Fate of Our Civilization and Tactics

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By J. R. Mooneyham

Extinction. Or collapse into a permanent medieval (or worse) state of anarchy and deprivation. These appear to be the normal ends of technological civilizations in our galaxy, based on everything we know circa early 2003. The above statement is not made lightly. Rather, it is a conclusion based on more than a decade of dedicated research into the matter.

The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things: One, gamma ray bursters which may have effectively prohibited the development of sentient races until only the last 200 million years; Two, the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a given planet, based on our own biography); Three, the need for an unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds of millions of years (the ‘Goldilocks’ scenario, enabled by a huge natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet’s axis, as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and Four, an extremely dangerous 600 year or so ‘gauntlet’ of challenges and risks most any technological society must survive to become a viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass of population and technology off their home world, among other things). That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD and 2500 AD, wherein we’ll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism, mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries) extremely few races likely survive all these.

There’s six major guiding principles by which to defend civilization against all the worst possible threats to its future:

  • One, remove or minimize the sources of all reasonable motivations to harm others from the entirety of humanity– as well as the means to carry out such harm
  • Two, put into place and maintain robust structural impediments to, and socio-economic discouragements of, the domination of the many by a wealthy, powerful, or charismatic few
  • Three, insure the utmost education and technological empowerment possible of the average individual world citizen, wherever this does not unreasonably conflict with the other principles listed here.
  • Four, work to preserve existing diversity in life on Earth and its natural environments, as well as in human behavior, culture, media, languages, and technologies, and even nourish expansion in such diversity within human works, wherever this may be accomplished with minimal conflict regarding the other principles listed here.
  • Five, excesses in intellectual property protections, censorship, and secrecy all basically amount to the same thing, so far as posing threats to the robustness, prosperity, security (and even survival) of civilization is concerned. Therefore all three must be deliberately and perpetually constrained to the absolute minimum applications possible to protect humanity. In these matters it would typically be far better to err on the side of accessibility, openness, and disclosure, than the other.
  • Six, seek out and implement ever better ways to document human knowledge and experience in the widest, deepest, and most accurate fashions possible for both the present and future of humanity, and offer up this recorded information freely to the global public for examination. This means the more raw the data, and the more directly sourced, the better. The more raw the data and less colored by opinions of the day, the better present and future citizens will be able to apply ever improving tools of scientific analysis to derive accurate results, and drive important decisions.

Work faithfully and relentlessly to implement and continue the enforcement of these six principles into perpetuity (always seeking the optimal balance between them all), and you should reduce overall risk levels for civilization to that stemming from true mental illness or pure accidents.

Robust and enlightened public health programs (among other things) can reduce the total risk of mental illness to society to negligible levels. That would leave the risk of accidents to deal with. Reducing the risks presented from various accidental events is another subject in itself, that I’ll leave to others to address.

Especially in a world where shortages of money, talent, knowledge, and time still define more of our economics and society, than anything else. Anyone working to achieve one or more of these aims immediately encounters active opposition from various quarters too. That may sound hard to believe, but look at a few examples: Cuts in military spending even in the most advanced and highly developed nations like the USA face stiff opposition from many politicians because defense cuts are apparently less popular with voters than defense budget increases– almost no matter how peaceful the world happens to be at the time. Any cuts that do somehow get passed can often only be implemented by shutting down unneeded bases or various extravagant weapons programs. But either of those considerations bring up cries of “lost jobs”, even in good times when those jobs might easily be replaced with other, less lethal ones. Weapons proliferation around the world likewise is often defended as generating jobs at home, despite the fact those weapons often end up being used by naughty allies to kill innocents in conflicts where we ourselves have little or no involvement– except for our brand name and label being prominently emblazoned on the blasted shards in various scenes of mass death and destruction. Later on we often wonder why people on the receiving end of these weapons (in the hands of others) hate us so. And sometimes the weapons we sell end up being used against our own soldiers. But still we sell and sometimes even give them away.

Maybe aiding in the spread of democracy and free speech through the world would seem an easier goal than stopping the proliferation of weapons and weapon technologies? Sorry, but no. Indeed, here in America our track record for a long time now is behavior that says democracy and free speech is too good for lots of folks other than ourselves. You see, the ill will built up from all that weapons proliferation, plus other actions on our part, has resulted in lots of countries where we’d be tossed out on our ear if real democracies suddenly sprang up in them.

Like what actions am I talking about? Things like manipulating elections and interfering with other attempts at legitimate changeovers in power in foreign countries. CIA involvement to prop up dictatorships with whom we have deals for things like oil or other items. Stuff like that. There’s no telling how many democratic movements we’ve helped crush or cause to be stillborn around the world in the past century. Of course, you could say we were just emulating our parent countries such as those of western europe, which did many of the same things for several centuries before we ourselves successfully rebeled againstthem.

It’s almost like we don’t want any other rebellions to succeed, in order to retain our own ‘special place’ in history. But is that fair? No.

Of course, sometimes a nation manages to overthrow its oppressors despite our opposition and dirty tricks. But when that happens, our previous sins in the conflict result in whatever new government emerges being dead-set against us. Like in Iran, with the fall of the Shah. Our interference with their internal affairs so antagonized and polarized the Iranians that one result was eventual domination of the country by an Islamic extremist movement, which managed to overthrow the US-supported Shah. And naturally, when things didn’t go our way there we froze Iran’s assets and put in place trade sanctions against them. And in response, they may be seeking to obtain their own weapons of mass destruction and supporting various terrorist actions around the world.

Could it be we are gradually arranging our own (maybe even civilization itself’s) spectacular end with all this chicanery? For the longer we continue this type of behavior, the more difficult and scary it becomes to consider stopping it. And the worse the eventual consequences might be. After all, we’re making a lot of enemies out there. A pretty hefty chunk of the human race, in fact. If and when they all finally overthrow their US-supported dictators or oppressive ruling regimes, they might not exactly want to send us flowers.

I vote we try to find a way out of this mess now rather than prolonging and worsening it with politics-and-economics-as-usual. Before it’s too late. Before our world too becomes one of the silent ones in the galaxy.

