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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the type-13-planets dept.

Space 608

An anonymous reader writes "The discovery of Kepler-186f last week has dusted off an interesting theory regarding the fate of humanity and the link between that fate and the possibility of life on other planets. Known as the The Great Filter, this theory attempts to answer the Fermi Paradox (why we haven't found other complex life forms anywhere in our vast galaxy) by introducing the idea of an evolutionary bottleneck which would make the emergence of a life form capable of interstellar colonization statistically rare. As scientists gear up to search for life on Kepler-186f, some people are wondering if humanity has already gone through The Great Filter and miraculously survived or if it's still on our horizon and may lead to our extinction."

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Maybe not extinction... (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#46836267)

But the way the human race is behaving currently, getting off this dirtball in any meaningful way seems exceedingly unlikely.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (-1, Troll)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 5 months ago | (#46836313)

Only if we continue to H8 the capitalism that drives real improvement, in favor of some nebulous "change" that seems to involve a lot of un-repayable debt.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836381)

Ah more of 'the second coming of McCarthyism', where everything is a plot to destroy capitalism.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836541)

But everything capitalism does is a plot to destroy itself.

So they're always right.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (2, Insightful)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 5 months ago | (#46836465)

Capitalism didn't create the internet or WWW that you're currently talking shit on. In fact we learned today that the FCC is going to allow capitalists to fuck the internet up at least in the US.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 5 months ago | (#46836623)

Government is the problem, not Capitalism. The moment government gets involved, people get paid off to fuck with the system in such a way that it because a good old boys club. Unrestrained Capitalism has its own problems as well, but those are solved simply by time in most cases. It is patience that is lacking because government only reacts to the "We must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it" tyranny. Nobody stops long enough to ask "why" we must do something.

It is at this point, that people call me names but cannot offer a coherent response to the question "Why must we do something". Because something bad might happen? Yeah, something bad might happen. And even if you get everything you want, something bad might happen, still. In fact, something bad WILL happen, because we cannot stop all bad things from happening. Ever. The three laws have only one inevitable outcome .... the system becomes tyranny in order to protect us ... from ourselves.

But then again, nobody reads enough classical thinking to get it.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836883)

It's not really government per se that is the problem, it's concentration of power. Concentration of power pretty much always leads to bad outcomes, be it in the public sphere or private. So as it turns out the conservatives are right, big government is bad, but it also turns out the liberals are right, big corporations are bad. Sadly, they're both too busy arguing to figure out that they agree on the underlying principle.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (2)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 5 months ago | (#46836655)

If you're going to argue that the DARPA protocols informing the Internet are some kind of anti-capitalist triumph, fine. Keep in mind that you also just bought the Military-Industrial Complex and all of the wars the U.S. has fought. So ya got a lot of artillery and missiles goin' for ya.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (0, Troll)

Morpf (2683099) | about 5 months ago | (#46836693)

Capitalism is bad. You may not see this, if you belong to the lucky ones, but it is neither fair, nor social or sustainable. And I bet my ass, if we were more collaborative, we would be way ahead in technology and social questions. It's collaboration that drives improvement. Just imagine science without it: Every would had to start at 0, not even knowing the fundamentals. Capitalism on the other hand is the exact antithesis of cooperation where everyone fights for it's own good and against all the others.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836875)

Capitalism is good. You obviously don't see this, because you belong to the lucky ones, but it is the most effective way of lifting billions of people out of poverty that has ever been devised, and it has done more to improve the life of human beings on this planet than any competing social, political, economic, or philosophical ideal.

I bet my ass, if we were more collaborative, we'd be way ahead of where we are now in failed states, banana republics, and tin pot dictatorships. It's enlightened self-interest that drives improvement. Just imagine science without it: everybody would have no interest in investigating the hard problems without the possibility of financial reward, because the hard problems are *expensive*, and *time-consuming* to study. If you think that science and capitalism are somehow antithetical to one another, you are living in a dream world.

The *problem* is regulatory capture by "capitalist" organizations who see the use of government force as the best way to compete. Eliminate the easily concentrated power of the government "stick" and you'd discover that it's pretty hard to fuck up the internet with net neutrality regulations when anybody else can come along, string fiber, and offer service without those regulations. Or didn't you know that cable co's generally have pretty tightly controlled monopolies in their service area?

