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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 4:32 am 
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http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=19246

There is some interesting food for thought in this article (based on a paper about how ET Civilisations are spread through time).

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:52 am 
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Impressive analysis, let down by a few momentary lapse into extravagant over-optimism.

Quote:
Ian Crawford has done some analysis of galactic colonization using a scenario in which a tenth-lightspeed colony ship plants a colony on a nearby star system. The colony then grows until it is capable of launching its own ship, and so on. This produces a 1000-2000 year cycle, with the assumptions I’ve been using, but even if you work this scenario conservatively, the galaxy is colonized in 20 million years, which is an order of magnitude less that the expected age of our nearest neighbor.


At several points in the article the author takes seemingly modest compound growth or improvement rates and extrapolates them indefinitely into the future. There is, after all, such a thing as diminishing returns. Beyond a certain point, with any technology, the effort required for each incremental improvement rises until it's just not practical any more.

My concern is that while we will undoubtedly develop more efficient and practical space propulsion systems, the rate of diminishing returns will mean that the practical limits that are attainable given our universe's physical laws will fall short of the performance required for practical interstellar colonisation.

Simon Hibbs

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:35 am 
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A basic assumption of almost all scenarios of that kind is that alien
civilizations want to expand into the galaxy and to colonize planets
in other systems once they have developed the necessary techno-
logies, often combined with a second assumption that such an ex-
pansion goes on and on until the entire galaxy (or at least a major
part of it) is colonized. However, the only base for these assump-
tions is our own history, which almost by definition has nothing to
offer for the understanding of alien civilizations.

In the end this kind of speculation is very interesting, but also a bit
like a medieval speculation about the number of angels on the point
of a needle or the number of auxiliary devils in hell - with zero data
about the subject of the speculation its result can only be (fascina-
ting) fiction, not science.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:26 pm 
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Hmm, but doesn't this support the idea that civilisations are likely to be separated by millions of years? If the rate of expansion is slower than he extrapolates, wouldn't they die out even earlier?

Okay, I can see skim-reading this isn't going to do the job, time to settle down. Where's my cuppa and bisquit?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:43 pm 
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Vile wrote:
If the rate of expansion is slower than he extrapolates, wouldn't they die out even earlier?

Difficult to guess, we do not even have any evidence that civilizations
tend to die out at all once they have achieved the technology required
to control their environment. Science fiction about dead civilizations nor-
mally uses some kind of final war as the explanation for the death of an
interstellar civilization once it has colonized a volume big enough to ma-
ke it invulnerable to most natural desasters, but we cannot know whe-
ther alien civilizations do fight wars - it "seems natural" to us humans,
but war may just as well be an incomprehensibly bizarre concept for ali-
en civilizations, after all killing members of one's own species has no ob-
vious evolutionary advantages.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:05 pm 
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I might be interesting to have a SF setting that had humans encountering lots of dead civilisations, and one extant millions-of-years-old civilisation that we really want to stay out of the way of (a la AGRA from 2300AD, or the Walkers of Sigma 957 from Bab5)

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:48 pm 
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It's a shame we needed their land in order to support our expanding population. Perhaps wiping them all out was excessive, but then I ran across this passage in one of their books of Philosophy.

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.., after all killing members of one's own species has no ob-
vious evolutionary advantages.


This cheered me up no end, after all any civilization with such a completely unrealistic appreciation of the realities of survival was doomed to fail eventually anyway. I comfort myself with the knowledge that my numerous children and grandchildren have happier and more prosperous lives here than they could ever have had back in the teeming population centres of our homeland.

- From the personal diary of Major Provost Kzhar, written during his retirement on an estate in the newly conquered territories.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 4:47 pm 
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simonh wrote:
It's a shame we needed their land in order to support our expanding population. Perhaps wiping them all out was excessive ...

Yep, a typical shortsighted human approach, reducing the genetic
pool of the own species for a personal gain. Guess why almost all
species which survived for a long time on our planet never kill any
members of their own species.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:50 pm 
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rust wrote:
simonh wrote:
It's a shame we needed their land in order to support our expanding population. Perhaps wiping them all out was excessive ...

Yep, a typical shortsighted human approach, reducing the genetic
pool of the own species for a personal gain. Guess why almost all
species which survived for a long time on our planet never kill any
members of their own species.


That's natural selection, baby.

Or do you imagine that competitive pressures and the principles of survival of the fittest have somehow not been applicable to humans throughout our evolutionary history?

To my mind any claim that aliens are not likely to be subject to or understand natural selection requires some justification.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:17 pm 
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simonh wrote:
That's natural selection, baby.

Not at all, because then the majority of species on our pla-
net would do it, but the opposite is the case - apart from
some egg laying insects and reptiles with an extremely high
number of descendants we are the only ones who kill mem-
bers of our own species.
simonh wrote:
Do you imagine that competitive pressures and the principles of survival of the fittest have somehow not been applicable to humans throughout our evolutionary history?

I imagine that killing members of the own species is the most
counterproductive reaction to competitive pressures and that
the "fittest" of a species are those with the best flexibility in
the adaptation to changing environments and the widest he-
reditary immunity to diseases, not those with the highest de-
veloped ability to kill others.

Besides, competitive pressures and survival of the fittest are
facts of life for all species, not only for humans. We are only
almost unique in our ways to deal with those problems, and I
tend to think that our approach is more likely to increase our
risk of extinction through self destruction than to support our
survival.


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