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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe and what is the future of humanity?


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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe and what do you think will be the future of humanity?

Will humanity become extinct one day as the Earth will become uninhabitable in the future or will humanity find itself a new home among the stars (interstellar civilization)?

Edited by seriously disabled
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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe and what do you think will be the future of humanity?

 

Will humanity become extinct one day as the Earth will become uninhabitable in the future or will humanity find itself a new home among the stars (interstellar civilization)?

 

 

 

We are perhaps on the middle of the Ladder of Intelligence among Life Forms of this Universe !

 

Just like an earthworm may feel that it knows and feels everything that is there to be known or felt [which is obviously wrong] every Life Form will use all its Perception to derive all its Conclusions !

 

Given the enormity of the Universe inaccessible to MANKIND certainly there will be Life Forms more intelligent with more Powers of Perception , Physical Power and Tolerance to Environments such as Temperature etc !

 

Another interesting aspect is if Man detects another life form elsewhere it is likely to be less intelligent than Man !

 

If there is another life form elsewhere which is more intelligent than Man then that will detect Man first !

Edited by Commander
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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe...

Do we actually know it is rare?

 

The question of life on other planets (or moons) in the Solar System is not fully answered. However, no-one now thinks there are advanced life-forms elsewhere in the Solar System.

 

Looking further afield, all we can really say is that we have found planets that could well support life. Today there is no vastly compelling evidence that there is life on these planets, let alone advanced civilisations. However, since the Universe is a big place, a lot of scientists suspect that life could be found across the Universe and hopefully within the Milky Way. Some of these life forms could be intelligent, who knows right now. For sure, we have had no contact or other evidence. However, lack of evidence is not evidence of them lacking. Right now I cannot see that we can claim that intelligent life is rare, we just don't know.

Edited by ajb
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The sphere of our radio signals since Man first made them has a radius of only about 100 light years from us. If someone at that distance picked it up now and responded it will be another 100 years before we pick up their signal. It's not even a drop in the ocean how far we've reached out. I think the idea that life is rare is improbable.

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The sphere of our radio signals since Man first made them has a radius of only about 100 light years from us. If someone at that distance picked it up now and responded it will be another 100 years before we pick up their signal. It's not even a drop in the ocean how far we've reached out. I think the idea that life is rare is improbable.

 

 

There is another school of thought on this. Other than high power signals intentionally sent or military radar it's unlikely our "leakage" signals can be detected much more than 1/2 to 1 light year away due to interference from dust and natural radio noise.

 

Interestingly enough signals similar to military radar have been detected but due to the intermittent nature of such signals they are unlikely to be be detected on a regular basis.

Edited by Moontanman
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There is another school of thought on this. Other than high power signals intentionally sent or military radar it's unlikely our "leakage" signals can be detected much more than 1/2 to 1 light year away due to interference from dust and natural radio noise.

 

Interestingly enough signals similar to military radar have been detected but due to the intermittent nature of such signals they are unlikely to be be detected on a regular basis.

Right, I didn't know that. I was just going on an 'ideal' scenario with no other variables. There's the inverse-square law to consider as well.

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Another line of thought here is that intelligence is not quite as important as we egotistical humans like to believe it to be in terms of survival and passing on of genes, even here on earth.

 

If, for example, a drought or a flood or an asteroid or volcano or epidemic or virus or whatever hit us, humans would largely parish while a sizable number of other FAR LESS intelligent life forms would merrily carry on and continue along about their day, later reproducing and generating numerous offspring well into the future and despite these (what we humans would describe as) cataclysmic apocalyptic events. One has to suspect that similar pressures play a role on other planets in other star systems, too.

 

While intelligence has happened to be helpful to *us* in *our* particular niches during the tiny blip of geologic time in which we've existed here on *this* particular planet, evolution sure seems to favor other traits like resistence to disease and ability to survive in extreme climates over the relatively rare trait of intelligence, and it seems to do so in massive numbers and with consistent frequency.

Edited by iNow
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It took something like 3 billion years of comparative environmental stability and freedom from truly extreme astrophysical events for human level intelligence to emerge on this planet, and as far as we know the circumstances of its emergence were quite fortunate and unusual even here.

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Another line of thought here is that intelligence is not quite as important as we egotistical humans like to believe it to be in terms of survival and passing on of genes, even here on earth.

 

If, for example, a drought or a flood or an asteroid or volcano or epidemic or virus or whatever hit us, humans would largely parish while a sizable number of other FAR LESS intelligent life forms would merrily carry on and continue along about their day, later reproducing and generating numerous offspring well into the future and despite these (what we humans would describe as) cataclysmic apocalyptic events. One has to suspect that similar pressures play a role on other planets in other star systems, too.

