FastForward Radio with George Dvorsky and PJ Manney

By | October 6, 2009

Stephen
Gordon welcomes guest-host PJ Manney and guest George Dvorsky back to
fastForward Radio to talk about where technology is leading us and to
continue the discussion about whether we are alone in the universe.

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If you listen live you can contribute to the show by joining the text chat.  Our chat host Sally Morem will be on hand to lead the discussion. Get all the details on listening live at our audio host, Blog Talk Radio. The show starts at:


10:30 Eastern/9:30 Central/8:30 Mountain/7:30 Pacific.





 About Our Guests 


Canadian futurist, consultant and award winning blogger, George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology – particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Humanity+. georgedvorsky.jpg

As a frequent guest and occasional co-host — not to mention our official Hollywood correspondent — PJ Manney brings a unique perspective to FastForward Radio. She is a writer and futurist, and a leading voice in the Humanity+ movement. She has written extensively on H+ topics, having previously been involved in motion picture development (Hook, It Could Happen to You, Universal Soldier) and writing for television (Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess).

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  • DamnDirtyApe

    That was an interesting show but I can’t understand the fascination with continually bringing up to the Fermi paradox. It’s next to useless and it’s far from a paradox since even the way it’s framed is dumb. Who’s to say that we haven’t been observed for millions of years? Who’s to say we could even begin to understand the methods of monitoring our by beings capable of interstellar/ interdimensional travel? We can’t even predict what we will be doing 200 years from now let alone 2,000 or 200,000 or 2 million or 200 million.

    And you don’t need to resort to Dyson spheres or other crazy human preconceived ideas about what THEY would do based on what WE would do. We cannot realistically predict non-human super intelligent motivation, ethics, modus operandi and behaviors.

    All this talk about “Every civilization would explore and colonize space at an exponential rate” is so incredibly silly and presumptuous. Come on. even we primtive humans have not laid down concrete over every square inch of earth.. Even we have a limited abiliy to use a bit of self-control and impose limits. Why must a super intelligence have an insatiable desire to colonize every planet in the galaxy? And colonize it exactly how? What does that mean? Are we supposed to assume ET’s would always make their presence known to us? Does lack of open contact NOW mean that they were never here in the distant past?

    And the whole non-exclusivity argument sounds great until Dvosrky casually threw in the “well say there are a MILLION civilizations how are you going to get them all to comply” etc.. Well who the hell said there needed to be anything REMOTELY close to a MILLION civilizations out there? So it has to be n= 1,000,000 or n = 1? Why cant n= 5 or n= 100?

    Perhaps part of the natural process of developing interstellar technology is a concurrent level of ethics and responsibly since by the time a civilization gets that far along they have mastery over material needs and are no longer obsessed with absorbing or conquering everything in their line of sight.

    Or perhaps one race developed first a billion years ago and grew so powerful that they shepard all other upstarts in the galaxy along the way and enforce their own set of rules such as non-interference etc. That might sound like science fiction but its no more silly than looking for radio waves or Dyson spheres. Suffice it to say I could come up with “solutions” to the Fermi Paradox all day long and no one can dispel it since none of us have any data to argue the point aside from the fact that we don�t see open direct contact with us now.

    The “Paradox” needs to be put to bed rest and for all.. We simply don’t have enough information about the situation to make any kind of informed guess.

  • https://www.blog.speculist.com Stephen Gordon

    DamnDirtyApe:

    I don’t think any of us disagree with your assessment of the limits of the Fermi Paradox or, for that matter, the Drake equation. With intelligent civilizations we have a sample size of 1. It’s really not possible to extrapolate from that.

    But, I don’t think an intelligent discussion of extra-terrestrial civilizations would be complete without bringing these ideas up. Both the Drake equation and the Fermi Paradox illustrate and illuminate our ignorance.

  • Sally Morem

    The Fermi paradox addresses the fact that after decades of depictions of an abundance of alien civilizations in the galaxy in science fiction, and the fact that SETI scientists were making the exact same assumptions, no alien transmissions have shown up yet.

    Clearly, Enrico Fermi was puzzled by the fact that the LGM hadn’t ever shown up, even though (presumably) they would have had a long head start.

    It isn’t really a paradox, true. It is an expression of science fiction and science puzzlement about Where the Heck Are They?

  • Sally Morem

    “All this talk about “Every civilization would explore and colonize space at an exponential rate” is so incredibly silly and presumptuous.”

    Life tends to spread where it can. Technological life, likewise, but much more so.

    “Come on. even we primtive humans have not laid down concrete over every square inch of earth..”

    Actually, in a way, they did. We are their descendants.

  • Sally Morem

    “Why must a super intelligence have an insatiable desire to colonize every planet in the galaxy?”

    They probably wouldn’t bother with what are, in reality, very dangerous places–yes, planets. They’d probably create their own space colonies in friendly asteroid belts.

