Alien Hunters Still Thinking Inside The Box (or Dyson Sphere)

As those who are familiar with my writing already know, I have long thought that the SETI program was highly illogical, for a number of reason, some of which are outlined here and here.

To summarize, it is the height of anthropomorphic and unimaginative thinking to assume that ET will evolve just like we did and develop radio technology at all.  Even if they did, and followed a technology evolution similar to our own, the era of high-powered radio broadcasts should be insignificant in relation to the duration of their evolutionary history.  In our own case even, that era is almost over, as we are moving to highly networked and low-powered data communication (e.g. Wi-Fi), which is barely detectable a few blocks away, let alone light years.  And even if we happened to overlap a 100-year radio broadcast era of a civilization in our galactic neighborhood, they would still never hear us, and vice versa, because the signal level required to reliably communicate around the world becomes lost in the noise of the cosmic microwave background radiation before it even leaves the solar system.

So, no, SETI is not the way to uncover extraterrestrial intelligences.

Dyson Sphere

Some astronomers are getting a bit more creative and are beginning to explore some different ways of detecting ET.  One such technique hinges on the concept of a Dyson Sphere.  Physicist Freeman Dyson postulated the idea in 1960, theorizing that advanced civilizations will continuously increase their demand for energy, to the point where they need to capture all of the energy of the star that they orbit.  A possible mechanism for doing so could be a network of satellites surrounding the solar system and collecting all of the energy of the star.  Theoretically, a signature of a distant Dyson Sphere would be a region of space emitting no visible light but generating high levels of infrared radiation as waste.  Some astronomers have mapped the sky over the years, searching for such signatures, but to no avail.

Today, a team at Penn State is resuming the search via data from infrared observatories WISE and Spitzer.  Another group from Princeton has also joined in the search, but are using a different technique by searching for dimming patterns in the data.

I applaud these scientists who are expanding the experimental boundaries a bit.  But I doubt that Dyson Spheres are the answer.  There are at least two flaws with this idea.

First, the assumption that we will continuously need more energy is false.  Part of the reason for this is the fact that once a nation has achieved a particular level of industrialization and technology, there is little to drive further demand.  The figure below, taken from The Atlantic article “A Short History of 200 Years of Global Energy Use” demonstrates this clearly.


In addition, technological advances make it cheaper to obtain the same general benefit over time.  For example, in terms of computing, performing capacity per watt has increased by a factor of over one trillion in the past 50 years.  Dyson was unaware of this trend because Moore’s Law hadn’t been postulated until 1965.  Even in the highly corrupt oil industry, with their collusion, lobbying, and artificial scarcity, performance per gallon of gas has steadily increased over the years.

The second flaw with the Dyson Sphere argument is the more interesting one – the assumptions around how humans will evolve.  I am sure that in the booming 1960s, it seemed logical that we would be driven by the need to consume more and more, controlling more and more powerful tools as time went on.  But, all evidence actually points to the contrary.

We are in the beginning stages of a new facet of evolution as a species.  Not a physical one, but a consciousness-oriented one.  Quantum Mechanics has shown us that objective reality doesn’t exist.  Scientists are so frightened by the implications of this that they are for the most part in complete denial.  But the construct of reality is looking more and more like it is simply data.  And the evidence is overwhelming that consciousness is controlling the body and not emerging from it.  As individuals are beginning to understand this, they are beginning to recognize that they are not trapped by their bodies, nor this apparent physical reality.

Think about this from the perspective of the evolution of humanity.  If this trend continues, why will we even need the body?

Robert Monroe experienced a potential future (1000 years hence), which may be very much in line with the mega-trends that I have been discussing on “No sound, it was NVC [non-vocal communication]! We made it! Humans did it! We made the quantum jump from monkey chatter and all it implied.” (“Far Journeys“)

earthWe may continue to use the (virtual) physical reality as a “learning lab”, but since we won’t really need it, neither will we need the full energy of the virtual star.  And we can let virtual earth get back to the beautiful virtual place it once was.

THIS is why astronomers are not finding any sign of intelligent life in outer space, no matter what tools they use.  A sufficiently advanced civilization does not communicate using monkey chatter, nor any technological carrier like radio waves.

They use consciousness.

So will we, some day.

3 Responses to Alien Hunters Still Thinking Inside The Box (or Dyson Sphere)

  1. olivefarmer says:

    The reality is designed such that we can see and even explore “out there” and perhaps travel there, but unless the game design/core programme includes “aliens” then there aren’t any.
    If there are aliens then one must assume that if they are advanced enough to visit this place they must live in a reality based on the first principle: love. This conclusion is easy, as those that don’t will always invent weapons of mass destruction and the use them. Our own species as iterated in the game serves as an example. Such weapons proliferate, those willing to use them will always rise to positions of being able to use them, ergo we will self-destruct unless we change everything we understand and every system we organise ourselves by, viz. hierarchy, competition, class, religion, race, nation and chief amongst them money.
    This is simple logic.
    And if they are out there, what must they think of us?
    Not “Mostly Harmless”, but “Mostly Harmless Dominated by Utterly Evil Psychopaths”, and therefore no place for a vacation…….

  2. fcine929 says:

    I’ve been thinking lately that maybe the reason we’re not finding anyone is that after the early 20th century, we seemed to ‘evolve’ the most arrogant scientists in the universe in order to combat also having the most arrogant religions in the universe! All the other intelligent life (assuming there is any) moved on and opened their mind once they discovered quantum entanglement and just how deep the rabbit hole goes with variations on the double slit… so it’s just down to us and our virtual reality denying scientific community sending out old episodes of I Love Lucy and various political speeches (cause THAT will make sense to alien life /s).

    I had a similar thought today when visiting the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Looking at bio luminescent ocean life, I thought it’d be funny if the simulators entered the simulation just before turning it off and were like, “Really?! None of these things were tells to you sims? You really believed ‘nature self selected the sea creatures that were the brightest until they effectively had light bulbs inside their bodies? You didn’t realize it was so YOU could see them down there? Come on man, that was an inside joke! Our programmer ‘PanD00A-R0X’, that’s his signature thing cause he’s a huge James Cameron fan since forever (or at least the first 50 times we ran your sim).

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