 

SETI: Advantages of Probes over Conventional SETI Beacon

If only Type II and Type III civilizations are likely either to be transmitting photonic signals or to be sending out starprobes, and if probes and photons are energetically indistinguishable alternatives for advanced technical societies, then we must look elsewhere for distinguishability criteria by which to make an intelligent choice between energy-marker and matter-marker strategies. Interstellar probes are the method of choice for for technologically advanced civilizations, for the following reasons.

First, there is the benefit of communications feedback. A probe which discovers a garrulous inhabited world may engage in a true conversation with the indigenes, an almost instantaneous interchange and interweaving of cultures. Interactive exchanges may require mere fractions of a second between questions and answers. On-site starprobes, perhaps in orbit around the host’s sun or home planet, can carry on real-time educational and linguistic functions with a precision no remote signalling system could hope to match. As an added benefit, such intelligent devices could provide a noise-free channel of communication on any frequency of the contactee’s own choosing. By comparison, the traditional SETI beacon acquisition scenarios appear little more than sterile data swaps requiring millenia percycle rather than milliseconds. With interstellar photonic transmissions, delays are interminable and widely dispersed sentient species can never really converse. High probe intelligence will permit such conversation, as if the sending race had made the journey “in person”.

Second, probes have the advantage in acquisition efficiency. Beacons may radiate otherwise useful energy and information out into space for centuries, millenia, or even longerwithout getting any response or gaining any new information in return. This energy, since it was detected by no receiver, in essence was wasted and constitutes pure economic loss for the sending society. Such imprudence reflects an inordinate (and possibly selectively disadvantageous) degree of carelessness or generalized altruism on the part of the transmitting culture.
Starprobes, on the other hand, become independent agents as soon as they are launched. If properly constructed, there should be no further need for energy expenditure by the transmitting society. Sophisticated messenger probes will be self-repairing, self -programming, perhaps even self-reproducing, and capable of refuelling or recharging at every port of call. They may be designed patiently to float in orbit for hundreds or even millions of years, awaiting the emergence of a communicative culture on suitable planets in the system; alternatively, they may be programmed to hop from star to star until they find communicative lifeforms, then enter into an exchange with them at no further cost to the original transmitting society. A subsidiary but nonetheless important benefit of starprobes is that they may serve as cosmic “safety deposit boxes” for the cultural heritage-and knowledge of the sending society. If the transmitting civilization is destroyed or the culture perishes for whatever reasons, the probesthey sent to other worlds can still tell their story to any willing ears for perhaps geological time periods thereafter.

Third, starprobes hive the overwhelming advantage of military security for the transmitting race. Interstellar beacons are an invitation to disaster at the hands of unknown predatory alien civilizations. In. any situation involving contact via signals, the sending society must give away the position of its home star system at great risk for mere speculative benefits. This terrible breach of military security may be remedied by using probes instead of photons. If local technological activity is detected by an intelligent artifact orbiting some target star, the device may initiate contact with the indigenous technical species without ever having to disclose the identity or whereabouts of itscreators. If it is deemed necessary for the starprobe to report its findings back to the transmitting society from time to time, this easily may be accomplished in a manner virtually impossible to trace or to decode (e.g., omnidirectional or “false trail” broadcasts into empty space, trapdoor function encoded messages, shifting relays through randomly dispersed repeater stations in uninhabited solar systems, and so forth.) In other words, probes help to safeguard the security of sending societies in any exchange between themselves and alien cultures.

Unfortunately, until very recently few researchers seriously considered the possibility that extraterrestrial starprobes might already be present in the Solar System. Here is a relatively simple “observational problem,” right in our own backyard. But how can we locate such starprobes if they are resting here, right now! Well, that’s the matter of next articles. Sure!!
[now, I’ll do my best to retain continuity in publishing articles]
[Credit: Robert Freitas]

Seti’s Hunt For Artificially Intelligent Alien Machines

 

The structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ...

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Searching for extraterrestrial life is extremely abstemious no matter what kind of tactics we are employing to detect signs of extraterrestrial life. Wait, shouldn’t we define our premise of  being intelligent without any kind of  surmised indulgence. The search so far has focused on Earth-like life because that is all we know. Hence, most of the planning missions are focused on locations where liquid water is possible, emphasizing searches for structures that resemble cells of terran organisms, small molecules that might be the products of carbonyl metabolism and amino acids and nucleotides similar to those found in terrestrial proteins and DNA. I’ve written a article, not quite a while back though, ‘Searching For Other Life Forms in Extraterrestrial Environments’ in which I’ve illustrated that life could be a sort of  ‘organized complexity’ that consumes energy, utilized it for some necessary biological/non-biological operations endowed with capability to reproduce ‘itself’  from ‘self’. S o if we really want to alien life forms which are conscious and intelligent, we have to change the view that is mainly inclined to see life only like that is diversed over Earth.

However, life that may have been originated elsewhere, even within our own solar system, could be unrecognizable compared with life here and thus could not be detectable by telescopes and spacecraft landers designed to detect terrestrial biomolecules or their products. We must recognize that our knowledge of the essential requirements for life and therefore our concept on it, is based on our understanding of the biosphere during the later stages of Earth history. Since we only know one example of biomolecular structures for life and considering the difficulty of human mind to create different ideas from what it already knows, it is difficult for us to imagine how life might look in environments very different from what we find on Earth. In the last decades, however, experiments in the laboratory and theoretical works are suggesting that life might be based on molecular structures substantially different from those we know.

It is a relatively simple matter to distinguish between living and inorganic matter on Earth by biochemical experiments even though no formal definition of  life in biochemical terms exists. Experience suggests, for example, that a system capable of converting water, atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide into protein, using light as a source of energy, is unlikely to be inorganic. This approach for recognition of life by phenomenology is the basis of the experiments in detection of life so far proposed. Its weakness lies not in the lack of a formal definition but in the assumption that all life has a common biochemical ancestry.

It is also possible to distinguish living from inorganic matter by physical experiments. For example, an examination of the motion of a salmon swimming upstream suggests a degree of purpose inconsistent with a random inorganic process. The physical approach to recognition of life is no more rigorous, at this stage, than is the biochemical one; it is, however, universal in application and not subject to the local constraints which may have set the biochemical pattern of life on Earth.

Past discussions of the physical basis of life  reach an agreed classification as follows:

“Life is one member of the class of phenomena which are open or continuous reaction systems able to decrease their entropy at the expense of substances or energy taken in from the environment and subsequently rejected in a degraded form”.

