Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Slow Motion Interstellar Colonization

In another post, interstellar migration was discussed, where an alien civilization that was not inclined to do any interstellar traveling was forced to by the imminent demise of their native world. Imminent in the time scale of the galaxy might be a million years, as stars change quite slowly. They would map and chart the emissions of their star, and figure out that in a million years, the star would already be so hot their world would not be habitable any more. Or it was going to freeze into a snowball. Or the star’s magnetic field was going to go through a quiescent time and the planet would be cooked by cosmic rays. So they had to move, but they could take their time about it. It would certainly be possible that a shorter timescale faced them, as there are many galactic perils that could threaten life on a planet, and some happen quicker than others. But with the appropriate scientific knowledge, and the appropriate attention to what was going on in their neighborhood, they would be able to saddle up and move on.

This is not the only reason why interstellar voyaging might occur. The alien civilization might simply have as a core credo that they should expand, first to all locations on their planet, then to other planets in their solar system which could be used to harbor life of their kind, and then on to planets of other solar systems. This kind of regular expansion has been envisaged to take a few million years to cover the galaxy, which is not a long time in the life of the galaxy. However, this might be a dumb way to do it.

This post explores some possibly smarter ways to colonize the galaxy. We are examining the case of an alien civilization that wants to do it, but they are all really bright, and can figure out the best way to do it. Remember, when they are sitting around discussing how they want to colonize the galaxy, they are not leaping up and saying that it needs to be done quickly, like a couple of million years. Just that it needs to be done. Their civilization might already be very old, like way more than a couple of million years, and they have learned patience. They think, they plan, they observe, they calculate, and then they take action. No haste, but they do it right.

On Earth, we are a hasty species, and don’t have a long history yet. We think about quickly getting something done, the sooner the better, so we can move on to the next important thing. It is hard for us to think about multi-million year time scales for projects, as it is so far removed from anything in our lives. But alien civilizations are different, and can relax and enjoy themselves for a million years while they are getting ready to take the next move. Two million years wait – no problem. Ten million years wait – no problem. They’ll get around to it.

One thing is clear, they are not going to build enough ships to carry a whole population of a planet over to a new home world and set them down. Their goal is to colonize, not emigrate. Their planet or planets are not at risk. They just want to see that other planets in the galaxy have life on them, and preferably intelligent life, and preferably their type of intelligent life, which appears very fine to them. It could be that their understanding of genetics and everything else under the sun is adequate to tell them they are the optimal kind of life, and therefore should be populating the galaxy, and maybe some globular clusters as well. So what might be a smart way to do that? Since they understand everything by now, they know that they can seed a planet and it will respond by having the seeded organisms propagate, if there are the right conditions. It is much more economical to build a starship to carry some seeds instead of a fraction of your population. But we on Earth know there might be Great Filters. If the aliens start with some seeds, maybe the evolutionary path that leads to aliens isn’t going to happen, because they were the lucky ones, and got past the Great Filter by sheer chance. Most likely, no other planet is going to do that. So, they would need to come back to the seeded planet for each Great Filter, and do some manipulation genetically, or move some early organism to a different place so it would survive and propagate, or add in another symbiote, or do something else to get this planet past the Great Filter. Maybe there are a couple of Great Filters, so including their initial seeding, they need to make three trips in small ships to ensure that this planet is colonized. Three trips and the benefit is a whole planet like their own. Clearly this is a positive cost-benefit relationship.

At our stage of technology and science understanding on Earth, we do not know if there are many Great Filters or none at all. If the number is very high, the costs of this type of slow motion colonization begins to get high, and perhaps other ways of colonizing might be more efficient. Aside from fixing the Great Filters, there may be another slew of problems as well that needs to be considered by the colonizing aliens. These fall under the label of bifurcation.

The aliens would not be particularly turned on by making a big expense and coming back to their new planet after lots of time and finding a planet with intelligent bugs, instead of intelligent whales or felines or primates or whatever they are. Perhaps the last time they visited to do their Great Filter repair job, they had to get the multi-cellular problem fixed, and they did. But it might be that evolution’s inexorable climb to intelligence comes to a fork in the road on any planet, or at least it occurs on the ones they seed and keep moving forward. The fork leads to either intelligent bugs or to intelligent mammals. The bugs can get smart enough to invent cellphones and other simple stuff, but because of idiocracy, a short word meaning bugs never get really smart, they don’t build starships. They aren’t made of the right stuff in their brains. Project failure!

Maybe the bugs do get smart enough to build spaceships and would want to start populating the galaxy with creatures the originators of the seeding program find repulsive or at least not what they would want to see as a result of all their investment. Project disaster! There is some strong reason for the seeders wanting to ensure that the fork in evolution’s road is taken in the right way. So they have to come back for every bifurcation, and steer things the preferable way.

Just for curiosity, consider the strange and forbidding hypothesis that we are a colony of some alien civilization, and it was one that used slow motion colonization. This would have some serious implications for planet Earth in the near term. If we are the result of an alien civilization’s seeding program, and have been shepherded through all the previous Great Filters and Evolutionary Bifurcations by them, they are not going to want us to screw everything up with the next Great Filter. They know what the next Great Filter is, if there is one, or they know that we are past all of them and are on our way to being a real colony of theirs, sharing in the mission of populating the rest of the galaxy. Unfortunately, as shown in multiple other posts in this blog [Sir Francis Bacon, Trees, Happy Life], there may be near term Great Filters. If there is a Great Filter just in front of us, we might expect them to start showing up soon, and telling us how to get through it. Or perhaps they know this would be a poor way to proceed as we are not ready for contact and have to do a lot more maturing first. So they need some surreptitious way to keep the upcoming Great Filter from stopping us. This hypothesis clearly has some interesting and amusing aspects to think about.

No comments:

Post a Comment