Re:Maybe not extinction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836783)

yeah, an outmoded system that as of 2008 is a demonstrably failed experiment which required monumental bailouts ("un-repayable" debt, borrowing your runted rhetoric) in order to be artificially propped back up. the united states is actively complicit in enabling international drug cartels by way of this allegedly improvement-driving capitalism you have conjured up. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bank-of-america-too-crooked-to-fail-20120314

heaven forbid we stop choking on the bullshit we're pumping up this ideal western culture fantasy bubble with for two fucking seconds and get over ourselves. capitalism may be the most palatable option, but this notion of its infallibility is delusional at best.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836889)

You are full of crap. "Real improvement" (tm) didn't start happening in the 18th century. Go shoohorn your religion somewhere else.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#46836391)

Heh. Well, you can take man from nature, but you can't take the nature out of man.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (5, Interesting)

Aereus (1042228) | about 5 months ago | (#46836433)

The biggest issue I see happening is, we've used up all of the "easy resources" on the planet. So if for some reason we have some kind of global conflict that significantly sets back civilization/technology, we may lose our chance of ever exploring space.

Trying to rebuild our industrial technology back up from scratch when the required resources are gone, require advanced processing, or the rest is now 5 miles deep; might make it impossible in any meaningful timeframe.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46836523)

We haven't created or destroyed any elements. We just use them, or modify the chemicals they are in. If we need them (and have dug them all up), we can't mine them from the ground, but we can mine them from the landfills and buildings, like some are doing with copper now. Materials are more easy, not less easy.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (1)

blippo (158203) | about 5 months ago | (#46836665)

I think we have lost a fair amount of Helium though.

Selling the surplus of Helium at a discount seems to be unusually shortsighted since that's more or less what's left on earth and the alternative is to mine it from space somehow.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (4, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46836709)

If we need them (and have dug them all up), we can't mine them from the ground, but we can mine them from the landfills and buildings, like some are doing with copper now.

It should be noted that as recently as WW2, Italy was "mining" the slag heaps from Roman-era iron mines. It had more iron in it than any remaining, easily accessible ore bodies in Italy.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (2)

beelsebob (529313) | about 5 months ago | (#46836769)

The problem is that getting those elements back requires energy in most cases. The exact elements that the grand parent was referring to are the ones that allow us to get started producing energy with which to do useful things. Sure, all the elements for oil still exist, but the actual oil doesn't, and to get the oil, we need energy.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836897)

Or you could, you know, use an alternative to oil, like solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear fission, coal, natural gas, wood, hydroelectric, biofuels, or any of the literally dozens of other energy sources which have been explored in the history of mankind.

Fucking idiot.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (2)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about 5 months ago | (#46836561)

Actually any follow on civilization would find vast quantities of highly processed resources all over the place, locations we currently call cities. Even a widespread nuclear war would still leave large amounts of steel, copper and aluminum sitting around for exploitation.

Re: Maybe not extinction... (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 5 months ago | (#46836809)

All of it highly radioactive. Yummy.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (1)

smaddox (928261) | about 5 months ago | (#46836489)

Agreed. Just look at the progression of so called civilization. The US's economy is becoming more and more of a service economy. Entertainment is becoming a larger and larger fraction of the GDP. I don't see how a species can hope to survive the next catastrophe when people are more interested in living hedonistic lives. As soon as people start to really feel the pressure of finite resources, war and eventual nuclear holocaust seem inevitable. It wouldn't take very many H-bombs to screw up the global climate. Some estimates suggest as few as 50 could cause massive crop failures for decades.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 5 months ago | (#46836679)

In a mere couple of thousand years we've managed to move from "indoor plumbing lolwut" for most of the planet to space flight and fast cheap intercontinental travel. I'd say we're doing pretty well.

As for the great filter, one need only look at the number of mass extinctions that have occurred naturally. Even should the conditions for life as we know it be relatively common (as in life capable of interstellar exploration, not just subsisting under fifty kilometers of ice), the odds of intelligent life arising might be a tiny fraction of that. There could be an enormous array of variables in play, maybe local galactic conditions have only recently matured sufficiently to allow life to exist. Maybe we could simply be freak occurrences. Maybe nobody has managed to figure out FTL travel and they'll get round to us in a few millennia. Maybe nobody's got listening posts within the couple of light years it takes for our radio noise to peter out.

Am I saying the Drake Equation is almost certainly full of shit? Why yes I am.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (2, Interesting)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 months ago | (#46836785)

You're far too kind. By the way the human race is behaving currently, we don't deserve to get off this dirtball anytime soon. For fuck's sake, look at us! We hurt and kill each other for stupid reasons. We have entire cultures that consider women (and others!) to be less than a human being. We have assholes who attack, seriously (and profoundly!) injure and kill little girls because they have the audacity to want to learn how to read and write. We haven't proven we can adequately care for the environment of the planet of our origin, why should we be allowed another viable planet to screw up?

