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Sci-Fi Space Games

Maybe the Aliens Are Addicted To Computer Games 496

Posted by Soulskill
from the gotta-do-one-more-daily dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Geoffrey Miller has an interesting hypothesis in Seed Magazine that explains Fermi's Paradox — why 40 years of intensive searching for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded nothing: no radio signals, no credible spacecraft sightings, no close encounters of any kind. All the aliens are busy playing computer games. The aliens 'forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism,' writes Miller. He says the fundamental problem is that an evolved mind must pay attention to indirect cues of biological fitness, rather than tracking fitness itself, and that although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness (as measured by numbers of great-grandkids), no brain has capacity enough to do so under every possible circumstance. 'The result is that we don't seek reproductive success directly; we seek tasty foods that have tended to promote survival, and luscious mates who have tended to produce bright, healthy babies. The modern result? Fast food and pornography,' writes Miller. 'Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot.' Miller adds that most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children, until they eventually die out." Who here doesn't think a TNG-style Holodeck would lead to the downfall of our civilization?
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Maybe the Aliens Are Addicted To Computer Games

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  • Yea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Seriousity (1441391) <{Seriousity} {at} {live.com}> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:54AM (#31855348)
    The bastards keep hacking into our WiFi and pirating Starcraft! Now our ISP is sending us cease and desist notices! We tried to tell them it was the aliens but they just referred us to a local psychiatrist!
    • Re:Yea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by impaledsunset (1337701) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:10AM (#31855684)

      That's one of the most ridiculous hypotheses I've ever read. Sure, it is possible, Sure, everything we know about aliens is based on speculations that don't go against our knowledge. But most speculations at least seem plausible and match the only example of an advanced civilization we know of.

      And this single example has shown us a few things for which I would be surprised if they don't apply universally. The first is that no matter what the general population are, there would always be deviations and a small percentage of people who are different is enough to affect world-wide matters. The second is that if these different people don't exist or are unable to push the rest of the society like we do, the whole population would probably still be in the caves, because most of our progress depended on them.

      Well, the last one seems plausible, though. However, I thought that the possibility that all aliens are still in the caves was already considered, and thus this story brings nothing new to us.

      I don't think there's one reason for it all, though.

      1. While I want to believe that life is abundant in the universe, complex life as ours might turn out to be rare.
      2. For four billion years all life here was essentially living in the caves. We created our civilization in a wink lasting the mere fifty thousand years because homo sapiens somehow managed to look outside of the box by chance. Sure, being intelligent was an evolutionary advantage for the billions of years that the homo genus survived, so we didn't come out of nowhere, but there's still no guarantee that this happens often in the universe. We might be one of the few advanced civilizations.
      3. What makes us think we can hear them? Have they developed the radio? Do they use broadcasts? What if they use encryption making the signals indistinguishable from noise? Why would they care to send signals to us? Maybe some of them "know" that there's a little chance that there's someone out there?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Starcraft players still live in caves.

      • Re:Yea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rhsanborn (773855) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:21AM (#31856114)
        I suspect this was far less of a hypothesis about aliens and far more social commentary on humans.
        • Re:Yea (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Thangodin (177516) <elentar&sympatico,ca> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @10:15AM (#31857258) Homepage

          It's still a ridiculous hypothesis. Every new form of entertainment is accompanied by doomsayers who claim it's the end of the world as we know it, from the the invention of writing onward, including novels, movies, radio, TV, the internet, and now video games. And every one of them has been wrong.

          Miller thinks that our indulgence in entertainment is what is limiting our reproduction, and he's been flogging this nonsense for years, ignoring the stunningly obvious and well documented fact that lower birth rates are caused by global urbanization, combined with reliable birth control methods and low infant mortality rates (if all your children live, you don't need to have as many). Children on the farm are assets--they count as capital; children in the city are liabilities. This is a good thing, because it means that there is a built in social/market force that limits human population to a sustainable level. Unfortunately, the moral panic factor in Miller's hare-brained theory provides it a far higher media profile than it deserves.

      • Re:Yea (Score:5, Informative)

        by History's Coming To (1059484) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:57AM (#31856360) Journal
        Point 3 is a good one - it's already been suggested that any signal that has perfect compression would be indistinguishable from black body radiation.
      • Re:Yea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:22AM (#31856592) Homepage Journal

        I think everyone completely misses the fact that space aliens are going to be nothing like us whatsoever. A bird evolved on the same planet as us, in the same environment, gravity, atmosphere, etc but is little like us at all. A squid evolved in the same planet; how much different will space aliens be? You're not going to see Star Trek's Klingons and Romulans and Ferengi, period. Birds have feathers, we have hair, space aliens are unlikely to have either, but have something completely different that serves the same purpose.

        There are some pretty wierd creatures on earth, and if there are other planets inhabited by sentient beings, they will be less like us than squids are. And not only in looks and biology, but social structures, psychology, interaction, communications, etc.

        The second is that if these different people don't exist or are unable to push the rest of the society like we do, the whole population would probably still be in the caves

        Or still in the farrnglottispods, or whatever you call those wierd things those strange beings lived in when they were more primitive.