This classification is broad and includes also phenomena such as flames, vortex motion and many others. Life differs from the other phenomena so classified in its singularity, persistence, and in the size of the entropy decrease associated with it. Vortices appear spontaneously but soon vanish; the entropy decrease associated with the formation of a vortex is small compared with energy flux. Life does not easily form, but ‘persists indefinitely and vastly modifies its environment. The spontaneous generation of life, according to recent calculations from quantum mechanics [4, 5], is extremely improbable. This is relevant to the present discussion through the implication that wherever life exists its biochemical form will be strongly determined by the initiating event. This in turn could vary with the planetary environment at the time of initiation.

On the basis of the physical phenomenology already mentioned, a planet bearing life is distinguishable from a sterile one as follows:

  • The omnipresence of intense orderliness and of structures and of events utterly improbable on a basis of thermodynamic equilibrium.
  • Extreme departures from an inorganic steady-state equilibrium of chemical potential.

This orderliness and chemical disequilibrium would to a diminished but still recognizable extent be expected to penetrate into the planetary surface and its past history as fossils and as rocks of biological origin. According to a research paper ‘Physical Basis For Detection of  Life'[Nature Vol. 207, No. 4997, pp. 568-570, August 7, 1965.] Chemical detection of life is indeed possible based on equilibrium and orderness. So, how should we search for life(here I’m not considering that this is necessarily a intelligent life).

The distinguishing features of a life-bearing planet  suggest the following simple experiments in detection of life:

A. Search for order.

  1. Order in chemical structures and sequences of structure. A simple gas chromatograph or a combined gas chromatograph – mass spectrometer instrument would seek ordered molecular sequences as well as chemical identities.
  2. Order in molecular weight distributions. Polymers of biological origin have sharply defined molecular weights, polymers of inorganic origin do not. A simple apparatus to seek ordered molecular weight distributions in soil has not yet been proposed but seems worthy of consideration.
  3. Looking and listening for order. A simple microphone is already proposed for other (meteorological) purposes on future planetary probes; this could also listen for ordered sequences of sound the presence of which would be strongly indicative of life. At the present stage of technical development a visual search is probably too complex ; it is nevertheless the most rapid and effective method of life recognition in terms of orderliness outside the bounds of random assembly.

B. Search for non-equilibrium.

  1. Chemical disequilibrium sought by a differential thermal analysis (DTA) apparatus. Two equal samples of the planetary surface would be heated in a DTA apparatus: one sample in the atmosphere of the planet, the other in an inert gas, such as argon. An exotherm on the differential signal between the two samples would indicate a reaction between the surface and its atmosphere, a condition most unlikely to be encountered{ where there is chemical equilibrium as in the absence of life. It should be noted that this method would recognize reoxidizing life on a planet with a reducing atmosphere. This experiment could with advantage and economy be combined with, for example, the gas chromatography mass spectrometry experiment (Al) where it is necessary to heat the sample for vaporization and pyrolysis.
  2. Atmospheric analysis. Search for the presence of compounds in the planet’s atmosphere which are incompatible on a long-term basis. For example, oxygen and hydrocarbons co-exist in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  3. Physical non-equilibrium. A simplified visual search apparatus programmed to recognize objects in non-random motion. A more complex assembly could recognize objects in metastable equilibrium with the gravitational field of the planet. Much of the plant life on Earth falls into this category.

 

The abundance of n-alkanes from an inorganic source (A), Fischer-Tropsch hydrocarbons, and from a biological source (B), wool wax. The observed abundances (•-•) are compared with normalized Poisson distributions (-) around the preponderant alkanea detection experiments and to the planning of subsequent experiments. Even on Earth whore life is abundant there are many regions, such as those covered by fresh snow, where a surface sample might be unrewarding in the search for life. The atmospheric composition is largely independent of the site of sampling and provides an averaged value representative of the steady state of chemical potential for the whole planetary surface.

 

Experiments A1, B1 and B2 are the most promising for the development of practical instruments. Indeed, the gas chromatography – mass spectrometry combination experiment and the DTA experiment already proposed for planetary probes are, with minor modifications, capable of recognizing the ordered sequences and chemical disequilibrium discussed earlier. Experiment B2, atmospheric analysis, is simple and practical as well as important in the general problem of detection of life. A detailed and accurate knowledge of the composition of the planetary atmosphere can directly indicate the presence of life in terms of chemical disequilibrium; such knowledge also is complementary to the understanding of other life.

Galactic Clubs

Paul Davies suggests the approach of observational SETI – which tries to detect narrow-band signals directed at Earth by an extraterrestrial civilization — is probably futile, because the existence of a communicating civilization on Earth will not be known to any alien community beyond 100 light years. Instead, he argues “we should search for any indicators of extraterrestrial intelligence, using the full panoply of scientific instrumentation, including physical traces of very ancient extraterrestrial projects in or near the solar system. Radio SETI needs to be re-oriented to the search for non-directed beacons, by staring toward the galactic center continuously over months or even years, and seeking distinctive transient events (‘pings’). This ‘new SETI’ should complement, not replace, traditional radio and optical SETI.  But on second thought, maybe these ideas are not all that fresh. I’ve read these suggestions before in the SETI literature. Indeed, I found most of them cited in his footnotes. Nevertheless we should thank Davies for assembling them in his stimulating and lucid new book.
What are the possible reasons for the “Great Silence”? The following list is of course not original:

1) We are indeed alone, or nearly so. There is no ETI, nor a “Galactic Club” — radio astronomer Ronald Bracewell’s name for the communicating network of advanced civilizations in our galaxy (GC for short).

2) The GC, or at least ETI exists, but is ignorant of our existence (as Davies has once again suggested).

3) We are unfit for membership in the GC, so the silence is deliberate, with a very strict protocol evident, “No Messages to Primitive Civilizations!” Only inadvertent, sporadic and non-repeated signals – for example, the “Wow” signal can be detected by a primitive civilization, with opaque signal content not distinguishable from natural signals or noise.

The first explanation is contrary to the subtext of astrobiology, the belief in quasi-deterministic astrophysical, planetary and biologic evolution. This view of life’s inevitability in the cosmos is a view (or, shall I admit, a prejudice) I heartedly endorse. Most scientists active in the astrobiological research program would support an optimistic estimate of all the probabilities leading up to multicellular life on an Earth-like planet around a Sun-like star.

