"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Science Fiction Dilemma

In the Start Trek universe, travelers in deep space are always encountering other species that are of comparable technological and military capacity, competing for control of sections of the galaxy. I don't think it will work like that, but imagine if it did.

The electromagnetic signal of our emergence as a technological species is some 70 years old, enough to penetrate a 70 light-year sphere, or to penetrate, say, a 25ish light year sphere and allow for space-faring civilizations to mount a mission to pay us a friendly first-contact visit.

Imagine that there are two competing species approaching us now, about to make their pitches.

Both are physically repulsive creatures, harder to look at than the most disturbing bugs or snakes, but both claim to come in peace and encouraging us to ally with them against their sinister opponent.

How would we distinguish between these two?

Imagine we had in the vaults enough data to reconstruct some information about their home worlds.

One species' world is rich in plant life and we have enough information to conclude that it is a thriving biosphere. The other's is a smoldering wreck, and we conclude that any surviving species from that world must be maintained in enclosed life support bubbles much like their spaceships.

Would this information affect your choice of which species to ally with?


Tom said...

Hmm. Just to maintain my contrarian status I'll vote for the Repulsives (great name for a band, anyhow).

My reasoning: If the people with a great looking planet are unwilling to share resources and knowledge with the Repulsives (almost mistyped a political party there...) they must be horrible people, no matter how beautiful their environment...

Why are they fighting? Why can't we all just get along?

Michael Tobis said...

Figures. Obviously my point is, which do we want to be?

This will be a part of my argument that a spacefaring civilization is not excused from an ethical requirement to sustain its homeworld.

When one posits limits to growth, some wiseguy will always point to the immensity of extraterrestrial space.

So my counterargument is yeah, spacefaring civilization can grow without ground, but the Earth can't. And spacefaring civilization will value trips to Earth immensely, providing there is one.

So, yeah, if we live to leave the homeworld, growth is back on for humanity, but limits to growth still apply on earth.

David B. Benson said...

Read with care Chapter 12 and the Appendix to "The Logic of Chance" by Eugene Koonin. He makes a strong argument that there is no life anywhere but on Terra.

Tom said...

I agree that there are limits to growth. I submit that we are a long, long way from nearing those limits.

I firmly believe this planet could feed, cloth and house 20 billion humans. Maybe more.

Ken Fabian said...

I think we would have too little information; perhaps the one ruined world is a result of ruthless exploitation, attempted invasion or genocide by the other. The obvious - that they did it to themselves - may or may not be true. I suspect we would have to sift through the information these visitors provide and look for consistency and accuracy.