        While I want to believe that life is abundant in the universe, complex life as ours might turn out to be rare.

        And it may turn out that we're the first planet to form life; if there is life on multiple planets, one has to be first.

        For four billion years all life here was essentially living in the caves

        For most of that time, the caves were underwater; life began in the oceans. But actually there was as much life outside of caves as inside; most animals don't live in caves now, and no more lived in caves then.

        We might be one of the few advanced civilizations.

        Or one of trillions, or the only one in the universe. Since we've not even found evidence of primitive life anywhere else (yet), it's all just speculation.

        What makes us think we can hear them? Have they developed the radio?

        For that matter, do they even have the same senses that we do? They may have developed senses we lack, while being blind and deaf.

        • Re:Yea (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:40AM (#31856828) Journal

          While I mostly agree with you, consider the shark and the dolphin. They have followed very different evolutionary paths, but the end result is quite similar. In the end, there are only so many ways of solving the 'propel through the water' problem. Even squids have a broadly similar structure, although they use jets instead of fins for propulsion.

        • Re:Yea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:41AM (#31856840) Homepage Journal

          You're not going to see Star Trek's Klingons and Romulans and Ferengi, period.

          That's a pretty bold statement that's not particularly backed up by anything. Our sample size is 1; by the available evidence, that's the only life we should see that's achieved anything of note. Since we know that 1 is not a useful sample size, of course, we know that's false; but you might as well say anything, since we have no basis for comparison.

          It's particularly telling that we are not the only creatures on this planet with a well-developed brain. Our form factor is our primary distinguishing characteristic. But what we need to make statements about the likelihood of encountering intelligent bipeds is to encounter some other life not based on [our] DNA. It seems that the arrangement of eyes, nose, and mouth on the head are biologically convenient; food doesn't fall into the nose, nor snot into the eyes. Quadrupeds are naturally less agile than bipeds, which indeed is likely why one sprang from the other on this planet, so bipedal life is highly likely. So where I am going with all of this is that by the available evidence, Klingons are at least as likely as some insectoids.

          Also, in Trek the galaxy was seeded by a master race using pieces of their own DNA; such is not impossible in the really real world, either, only unlikely. But then, how unlikely is intelligent life?

          There are some pretty wierd creatures on earth,

          but none of them use fire, so zero of them are candidates for space travel, present or future. That's a necessary step to that level of tool use.

          For that matter, do they even have the same senses that we do? They may have developed senses we lack, while being blind and deaf.

          If you can develop touch, you can develop hearing; A sense of sound is probably one of the senses they're most likely to have. But it's true that they could have some EM sense that made it unnecessary to have either. But then they'd still probably use amplifiers to communicate over long distances, and there would be patterns in their communication, because that's the nature of communication.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Creepy (93888)

            From what I remember of the Star Trek universe, all the races are somewhat human-like because they were seeded that way by some God-like being.

            I don't think quadrupeds are more agile than bipeds - in fact, I would argue it the other way around - just watch a dog or cat in action. Bipeds like humans are better designed to scale trees by grabbing branches, however, and bipeds like birds benefit from less weight for unneeded limbs.

            Personally, I think there are lots of possibilities for no radio signals:

            1) in

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by holmstar (1388267)

              I don't think quadrupeds are more agile than bipeds - in fact, I would argue it the other way around - just watch a dog or cat in action. Bipeds like humans are better designed to scale trees by grabbing branches, however, and bipeds like birds benefit from less weight for unneeded limbs.

              I think you meant to say that you do think that quadrupeds are more agile.

              1) in the billions of years of earth history, our radio window of time is trivial and even if the alien races developed as fast or faster than us, they could be too far away for that radio signal to get here yet. For all we know, the aliens moved to tachyon communications and closed the radio wave era before we even set up.

              While I concur that it is not unlikely that advanced aliens might use a non-radio based method of communication, I wouldn't jump to something like tachyons (faster than light particles which probably don't exist). More likely they simply use a signal we don't recognize, a method that doesn't propagate through empty space (for example: fiber optics), or aim their communication beams so precisely that we wouldn't have a chance to recei

      • Re:Yea (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @11:41AM (#31858542)

        We created our civilization in a wink lasting the mere fifty thousand years because homo sapiens somehow managed to look outside of the box by chance.

        No, we created a civilization because we can transfer information through symbolic language, which in turn allows us to function, in some ways, like a single organism, in the same way as your brain- and other cells work together as you but a lot less tightly bound, due to your internal bandwidth being much greater than external bandwidth.

        All pack animals act as a single organism in some sense, but they have a hard time passing learned information between members, so the pack as a whole doesn't learn. With sumbolic language, humans overcame that, allowing concepts of any abstraction level be passed between people. The human pack began to learn, and as it learned it became better at utilizing resources, causing it to grow, which in turn made it smarter. That's why culture really took of after the invention of agriculture: the number of people, and thus their collective brain mass, exploded.

        The problem humanity solved was not how to make its members more intelligent, it was how to exceed the practical size and complexity limits of the nervous system a single organism can carry with it. A single human - any human - is nowhere near smart enough to go from a cave to a skyscraper, but humanity as a whole is, especially since it's not burdened with limited lifetime.