 

While intelligence has happened to be helpful to *us* in *our* particular niches during the tiny blip of geologic time in which we've existed here on *this* particular planet, evolution sure seems to favor other traits like resistence to disease and ability to survive in extreme climates over the relatively rare trait of intelligence, and it seems to do so in massive numbers and with consistent frequency.

 

That is on the scale of one planet and short time frame. Bacteria can survive in conditions that no complex organism can tolerate, but in some 2.5 billion years from now the Earth would no longer be able to sustain life as we know it and all these bacteria will die off. On the other hand, intelligent life, while being more vulnerable to external factors on a small scale can propagate farther, can build spaceships, colonise other planets and star systems and so is extremely important as a means of preserving life in the Universe.

 

And back to our discussion, there's been a lot of very smart people giving their ideas on why we haven't yet encountered intelligent life other than ourselves, yet still most of those are largely based on carbon chauvinism, and until we actually do encounter extraterrestial life forms all such predictions will be no better than any science fiction.

 

EDIT: I think of intelligence as a separate kind of evolution, only the one that works much faster than normal biological evolution. It takes countless generations of bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance, yet it may take less than one generation for intelligent life to develop a more advanced one.

Edited by pavelcherepan
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That is on the scale of one planet and short time frame. Bacteria can survive in conditions that no complex organism can tolerate, but in some 2.5 billion years from now the Earth would no longer be able to sustain life as we know it and all these bacteria will die off. On the other hand, intelligent life, while being more vulnerable to external factors on a small scale can propagate farther, can build spaceships, colonise other planets and star systems and so is extremely important as a means of preserving life in the Universe.

 

And back to our discussion, there's been a lot of very smart people giving their ideas on why we haven't yet encountered intelligent life other than ourselves, yet still most of those are largely based on carbon chauvinism, and until we actually do encounter extraterrestial life forms all such predictions will be no better than any science fiction.

That's assuming we actually can build spaceships, colonize other planets, and have a survivable population which doesn't seem to be any better than science fiction either.

 

EDIT: I think of intelligence as a separate kind of evolution, only the one that works much faster than normal biological evolution. It takes countless generations of bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance, yet it may take less than one generation for intelligent life to develop a more advanced one.

You're messing with time frames though. 1 generation for one species isn't 1 generation for another. Short generation time is something that allows quick adaptations to environmental changes for the long term. Long generation times means one has to acclimate and tends to allow harsher effects on a population when the environment changes. Even with all our antibiotics, those bacteria are still around.

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There'll be plenty of bacteria hitching a lift with us when we go into space. Human cells to bacteria on our bodies are only 10% of the total cell population. I was reading the other day, our intestines carry about 2 kilos of bacteria alone. We are a walking ecosystem. We are each a reproducible mini-Earth sample. This is the populations just on the skin:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_microbiota

791px-Skin_Microbiome20169-300.jpg

Edited by StringJunky
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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe? -- OP seriously disabled

Rare is subjective. Lets look at some numbers.

 

Wikipedia

 

An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. More than 1800 exoplanets have been discovered (1897 planets in 1195 planetary systems including 478 multiple planetary systems as of 14 March 2015).[2] There are also rogue planets, which do not orbit any star and which tend to be considered separately, especially if they are gas giants, in which case they are often counted, like WISE 0855−0714, as sub-brown dwarfs.[3]

 

The Kepler space telescope has also detected a few thousand[4][5] candidate planets,[6][7] of which about 11% may be false positives.[8] There is at least one planet on average per star.[9] Around 1 in 5 Sun-like stars[a] have an "Earth-sized" planet in the habitable zone,[c] with the nearest expected to be within 12 light-years distance from Earth.[10][11] Assuming 200 billion stars in the Milky Way,[d] that would be 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way, rising to 40 billion if red dwarfs are included.[12] The rogue planets in the Milky Way possibly number in the trillions.[13]

Assuming 40 billion Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone, among the Milky Way's 200 billion stars, means there are on the order of 40 billion such planets * 100 billion galaxies = 4000 billion-billion earth sized planets in a habitable zone in the Visible Universe. If "rare" means 1 intelligent life form in 40 billion earth-sized planets in a habitable zone, then there are 100 billion different intelligent life forms in the visible universe. In one sense that does not seem rare; however, one intelligent life form per galaxy would mean contacting another technological civilization via radio would be unlikely.