I happen to be an optimist on this issue too. I have argued that encephalization – larger brain mass in comparison to body mass — and the potential for technical civilizations are not very rare results of self-organizing biospheres on Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. Biotically-mediated climatic cooling creates the opportunity for big-brained multicellular organisms, such as the warm-blooded animals we observe on our planet. Note that several such animals have now been shown to pass the “mirror test” for self-consciousness: the great apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies, and the list is growing. But if the pessimists concede just one of the millions if not billions of Earth-like planets is the platform for just one technical civilization that matures to a planetary stage, advancing beyond our present primitive self-destructive stage, just one advanced civilization with the curiosity to spread through the galaxy, at sub-light speeds with Bracewell probes to explore and document an Encyclopedia Galactica, then what should we expect?
First, the galaxy should be thoroughly populated with surveillance outposts on a time scale much smaller than the time it took on Earth to produce this cosmically pathetic civilization we call the nearly 200 member nation states of the United Nations, with humanity now hanging under two self-constructed Swords of Damocles: the twin threats of catastrophic global warming and nuclear war.

Second, THEY, or at least their outposts, surely know we exist, since to believe THEY are ignorant of our existence is to assume they somehow bypassed us in their expansion into the galaxy, a scenario I simply find unworthy if not unbelievable for an advanced civilization, especially one in existence for millions if not billions of years. It is important to note that this conclusion is informed by present day physics and chemistry, not a post-Einstein theory that transcends the speed of light.

So we are left with option 3: the aliens are deliberately avoiding communicating with our primitive world. I submit this is by far the most plausible given our current knowledge of science and the likely sheer ordinariness of our chemistry and planetary organization.

Why would we be considered primitive? This should be a no-brainer, even for an Earthling. The world spends $1.4 trillion in military expenditures while millions of our species still die of preventable causes every year. Carbon emissions to the atmosphere continue to climb, even though presently available renewable technologies such as wind turbines exist and are sufficient to completely replace our unsustainable energy infrastructure. As J.D. Bernal once put it, “There is a possibility that the oldest and most advanced civilizations on distant stars have in fact reached the level of permanent intercommunication and have formed…a club of communicating intellects of which we have only just qualified for membership and are probably now having our credentials examined. In view of the present chaotic political and economic situation of the world, it is not by any means certain that we would be accepted.

The technical requirements for a galaxy-wide search are dictated by the size of the radio telescope, with the detection range proportional to the effective diameter of the telescope. A large enough radio telescope situated in space could potentially set meaningful upper limits on the rate of emergence of primitive Earth-like civilizations, without ever actually detecting the leakage radiation of even one ET civilization.  But just how big a telescope is required for this project, and at what cost? Our 1988 paper provided such estimates: a dish diameter on the order of 500 kilometers, at a cost of roughly $10 trillion. Perhaps the cost has come down somewhat (but note the estimate was in 1988 dollars). This is surely a project with a vanishingly small chance of implementation in today’s world. I could only conceive of a demilitarized newly mature planetary civilization, call it Earth-United (Finally!), with any intention of implementing such an ambitious project that has no apparent immediate practical benefits. Then and only then would we successively detect a message from the GC, presumably faint enough to be only detectable with a huge radio telescope in space.

On the other hand, the GC may be monitoring biotically-inhabited planets by remote Bracewell probes that have programmed instructions. Such a probe would plausibly be now hiding in the asteroid belt (as Michael Papagiannis once suggested). If the GC exists, there was ample time to set up this surveillance system long ago. Surveillance probes so situated in planetary systems would send welcoming signals to newly mature civilizations, with the potential for a real conversation with artificial intelligence constructed by the GC, if not reconstructed biological entities. If this proposed surveillance system is absent, we should expect the GC to use highly advanced telescopes to monitor planetary systems that have prospects for the emergence of intelligent life and technical civilizations. These alien telescopes could use gravitational lenses around stars. Planetary system candidates to the GC could expect to receive continuous beacons, but the signals would be very weak or disguised so that they would only be decipherable by newly mature civilizations that just pass the entrance requirements. The problem with this scenario is there would be a fairly long communication delay with the GC, because they would be so far away. Nevertheless, reception of a rich message from the GC is possible. The material and/or energy resources needed for these signals to be recognized must correspond with great probability to a newly ripe mature civilization. Hence, cleverness in itself cannot be the criteria for successful detection and decipherment, otherwise a brilliant scientist on a primitive civilization might jump the GC protocol.

I submit that if we want to enter the Galactic Club, the challenge lies in reconstructing our global political economy. A few minor side benefits should result, like no more war, no more poverty, a future for all of humanity’s children with a substantial proportion of biodiversity intact. We should not expect the Galactic Club to save us from ourselves.

Machine Intelligence

It took until the 17th century for us to reject Aristotle’s vision of a universe where our Sun and the stars revolved around the Earth. Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak points out that up until a century ago, the scientific community believed a vast engineering society was responsible for building an irrigation system on the surface of Mars. Discovering the Martians could, in principle, be done by simply turning an Earth-based telescope in the direction of the Red Planet. Now it seems that our best chance for finding Martian life is to dig deep into the surface in search of subterranean microbes.

Our idea of extraterrestrial life has changed drastically in 100 years, but our search strategies have not kept up. In his  paper “What ET will look like and why should we care?” for the November-December issue of Acta Astronautica, Shostak argues that SETI might be more successful if it shifts the search away from biology and focuses squarely on artificial intelligence. Shostak sees a clear distinction between life and intelligence: he says we should be searching for extraterrestrial machines.

ET machines would be infinitely more intelligent and durable than the biological intelligence that invented them. Intelligent machines would in a sense be immortal, or at least indefinitely repairable, and would not need to exist in the biologically hospitable “Goldilocks Zone” most SETI searches focus on. An AI could self-direct its own evolution. Every new instance of an AI would be created with the sum total of its predecessor’s knowledge preloaded. The machines would require two primary resources: energy to operate with and materials to maintain or advance their structure. Because of these requirements, Shostak thinks SETI ought to consider expanding its search to the energy- and matter-rich neighborhoods of hot stars, black holes and neutron stars.