        All of this raises a question of what happens as technology increases our communication bandwidth - if I can access your thoughts as easily as I can mine, there's no real difference between the two, now is there? And if there's no difference between your thoughts or mine, are we really two different people, or a single one using two bodies? And what happens when you keep adding brains and computers and databanks and whatever?

    • Re:Yea (Score:4, Funny)

      by CODiNE (27417) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:15AM (#31856060) Homepage

      We don't have copyright laws on K-PAX.

    • Re:Yea (Score:4, Funny)

      by RickyG (1009867) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:19AM (#31856096)
      Yes! I await that defense! "Mom, I wasn't looking at Porn, it was those lazy aliens using our WiFi!!!"
  • From the (Score:3, Funny)

    by djupedal (584558) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:57AM (#31855356)
    ...did-just-one-too-many-dailies dept.

    This-one-just-sucks-alot. Give-it-up-you-morons-please....
  • by mrsam (12205) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:59AM (#31855366) Homepage

    Geoffrey Miller is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at University of New Mexico.

    I'm sure the guy is looking for a government grant, to study this intriguing possibility. Great job, if you can get it: spend government money to study if aliens are busy playing videogames

  • by master_p (608214) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:00AM (#31855370)

    Why do we believe that aliens will be preoccupied with themselves and ignore the cosmic plot, just like we humans do? perhaps aliens evolved from a kind of ants, for example, where the 'we' is above the 'I'.

    40 years of search is nothing. We may search for another 10,000 years and find nothing...in cosmic terms, even 10,000 years is a drop in the bucket.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by V!NCENT (1105021)

      What would you do after all the research you find that the answer to the greatest mystery in life is... 42?

      You go like... "Is this it?!"
      -"Damn... for the love of telepathy, what do we do now?"
      "Fsck it, let's fire up Quake 25!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sco08y (615665)

      Why do we believe that aliens will be preoccupied with themselves and ignore the cosmic plot, just like we humans do? perhaps aliens evolved from a kind of ants, for example, where the 'we' is above the 'I'.

      Instead of "I'm going to play Half Life" the ants would be saying "let's play Half Life." Same end state.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:23AM (#31855490) Journal

      Or maybe, on the contrary, let's really project human motives upon them. But the real ones, instead of idiotic bullshit designed just to make headlines.

      Do humans get so busy with computer games that the whole species, all 6 billions of us, forget to even mine the resources we need or trade or plough the fields? Did any country yet starve because they were too busy playing to go to the supermarket, or go open the supermarket for that reason? No? Then why should we assume that any aliens would?

      Because colonization was usually driven by wanting some resources which are abbundant over there, and are in short supply over here. Even if sometimes that meant "living space". That's what drove people to put a lot of money into building a big ship and risk their own lives on the high seas. Or by extension in the void of space. If you're going to invest billions in a space freighter and risk perishing to a micrometeor impact between here and there, you'll expect some suitable ROI. That ROI is what would drive people to do that.

      So if there actually was that ROI to be made in space travel and colonization... am I the only one who thinks it's idiotic to imagine that a whole civilization, down to the last member, from CEOs and presidents to the last bum on the street, would go "nah, we'll just sit and grind the epic gear, thank you very much?" How do they survive at all, if nobody is even interested in working or making some form of income?

      And if they are, how come they'd reject _only_ space colonization in favour of sitting and playing games, but not the other forms of work, including making those games?

      Or maybe the more mundane reality is that that ROI just isn't there. Maybe the energy to haul stuff between stars really doesn't make it economical to mine the dilithium some 20 light years away.

      And if c really is the speed limit, and space being that big, maybe nobody is interested in investing now in a ship which would return with the goods in 1000 years. Just because they don't even know which resources will actually sell that far in the future. Less than 200 years ago, aluminium was more expensive than silver or even gold, so I guess if we sent a ship to establish a colony and mine the most expensive stuff we can get there, it would have been aluminium. Then almost over night a new process was invented for producing it, and price fell like a rock. Or as little as 100 years away, coal was the fuel of superpower navies, and wars and willy-waving games were waged over access to it and to coaling stations. Then it all moved to oil, and now to nuclear reactors.

      Or maybe they just don't need the extra space, and hence the colonies. Everywhere on Earth where we got sanitation, antibiotics, etc, population stopped growing and in fact started to decline. People used to make a lot of kids to beat the odds, but if their survival is all but guaranteed, they stop after 1-2 kids. We already simply don't need to offload some population somewhere else. In a million years (if we don't nuke ourselves first) the whole Earth population might be in a couple of quaint villages surrounded by thousands of miles of woods. And need colonies like a fish needs a bicycle.

      But, of course, those are rational reasons. Nah, let's go with a sensationalist idiocy instead, like "maybe they're playing video games." Geesh.

      • by jonadab (583620) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:12AM (#31855694) Homepage Journal
        > And if c really is the speed limit, and space being that big

        The speed of light is only theoretically the speed limit, an absolute upper bound. In practice, nothing with enough mass and complexity to be alive, much less intelligent, can travel at anywhere near c and hope to survive. Interstellar travel is wildly impractical. It makes for interesting fiction, but unless our understanding of physics is TOTALLY messed up (*way* more flawed than we currently think pure Newtonian physics was), there's absolutely zero practical application, ever.

