A Futurist’s Assumptions

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on January 12, 2012 0 Comments

I read a LOT of Science Fiction… have for the better part of 60 years.  From that I have gleaned some facts and been inspired to do a lot of thinking about Tomorrow’s tomorrows.  In order for what I believe to be our only viable future as a species to happen (we need to colonize space, other planets in the solar system, our asteroid belt, and ultimately planets around other stars), some assumptions need to be made AND evaluated.  One day I got bored and began listing the assumptions I was making, and the assumptions that followed once I saw mine on the paper.  Herewith, then…

MY ASSUMPTIONS:

 

  • First and most basic assumptions:
    • Given enough time, anything that can happen, will happen.
    • Anything that happens once is likely to happen again, in the same place, or somewhere else
  • Intelligence:
    • All intelligent and all sentient species on Earth, are, or evolved from, carnivores
    • Carnivores are, by evolutionary necessity, subject to a disease called curiosity, because they often have to actually look for, chase or dig out their food.
    • Curiosity advances intelligence by its very nature; however…
    • Not all carnivores reach great intelligence and almost none evolve to sentience.
  • Earth’s solar system evolved around a Type “G” Star
    • Roughly 500,000 Type “G” stars exist in the Milky Way Galaxy
    • Type “G” stars ‘live’ about 8 billion years – a few perhaps 12 billion
    • Type “G” stars in the Milky Way Galaxy are distributed approximately equally along a timeline from <1 billion to +/-8 billion years old.
    • Earth’s star is approximately half way along that timeline
    • No “G” Type star in the Milky Way is more than 60,000 light years from Earth
    • At least ten percent (50,000) of Type “G” stars have “E” (Earth) Class planets
    • 25,000 (half of) “G” Type stars in our galaxy with “E” Class planets are as old as, or older than, ours
    • “E” Class planets develop life at +/- 3 billion years
    • Life, once established, evolves to sentience w/in +/- 1 billion years (IF it evolves to sentience at all)
    • “Civilization,” defined as an interdependent community with a geographically fixed center (a town) and specialized workers, evolves w/in +/- 5 million years of sentience
    • “Civilization” on Earth is less than 15,000 years old
    • “Industro-Civilization” on Earth is less than 300 years old
    • “Techno-Civilization” on Earth is less than 100 years old
  • All civilizations endure a Socio/Techno mismatch period in which belief systems dispute with science-based world views, which often leads to devastating war… often more than one. 
    • A significant percentage of “Techno-Civilizations” successfully pass through our present Socio/Techno mismatch, or,
    • If nuclear war occurs, the survivors ae able to maintain or regain technological knowledge
    • Once successfully through the mismatch, there is no reason for a Techno-Civilization to die out
    • Hundreds, perhaps thousands of “Techno-Civilizations” of ages up to 4 billion years may exist within 60,000 light years of Earth
    • Once a civilization advances to “Industro/Techno,” it advances knowledge and capability logarithmically (Moore’s Law is an example) unless interrupted by catastrophic failure (comet impact, nuclear war, decimating disease, all of the above)
  • Earth Predictions w/in 200 years: 
    • Genetic engineering:
      • Begin to convert even humans from “natural selection” to “functional selection”
      • Manipulate genes for strength, disease & parasite resistance, intelligence and creativity, longevity, etc.
      • Begin to think about “special functions” (e.g., gills, infrared vision, “heavy planet” survival, etc.)
      • Begin to manipulate other species for maximization of food value, intelligence (could be problematical), work capability, etc.
    • Technology: 
      • Room temperature superconductivity
      • Organic computers based on DNA or DNA-type data storage
      • Regular interplanetary – interasteroidal/cometary commerce
      • Interstellar capability at some significant percentage of lightspeed (probe to Centauri?)
  • Earth Predictions w/in 1,000 years:  
    • Genetic Engineering:
      • Significant genetically engineered increase in lifespan (@ least one order of magnitude)
      • Function-specific human (and other species) forms common
    • Technology: 
      • Humans live on other planets & in LaGrange Point stations
      • Space-based industry is standard
      • Humans have gone to other stars
  • After 1,000 years: 
    • Genetic Engineering: 
      • No reason humans should not continue to expand lifespan (>/=10,000, 100,000, whatever?)
      • Create multiple specialized ‘human’ species (see Dune)?
      • Engineer for low/zero gravity life, super-low O2 conditions, estivation, electronic interface optimization, etc.?
    • Technology:
      • Generation ships?
      • Man-techno interface to operate ships?
      • High % lightspeed ships (25%, 50%, higher?)
  • General Facts: 
    • When an object is accelerated to a significant percentage of lightspeed, its mass increases. As lightspeed is approached, mass approaches infinity.
    • When an object is accelerated to a significant percentage of lightspeed, time is slowed for and within that object
    • Interstellar travel is possible for a relatively short-lived species if one assumes: 
      • You can never go home (humans have done this since the beginning of the species)
      • Humans can survive very long flight times and reintegrate onto a planetary surface
      • nterstellar travel, and even commerce, is much more possible for a long-lived species
      • If lifespan is expanded to the tens or hundreds of thousands of years, multi-thousand year journeys are not unthinkable
    • Time appears (to me) to have some characteristics of energy or a force (think of photons being both wave and particle).