So far as I'm concerned it's a good thing we're far from the point where we can reach and colonize other planets because it's clear we're just not ready and won't be for quite some time to come. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if our galaxy is teeming with intelligent, starfaring races, and they've quarantined us because we're so fucked up and shouldn't be let loose on the galaxy.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836831)

Oh fuck off back to your "progressive" professor and die you misanthropic little skidmark. Take that cunt with you, it'll make a nice milestone on The Road Towards A Better Future.

Re:Maybe not extinction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836861)

With a proper marketing campaign I think it can be pulled off. Just play up the outsourcing potential along with a broader market. Forget global economy and think big - intergalactic economy.

Fermi paradox (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46836283)

answer: Space is really big.

A race could have populate half the galaxy's out there and we still wouldn't know.

Re:Fermi paradox (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 5 months ago | (#46836361)

Millions of races could have (and probably did) come into existence and gone extinct since the beginning of the Universe. Life on Earth has only been able to do more than look up at the stars for an extremely short time.

Re:Fermi paradox (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#46836461)

So where's the precursor technology?

Re:Fermi paradox (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836511)

What do you mean "Where's the precursor technology?" What are you babbling about? Random pieces of alien metal scattered around the landscape? It's not there, for fuck's sake. Do you have the dimmest impression of how fucking *big* the galaxy is, let alone the universe?

Re:Fermi paradox (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46836543)

why would it last forever? Why would it be within our solar system?

Re:Fermi paradox (2)

erice (13380) | about 5 months ago | (#46836367)

answer: Space is really big.

A race could have populate half the galaxy's out there and we still wouldn't know.

Space is big but time is also vast. A civilization that build Von Neumann machines could occupy the entire galaxy is half a million years, even with travel at rather slow speeds. [io9.com]

And such a civilization could have arisen any time in last billion years.

Re:Fermi paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836551)

"And such a civilization could have arisen any time in last billion years."

I can't argue with your first point (though I would argue that most civilsations wouldn't argue with von Neumann machines and that they're not actually very realistic in the first place), but this second point would be pushing it a bit. The Sun is in the very first generation of stars around which we could expect any civilisation to arise -- we're first generation. The reason is that a star needs to be young enough that stars that came before have had time to process all that hydrogen and helium that fills the universe into the stuff we need - carbon, water, iron and the ilk. Pop III stars basically had 75% hydrogen and 25% helium, and trace of anything else. Pop II stars had a bit less of the H and He and a bit more of everything else, but amounts that were so small that nothing could ever live around those stars, and planets would be uninhabitable (no iron cores, for one thing). Pop I is the earliest that civilisation could arise around.

That said, it doesn't really counter the argument, since Pop I stars have been around for many millennia, but to get a Pop I star, and have the billions of years necessary to evolve sentient life that may eventaully found a civilisation, we're pushing the early years. I'd say such a civilisation could have arisen any time in the last few million years. Still time for von Neumann machines -- assuming they're realistic which in reality I strongly suspect they aren't, although that's a different argument -- to have populated vast swathes of the galaxy.

Re:Fermi paradox (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 5 months ago | (#46836853)

I agree with your logic as far as the nature of star populations goes, but there's been advanced land-based life on Earth for close to a billion* years. Dinosaurs kept mammals down for more than a third of a billion before we got a chance. Unless you're also arguing that intelligent life will necessarily require the same sort of treatment on any other planet, it seems like there's easily hundreds of millions of years where some intelligent variation of dinosaur could have evolved instead. Even if one of the filters is the string of extinctions and regrowth, it's easy enough to imagine another world where the mass extinctions came tens or fifties of millions of years more frequently, advancing the pace of evolution.

You also have to wonder, did single-cellular life really need three billion* years to turn into multi-cellular life? Why not pull it off on some world in two billion, or 2.5, or even 2.75 billion and still leave intelligent life an extra 250 million years head start elsewhere? What happened on Earth is telling for being the only known success story thus far, but it's a given that it has to take that long. Even if a billion years is high, a few million seems way too low.

*My numbers are all really fuzzy and probably wrong, but probably good enough for a napkin-style calculation.

Re:Fermi paradox (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 5 months ago | (#46836871)

What happened on Earth is telling for being the only known success story thus far, but it's a given that it has to take that long.

It's NOT a given. Whoops.

Re:Fermi paradox (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46836587)

Because they aren't possible? becasue they have populated the other half of the galaxy? becasue they don't need to grow that fast? becasue they have all been wiped out be a variety of event. Specifically wiped out faster then they can be built?

