ago the galaxy would be full already every scrap of mineral resource consumed including the solar system. I am not going to accept simple appeals to the unknown before I throw away the rules Darwinian evolution and the exponential function. The future does not look like Star Trek either the galaxy is empty or interstellar travel is close to impossible. In the history of life on Earth a million years is small period of time its extremely unlikely that multiple species would have their technological revolutions within a few million years of each over forget about millenia or centuries. So appeals to the fact that Human would be pretty unobservable to aliens also is facile unless you think this is about as far as technology goes with the industrial age ending with the depletion of fossil fuels or something.

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No problem everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I'm not about to bash you into my way of thinking, I don't come to a science forum for that. I'll leave that to religion and philosophers. Scientifically speaking we don't know one way or the other.

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All life is subject to Darwinian evolution if alien life started spreading between stars a million years ago the galaxy would be full already every scrap of mineral resource consumed including the solar system. I am not going to accept simple appeals to the unknown before I throw away the rules Darwinian evolution and the exponential function. The future does not look like Star Trek either the galaxy is empty or interstellar travel is close to impossible. In the history of life on Earth a million years is small period of time its extremely unlikely that multiple species would have their technological revolutions within a few million years of each over forget about millenia or centuries. So appeals to the fact that Human would be pretty unobservable to aliens also is facile unless you think this is about as far as technology goes with the industrial age ending with the depletion of fossil fuels or something.

 

 

So you assert there would be no attrition? The first intelligence would occupy every last possible habitat? You see no possibility of building artificial habitats? You see no possibility of civilizations rising and falling and rising again? 13,5 billion years and not every bit of matter is swept up into stars as of this time, why would you expect technological life to do that?

 

The entire earth is not covered by trees, or even plants, yet they compete with each other for billions of years over limited space and resources...

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So you assert there would be no attrition? The first intelligence would occupy every last possible habitat? You see no possibility of building artificial habitats? You see no possibility of civilizations rising and falling and rising again? 13,5 billion years and not every bit of matter is swept up into stars as of this time, why would you expect technological life to do that?

 

The entire earth is not covered by trees, or even plants, yet they compete with each other for billions of years over limited space and resources...

 

No I do not assert there will be no attrition in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference. Place like Europe and China have seen the rise and fall of different civilizations and the result is that every scrap of land is used and or covered with some or many archaeological layers. Every part of the earth that has liquid water and sunlight is covered by life trees and other plants are found wherever they can grow, or replaced by concrete. Artificial habitats make no difference you cannot fight the exponential function with size. I expect the limits of the available galactic resources to limit population growth long before I project the weight of human population to exceed all the galaxies stars in under 10,000 years time.

Edited by Mr Monkeybat

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As I understand, even going to Mars is a challenge for people, because of radiation. Moving some of our bodies to another star is ATM almost unimaginable. The challenges are formidable, but can probably be overcome. However, good reasons for moving a civilization to another star are limited. A good one is to insure survivability of humanity. That someone would look forward to exploring the universe is incredible, because whoever leaves Earth will not, with any technology we know about today, arrive at another star an be able to explore; only their progeny.

Marshal T. Savage described a possible settling of the Galaxy, in The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps. However, his processes for building floating cities to further populate the world has not occurred, much less steps toward colonizing the galaxy. One big reason, is that population growth has slowed. Hans Rosling's TED Talk explains that population growth will stall and probably become static; it is no longer exponential. Thus, one valid question is, "Why would we expect the universe to be filled with biological intelligent life forms."

 

Finally, the most likely intelligence to populate the galaxy will be robot replicators, because they can be made immune from the effects of radiation without tons of shielding. Moreover, they can "live" long enough to visit another star. On the other hand, what rational purpose is there for having trillions and trillions of life forms inhabiting the universe? Our best guess is that entropy will continue to increase and the Universe will cool to near absolute zero as time approaches infinity. Ultimately, there is no where for people to go. The smart thing to do would be to use robots to extend conditions in your local cluster of galaxies to assure you and neighboring intelligent life forms can survive as long as possible.