 

Our nearest major galaxy neighbor, Andromeda is 2.5 million light years distant. Our radio waves will not reach it for another 2,499,900 years, and they will be extremely weak. Will we ever be able to detect a radio signal from that distance?

 

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You're messing with time frames though. 1 generation for one species isn't 1 generation for another. Short generation time is something that allows quick adaptations to environmental changes for the long term. Long generation times means one has to acclimate and tends to allow harsher effects on a population when the environment changes. Even with all our antibiotics, those bacteria are still around.

 

Yes, but with intelligence we are now on the same time frame with them. We can develop means of fighting them as fast as they can evolve means to counter whatever we have invented. And same or all external factors. We can invent mens of surviving in some very unhealthy conditions faster than we could possible, or anyone for that matter, could evolve.

 

 

That's assuming we actually can build spaceships, colonize other planets, and have a survivable population which doesn't seem to be any better than science fiction either.

 

Agreed.

 

 

Assuming 40 billion Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone, among the Milky Way's 200 billion stars, means there are on the order of 40 billion such planets * 100 billion galaxies = 4000 billion-billion earth sized planets in a habitable zone in the Visible Universe. If "rare" means 1 intelligent life form in 40 billion earth-sized planets in a habitable zone, then there are 100 billion different intelligent life forms in the visible universe. In one sense that does not seem rare; however, one intelligent life form per galaxy would mean contacting another technological civilization via radio would be unlikely.

 

That is speculative. We assume that given correct conditions on the planet life will appear, we assume that givn enough time life will develop intelligence, we assume that other civilisations will choose to advance technology. That's a lot of assumptions and all of those are based on observation of exactly one phenomenon - life on Earth.

 

Maybe life is extremely rare, maybe even we're alone... who knows.

Edited by pavelcherepan
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I said, "Assuming 40 billion Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone, among the Milky Way's 200 billion stars, means there are on the order of 40 billion such planets * 100 billion galaxies = 4000 billion-billion earth sized planets in a habitable zone in the Visible Universe. If "rare" means 1 intelligent life form in 40 billion earth-sized planets in a habitable zone, then there are 100 billion different intelligent life forms in the visible universe. In one sense that does not seem rare; however, one intelligent life form per galaxy would mean contacting another technological civilization via radio would be unlikely."

 

That is speculative. We assume that given correct conditions on the planet life will appear, we assume that givn enough time life will develop intelligence, we assume that other civilisations will choose to advance technology. That's a lot of assumptions and all of those are based on observation of exactly one phenomenon - life on Earth.

 

Maybe life is extremely rare, maybe even we're alone... who knows.

My entire statement is not a speculation. The 40 billion Earth-sized planets in a habitable zone are an estimate based on observations. The 100 billion galaxies is an estimate based on observations. I did speculate on the meaning of rare.

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Why is intelligent life so rare in the universe and what do you think will be the future of humanity?

 

Will humanity become extinct one day as the Earth will become uninhabitable in the future or will humanity find itself a new home among the stars (interstellar civilization)?

 

 

I suppose, by 'intelligent' you mean human-level intelligence (which, BTW, I don't find easy to define). Because if you consider, say, dolphins 'intelligent' then there are many intelligent species even here on Earth.

 

I see that some members doubt that human-level intelligence is rare in the universe - however, they speculate. IMO, if we stick to what we know, then I must agree with the OP statement: human-level intelligence is a rare thing, at least in the part of universe that we can probe. After all, if you encounter something only once in your lifetime, then it is a rare thing by definition.

 

The rarity of human-level intelligence can be estimated from how long it took Earth's evolution to make one single example. While evolution re-invented many solutions many times during history, it was not the case with the human-level intelligence... (Compare this to the life itself - life was created almost 'immediately' after Earth was formed)

 

The reason why human-level intelligence might be so rare is, IMO, because there is a wide gap where large and complex brains are just increased burden, but not yet powerful enough to effectively create helpful technology. It takes some serious luck for evolution to 'safely' walk this wide gap.

 

You also ask about future of humanity (thanks, so I can continue to speculate)... I think there are three possibilities:

A) We cease to exist, for any of many possible reasons. I tend to agree with claims that next <500 years might be criticial.

B) A cyclical civilization - where at least several more cycles (ups and downs) will happen before either A) or C)

C) We advance and spread through the universe - but possibly in very transformed form that many peopole today might not consider human civilization any more

 

Regarding the C) option, here is how I see the future:

- in less than 100 years we create artificially intellignet machines/computers that are both: capable to improve themselves and have 'a will to live'.