It's like getting a thimble of water from the ocean and asking "where are all the fish?"

Re:Fermi paradox (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#46836669)

one tenth lightspeed is not slow at all, and in fact more likely to get a vessel destroyed as contact with the smallest pebble would be disaster. And Von Neumon starships have even more obstacles to their existence than life itself; it's one thing to have a creature with muscles and digestive system, another for a machine with a fusion motor in its butt needing tons of helium-3 or deuterium

Mod parent up. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 5 months ago | (#46836369)

From TFA:

The absence could be because intelligent life is extremely rare, or because intelligent life has a tendency to go extinct.

EVERYTHING that does not get off the planet it is currently occupying goes extinct. Planets die. Suns die.

Getting off the planet (and out of the solar system) is difficult because space is so HUGE.

The "paradox" depends upon a the assumption that a race COULD successfully colonize another solar system before they died / their planet died / their sun died.

Maybe that is possible. But so far our ONE example (ourselves) hasn't been able to reach the closest solar system.

Beta Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836435)

"But so far our ONE example (ourselves) hasn't been able to reach the closest solar system."

We've only been able to leave the planet for fifty years. Give us a chance.

As for the original topic, the answer is 'No'. If technological life was common, it would have colonized the galaxy by now even if thousands of alien races destroyed themselves. We're clearly an exception, and may well be the first.

Re:Beta Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836813)

Or, more probably, we're just the latest to try, and the probability of our failure is high to the point of certainty.

A technological race with the right combination of resources, abilities, and temperament, may yet colonize the galaxy and universe, but to think that we are the magic one, is to be completely blind to the negative factors that our race embodies and the consequences thereof. A simple analysis reveals that we are most likely perilously close to to passing the point where a lack of resources and materials will prevent us from ever getting out to where new resources are available and easily collected. If we pass that point, then getting a breeding population off the planet and sustainably colonized anywhere else becomes not just unlikely, but impossible.
Our saving element may be that some yet to be invented technology will make it cheap and easy to get to orbit. At the current cost of materials and economic effort, finding a group willing and financially able to colonize space, or even mine the asteroid belts, is very unlikely.

Re:Mod parent up. (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 5 months ago | (#46836447)

They don't even have to do it before their planet/sun dies, so long as they leave before their planet/sun dies.

Re:Mod parent up. (1)

X-Ray Artist (1784416) | about 5 months ago | (#46836583)

We haven't even got out of our own. Maybe... I guess Voyager I is close and some think it has left the Solar System.

Re:Mod parent up. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 months ago | (#46836713)

Our one example hasn't really been around for very long though, all estimates of the Sun's life cycle indicates Earth should remain habitable for another billion years or more. Where were we even a thousand years ago? It doesn't matter if the technology isn't ready until 3014, it's still a blink of an eye on the time scales we're talking here. And there's already semi-realistic craft designs like Project Orion that'll take hundreds of years to reach the next star, not tens of thousands. Unless the world goes for WW3 and a new stone age, it seems plausible that the technology will be available in a thousand years.

Re:Fermi paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836413)

The frequency of life is probably very small but the frequently of life in circumstances that make exploration and communication possible is probably even more ridiculously small if not unique. Think of this, what if we evolved underwater? It'd be hard to put a ship into orbit that could sustain us. Or what if we evolved early in the planet's life before fossil fuels existed? What if our planet was moderately larger or atmosphere very dense? What if we didn't have complex ores around us? We could be a ridiculous rarity such that we are on a planet that not only supports life but has a great combination of factors that allow us to study the Universe around us in an industrial society while surrounded by a great cross-section of what the Universe offers.

Re:Fermi paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836475)

This!

Assuming there simply is no way around the speed-of-light barrier, distances in space are just as overwhelming for any alien species, regardless of their technical level. Words like "colonization" and "terra-forming" sound straight-forward, but even getting Mars (an extremely Earth-like planet, by cosmic standards) to be able to grow plants might take thousands of years.

We always talk about "vastly advanced" civilizations, but one million light years at less than speed of light are still more than a million years, for any species.

The latest Bad Astronomy blog post (http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/04/23/hubble_galaxies_deep_image_reveals_thousands_of_weird_galaxies.html) has a nice image taken by Hubble showing an unbelievable amount of *galaxies* (not just stars), and it still shows only "a ten millionths" of the sky. The OP was right: If 90% of these galaxies were completely colonized (by now), we still wouldn't be able to figure it out.

Re: Fermi paradox (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 5 months ago | (#46836507)

Exactly. We can barely detect planets never mind any kind of starship or technological civilization.