 

Galaxy forming would adjust the creation of stars to an optimal rate, and probably slow or stop the formation of large stars. Although, the energy consumption to achieve that goal might not be worthwhile.

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No I do not assert there will be no attrition in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference. Place like Europe and China have seen the rise and fall of different civilizations and the result is that every scrap of land is used and or covered with some or many archaeological layers. Every part of the earth that has liquid water and sunlight is covered by life trees and other plants are found wherever they can grow, or replaced by concrete. Artificial habitats make no difference you cannot fight the exponential function with size. I expect the limits of the available galactic resources to limit population growth long before I project the weight of human population to exceed all the galaxies stars in under 10,000 years time.

 

 

 

Again you seem to be making a connection that doesn't exist. Everyplace that has sun and light has plants? Are you suggesting that only habitable planets will be colonized? I think you misusing the idea of exponential growth, no where in biology do you see this, if exponential growth was there was to it you have have a planet filled with nothing but bacteria.

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As I understand, even going to Mars is a challenge for people, because of radiation. Moving some of our bodies to another star is ATM almost unimaginable. The challenges are formidable, but can probably be overcome. However, good reasons for moving a civilization to another star are limited. A good one is to insure survivability of humanity. That someone would look forward to exploring the universe is incredible, because whoever leaves Earth will not, with any technology we know about today, arrive at another star an be able to explore; only their progeny.

 

One can always volunteer for the Mars one program lol, though its a one way trip.

http://www.mars-one.com/mission/technical-feasibility

http://www.mars-one.com/mission/roadmap

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Again you seem to be making a connection that doesn't exist. Everyplace that has sun and light has plants? Are you suggesting that only habitable planets will be colonized?.

Perhaps I should parse my quotes more I was responding to this coment.

 

The entire earth is not covered by trees, or even plants, yet they compete with each other for billions of years over limited space and resources...

Which I though was strange look outside a window plants grow wherever they can the areas where there are no treas are places where there is a shortage of water like the desert or where humans have removed them. In places where it is too cold like the tundra or too wet like the sea life more adapted to these environments than trees exist.

 

 

I think you misusing the idea of exponential growth, no where in biology do you see this, if exponential growth was there was to it you have have a planet filled with nothing but bacteria.

 

You dont see exponential growth in nature that often precisely because it acts so quickly soon filling up an area so quickly that other limiting factors of the enviroment comes into play. But there are lots of examples of exponential growth when a species are introduced to a new habitat that they find useful, like rabbits and cane toads in Australia Reindeer on St Mathew Island, virus epidemics, humans entering new continents, and bacteria in petri dishes, or course when the bacteria reaches the edge of the petri dish resources become scarce for they cannot digest glass certain types of bacteria may start eating each over or poison themselves with their own waste products. Think of an interstellar species as a bacteria and the galaxy as a giant petri dish in space.

 

The period of exponetial growth for an interstellar species would also be short in geological time a few thousand years or so soon the frontier will be to far from center for it to be available to the bulk of the population so the frontiers advance reaches a maximum speed. Or if there warp engines are very fast exponential growth can continue until the galaxy is full but the exponential period is still only a few thousand years long..

 

If the aliens where only looking for and living on planets like their home world then that would actually increase our chances of being in an overlooked part of the galaxy. But a species living in space habitats making use of all the resources of dead worlds and sterile space asteroids and debris could make for a very crowded galaxy indeed, and the galaxy looks more like a fertile dish of agar.

 

Of course the question of how easy interstellar travel will be in the future is not settled I will accept that the galaxy could be full of sapient tool users that never leave their home world.

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As I understand, even going to Mars is a challenge for people, because of radiation. Moving some of our bodies to another star is ATM almost unimaginable. The challenges are formidable, but can probably be overcome. However, good reasons for moving a civilization to another star are limited. A good one is to insure survivability of humanity. That someone would look forward to exploring the universe is incredible, because whoever leaves Earth will not, with any technology we know about today, arrive at another star an be able to explore; only their progeny.