- from then on, biological humans will not be able to follow, unless perhaps we somehow merge with our children-machines.

- the 'evolution' moves to non-biological domain, zillions of different miniature machine 'spieces' are created (by machines) with different properties. Some intelligent, some maybe not (not having much intellignetce, but only a will to live).... The important thing is that this non-biological evolution happens at rate far faster than now.

- in several decades these children-machines start spreading into universe virtally at the speed of light.

 

So, where are they? :)

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We are perhaps on the middle of the Ladder of Intelligence among Life Forms of this Universe !

 

Just like an earthworm may feel that it knows and feels everything that is there to be known or felt [which is obviously wrong] every Life Form will use all its Perception to derive all its Conclusions !

 

Given the enormity of the Universe inaccessible to MANKIND certainly there will be Life Forms more intelligent with more Powers of Perception , Physical Power and Tolerance to Environments such as Temperature etc !

 

Another interesting aspect is if Man detects another life form elsewhere it is likely to be less intelligent than Man !

 

If there is another life form elsewhere which is more intelligent than Man then that will detect Man first !

 

In any case, MAN has not developed enough Intelligence to avoid War and Destruction over Selfishness, Greed , Religion, Race and other Divisions !

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I suppose, by 'intelligent' you mean human-level intelligence (which, BTW, I don't find easy to define). Because if you consider, say, dolphins 'intelligent' then there are many intelligent species even here on Earth.

 

I see that some members doubt that human-level intelligence is rare in the universe - however, they speculate. IMO, if we stick to what we know, then I must agree with the OP statement: human-level intelligence is a rare thing, at least in the part of universe that we can probe. After all, if you encounter something only once in your lifetime, then it is a rare thing by definition.

 

The rarity of human-level intelligence can be estimated from how long it took Earth's evolution to make one single example. While evolution re-invented many solutions many times during history, it was not the case with the human-level intelligence... (Compare this to the life itself - life was created almost 'immediately' after Earth was formed)

 

The reason why human-level intelligence might be so rare is, IMO, because there is a wide gap where large and complex brains are just increased burden, but not yet powerful enough to effectively create helpful technology. It takes some serious luck for evolution to 'safely' walk this wide gap.

 

You also ask about future of humanity (thanks, so I can continue to speculate)... I think there are three possibilities:

A) We cease to exist, for any of many possible reasons. I tend to agree with claims that next <500 years might be criticial.

B) A cyclical civilization - where at least several more cycles (ups and downs) will happen before either A) or C)

C) We advance and spread through the universe - but possibly in very transformed form that many peopole today might not consider human civilization any more

 

Regarding the C) option, here is how I see the future:

- in less than 100 years we create artificially intellignet machines/computers that are both: capable to improve themselves and have 'a will to live'.

- from then on, biological humans will not be able to follow, unless perhaps we somehow merge with our children-machines.

- the 'evolution' moves to non-biological domain, zillions of different miniature machine 'spieces' are created (by machines) with different properties. Some intelligent, some maybe not (not having much intellignetce, but only a will to live).... The important thing is that this non-biological evolution happens at rate far faster than now.

- in several decades these children-machines start spreading into universe virtally at the speed of light.

 

So, where are they? :)

First, I question the spread of replicators (children-machines) at anywhere near the speed of light.

 

Will replicators actually replicate, or will they decide it is not in their best interest to replicate. Perhaps they will realize that living is futile, because their ultimate fate is established by the big chill, and they will self destruct. Perhaps, replicators are out there watching us from afar (e.g., from the Ort Cloud via a Moon sized telescope), but we are not interesting enough to make contact, because we have not created a replicator. Perhaps replicators are out there traveling towards us, but still have thousands or millions of years to travel before they get to Earth.

 

The Universe is so vast that expecting we should have been contacted is IMO egotistical. That we have the WWW is unlikely to make us an interesting species.

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First, I question the spread of replicators (children-machines) at anywhere near the speed of light.

 

Will replicators actually replicate, or will they decide it is not in their best interest to replicate. Perhaps they will realize that living is futile, because their ultimate fate is established by the big chill, and they will self destruct. Perhaps, replicators are out there watching us from afar (e.g., from the Ort Cloud via a Moon sized telescope), but we are not interesting enough to make contact, because we have not created a replicator. Perhaps replicators are out there traveling towards us, but still have thousands or millions of years to travel before they get to Earth.

 

The Universe is so vast that expecting we should have been contacted is IMO egotistical. That we have the WWW is unlikely to make us an interesting species.