Re:Fermi paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836579)

AC here.

The Fermi Paradox explicitly only concerns our Galaxy. Which, in it's own right, is pretty big.

Maybe it's just us (5, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | about 5 months ago | (#46836289)

Maybe the inhabitants of those other planets aren't ravening imperialist douchebags. In that case, I'm liking our odds.

Consider Jack Handey's observation:

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they'd never expect it.

--Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts

Re:Maybe it's just us (1)

stevencbrown (238995) | about 5 months ago | (#46836347)

ha ha, have never heard that before. I'm buying that book on the strength of that quote.

Of course they are, that's where the aliens live. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836297)

Therefore the best thing is for the universe to be empty so we don't all get anally probed.

My guess is that we are fairly unique... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836299)

...because of our moon and our axial tilt. The moon creates strong tides and the tilt creates seasons, which both conspire to force organisms to adapt to change. Without one or both of these things, life may be stuck at the uni-cellular stage on many worlds.

Re:My guess is that we are fairly unique... (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 5 months ago | (#46836351)

That's just one more filter term though. How unlikely is it really, on a cosmic scale, to have a large Luna-like moon and Earth-like axial tilt?

Re:My guess is that we are fairly unique... (1)

jc42 (318812) | about 5 months ago | (#46836855)

How unlikely is it really, on a cosmic scale, to have a large Luna-like moon and Earth-like axial tilt?

Well, if you start with a list of the list of large (say, over 1000-km diameter) planets and their moons [wikipedia.org] in our solar system, you'd expect such things to be fairly common. All the planets larger than ours have such big, round moons, and little Pluto has one with a 1200-km diameter. Uranus has an extreme axial tilt; all the rest are within 30 degrees of perpendicular to the system's plane. (Venus is a bit odd, though, since it rotates so slowly that it's usually listed as "retrograde", with the south pole pointing nearly north ;-).

Of course, all this is effectively a "sample of one" star's planets and moons, so we really do need more data before we start jumping to conclusions.

Astronomers have suggested that, were it not for our moon, we'd have an atmosphere thicker than Venus's. But this really just means that most Earth-like planets will turn out to be somewhat smaller than Earth. They'd also have to be bigger than Mars to keep their atmosphere, so the differences shouldn't turn out to be all that great.

Re:My guess is that we are fairly unique... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 5 months ago | (#46836363)

we did 1.7 billion years of unicellular life, then 2.1 billion multicellular.....maybe even with moon and tilt the tendency is to unicellular life.

First? (1)

rednip (186217) | about 5 months ago | (#46836323)

Maybe we're just the first to develop? Or simply faster than light travel hasn't been invented.

Re:First? (1)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#46836479)

Maybe we're just the first to develop?

Unlikely. As stellar evolution goes, ours is one of the later stars.

Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836641)

Yeah now explain how a star that formed much earlier in the history of the universe had enough metals (astronimacally speaking - meaning anything about helium) for even rocky planets, let alone life to form. Practically impossible. Not saying that rocky planets couldn't have formed around population II stars but they would be quite a bit rarer, and scarce in elements life has taken for granted. You need population I, which is why our star may be one of the later stars (no arguments there) but it does not at all state that us being one of the first to develop is unlikely, at least on astronomical timescales. We may have been beaten to it by millions of years - maybe - but not by billions because there simply weren't enough heavy metals.

On the plus side, that means a couple of things

1) If we ever do manage to get out of this Solar System (unlikely; physics is dead against us) we're likely to find very few civilisations particularly far beyond us
2) We can probably bomb most civilisations into oblivion by stting tens of thousands of feet above them and dropping metal on them while they try and summon their Gods down onto us
3) We can amuse ourselves watching Ancient Aliens, choosing the most batshit "theories" and then inflicting them on some poor Bronze Age sods, just for shits and giggles

OK, so (2) might not be seen as a positive, but it's likely to happen. (3) is practically de rigeur.

Re:First? (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 5 months ago | (#46836647)

Maybe we're just the first to develop?

Unlikely. As stellar evolution goes, ours is one of the later stars.

Yes but many of those earlier stars and solar systems didn't have the same complexity of elements
which may be necessary for life. It's possible only 3rd or 4th generation stars, etc... support life.
I also read recently that someone calculated the age of our dna based on a certain metric
and their number came out older than earth's age. If this is true then it gives credibility to the
panspermia theory. Another interesting observation based on the big bang is that the universe went
thru a brief period of time where liquid water was everywhere. This would have been a prime time
for life to have developed.

