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July 16, 2009

One word answer: Berzerkers

Stephen Hawking asks why the galaxy is not crawling with self-designing mechanical or biological life forms.

"I discount suggestions that UFO's contain beings from outer space. I think any visits by aliens, would be much more obvious, and probably also, much more unpleasant."

Hawking continues: "What is the explanation of why we have not been visited? One possibility is that the argument, about the appearance of life on Earth, is wrong. Maybe the probability of life spontaneously appearing is so low, that Earth is the only planet in the galaxy, or in the observable universe, in which it happened. Another possibility is that there was a reasonable probability of forming self reproducing systems, like cells, but that most of these forms of life did not evolve intelligence."
...
Intelligence, Hawking believes contrary to our human-centric existece, may not have any long-term survival value. In comparison the microbial world, will live on, even if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions. Hawking's main insight is that intelligence was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution: "It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life."

Two further considerations offer an alternative conjecture. Intelligent life arises but is wiped out as soon as it gets noticed. Only quiet species are moving between the stars...

The corollary of this line of thinking being the consequent choice between a mad race to perfect weapons against the hypothetical death machines on their way or a retreat into the apparent safety of a new Dark Age. I suspect the choice is going to be made for us.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 16, 2009 08:43 AM