    That is, if they DON’T undergo a continually accelerating technological Singularity. As George pointed out, the Singularity would be a good explanation for the fact that their radio signals have NOT appeared.

    “Are we supposed to assume ET’s would always make their presence known to us? Does lack of open contact NOW mean that they were never here in the distant past?”

    Those points were addressed during the show.

    “And the whole non-exclusivity argument sounds great until Dvosrky casually threw in the “well say there are a MILLION civilizations how are you going to get them all to comply” etc.. Well who the hell said there needed to be anything REMOTELY close to a MILLION civilizations out there? So it has to be n= 1,000,000 or n = 1? Why cant n= 5 or n= 100?”

    He used that large number as an example. But we could use smaller numbers. Number 1 super-civilization may comply because of their morals and ethics. But would number 2 automatically comply with number 1′s request for hands off? How about number 3 or number 4, etc.?

    “Perhaps part of the natural process of developing interstellar technology is a concurrent level of ethics and responsibly since by the time a civilization gets that far along they have mastery over material needs and are no longer obsessed with absorbing or conquering everything in their line of sight.”

    Perhaps, but don’t bet the rent.

    “Or perhaps one race developed first a billion years ago and grew so powerful that they shepard all other upstarts in the galaxy along the way and enforce their own set of rules such as non-interference etc. That might sound like science fiction but its no more silly than looking for radio waves or Dyson spheres. Suffice it to say I could come up with “solutions” to the Fermi Paradox all day long and no one can dispel it since none of us have any data to argue the point aside from the fact that we don’t see open direct contact with us now.”

    This possibility was also addressed. Do you recall the Cosmic Zoo or Cosmic Sanctuary scenario?

    “The “Paradox” needs to be put to bed rest and for all.. We simply don’t have enough information about the situation to make any kind of informed guess.”

    That never stopped us before, especially on FFR.

    BTW, my answer is the same as the one offered by George on the Singularity impacting the unlikelihood of SETI ever making a discovery.

    As things may turn out, the average length of a “radio civilization” may turn out to be around 100 years, thus making it almost impossible for 2 such civilizations to co-exist in the same time-frame in our galaxy and possibly in the entire universe.

  • Damndirtyape

    >>He used that large number as an example. But we could use smaller numbers. Number 1 super-civilization may comply because of their morals and ethics. But would number 2 automatically comply with number 1′s request for hands off? How about number 3 or number 4, etc.?

    Yes, but the example he chose was used expressly to dispel the notion that every advance society would co-operate with non-interference. His point was “well how could you get a million civilizations to all agree” My answer is that you don’t : N = 5, therefore only 5 (which is as good a number as a million) civilizations need to comply. If you use the non-exclusivity argument you have to plug in big numbers, which may not be the case.

    I think getting civilizations to comply might be easy in fact, not hard. Considering that statistically one of them got there millions (or more) of years first, all the new societies entering the Interstellar club would be like shrews to the big boys on the block. It’s very easy to get compliance when you have unlimited power over the other members. Or perhaps you are right they all don’t give a crap what the others do. Who can say? Certainly not Fermi.

    >Life tends to spread where it can. Technological life, likewise, but much more so.

    How do you know what technological life does? There are no “technological organisms” on this planet. I agree that lower life forms do spread whenever possible, but life-forms capable of interstellar travel should not be assumed to be comparable to crickets or grass hoppers in their propagation behavior. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t – again not enough data to make an informed guess.

    >>”Perhaps part of the natural process of developing interstellar technology is a concurrent level of ethics and responsibly since by the time a civilization gets that far along they have mastery over material needs and are no longer obsessed with absorbing or conquering everything in their line of sight.”

    >>Perhaps, but don’t bet the rent.

    Really? Why NOT bet the rent? Since we have no super-advanced alien intelligences to ask, how do we know how likely they are do something? I constantly hear about the “age of abundance” from transhumanists, and people project what WE would do in terms of human life exploring every niche of space, but suddenly when it comes to aliens they are assumed to not have gone through an “age of abundance” and enlightenment that ameliorates their desire to explore and expand into space.

    And I’m not jumping straight to the notion that they all must have had a singularity and thus they live in virtual worlds. We may be headed towards such a thing, but I don’t think that has to be a universal rule for every other case in the Galaxy/Universe.

    >> Clearly, Enrico Fermi was puzzled by the fact that the LGM hadn’t ever shown up, even though (presumably) they would have had a long head start.

    I understand WHY the Paradox is brought up, my argument is just that it has so many holes in it so as to be less than useful. When the assumption from the get-go is that aliens would act and think like 19th century human explorers something is wrong with the question.

    By the way, without trying to confuse the topic too much, I understand there is a difference between Dvorsky’s and Phil’s views. What what I gather Phil thinks N=1 but Dvosrky did not (?) so some of my points refer to the N=1 crowd specifically and some to the subject in general. And yes I know that a lot of the points I raised were issues that were brought up in the podcast. I just think it’s time for a new postulate on this topic.