Re:First? (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#46836675)

Ours is not one of the early-generation stars, but life as we know it requires some trace heavy metals, so complex organism require later generation stars (so that the older stars can generate heavy elements and nova them out). So we are a young system, but could be the oldest capable of life as we know it.

Beta Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836557)

FTL is pretty much irrelevant; even at 1% of the speed of light, we can colonize the entire galaxy in ten million years, which is a small fraction of the lifetime of the galaxy.

Does it matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836333)

No matter what we will never be able to outlive the universe.

What is this obsession with humanity to live for ever. We are part of the universe and the universe will exist as long as it exits. Either with human race alive or extinct.

Isn't Great filter just another name for God? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836385)

Isn't Great filter just another name for God?

Re:Isn't Great filter just another name for God? (1)

smaddox (928261) | about 5 months ago | (#46836437)

No. They are two entirely distinct concepts.

Re:Isn't Great filter just another name for God? (2)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 5 months ago | (#46836473)

That's an interesting alternate God. Most conceptions of singular-God that I'm familiar with have him as a creative force, not a destructive force actively eliminating all life in the universe that does not lead to humans on Earth, like a cosmic bansai bush cultivator.

Author doesn't understand Fermi's Paradox (4, Interesting)

werepants (1912634) | about 5 months ago | (#46836405)

FTFA:

If Kepler-186f is teeming with intelligent life, then that would be really bad news for humanity because it would push back the Great Filter’s position further into the technological stages of a civilization’s development. This would imply that catastrophe awaits both us and our extraterrestrial companions.

No it wouldn't, because then Fermi's Paradox is solved - Fermi's Paradox exists because we Earthicans are, by all appearances thus far, the only life that exists, intelligent or otherwise. If the first exoplanet we manage to check harbors intelligent life, then it would suggest that there is a lot of intelligent life out there, and it is just effing hard to communicate and travel over interstellar distances.

Re:Author doesn't understand Fermi's Paradox (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 5 months ago | (#46836593)

Another scenario would be that they are using types of communication that are unbeknownst to us, be it Neutrinos or some sort of "subspace" FTL communication.

Re:Author doesn't understand Fermi's Paradox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836743)

or, who knows, encryption? radio-warm source spewing gibberish? civilisation using narrow-band, focused encrypted communications.

The Skynet Hypothesis (1)

organgtool (966989) | about 5 months ago | (#46836417)

I like to think that, given enough time, every species in the universe lives just long enough to create an artificial intelligence capable of exterminating that species.

Re:The Skynet Hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836575)

Then why doesn't one of the AIs say hello or try to destroy us?

Re:The Skynet Hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836657)

Maybe they don't want to interfere with the natural development of a new AI species and the eventual extinction of its creators? :-)

Re:The Skynet Hypothesis (1)

X-Ray Artist (1784416) | about 5 months ago | (#46836829)

I think we are capable of that without the assistance of artificial intelligence.

Re:The Skynet Hypothesis (2)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 5 months ago | (#46836903)

I think we are capable of that without the assistance of artificial intelligence.

But are we willing to take that risk?

Are AFRICANS capable of interstellar travel? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836429)

Of course not. Yet you pretend that "We are all the same", and lump US in with them.

Anybody care to argue that Africans can even build an aeroplane on their own, with their OWN knowledge and inventions, not those of white people?

Thought not.

Re: Are AFRICANS capable of interstellar travel? (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 5 months ago | (#46836559)

They managed to build huge fucking pyramids thousands of years before whitey managed to figure out how to make a house.

There can be only one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836441)

If Earth-like planets are rare, then we worry why are we alone.
If they are abundant, again we worry where has everybody gone.

Perhaps it's another instance of anthropic principle: the first galactic civilization exterminates all others.

Humanity is Sick and Twisted (-1, Flamebait)

hackus (159037) | about 5 months ago | (#46836445)

We don't deserve the stars.

We deserve death.

And if you think this is too harsh, you haven't studied our history like I have.

The last thing I would want to envision, is a humanity as it is, with some of the news paper headlines I read, to have any sort of access to anything in the Universe beyond your neighbor next store.

And no, Einstein, Monet and Newton do not make up for the past, or the future.

Death is what we deserve, and if we do not change, death is what should be for every man woman and child on this earth.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (4, Insightful)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 5 months ago | (#46836627)

We don't deserve the stars.

We deserve death.

Incorrect. Evolution is sick, twisted, and blind. We deserve better. I believe we still have time to take control and become a better, post-human species.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46836639)

egomaniac much?