        Even interstellar *communication* is wildly impractical. I mean, come on, latency measured in *years*? What kind of conversation could you have, EVEN if you already spoke the same language? And if you don't, how are you going to learn it? Cultural immersion is NOT possible. Back-and-forth dialog isn't even really possible. With no pre-existing linguistic information to help you bridge the gap, *and* no interaction, how would you characterize an alien language? You could spend centuries analyzing a single hour's worth of message and get nowhere. It'd be like trying to read the Voynich manuscript, only much worse (because the Voynich manuscript was written by a *human*, and furthermore by a human who was obviously familiar with a number of popular human writing conventions that we understand; an alien message wouldn't be so comprehensible). You almost certainly wouldn't be able to figure out for sure if the signals you were getting were language and represented actual meaning or not.

        If there were any *intelligent* aliens, they would eventually figure this out and give up on the idea.
        • by Smallpond (221300) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:32AM (#31855810) Homepage Journal

          What kind of conversation could you have, EVEN if you already spoke the same language?

          I know you will be surprised to hear from me, as we have never met. I have recently come into possession of 25 billion galactic zorns which belonged to the late Supreme Ruler Zardoz ...

        • by delinear (991444) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:45AM (#31855880)

          Even interstellar *communication* is wildly impractical. I mean, come on, latency measured in *years*? What kind of conversation could you have, EVEN if you already spoke the same language? And if you don't, how are you going to learn it? Cultural immersion is NOT possible. Back-and-forth dialog isn't even really possible. With no pre-existing linguistic information to help you bridge the gap, *and* no interaction, how would you characterize an alien language? You could spend centuries analyzing a single hour's worth of message and get nowhere.

          But something as a big as a recognisable alien communication would be enough in itself to prove the existence of aliens (or a deity with a sick sense of humour). People would happily devote centuries to studying such a message. If we even just swapped Wikipedias that would give enough data to be getting on with for at least a few centuries.

        • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:02AM (#31855980)

          It'd be like trying to read the Voynich manuscript, only much worse (because the Voynich manuscript was written by a *human*, and furthermore by a human who was obviously familiar with a number of popular human writing conventions that we understand; an alien message wouldn't be so comprehensible).

          Sort of, but with a very (very) important difference:

          The Voynich Manuscript - if it isn't a hoax containing just gibberish (which is actually a likely reality), was written by a human with the goal of making it as difficult as possible to decode. It's intentionally HARD to figure out. Messages between civilizations would be the opposite. You'd know just as little going in, but they would instead be crafted to be as easy as possible to decode.

      • by selven (1556643) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:23AM (#31855754)

        And if c really is the speed limit, and space being that big, maybe nobody is interested in investing now in a ship which would return with the goods in 1000 years.

        Or, alternatively:

        Terran President: Ok, Alpha Centauri expedition, go to Alpha Centauri, and mine the resources and send 20% of what you get to us because you're our colony.

        Alpha Centauri Expedition: Ok!

        (15 years later)

        ACE: Ok, we arrived at Alpha Centauri, let's start mining now.

        ACE: Wait, why do we have to send 20% to them again? It's not like they're doing anything for us.

        (30 years later, TP finally finds out what's going on)

        TP: Wait, why aren't they doing their colonial duties? Let's send an interstellar war fleet and enforce our will with an iron fist! After all, they're just a puny colony.

        ACE: Unfortunately for you, we, with our planet full of fresh unmined resources, have actually grown quite big...

        (15 years later, TP and ACE's respective interstellar war fleets reach each other, nuclear war ensues, 4 billion casualties)

        Rinse and repeat. Expansion would turn out to be a very slow and painful process if that were to happen.

      • by roca (43122) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:23AM (#31855756) Homepage

        Regardless of what the majority of the aliens do, surely at least some subset would transition to intelligent machines that can and wish to reproduce, travel interstellar and colonize the galaxy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Stormwatch (703920)

        Do humans get so busy with computer games that the whole species, all 6 billions of us, forget to even mine the resources we need or trade or plough the fields?

        Resources? Do you mean... vespene gas?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by baKanale (830108)

        Did any country yet starve because they were too busy playing to go to the supermarket, or go open the supermarket for that reason? No? Then why should we assume that any aliens would?

        That's a good point. Thinking about it, the chances are that any members of a species too busy with video games and porn to remember to upkeep their civilization would probably be too busy to take care of their offspring, and thus would weed themselves out of the gene pool. And there would always be ones, especially in the e

    • There was a great Google talk from a SETI guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyai5IyO-8E [youtube.com]
      He explained why nothing has been found yet and why he is certain we'll get contact in 20-40 years. Good stuff!

    • If they are nothing like us, that will be a bigger problem.

      This particular idea almost collides with the idea that aliens will make our life better in some way when we encounter them. They might treat us just like the old world treated the new world and its inhabitants. If simple cultural differences can cause such trouble, imagine whole species encountering each other.