Shostak further argues that Bok globules are another search target for sentient machines. These dense regions of dust and gas are notorious for producing multiple-star systems. At around negative 441 degrees Fahrenheit, they are about 160 degrees F colder than most of interstellar space. This climate could be a major draw because thermodynamics implies that machinery will be more efficient in cool regions that can function as a large “heat sink”. A Bok globule’s super-cooled environment might represent the Goldilocks Zone for the machines. But because black holes and Bok globules are not hospitable to life as we know it, they are not on SETI’s radar. Machines have different needs. They have no obvious limits to the length of their existence, and consequently could easily dominate the intelligence of the cosmos. In particular, since they can evolve on timescales far, far shorter than biological evolution, it could very well be that the first machines on the scene thoroughly dominate the intelligence in the galaxy. It’s a “winner take all” scenario.

I find Shostak’s claim that alien should be resting in super cold zones that can function a large heat sink, is equally as falsifiable. A machine indeed need a heat sink but only in its premordial age. Since aliens have created such kind of super intelligent machine that can comprehend and interact efficiently with our mysterious universe, it becomes necessary imitate the premise that such machines would more likely be self replicative. A replicative would more likely be resting somewhere near a asteroid belt from where it could get material to survive3 and self reproduce it on to.  A number of fundamental but far-reaching ethical issues are raised by the possible existence of replicating machines in the Galaxy. For instance, is it morally right, or equitable, for a self-reproducing machine to enter a foreign solar system and convert part of that system’s mass and energy to its own purposes? Does an intelligent race legally “own” its home sun, planets, asteroidal materials, moons, solar wind, and comets? Does it make a difference if the planets are inhabited by intelligent beings, and if so, is there some lower threshold of intellect below which a system may ethically be “invaded” or expropriated? If the sentient inhabitants lack advanced technology, or if they have it, should this make any difference in our ethical judgment of the situation?

The number of intelligent races that have existed in the pant may be significantly greater than those presently in existence. Specifically, at this time there may exist perhaps only 10% of the alien civilizations that have ever lived in the Galaxy – the remaining 90% having become extinct. If this is true, then 9 of every 10 replicating machines we might find in the Solar System could be emissaries from long-dead cultures . If we do in fact find such machines and are able to interrogate them successfully, we may become privy to the doings of incredibly old alien societies long since perished. These societies may lead to many others, so we may be treated, not just to a marvelous description of the entire biology and history of a single intelligent race, but also to an encyclopedic travelogue describing thousands or millions of other extraterrestrial civilizations known to the creators of the probe we are examining. Probes will likely contain at least an edited version of the sending race’s proverbial “Encyclopedia Galactica,” because this information is essential if the probe is to make the most informed and intelligent autonomous decisions during its explorations.

SRS probes can be sent to other star systems to reproduce their own kind and spread. Each machine thus created may be immortal (limitlessly self-repairing) or mortal. If mortal, then the machines may be further used as follows. As a replicating system degrades below the point where it is capable of reproducing itself, it can sink to a more simple processing mode. In this mode (useful perhaps as a prelude to human colonization) the system merely processes materials, maybe also parts and sub-assemblies of machines, as best it can and stockpiles them for the day when human beings or new machines will arrive to take charge and make use of the processed matter which will then be available. As the original machine system falls below even this level of automation competence, its function might then be redirected to serve merely as a link in an expanding interstellar repeater network useful for navigation or communications. Thus, at every point in its lifespan, the SRS probe can serve its creators in some profitable capacity. A machine which degrades to below the ability to self-reproduce need not simply “die.”

In my earlier article “More Speculations About Intelligent Self  Replicating Exploration Probes“, I pointed out that such probes would more likely be ‘Postmodified Biological’. It is not to dismay that such probes could go through evolutionary changes and be more intelligent. A consensus is that replicating probes should be manufactured using nanomaterials e.g. catoms while it seems significantly plausible that such probes could , in fact, be biological based on rather different mechanisms-brain can be programmed and a powerful microprocessor and other cyberweaponry could be installed, a kind of cyberbiotic probes, designed in a essence to be able of surviving interstellar radiation. Vivid changes as per accordance to requirements, could be installed to work perfectly and replicate themselves even when there is no cargo halt to get metallic material.

[Ref: Astrobiology Magazine, quotations from Astrobiology Mgazine, Nature Vol. 207, No. 4997, pp. 568-570, August 7, 1965]

Extraterrestrials: A Reply from Earth?

As the science and technology of the SETI have emerged over the past thirty years, so there has been a gradually increasing interest in examining the consequences of the detection of a signal transmitted by an extraterrestrial civilization. As a result of many years of discussion in the SETI Committee of the IAA, a “post-detection protocol” was drawn up as a draft international document. After revisions, a final docu-ment entitled “Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence” was approved by International Academics of Astronautics and IISL and COSPAR. The Declaration draws attention to the importance of unambiguous confirmation that the signal is indeed of extraterrestrial intelligent origin, of proper dissemination of the details of the discovery, and procedures for reporting and archiving the data.In addition, Principle 8 of the first Declaration of Principles states that:

“No response to a signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place. The procedures for such consultations will be the subject of a separate agreement,declaration or arrangement.”
Questions

The detection of extraterrestrial intelligence could take many forms, and the exact scenario of such a detection may be unpredictable. In many potential scenarios, however, the same questions would arise. Should the human species send a message to the extraterrestrial civilization? Who decides? Are there reasons why Humankind should not reply? Who decides?If we decide to reply, what should we say? Again, who decides?
These questions lead to others. Should humanity respond as a unit, rather than as separate nations or organizations? Should we attempt to design a generic response, or await the circumstances of the detection before drafting a more specific response?Can we design a reply without a signal to analyze? A transmission from them that we detect could vary all the way from a continuous wave carrier signal toa very complex message. So the decision as to whether or not to reply and the decision on the content of our message will depend to a considerable degree on the nature of their signal. It might be argued that it is fruitless at this time to even think about the content of our message in view of this unknown. However, it might be useful to assume, for example, that their signal has no message but is indisputably generated by a radio transmitter. What would we do if we if we detected their interplanetary radar? Conceivably our reply, should we send one, could vary all the way from the simple message transmitted by Drake from Arecibo, or the time consuming shipment of physical artifacts such as those carried abroad the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, to a lengthy description of the Earth, its history and our civilization. This question can be studied now.It could also be argued that this whole exercise is premature since the date of detection of the of the signal is unknown and could be many years into the future. We do not agree with that position,.and feel that the opposite is true;namely, that SETI searches of some magnitude are now underway or planned for in the near future. There have already been 50 searches, albeit with limited coverage of search space and therefore a low probability of success. Many of the questions raised by a potential response are not primarily scientific in nature: they are more philosophical,social, and political. While scientists can make important contributions to the decisions that must be made, a response from humanity must be, in our view, more broadly based. But how do we achieve that?