We deserves life, and the stars.
we crawled out of the ocean, we got out of the trees, we defeated every predator, we built towers of glass and steel, we have spanned great water ways, we have been to the moon, and we have a machine out side out solar system

We surely DO DESERVE the stars.
The stars are no place for pansies, quitters. The stars are for whom ever can grab them.

People content to live in a squalor with no motivation or goals, no curiosity, those subhumans done't deserve the stars.

"And if you think this is too harsh, you haven't studied our history like I have."
teach you grandmother to suck eggs, quitter.

With the stars comes peace, and technology to solve the issues here.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | about 5 months ago | (#46836765)

The stars are also fire.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 5 months ago | (#46836643)

Death is what we deserve, and if we do not change, death is what should be for every man woman and child on this earth.

Don't worry, that is what every human, and every other living being, will get at some point. Even if we somehow get to the singularity and human minds can be implanted into machines (philosophically can we even be called human at that point anymore?) the heat death or collapse of the universe will destroy everything eventually anyway. And if anything ever counteracts human nature (you can't change it, but you can affect it), it would be spacetravel and contact with another intelligent civilization.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836645)

Did you forget to take your meds again?

What about Ponies?

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 5 months ago | (#46836733)

There is some truth to this. I worry what happens when personal spacecrafts are available.
We are slowly "civilizing" the planet. Slave labor, pirates, etc.. are somewhat rare.
What happens when you can kidnap someone and create a slave camp on a random planet
millions of miles away? I hope we develop AI and other technologies first so that we can
prevent ourself from regressing once there are places to hide again.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 5 months ago | (#46836747)

We deserve death.

Sure. You first.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836767)

I thought your sig was a car joke. I was more impressed when I was wrong.

Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46836823)

And if you think this is too harsh, you haven't studied our history like I have.

Through a pair of shit-tinted spectacles, apparently. It's a wonder historians aren't throwing themselves off bridges all the time, the way you paint it.

Or maybe you're just manically pessimistic.

Death is what we deserve, and if we do not change, death is what should be for every man woman and child on this earth.

So what are you doing about this apparently dire situation? Apart from posting admonishments on Slashdot?

Go play fetch with a dog in the park.

Hard to detect (1)

JanneM (7445) | about 5 months ago | (#46836451)

A civilization would be quite hard to detect. The best chance is probably radio emissions, but even that has a fairly short practical limit. And it's noteworthy that our emissions are dropping today, as we increasinly use the spectrum for low-power digital systems rather than analogue "scream at the top of your lungs" broadcasts. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine that we'd be effectively silent in another couple of generations, as we push toward more effective transmission technologies.

We could probably have dozens of other civilizations in this sector of the milky way and we'd never know it.

Re:Hard to detect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836695)

For our increasing appetite for data, such as 8K video streams, it will require us to give up on low frequency radio broadcasts and networks and switch to optical transmission. Optical via fiber or by point to point laser. Very high frequency radio waves will just be used to connect devices in the last 300 feet of the network, or so.

Re:Hard to detect (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46836703)

"but even that has a fairly short practical limit."
nope. Any signal that has ever broadcast anywhere and has had time to get here can be picked up, you just need a big enough antenna.

I did some research, and in order to pick up a TV level signal 100 light years away, we could built an antenna the size of Rhode Island in space.

That sound big, but if you could it out of small piece you can send and it can attach itself, we could do it for not much money every year. The great thing is we could just keep adding and get more and more 'fainter' signals.

I prefer "The Time Machine" view (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 5 months ago | (#46836453)

I think we'll evolve into either Eloi or Morlocks. You're either the cattle or the meat eater.

Not Intelligent (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 5 months ago | (#46836483)

The idea that Homo Sapiens is a form of intelligent life is ludicrous.

The proof that the Universe is inhabited by intelligent life is that it has not contacted us.

--Calvin

There are many filters (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 months ago | (#46836509)

Most of our energy right now comes from old stores of energy which we have been extremely lucky to find, and which will either run out, or become too dangerous to use due to resource exhaustion.

Our behaviour can not cope without scarcity. Look at Australian aboriginal people. Placed in an environment with relatively low scarcity, their culture collapsed. In the next hundred years automation will push large parts of our populations out of work. There will still be food and shelter for them, but will those people cope psychologically?

Personally I think there is a good chance that a workable population will get off Earth before things get really bad. Maybe 20%. Ask Elon Musk. I reckon he will drive the diaspora.

Re:There are many filters (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 5 months ago | (#46836859)

Our behaviour can not cope without scarcity.