      I sure hope for aliens who have evolved into societies like ours, completely independently. I (and in extrapolation, the rest of humani

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hallucinogen (1263152)
      There are 20 000 drops of water in a litre. Volume of a typical bucket is 10 litres. Thus there are 200 000 drops in a bucket. So, in cosmic terms 10 000 years is 1.5 drops in a bucket.
  • by hansraj (458504) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:00AM (#31855374)

    All it takes is one individual who is not busy playing games otherwise.

    Also, the article is dated May 1st, 2006. Is seed magazine run by the same guys running /.?

  • Is Miller talking about Aliens, or is he talking about us? Becuase if he's right, the prognosis for humanity isn't that bright!

    L8r.

  • ...because it seems to me he's completely lost touch with reality. Either that or he's still a teenager since he doesn't seem to understand the concepts of love and companionship in a relationship, especially one that gives rise to kids. There's more to producing children than just having sex. Also anyone who thinks pornography is a substitute for the real thing needs to get out more. Literally.

    • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:05AM (#31855396)
      Meh, this is just the same old puritan crap all over again. Beware of pleasure! Pleasure is evil! Only this guy puts forth the secular version - pleasure shall not lead to eternal damnation, but rather to species extinction in this case. Nothing to see here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neumayr (819083)
      Aren't you romantic.
      The primary purpose of having a sexual relationship remains the continued survival of the species. Love and companionship - that you can get from friends, without the strain of an exclusive, longterm relationship that's ultimately founded on two people's need for sex and self reproduction, i.e. their instincts.
      Naturally it's nice to reproduce, if it weren't the species would have died out a long time ago.
  • Simpler explanation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cold hard reality (1536175) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:06AM (#31855410)

    ((1 MW) / ((4 light year)^2)) * (100 (m^2)) = 6.98311557 × 10^-26 watts

    So even if there are aliens in the closest star broadcasting using a 1 MW transmitter, the output here is way to low to measure.

    They're probably sitting there wondering why they don't receive anything either.

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      ((1 MW) / ((4 light year)^2)) * (100 (m^2)) = 6.98311557 × 10^-26 watts

      But integrated over enough time the level will start to stand out from the noise. They just need to keep the signal going long enough.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:08AM (#31855416)

    This theory is ignorant, and wrong. Think about it for a second. Suppose you have a large population of sentients : not just individual beings, but competing societies and civilizations. Now, some of these populations succumb to the lures of computer games and fast food and porn more than others do. What does this cause? DIFFERENTIAL REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS. The invisible hand of evolution correcting the problem, again. This may ultimately mean that the eventually 'victors' in the recent rat race (USians) lose to other societies that are better at breeding. (such as India)

    No, the reason we don't see SETI signals is obvious. IF alien species are within our light cone, they are using communication systems that are indistinguishable from noise, since maximizing entropy in a radio signal allows you to pack the most data into an available slice of spectrum.

    But, more likely, there are no alien sentients who have developed radio and the light has traveled to us already. (remember, anything we see now from earth is thousands to millions of years out of date) It took 3.5 billion years for life on earth to go from self replicating molecules to us, which is about 25% of the total age of the entire universe. In earlier eras, the Universe was much, much hotter and less hospitable to developing self replicating molecules (too much reactivity for stable self replication)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtb61 (674572)

      Societies and technology have also evolved over time so that collapse whilst it remain a risk, in more modern more evolved societies, activities and practices can be established to stabilise societies and allow them to continue to evolve in a positive fashion. Simply birth control targeted at the most inept portions of society, say the supply free intoxicants conditional to consuming the incorporated oral contraceptives. In a similar fashion targeting certain psychological birth defects like psychopathy an

    • It took 3.5 billion years for life on earth to go from self replicating molecules to us, which is about 25% of the total age of the entire universe

      Aside from general human evolution, even recent human technological development is a mere moment in time...

      I think about 200 years ago, radio communication pretty much didn't exist. [While spark-gap transmitters were an amazing achievement, I suspect alien cultures would assume such transmissions to be electrical storms or noise].

      Due to their simplicity, it seem

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lord Ender (156273)

      You are overlooking the possibility of games eventually being so good that all humans become addicted. Forget your LCD and joystick; think about direct neural I/O to a VR world that is seems better in every way than the real world--a game designed specifically to match the human brain's desires precisely.

      Despite "DIFFERENTIAL REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS," species have and will continue to go extinct. Humans could go extinct, too. This is just one possible mechanism.

  • by mnmlst (599134) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:08AM (#31855418) Homepage Journal

    I am a highly evolved alien living among the humans. While I will admit to a mild addiction to Slashdot and Drudgereport (some days these are very similar), I don't play computer games or watch television. I literally have no time for either as I am so busy watching the humans and pondering all the different recipes that would make them tasty. Not to mention that as an alien, I haven't figured out how to make much money and can't afford cable or satellite TV. I tried "bunny ears" for a while, but they quit working last Spring and I haven't missed the TV much. When I did watch it, I just kept seeing fellow aliens (Nadya Suleman, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, Sheyla Hershey, et al.) entertaining the humans.

