Sunday, November 29, 2015

Interstellar Nomads – Part 6 – The Seeding Mission

Sometimes ideas just call out to be combined. In a series of recent posts, the concept of interstellar nomads, a species that chooses to live in space, was elaborated. Some options of how they might do this, and what signatures they might give off for us to observe were tentatively discussed. A separate collection of posts talked about the only role for star travel was colonization, but that could take place in several ways. Depending on the memes for star travel that the alien civilization chose, they could be trying to plant the flag on exo-planets so they could have clone worlds, or something quite on the other end of the spectrum. They could be quite content with just spreading the seeds of life hither and yon around the galaxy.

The latter mission, finding planets which have not originated life, but have the capability of nurturing some sort of life if it was planted there, or finding planets that just got stuck on some plateau in early evolution, and then doing something to make life blossom there, is ideally suited for these itinerant travelers around the galaxy. The other one is not.

In the series on interstellar baggage, a jocular misnomer of course, the preparations and ship design for a plant the flag ship was described. If an alien civilization has its mind set on reproducing its own civilization on another planet, they have a lot to carry with them and a lot of work to do. Knowing all of science certainly helps, and being geniuses at everything including engineering helps a lot too, but they still need to move a good mass of stuff to the new destination.

That’s not true if you don’t mind waiting for millennia or hundreds of them to have your results, and all you care about is gardening and animal husbandry. Interstellar nomads have already figured out that, for them, life in space is ideal, and they wouldn’t want a colony planet. They don’t even want a home planet. They don’t want to go to all the trouble of setting up a planet to live on because they don’t believe in living on planets. This bored them. They live in space.

Maybe as eons pass, they clone their ship once or twice or a hundred times, so now there are many more alien civilizations living the life of the perpetual traveler in the galaxy. Since they likely visit some solar systems where there are lots of resources, as well as some where there are few, they can take advantage of the bountiful ones to copy their ship. If it is biological, this means throwing a few seeds in a vat to start. If it is mostly mechanical, they need to run their smelters and what-not for much longer than usual, while they build another ship.

This is the extent of the cloning that interstellar nomads would do. But, if they were of category A2 aliens, referring to their memes for star travel, in addition to loving the life on their cruise liner, they would want to seed whatever planets they could in the solar systems they visited. Seeding planets is somewhat decoupled in the meme they accepted as the primary goal for space travel. This collection of memes was put together with the idea in mind of aliens living on a planet and debating among themselves the prospect of going into space. This conversation, occurring around the time of the genetic grand transformation, leads to the establishment of the goals of their civilization, in the long-term, and the memes they teach their younger generation are the means by which the goals are implemented. The idea that an entire civilization can have uniform goals may seem a bit strange, given how Earth is fractionated in many, many ways, but the unification of any alien civilization reaching asymptotic technology is likely, as discussed already elsewhere.

So they have a second meme related to the details of star travel, or specifically what to do while star traveling. The original category has star travel being invented and pursued for the primary mission of fulfilling their memes for it, but with an alien nomad civilization, star travel is a goal in and of itself, and it needs no memes to drive a civilization to do it. They did it, they loved it, and they keep doing it. But the old meme they had, of the A2 variety, is still there in some of them, perhaps, and they do it while cruising the galaxy.

The costs of seeding the galaxy in this way are almost negligible. A traditional A2 alien civilization has to design a star ship, probably a series of them starting with one or more probes, send them out and wait for the communication back telling them more details about some exo-planet hundreds of light years out. Then they have to design the seeding ship, which likely is on a one-way voyage and has only robots and expendable biologicals aboard, build it and test it, and finally send it out. This could take a significant amount of their solar system resources if they lived in a less favorable one. A lot of work is involved, and a tremendous commitment on the part of the whole civilization.

On the other hand, the alien nomad ship is already there in the solar system, and if it happens to have some opportunities where a planet or a satellite could have life, they send a little probe over to drop in the right seeds. They are sitting right near the planet or satellite, so they don’t need to build any specialized hardware for observing it. The sensors already on their ship are designed to pick out promising solar systems hundreds of light years away, unless they are using the cheap traveler’s means of touring the galaxy, and something this powerful would show great details of the potential life-bearing planet or satellite without them having to leave the asteroid they are parked at. Changing the focus of a huge dish from 200 light years to 20 AU is no big deal.

It’s not really necessary to have the A2 meme be a lower priority. The two concepts, seeding planets and satellites and touring the galaxy non-stop are not incompatible. The cruise ship that the nomads use could have been originally designed as the best way to fulfill the A2 meme. It could be they didn’t really get fed up with planetary living, but that those on the planet wanted to seed the galaxy, and they figured and figured, and realized the lowest cost, highest efficiency way to do it was to create nomad ships, along with a nomad species to inhabit them. The genetic revolution would certainly allow this. Once the species for interstellar life was created, members of it would love it. It would be their home. This is how associative neural minds work. Familiarity is the basis for appreciation.

Once the A2 category home world had send out some nomad ships, their mission to fulfill their meme was done. The ships could clone themselves, so more wouldn’t be necessary and anyway, all the local good planets for seeding would have been done. The nomads would be able to extend their reach much farther, across the galaxy, and if conditions were right, even to another one. There could be no more successful fulfillment of the obligation that the earlier generations imposed on the A2 civilization than by setting up and launching a small fleet of nomad seeders.

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