APPROACH, APPROACH!!

We believe that the most fruitful way to begin addressing these issues is to focus on the process by which the human species as a whole might react to the detection of an extraterrestrial civilization. We suggest the development of an international agreement or declaration of principles that would establish procedures enabling all humans, through appropriate representatives, to participate in the making of decisions on a reply from Earth. Of existing international bodies, the United Nations would appear to offer the most inclusive and legitimate framework for such procedures. The draft agreement or declaration of principles, when completed, be provided to the UN for its consideration, through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. As a starting point for discussion,we propose that the draft agreement or declaration include the following principles:
1. A response to the detection of extraterrestrial intelligence should be on behalf of all Humankind. If Humankind decides to respond, it should do so with one voice, not many.
2. The decision on whether or not to respond should be made by an appropriate international body, broadly representative of Humankind.
3. It should reflect international consensus.
[Credit: Michael Michaud]

Earthlike Planet Gliese 581 g: Media Detected Mysterious Signals from Aliens

An astronomer picked up a mysterious pulse of light coming from the direction of the newly discovered Earth-like planet almost two years ago, it has emerged. Dr Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, picked up the odd signal in December 2008, long before it was announced that the star Gliese581 has habitable planets in orbit around it. A member of the Australian chapter of SETI, the organisation that looks for communication from distant planets, Dr Bhathal had been sweeping the skies when he discovered a ‘suspicious’ signal from an area of the galaxy that holds the newly-discovered Gliese 581g. The remarkable coincidence adds another layer of mystery to the announcement last night that scientists had discovered another planet in the system: Gliese 581g- the most Earth-like planet ever found.

Don’t get shocked! This is exactly what a news headline published at DailyMail was saying. This is the news media which claims to be credible and guaranteed resource for “true” news, who has detected the mysterious signals of advanced aliens thousands of years more advanced than we humans, from a newly discovered earthlike planet ‘GJ 581 g‘ located in constellation Libra. Libra is a home to the star Gliese 581, which has a planetary system consisting of at least 6 planets, including Gliese 581 g, the best candidate planet for human habitability and extra-solar life yet discovered, Gliese 581 c, the first Earth-like extrasolar planet to be found within its parent star’s habitable zone,Gliese 581 d, discovered in 2007 to be another Earth-like planet, and Gliese 581 e, the smallest mass exoplanet orbiting a normal star,both of which are of significance for establishing the likelihood of life outside of the Solar System. Libra has Right ascension15 h, Declination−15°, Quadrant-SQ3 and Area 538 sq. deg.

Is it ET Signal?

Whilst the source of that signal was the area of sky marked by a group of six faint stars that create the constellation known as Tucana, the Latin name for the South American toucan bird. This small star cluster,which was designated its name as recently as recently as the late sixteenth century, is visible only in the Southern Hemisphere and the lower latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. This constellation is located in celestial sphere with declination -65deg and quadrant SQ1. (according to AndrewCollins website which seems quite credible).

From Dailymail:

A member of the Australian chapter of SETI, the organisation that looks for communication from distant planets, Dr Bhathal had been sweeping the skies when he discovered a ‘suspicious’ signal from an area of the galaxy that holds the newly-discovered Gliese 581g.

The remarkable coincidence adds another layer of mystery to the announcement last night that scientists had discovered another planet in the system: Gliese 581g – the most Earth-like planet ever found.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1316538/Gliese-581g-mystery-Scientist-spotted-mysterious-pulse-light-directio

After the lights go out in the Campbelltown area, the skies have been systematically scanned by OZ OSETI observatory for any unusual laser-like flashes. For eight years nothing was picked up, but then finally, in December last year, the team found what they were looking for – a totally unidentified burst of laser light that came from an unknown source in deep space. As Dr Bhathal wrote on the computer print out recording the signal: “Is it ET?”, acknowledging the manner in which the “Wow!” signal was so named back in 1979.  I do not know from which area of the Tucana constellation the laser flash detected by Dr Bhathal and his team in December 2008 actually came from. Yet the possibility that it originated from a neutron star might be difficult to rule out.

My friend Douglas Styche of Doug’s Darkworld Blog describes it so accurately:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the Internet is changing society and people, and I’ve not been reassured. Other people have been thinking along the same lines: How the Internet is making us stupid and Is Google making us stupid? Both articles basically make the same case, that the Internet is promoting shallow thinking and multi-tasking over deep thinking and contemplation. And our brains are changing as we spend time online, reinforcing these changes. The second article makes the point that this isn’t the first time this happened. When public education was invented and writing became popular, scholars and thinkers bemoaned that people would become lazy thinkers and forgetful. When the printing press was invented, people had similar concerns, that the printing press would spread shallow garbage and make people less attuned to the great works of the written word. And while there was some truth to these concerns, writing and then the printed word did and do have huge benefits.

No need to tell you that DailyMail is delivering delusive information which have never been analyzed even once. I doubt if Niall Firth who wrote that article, have even tried to get the real information. A lot of misinformation is being delivered to public and they just accept it, without analyzing once whether it could be true?

Searching For Alien Life[Part-I] : Designing Organic Explorer

Habitable zone relative to size of stars

Image via Wikipedia

We probably already have the technology to find evidence of extraterrestrial life and to even send out evidence of our own. Given the room for a hard thinktank exercise, it only becomes just wishful thinking to contact aliens. But really the case is similar? Seti dictators are currently inclined to view alien hunting as contacting dogs by barking. Imagine a species of dog is trying to contact another species of dogs. How would they do it? By barking or howling, right? Would we notice that, as a signal of that type? Would we care? How much smarter, given some theoretical maximal potential, are we than dogs? WOW signal which was a odd and only of that type, detected in 1977, was ignored and regarded as uncredulous since it was never repeated since then. Was that a signal from aliens theoretically of the development level conforming to us?