    This theory that aliens are highly evolved and addicted to electronic entertainment is backwards because we know better than to end up sitting in Plato's Cave staring at flickering images when there is a marvelous world waiting to be viewed and humans, fattened in caves while watching flickering images, waiting to be devoured.

  • And live a life of amusement. Maybe they have better things to do than to speculate uselessly.
  • I'd think all these intelligent races would end up with a technological singularity. And maybe the super-intelligent artificial entities that result out of that, have reasons to cloak themselves...

  • by mattr (78516) <mattrNO@SPAMtelebody.com> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:15AM (#31855454) Homepage Journal

    Maybe so. It might seem unlikely an advanced race would be so dumb.

    Perhaps industrial infrastructure will be focused on digitized minds in a virtual landscape, and will not be "wasted" on supporting organic bodies and fixing them over the centuries. Maybe digital life is going to be much richer and more expanded than what can fit inside an organic brain.

    On the other hand, we've had the public Internet for 15 years, say they've had it for 15,000 years.
    It's hard to understand what their issues will be.

    However one possible link is that there may be a point of decision near the beginning of Internet development for all societies, which characterizes all history after that.

    Not to be tongue in cheek, but it could be summarized as DRM/MAFIAA/ACTA/ANTI-TERROR/WTF vs. OpenSource/Level Playing Field/Honesty&Balance. As time progresses, the DRM..WTF government-industrial players control the lifeblood of the society, whether it is controlling software/entertainment or perhaps with more advanced technology, controlling a person's biological makeup, or perhaps your life as a simulated person in a planet-wide computer.

    The organics will (as some recent novels have suggested) be on the outside of mainstream society and will have only the OpenSource technologies and resources available to them. They probably do not have extra resources lying around enough to waste on contacting other civilizations, especially if their communications are considered equivalent to caveman grunts by most all of the listeners.

  • Sign me up for the Imperial Guard.

  • Fermi wasn't just talking about radio signals. Colonizing an entire galaxy doesn't take a whole lot of time, on geological timescales. When Fermi posed the question, where are they, he was wondering where the obvious mega-engineering is. How come we don't see any dismantled planets? Where's the stars blotted out by solar collectors?

    I think all these questions have one simple answer: you're asking the wrong question.

    Radio is primitive and totally unsuitable for an interstellar civilization to be using.

  • .. add aliens as friends? Which social networking site is that?

    So we can get a sense of their ideal life they try to portray through pictures.. Or maybe mental projections..

    The idea seems like bullshit though. In a overpopulated world, there is excess and no real reason to reproduce as there are alot of people already occupied with that. The globalization, and more independant thinking, disposable "friends" in very densely populated regions (you can walk off and meet other strangers, and keep on doing tha

  • TFS: He says the fundamental problem is that an evolved mind must pay attention to indirect cues of biological fitness, rather than tracking fitness itself, and that although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness (as measured by numbers of great-grandkids), no brain has capacity enough to do so under every possible circumstance.

    Extinction just means insufficient evolution.
  • Compare to the size and the age of universe, the likely length of an alien civlization, 40 years is not a long time to search for anything, let alone being in the right time peroid to detect a alien civlization.
  • ... explains our future even better than the best scientists. Mike Judge is a prophet!

  • Not really. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kashgarinn (1036758) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:47AM (#31855578)

    This might be a off-topic rant, but..

    I don't think people of our current society really understand how good we have it..

    Every single living species on this earth have had to constantly forage for food, shelter, or mates.. constantly. And we had to do the same for a very, very long time. I'm not talking about going hunting once a week, I'm talking before that, when we had to spend most of our time foraging for food, that means from 6 in the morning, until 8 in the night, going from place to place for shelter, or for food.

    This is what wild animals have to do, and this is what we had to do.

    Our current situation, where we have specialized and been able to organize our efforts so much that you only need to work 8 hours a day to feed, clothe and even pamper yourself without any real worry is what has given us the chance to specialize into other areas which are of no real concern to our immediate needs.

    Our efforts throughout the ages have given us more spare time to do with as we please, and we've reached a certain equilibrium where we can both fend for our needs, and enjoy things in our spare time.

    Would we really be even interested in things in outer space, if we had to worry about us and our kids being ill and hungry for weeks on end?

    We are very Naive about our own efforts because we aren't the people who had to work out all the details, all the systems, all the inventions which puts us where we are today, it's our forefathers and mothers which gave us their legacy in hopes of a better future and good people of our day which are carrying the torch.

    It's a miracle that we've come this far, and our success might just be the first chance life in the universe is able to be this stable and this prosperous to be able to even think outside our basic needs.

    Never forget how lucky we are that we can work together for a better world. I just hope we can do it even better in the future.

    • Re:Not really. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Archtech (159117) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:16AM (#31855712)

      I don't think people of our current society really understand how good we have it.

      Damn straight. Nor do they understand how tiny a fraction of the human race, past and present, were responsible for all the practical improvements that have led to our current state of (fairly) contented security. It's getting on for 40 years since Heinlein wrote that "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects". How many of those things can YOU do? (I could change a diaper, balance very simple accounts, take orders with an ill grace, program a computer very crudely, and maybe a couple of other things. Possibly par for the course?)

