Monday, August 28, 2017

Intelligent Design by Bombing

Intelligent Design means the design of the genetic coding for some creatures or a whole planet by some intelligent alien civilization. This is not a remarkable and astounding achievement, but something that will fall within the capability of any alien civilization that continues progress in technology. Genetics is part of the last group of scientific knowledge that will be gained by an alien civilization, as it depends on some previous technology to enable the research that makes it possible. Massive computing and automation is necessary to unlock the secrets of a genetic code and even more so to create a new genetic code from scratch, and test it in a simulation before committing it to actual DNA. It is part of what we call in this blog the genetics grand transformation, as it will transform any alien society even more than the industrial grand transformation.

Intelligent design of a whole-planet genetic system must depend on predictions of what evolution will do. A given species only exists for a few tens of millennia, perhaps more and perhaps less, and the extreme expense of designing a whole planet’s genetic structure and delivering it to a planet free from life could hardly be justified if the life on the planet only lasted for a few tens of millennia. There must be an understanding of how it would change with time. This opens up a whole set of questions. Since life on a suitable planet might be expected to last for billions of years, exactly what was the purpose of the alien civilization’s attempt to introduce life there?

Colonization seems to have a problem with time scales. Let’s suppose there is an alien civilization on a planet, and they have reached asymptotic technology within ten thousand years of the first little city being founded, meaning science is done and everything is known. Suppose also they are very frugal with their resource, very industrious about searching for them on their entire solar system, and very motivated to last as long as they can, keeping their population well limited. With this motivation, they would be searching for a solar system to go to when the resource of their home solar system begin to give out. This might be a few million years out from the first city founding; suppose it’s two million. Very early in this time they are able to build large telescopes to scan neighboring stars for suitable planets, and can tell which ones have oceans, land masses, not too heavy or too light an atmosphere, not too much geological activity, a star which will last a long time and does not erupt too often, a magnetosphere to block some of the high-energy particulate radiation from the sun from killing off surface life, and probably a dozen or two other things we might not have thought of yet. Now let’s suppose they find one or more suitable candidates: lifeless planets which have all the characteristics of a potential new home for their civilization.

There’s no need to go there immediately, as if they want their civilization to last as long as possible, they wouldn’t want to be burning through the resources of two solar systems at once. Rather, they would wait until they are seeing shortages of resources at home, but not so badly that they could not afford to build a starship. It would be as small as possible to do the job they set out for it, but what exactly should that job be?

If they want to transfer their civilization there, many preparations have to be made. Do they need oxygen in the atmosphere? That takes, if Earth is any guide and our scientific deductions on that are reasonable, a couple of billion years. Without oxygen, seeding the planet with life means seeding it with cyanobacteria or perhaps something else that can survive in an anaerobic environment. Multicellular organisms are possible in this environment, but none attractive to an alien civilization looking for some place like home. Perhaps the alien civilization will be sufficiently creative to make oxygenation of their target planet occur faster, but doing it remotely in under a million years seems beyond possible. Oxygen is a very reactive element, and there are many sinks for it in the rocks of a planet. These have to be filled up before the atmosphere can become highly oxygenated, and it just takes a while for this to happen.

If colonization of a barren planet takes too long, why else might an alien civilization decide to seed a distant planet with life? Recall that there is no clear reason why a particular alien civilization might choose as its goal the propagation of its own species or its own culture. They could also simply choose to be the bringers of life to the universe. Deciding to spread life is somewhat easier that preserving one’s own civilization on a distant exo-planet.

If the organic oceans hypothesis on the origination of life that was developed in this blog is true, then the probability of life can be low on planets which could support it. In that case, an alien civilization would certainly know that there might be hundreds of planets which could evolve life in the Milky Way galaxy, provided only that it gets started. They could take it upon themselves to be the agent for that initiation, and be motivated by that goal. It might be that they realize that colonization cannot happen, and take the propagation of life itself as a substitute.

If that is the case, then sending a starship with some cyanobacteria and bombing the oceans and coastlines of the target planet with them would do the job. The starship would have to be designed to last for the thousands of years of the voyage to the distant solar system, so it might be not much harder to design it to last for a few more thousands of years in orbit over the target planet. If so, perhaps it could also detect the populations of cyanobacteria in the oceans and shallow water areas, and report back to the home planet that the mission was a success. Certainly the aliens would have some equivalent of champagne for this.

No comments:

Post a Comment