CONCLUSIONS:

  • ·Human lifespan may increase by multiple orders of magnitude
  • ·Fractional lightspeed travel could achieve accelerations to near-lightspeed
  • ·Longevity plus the time dilation of high-fraction lightspeed makes distance and travel time nearly irrelevant to the traveler
  • Subjective travel time across the galaxy (60,000 ly) at 75% light might be 10,000 yrs or less (objective time would, of course, be 80,000+ yrs)
  • Civilizations =/> 4 billion years old likely exist
  • If civilization arises at +/- 4 billion years, and half the planets are our age or older (most older), most existing civilizations are significantly older, and by extension more advanced, than ours
  • More than half those civilizations are less than 20,000 light years away (less than 27,000 objective travel years @ 75% ls)
  • Once Earth began emitting electronic signals modified to carry data, we became ‘visible’ to interstellar species (‘visible’ does not equal ‘seen’)
  • We have probably been visited, but 
    • not as a result of our visibility as humans.
    • Earth is a life-supporting planet, and thus, attractive.

OTHER CONSEQUENCES

  • A 10,000-ton vessel travelling at 75% lightspeed generates a lot of mass
  • 100,000 10,000-ton vessels travelling at 75% light generate a LOT of mass
  • Could a great deal of high lightspeed interstellar travel create enough relativistic mass to account for a significant amount of dark matter/energy?

THE OPPOSITE VIEW (it’s a lot shorter)

  • Mammals and dinosaurs had a common ancestor, thus their separate precursors arose together
  • Dinosaurs got a head start on diversification and filled most of the niches (no idea why)
  • In 500 million years, no dinosaur species ever achieved sentience, or even the basic intelligence of a dog
  • Mammals achieved little diversification and no success beyond bare survival, during the reign of the dinosaurs
  • Mammals survived the die-off 65 million years ago that did for EVERY dinosaur species, mostly because they basically lived underground, and lived as scavengers (albeit very stupid and very unattractive scavengers), so they were able to survive on everything else that died
  • Once the dinosaurs were all dead, mammals, for no discernable reason, achieved intelligence, and finally sentience, in essentially less than 15% of the time of the entire dinosaur period (they achieved nothing until the dinosaurs died)
  • Life, diversity and biocomplexity are inevitable on an Earth-type planet
  • Intelligence, and especially sentience, are NOT inevitable (no comet/asteroid impact at end of Jurassic = no intelligent mammals)

THE EVEN SIMPLER (and even shorter) OPPOSITE VIEW

  • To be life-supporting, an “E” type planet needs two things:
  1. an atmosphere of a survivable density and chemical make-up 
    1. To achieve that circumstance, a planet of Earth’s density needs a satellite of appropriate mass to sweep away enough (but not too much) of the pre-oxygen atmosphere – Venus is offered as an instructional case study of the opposite case
    2. The Earth/Luna dual planet structure may be unique in its mass/distance relationship, especially early in the existence of the moon.
    3. Ergo, no moon = no life on Earth
    4. Conversely, Mars is offered as a case study in which the planet was not dense enough to hold enough of its atmosphere to support life if it ever got started
  2. A planetary orbit far enough from the sun to provide life-supporting air and water temperature, but close enough to benefit from solar heating.
  • We may be all alone! OR:
  • All of the above may hold true for Red Dwarf stars 
    • they “live” longer than “G” Type stars; therefore,
    • they provide a longer window of opportunity for both life and intelligence to evolve.
  • We may have LOTS of company!

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...but I'm a WAY better listener than most people think, and a better advisor than anyone knows.

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