      How would we get on if we suddenly found ourselves naked and without possessions, alone or in a small group in the middle of nowhere? Even if we didn't freeze, roast, die of thirst, or get eaten within hours or days, what would be our chances of making it for even one year? Anyone fancy himself as Robinson Crusoe?

      Reflect on those matters for a while, and then consider how unbelievably our Stone Age ancestors acquitted themselves. If you look down on them you merely demean yourself. They were very probably twice the men we are.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TerranFury (726743)

      Sociological studies of hunter-gatherer societies have indicated that they even now have more free time than we do, not less. Moreover, it was only within the last 400-500 years that agricultural societies began to overtake hunter-gatherers in terms of nutrition (as measured by looking at the height of skeletons, and signs of the presence of malnutrition-related diseases). In other words, it was only very recently that agricultural civilization became good not just for those at the top but also for the ma

  • I found the article quite interesting, until he wrote:

    This, too, may be happening already. [...] fundamentalists [...] already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it.

    I just can't take someone seriously, who pretends that fundamentalists have a viable answer to problems of society.

  • Are you saying we're doomed to fail in the future; or, is the future now?
  • If you believe that evolution has some kind of goal, then you might just be more of an "intelligent design"-er than you think.
    BTW you can turn any agenda into a theory on why there's no aliens.
    Maybe they all succumbed to global warming.
    Maybe they all elected leaders who were born in Kenya.
    See how easy that is?

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:57AM (#31855636)

    There are several SF stories around Utopias/Distopias where most humans spend all their time immersed in some kind of ultra realistic VR environment, typically linked via some kind of direct brain feed. Basically a realistic enough VR environment, thanks to our ability do immerse in it and forget that it's not real, can fulfill all the psychological needs of an individual, more so even than reality since it has fewer barriers and does not suffer from the limitations of normal societal structures (in human society there are only a limited number of positions of a given type, for example Village Chief, but in a VR environment you can use NPCs to create as many virtual societies as you want and as such as many slots of a given type as you want).

    There are quite a number of natural limitations to a scenario where all mankind lives in VR:
    - Natural selection would remove from the genetic pool those that spent all their time in VR, since they wouldn't reproduce.
    - Physical needs would still have to be catered for. This means that things still have to be produced (like food). The VR environments, being targetted at satisfying the individual would be highly unproductive, so full automated means of production would have to exist, and they would need to be fully fed from some for of free energy.
    - As long as there are multiple nations, unless ALL of them "went into VR" at the same time, the ones that didn't would simply march their armies into the land of ones that did and take over.

    That said, for exploration of the unknow to stop or slow significantly, all that it takes is for the Explorer types amongst us - the same kind of people that 3 or 4 centuries ago would be jumping into boats and travelling to unexplored lands, and the same kind that nowadays would drive us to explorer space - to fulfill their drive to explore in VR environments which one miht argue already happens in part. It's thus quite possible that this will keep Human Society in the period of stagnation with regards to expanding our physical borders of knowledge in which it currently is. In the extreme, having lost all our drive to physically go out and explore, humans could turn their backs to space forever.

    That such a scenario could occur in alien societies is not beyond the realm of possibility. However, there are other drivers for exploration (conquest, material wealth, overcrowding, maybe even religious reasons) and the idea that all alien societies will sooner or later fall to the trap of "satiation of the need to explore by VR environments" is far fetched.

    Then again one might also argue that the causal relation is actually the reverse:
    - Human Society being in a period of stagnation with regards to expanding our physical borders of knowledge is not caused by Explorer types finding saciety in VR environments but instead said Explorer types are driven to "find their fix" in VR environments because we are currently not expanding our physical borders of knowledge.

  • Brilliance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:00AM (#31855642)

    My favourite line from an excellent old physics book called "From the Black Hole to the Infinite Universe".

    "Yes, there are aliens but they don't want to talk to us. Have you tried communicating with ants lately?"

    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hole-Infinite-Universe/dp/0816233233 [amazon.com]

    > They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today.

    Damned brilliant article. Scary when you laugh at the funny man in the picture and then you realize it's you.

    (LOL. I can't wait to update my Facebook about this!)

  • by Archtech (159117) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:07AM (#31855674)

    But for my money, Geoffrey Miller has it. Try reading his book "The Mating Mind". I just quickly scanned "Why We Haven't Met Many Aliens", and it looks like one of those astonishingly simple perceptions that is absolutely right and immensely important.

    For the past 25 years, give or take, I have been studying the software industry and, to a lesser extent, IT in general and its effects on human society as a whole. Pretty much my number one conclusion has been that we have accomplished far less than we might have done, because of the overwhelming tendency to treat everything as entertainment. As Larry Ellison said a while back, software is one of the very few areas of technology that are more fashion-conscious than women's clothes. Why is that? An important sub-question, under that general heading, is how did Microsoft become the world's most influential IT company?

    Miller has grasped a very important truth, and we need to take him seriously. (Of course, it might be more fun and more profitable - as well as amusingly self-referential - to make a computer game out of his scenario).

  • by Inominate (412637) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:21AM (#31855742)

    Fermi's Paradox isn't so much a paradox as what one would expect.