In this series of articles(Searching For Alien Life), I’ll delve much into the chasm of infinite possibilities of intelligent extraterrestrial beings out there and would propose some groundbreaking and mind boggling technologies to search for alien life which are, however not so muddling. I may return with some old propositions of mine with new exotic supporting adherents to the tactics.

Current research seeks to understand how complexity arises from simplicity. Much progress has been made in the past few decades, but a good appreciation for some of the most important chemical steps that led to life still eludes us. That’s because life itself is extraordinarily complex, much more so than galaxies, stars, or planets. Consider for a moment the simplest known protein on the Earth. This is insulin, which has 51 amino acids linked in a specific order along a chain. Probability theory can be used to estimate the chances of assembling the correct number and order of amino acids for such a protein molecule. Since there are 20 different types of amino acids, the answer is 1/20^51, which equals ~1/10^66. This means thatthe 20 amino acids must be randomly assembled 1066, or a million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion, times before getting insulin. This is obviously a great many combinations, so many in fact that we could randomly assemble the 20 aminoacids trillions of times per second for the entire history of the Universe and still not achieve the correct ordering of this protein. Larger proteins and nucleic acids would be even less probable if chemical evolution operates at random. And to assemble a human being would be vastly less probable, if it happened by chance starting only with atoms or simple molecules.
This is the type of reasoning used by some researchers to argue that we must be alone, or nearly so, in the Universe. They suggest that biology of any kind is a highly unlikely phenomenon. They argue that meaningful molecular complexity can be expected at only a very, very few locations in the Universe, and that Earth is one of these special places. And since, in their view, the fraction of habitable planets on which life arises is extremely small and intelligent beings almost improbable. All if their arguments are correct, we should be alone logically. Of all the myriad galaxies, stars, planets, and other wonderful aspects of the Universe, this viewpoint maintains that we are among very few creatures to appreciate the grandeur of it all.

Simulations that resemble conditions on primordial Earth are now routinely performed with a variety of energies and initial reactants (provided there’sno free oxygen). These experiments demonstrate that unique (or even rare) conditions are unnecessary to produce the precursors of life. Complex acids, bases, and proteinoid compounds are formed under a rather wide variety of physical conditions. And it doesn’t take long for these reasonably complex molecules to form, not nearly as long as probability theory predicts by randomly assembling atoms. Furthermore, every time this type of experiment is done, the results are much the same. The oily organic matter trapped in the test tube always yields the same proportion of acids, bases and rich proteinoids. If chemical evolution were entirely random, we might expect a different result each time the experiment is run. Apparently, electromagnetic forces do govern the complex interactions of the many atoms and molecules in the soupy sea, substituting organization for randomness. Of course, precursors of proteins and nucleic acids are a long way from life itself. But the beginnings of life as we know it seem to be the product of less-than-random interactions between atoms and molecules. This point of view is important to accumulate the possibility of radically different biorgasms in a typical alienated environment.

Alien Hunt
Current SETI methodologies implied to search for extraterrestrial life are abysmal and much peeking out. I’ve already described the probable guaranteed failure of contact through radio signal. It is better to send out a probe lassed with organic explorers.

Implications to Extraterrestrial Civilizations and Fate of Our Civilization

Tau Ceti may be a search target for the Terres...

Image via Wikipedia

By J.R. Mooneyham

As of late-2009 SETI and other searches of the heavens appear to indicate that my estimates above concerning the existence of living and technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations may be overly optimistic. That instead, most or all civilizations in our galaxy typically expire within their own 600 year gauntlet, comparable to our own period of 1,900-2,500 AD, thereby essentially leaving the galaxy devoid of advanced civilizations for much of its history, and over vast regions.

The overwhelmingly lethal 600 year gauntlet of social and technological challenges described above isn’t the only possible explanation— just the most plausible one, based on the evidence available (in my own judgment, anyway).

A few other possibilities for why our galaxy may be utterly empty of star farers (so far as we can tell), include:

A. ALL still living and technologically advanced races have gone beyond any technology currently imaginable by mankind, so that they can defy the very laws of physics themselves (as we currently understand them) and thus show no heat signatures emanating from their greatest cosmological works, plus readily travel and communicate among the stars via means utterly undetectable to our finest instruments (essentially Godhood or magic, achieved via technology).

Note it’s pretty unlikely that of multiple far-flung galactic civilizations, every single one has managed to reach the same god-like levels of technological prowess enabling them and their works to evade detection by our present instruments. And even if they had, technological progress is invariably unevenly distributed over space and time, and so sheer social and economic inertia (less advanced but ‘good enough’ technologies remaining in place over large regions and for many purposes) would likely result in multiple instances of alien technological works which would be far from stealthy in their emanations– and so detectable by the likes of us.

B. Due to an astonishingly unlikely coincidence of events, virtually all civilizations galaxy-wide are only now ‘awakening’ technology-wise, so that basically everyone’s more or less as primitive today as humanity (give or take a few decades or maybe a century or so), and the only reason we haven’t seen anyone’s accidental or purposeful signal yet is that the signals are too weak and/or haven’t yet had time to reach us (The Star Trek TV show premise).

C. Humanity and humanity alone is the only intelligent species to ever make it even this far in the galaxy, throughout its entire history since the Big Bang (the largely religious ‘we are special’ dogma; also known as the anthropomorphic concept in some circles).

The anthropomorphic concept– that the universe was specially sculpted just to suit us– may end up being demolished by simple randomness if it turns out there are infinite sorts of universes out there, and so of course humanity appeared in the one (or many) which allowed it by chance. Likewise would frog people appear in a very slightly different class of universes somewhere. Or cockroach people. As for religious dogma– that the universe was created especially to house and nourish us and our ilk alone– that too may fall by the wayside as more people gain an understanding of just how big the universe is, and its full potential for paradigm busting. I.e., it appears that 99%+ of the universe will forever be off limits to humanity, no matter how far our technologies advance. So saying this place was built just for us is like saying a 144 room mansion was designed just for one child occupant who’ll never be allowed to leave their cradle– let alone their nursery. So it would seem supporters of supreme being dogma must explain how such wasteful extravagance universe-wide can be justified, in the face of horrific suffering here on Earth, by so many innocents– especially children– and especially under the auspices of a God claimed to be merciful and caring.