 

Marshal T. Savage described a possible settling of the Galaxy, in The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps. However, his processes for building floating cities to further populate the world has not occurred, much less steps toward colonizing the galaxy. One big reason, is that population growth has slowed. Hans Rosling's TED Talk explains that population growth will stall and probably become static; it is no longer exponential. Thus, one valid question is, "Why would we expect the universe to be filled with biological intelligent life forms."

 

Finally, the most likely intelligence to populate the galaxy will be robot replicators, because they can be made immune from the effects of radiation without tons of shielding. Moreover, they can "live" long enough to visit another star. On the other hand, what rational purpose is there for having trillions and trillions of life forms inhabiting the universe? Our best guess is that entropy will continue to increase and the Universe will cool to near absolute zero as time approaches infinity. Ultimately, there is no where for people to go. The smart thing to do would be to use robots to extend conditions in your local cluster of galaxies to assure you and neighboring intelligent life forms can survive as long as possible.

 

Galaxy forming would adjust the creation of stars to an optimal rate, and probably slow or stop the formation of large stars. Although, the energy consumption to achieve that goal might not be worthwhile.

I'd like to add that the growth of intelligent life with the opportunity and ability to develop technology appears to be uncommon.

 

Life on Earth has existed for about 4GY, yet technology occurred after a mass extinction that ended the dinosaurs about 70MY. Thus, the rate of evolution does not a limiting factor. There were creatures as smart as those 70MY ago during much of the 4GY existence of life on Earth, and opportunity for much smarter to occur.

 

It seems some precipitous events must converge to facilitate technology advancement. Man survived perhaps100K years with sufficient intelligence to develop technology before it farming and metal working occurred thousands of years ago. The opportunity to develop farming also existed. Why, then, did man develop farming at the time it occurred?

 

It does not appear to be that man wanted an easier way of life, and did it because he is lazy. It seems more likely that fate forced man to develop farming. In fact, man seems to have a natural wander lust that drives him to explore, rather tan a drive to settle in one place and work hard to make land productive. We may never know why man developed farming.

 

We do know that farming in the furtile crescent was particularly good compared to other places, such as Paupa New Guinea. Moreover, the better farming created opportunities for some people to develop advanced technologies. This is evidence that precipitous events played an important role in technology development. Whether the Earth is particularly well suited for providing those opportunities compared to exoplanets, we may never know. But, I think the opportunities Man has had are quite rare in the Galaxy.

Edited by EdEarl

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...

We do know that farming in the futile crescent was particularly good compared to other places, such as Paupa New Guinea. Moreover, the better farming created opportunities for some people to develop advanced technologies. This is evidence that precipitous events played an important role in technology development. Whether the Earth is particularly well suited for providing those opportunities compared to exoplanets, we may never know. But, I think the opportunities Man has had are quite rare in the Galaxy.

 

I love the idea of farming in the "futile crescent" - I can just see ancient humans asking each other "Really, why do we bother?" Although from my trips to the countries of the Levant and the Gulf States I can see that futile crescent might be a better name than fertile crescent. Apologies for pointing out a typo - I was just tickled by the change in meaning

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There is also the possibility that certain parts of space are only minimally habitable, too close to the galactic core and natural events could prevent long term habitation, super nova could sterilize large portions of space opening them back up for colonization.

 

I don't see a steady increase to filling up everything actually happening...

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I love the idea of farming in the "futile crescent" - I can just see ancient humans asking each other "Really, why do we bother?" Although from my trips to the countries of the Levant and the Gulf States I can see that futile crescent might be a better name than fertile crescent. Apologies for pointing out a typo - I was just tickled by the change in meaning

Thanks, I changed it. Today I think it is more like the futile crescent than futile crescent.

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There is also the possibility that certain parts of space are only minimally habitable, too close to the galactic core and natural events could prevent long term habitation, super nova could sterilize large portions of space opening them back up for colonization.

 

I don't see a steady increase to filling up everything actually happening...

Neither do I, far too many variables

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