Yes, what you are saying is all possible (but equaly speculative as is my post).

 

(Note that the 'self-destructing' option is actually the A) option from my post.)

 

I also think that there is possibility that maybe we are intentionally not contacted yet, but... If the intellignet life is so common then I speculate that there will be many fractions and opinions among them and hardly they would act in such disciplined way to successfully isolate us and mask their activity... On the other hand if the intelligent life is so rare, then we would be very very interesting to them - I guess they would actively seek for us (not because our WWW or other technological achivements, but because we are self aware intelligent creatures and this alone would then make us a rare gem)

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Yes, what you are saying is all possible (but equaly speculative as is my post).

 

(Note that the 'self-destructing' option is actually the A) option from my post.)

 

I also think that there is possibility that maybe we are intentionally not contacted yet, but... If the intellignet life is so common then I speculate that there will be many fractions and opinions among them and hardly they would act in such disciplined way to successfully isolate us and mask their activity... On the other hand if the intelligent life is so rare, then we would be very very interesting to them - I guess they would actively seek for us (not because our WWW or other technological achivements, but because we are self aware intelligent creatures and this alone would then make us a rare gem)

Yes, I was speculating.

 

A common test of self-aware is whether an animal recognizes itself in a mirror. I've found a list of ten animals that do recognize themselves, they are: Humans, Orangutans, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Elephants, Orcas, Bonobos, Rhesus, Macaques and European Magpies.

 

It is interesting that European Magpies are not listed as one of the five most intelligent birds, which are: African Grey Parrots, Macaws, Amazon Parrots, Cockatoos and Eclectus Parrots. However, I question the accuracy of this list, since intelligence is poorly defined and can be measured in various ways. In any case, the magpie is not on this list.

 

I think technological achievement is more unique than self-aware.

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It's also quite possible that intelligent creatures avoid gravity wells ands colonise the ort cloud/kueper belts of stars with no regard for planets inhabited otherwise.

 

The Earth is not paradise for life and would be greedily taken over by another civilization, we have adapted to the earth not the other way around and it just might be that finding a planet close enough to earth for us to colonise would very nearly be impossible but the ort cloud objects contain everything needed to build colonies and when your spacecraft is your home the incentive to travel in close to a star is absent.

 

Our own Ort cloud could be full of colonies of various species of intelligent creatures and we are just a statistical oddy of very little real concern for civilizations that do not need planets...

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It's also quite possible that intelligent creatures avoid gravity wells ands colonise the ort cloud/kueper belts of stars with no regard for planets inhabited otherwise.

 

The Earth is not paradise for life and would be greedily taken over by another civilization, we have adapted to the earth not the other way around and it just might be that finding a planet close enough to earth for us to colonise would very nearly be impossible but the ort cloud objects contain everything needed to build colonies and when your spacecraft is your home the incentive to travel in close to a star is absent.

 

Our own Ort cloud could be full of colonies of various species of intelligent creatures and we are just a statistical oddy of very little real concern for civilizations that do not need planets...

So therefore these life forms (intelligent creatures) would need to be capable of living at 2-3 degrees Kelvin. I question that. I have read it is pretty cold out there.

Edited by Robittybob1
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So therefore these life forms (intelligent creatures) would need to be capable of living at 2-3 degrees Kelvin. I question that. I have read it is pretty cold out there.

Heat engines would run very efficiently, and replicators (like the Voyagers) could thrive quite well with a bit of fissionable material for heat.

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So therefore these life forms (intelligent creatures) would need to be capable of living at 2-3 degrees Kelvin. I question that. I have read it is pretty cold out there.

 

 

No, they could keep the inside of their colonies warm as they like, spin a torus for gravity, light up the inside, use Ort could materials to build the colony and to resupply the ecosystem inside.

 

We could do it today with current technology, we might have to develop a few technologies in directions we haven't so far. The only thing missing is fusion technology and well have viable controlled fusion in what 20 more years? :unsure:

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No, they could keep the inside of their colonies warm as they like, spin a torus for gravity, light up the inside, use Ort could materials to build the colony and to resupply the ecosystem inside.

 

We could do it today with current technology, we might have to develop a few technologies in directions we haven't so far. The only thing missing is fusion technology and well have viable controlled fusion in what 20 more years? :unsure:

OK so what did they make their toroidal cocoons from now? Are they just parked there or were they made there?

Heat engines would run very efficiently, and replicators (like the Voyagers) could thrive quite well with a bit of fissionable material for heat.

Where did they pick that "fissionable material" up from?

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