Nonsense. People often become nonviolent in societies that one, have adequate amounts of food, two, have adequate amounts of water, and three perceive themselves as isolated from attack. For example, the Tahitian men, the Minoan men on Crete, and the Central Malaysian Semai were nonviolent during the period in their history when all three of these conditions prevailed.

extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836539)

We will go extinct. Just look at the number of people who gleefully cheer on causes that are against our collective long term interests: global warming deniers, the anti science movement, insane regimes like Iran and North Korea trying to get Nukes, misuse of antibiotics, anti-birth control, etc.

Also, why is Slashdot forcing me to view this story through beta? wtf? I thought we got rid of this shit?

The flaw in the Fermi Paradox (3, Interesting)

jd.schmidt (919212) | about 5 months ago | (#46836585)

The basic problem with the Fermi Paradox is this, we don't really have a technology we ourselves would reliably use to communicate between stars, thus the fact that we can't find alien civilizations using a technology we wouldn't use proves nothing. Arguably the whole radio search is a waste of time since we have no reason to believe we will find anything, indeed we have one reason to believe we won't! For all we know, there could be lots of miniature alien probes all over our solar system right now, or maybe they communicate with wormholes, or it is impractical to communicate long distances, or who knows? Basically, we really don't even know what we are looking for in the first place, so the Paradox falls on it's face for lack of information.

Re: The flaw in the Fermi Paradox (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 5 months ago | (#46836751)

Not to mention that even if they were in the solar system they wouldn't necessarily be in a form we'd recognise as life. The premise of the Fermi Paradox seems very simplistic to me, as if aliens would just turn up in flying saucers and be humanoids. You only need to look at how diverse life is on one single planet to imagine how utterly different an alien could be to us.

Maybe technological civilization doesn't last long (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#46836589)

There's about 5,000 years of recorded human history. But there's only about 200 years of industrial civilization. It's been just about 200 years since the first time a paying customer got on a train and went someplace. Think of that as the beginning of large-scale deployment of powered technology.

It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that human activities started making a big dent in planetary resources. By now, we've extracted and used most of the easy-to-get resources. There's argument over how long it will take to run through what's left, but it's not centuries, and certainly not millennia. More difficult and sparser resources can be extracted, but that's a diminishing-returns thing.

It's quite possible that high-power technological civilization only has a lifespan of a few hundred years before the planet is used up. We might be saved by the Next Big Thing in high-power technology, but there hasn't been a major new energy source in 50 years. Nobody can get fusion to work, and fission is riskier than expected.

Re:Maybe technological civilization doesn't last l (2, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 5 months ago | (#46836723)

Which is why space travel is important, especially colonization. Think of it this way: a herd of animals lives in an area with plenty of food and water. Now, after a while, the food and water starts to dry up. Does the herd just sit around and wait to die, or does it venture out into other areas, expanding its territory. Essentially it is a natural process, and the only hope humanity has of any significantly long term existence.

Another theory (1)

Progman3K (515744) | about 5 months ago | (#46836721)

What if by the time a race has evolved sufficiently that they have mastered all technology, they simply enter another dimension to escape being destroyed by their star's death?

Physics seems to be saying there could be as many as 11 dimensions, possibly more.

Maybe you only need to exist at right-angles to this one to escape any devastation coming and maybe then energy/resource needs become a non-issue.

No need to exit the solar system then and you're effectively undetectable...

The universe is probably teeming with life, but... (4, Interesting)

MetricT (128876) | about 5 months ago | (#46836799)

We've seen fossils of simple (prokaryotic, bacterial) life that are at least 3.8 billion years old. Basically the instant it became possible for single-cell life to exist, it did. That suggests that simple life is *easy*.

It took evolution roughly a billion years to produce eukaryotic life, suggesting that step is hard. It also took 2 billion more years to produce a eukaryotic lifeform capable of space flight, suggesting that step is also hard.

The sun is predicted to make life on earth impossible in roughly ~1 billion years. An oops anywhere earlier in the process, and evolution wouldn't have had time to recover. We're lucky to exist.

So my suspicion is that the universe is relatively teeming with simple life anywhere it is possible (there are tentative signs that there *might* be life on Mars and possibly Titan too) but complex life is much rarer, rare enough that it's not surprised we haven't found any yet.

Also, wanting to communicate and explore is inherently a human desire, and whatever neo-human-cyber-whatever descendants emerge from the Singularity might not have the same desires. And I can predict their desires much more accurately than I could an aliens.

See ArsTechnica for a 9-page discussion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46836815)

The ArsTechnica discussion went on for many pages, and may have hit 1,000 posts by now. I recommended it to several friends, just for the hyperlinks to (sometimes peer reviewed) Sci-Fi.

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