Fate Of  Our Civilization

Extinction. Or collapse into a permanent medieval (or worse) state of anarchy and deprivation. These appear to be the normal ends of technological civilizations in our galaxy, based on everything we know circa early 2003.

From The rise and fall of star faring civilizations in our own galaxy:

“The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things: One, gamma ray bursters which may have effectively prohibited the development of sentient races until only the last 200 million years; Two, the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a given planet, based on our own biography); Three, the need for an unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds of millions of years (the ‘Goldilocks’ scenario, enabled by a huge natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet’s axis, as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and Four, an extremely dangerous 600 year or so ‘gauntlet’ of challenges and risks most any technological society must survive to become a viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass of population and technology off their home world, among other things). That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD and 2500 AD, wherein we’ll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism, mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries) extremely few races likely survive all these.”

Where We Stand Today
There’s six major guiding principles by which to defend civilization against all the worst possible threats to its future:

One, remove or minimize the sources of all reasonable motivations to harm others from the entirety of humanity– as well as the means to carry out such harm

Two, put into place and maintain robust structural impediments to, and socio-economic discouragements of, the domination of the many by a wealthy, powerful, or charismatic fewThree, insure the utmost education and technological empowerment possible of the average individual world citizen, wherever this does not unreasonably conflict with the other principles listed here.

Four, work to preserve existing diversity in life on Earth and its natural environments, as well as in human behavior, culture, media, languages, and technologies, and even nourish expansion in such diversity within human works, wherever this may be accomplished with minimal conflict regarding the other principles listed here.

Five, excesses in intellectual property protections, censorship, and secrecy all basically amount to the same thing, so far as posing threats to the robustness, prosperity, security (and even survival) of civilization is concerned. Therefore all three must be deliberately and perpetually constrained to the absolute minimum applications possible to protect humanity. In these matters it would typically be far better to err on the side of accessibility, openness, and disclosure, than the other.

Six, seek out and implement ever better ways to document human knowledge and experience in the widest, deepest, and most accurate fashions possible for both the present and future of humanity, and offer up this recorded information freely to the global public for examination. This means the more raw the data, and the more directly sourced, the better. The more raw the data and less colored by opinions of the day, the better present and future citizens will be able to apply ever improving tools of scientific analysis to derive accurate results, and drive important decisions.

Work faithfully and relentlessly to implement and continue the enforcement of these six principles into perpetuity (always seeking the optimal balance between them all), and you should reduce overall risk levels for civilization to that stemming from true mental illness or pure accidents.

Robust and enlightened public health programs (among other things) can reduce the total risk of mental illness to society to negligible levels. That would leave the risk of accidents to deal with. Reducing the risks presented from various accidental events is another subject in itself, that I’ll leave to others to address.

Yes, all of the items listed above are difficult, complex matters to achieve. But the only alternative may be extinction.

Especially in a world where shortages of money, talent, knowledge, and time still define more of our economics and society, than anything else. Anyone working to achieve one or more of these aims immediately encounters active opposition from various quarters too. That may sound hard to believe, but look at a few examples: Cuts in military spending even in the most advanced and highly developed nations like the USA face stiff opposition from many politicians because defense cuts are apparently less popular with voters than defense budget increases– almost no matter how peaceful the world happens to be at the time. Any cuts that do somehow get passed can often only be implemented by shutting down unneeded bases or various extravagant weapons programs. But either of those considerations bring up cries of “lost jobs”, even in good times when those jobs might easily be replaced with other, less lethal ones. Weapons proliferation around the world likewise is often defended as generating jobs at home, despite the fact those weapons often end up being used by naughty allies to kill innocents in conflicts where we ourselves have little or no involvement– except for our brand name and label being prominently emblazoned on the blasted shards in various scenes of mass death and destruction. Later on we often wonder why people on the receiving end of these weapons (in the hands of others) hate us so. And sometimes the weapons we sell end up being used against our own soldiers. But still we sell and sometimes even give them away.

Maybe aiding in the spread of democracy and free speech through the world would seem an easier goal than stopping the proliferation of weapons and weapon technologies? Sorry, but no. Indeed, here in America our track record for a long time now is behavior that says democracy and free speech is too good for lots of folks other than ourselves. You see, the ill will built up from all that weapons proliferation, plus other actions on our part, has resulted in lots of countries where we’d be tossed out on our ear if real democracies suddenly sprang up in them.

Like what actions am I talking about? Things like manipulating elections and interfering with other attempts at legitimate changeovers in power in foreign countries. CIA involvement to prop up dictatorships with whom we have deals for things like oil or other items. Stuff like that. There’s no telling how many democratic movements we’ve helped crush or cause to be stillborn around the world in the past century. Of course, you could say we were just emulating our parent countries such as those of western europe, which did many of the same things for several centuries before we ourselves successfully rebeled against them.

It’s almost like we don’t want any other rebellions to succeed, in order to retain our own ‘special place’ in history. But is that fair? No.

Of course, sometimes a nation manages to overthrow its oppressors despite our opposition and dirty tricks. But when that happens, our previous sins in the conflict result in whatever new government emerges being dead-set against us. Like in Iran, with the fall of the Shah. Our interference with their internal affairs so antagonized and polarized the Iranians that one result was eventual domination of the country by an Islamic extremist movement, which managed to overthrow the US-supported Shah. And naturally, when things didn’t go our way there we froze Iran’s assets and put in place trade sanctions against them. And in response, they may be seeking to obtain their own weapons of mass destruction and supporting various terrorist actions around the world.

Could it be we are gradually arranging our own (maybe even civilization itself’s) spectacular end with all this chicanery? For the longer we continue this type of behavior, the more difficult and scary it becomes to consider stopping it. And the worse the eventual consequences might be. After all, we’re making a lot of enemies out there. A pretty hefty chunk of the human race, in fact. If and when they all finally overthrow their US-supported dictators or oppressive ruling regimes, they might not exactly want to send us flowers.

I vote we try to find a way out of this mess now rather than prolonging and worsening it with politics-and-economics-as-usual. Before it’s too late. Before our world too becomes one of the silent ones in the galaxy.

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