    Space travel is hard and takes a LONG time. Galaxy spanning empires are unlikely to exist without unknown physics being used. Any interstellar civilization bound to physics we know would be unable to spread very far, or very fast, as the time needed for travel and communication are enormous. A civilization able to harness any sort of practical near-light or faster than light space travel, radio waves would likely also have totally unknown communication methods.

    A civilization bound to physics we understand would have no use with radio waves for interstellar communication. It requires a tremendous amount of power, virtually all of which is wasted. Not to mention the noise and interference with shorter range communication that radio is good for. The only use an interstellar civilization would have for sending radio waves over interstellar distances would be specifically for the purpose of communication with unknown civilizations.

    Given our current level of technology, we do have a device which is fairly close to ideal for interstellar communication. Lasers. Far more of the energy you pump into the beam will arrive at the destination, requiring far less power than a radio transmitter. One obvious side effect of this is that any interstellar communication going on out there would be invisible unless directed at us.

    • by itsdapead (734413) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:15AM (#31856068)

      Space travel is hard and takes a LONG time. Galaxy spanning empires are unlikely to exist without unknown physics being used.

      ...and also, if you have the technology to do long-haul space travel in generation ships (the only kind that we know is remotely feasible) you also have the technology to fill your solar system with space habitats (easier because you have solar energy and raw materials floating around) which is going to take the edge off your need for colonization. If your worry about the health of your sun exceeds your love of solar energy, just park out in the Oort cloud. Probes and exploratory missions won't produce the exponential colonization that the Fermi paradox assumes.

      I think it was Greg Egan who wrote that "going exponential" Fermi-style "is what bacteria with spaceships would do" (his post-humans tended to upload themselves to computers and explore their own virtual universes or try to prove Goedel's theorum by exhaustion).

      The problem with the Fermi paradox is that its extrapolating from one point: us (if someone jumped up tomorrow and said "Good News Everyone - I've invented FTL travel).

      Plus, every good nerd knows that if you've just colonized a new world, the first thing that happens is that your society collapses back to the stone age because someone forgot to pack the machine that makes the machine that makes the machine that makes the chips that run your high-tech hydroponics modules. That's assuming that, during the voyage, you didn't murder the officers and start worshipping the ship's engine.

  • by silentcoder (1241496) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:25AM (#31855770) Homepage

    In the "Don't that Robots" propaganda video !

  • by stuckinarut (891702) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:37AM (#31856218)
    Are You Living In a Computer Simulation? [simulation-argument.com]

    The aliens just didn't buy the multi-planetary expansion pack so the sim doesn't contain the communications to detect.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:17AM (#31856548)

    I think there are better reasons for us not being able to find alien radio signals than "they're all playing video games." Any alien civilization out there could be undetectable by us for a number of reasons:

    1. We've only been listening for alien signals for 40 years. That's not even a blip in the cosmic scale. It's sort of like being in the middle of a giant warehouse, taking two steps forward and declaring that your intensive searching has revealed no "outside world." Perhaps we need to wait a few more decades, centuries, or millennium for the signals to reach us.

    2. Perhaps the signals have already passed us. Maybe, sometime during the building of the pyramids, radio signals from an alien world were passing by us. The humans of the time would have had no way of knowing that proof of alien life was right in front of them. By the time SETI began searching for life, the alien signals stopped either due to the civilization dying out or due to the aliens moving on to technology that "leaked" less. We've used radio for a little over a century and are already switching to technologies that don't involve tossing unencrypted signals in the air all over the place. Perhaps there's only a 1 or 2 century window from when a civilization first uses radio to when they move to a different, more undetectable, technology.

    3. Perhaps we've seen it but didn't recognize it. Who says that we'd actually recognize an alien signal. If I gave you some network monitoring tools and sent a few hundred streams of data down the pipe, most of which was random but one of which was encoded information, would you be able to tell the random from the information? Even if you didn't know the encoding scheme or what kind of information you were dealing with? I'd bet that it would be tough to do and that's dealing with human-created encryption schemes. Add an alien intelligence to the mix and the difficulty would skyrocket.

    4. Maybe we haven't looked in the right place. The universe is huge and we've only searched tiny fragments. Going back to #1's warehouse analogy, it'd be like searching a giant warehouse, opening one box and declaring the item to not be in the warehouse because it wasn't in the first box you opened.

    Any of these could easily be the reason why we haven't found intelligent alien life yet and are more likely than "the aliens are playing video games."

  • Yeah, sure.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:28AM (#31856704) Journal

    Or, maybe we have heard it but:

    • They advanced beyond radio before we ever had radio.
    • They have developed at the same time as us, but a few thousand light years away, so there is nothing in our neighborhood to hear.
    • Their compression and encoding is so good, we can't tell the signal from the noise.
    • Their receivers are much more sensitive than ours so the signal is much weaker than we can filter out from the noise.
    • They developed a different kind of encoding scheme that we don't recognize it as a signal.
    • They never developed radio, using some other kind of technology instead.
    • We have been listening for 40 years. The universe is 14 billion years old. They have lived and died and all the signals have passed us by before we stood upright.

    That is enough for now.

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