I continue this week with part two of the questions for evidence of runaway intelligence. Last week I was focused on why runaway intelligence happened – particularly, why didn’t it happen for hundreds of millions of years. This week I ponder more on why we do not see more evidence of it elsewhere.
Runaway Intelligence Evidence
Ok, so runaway intelligence took a mere twenty to two hundred thousand years to really take off. In context, that is far less than 1 degree of the 360 degrees it takes for the sun to complete an orbit in the Milky Way. Project forward, and it is not difficult to imagine a mere million more years of evolution to get to solar or even galactic level impact. This is what I referred to in the Drake Equation post.
So this question is not simply why do we not see green aliens visiting us. That question seems so… anthropocentric. The question is, with all the observable universe, why do we not see any evidence of it out there. Truly, we have begun to see further than ever before, and the discovery of exoplanets is enough for me to begin to conclude that evidence of runaway intelligence (several orders of intelligence leaps beyond human) should begin to be observable.
For instance, why have we not seen any sign of a Dyson Sphere (admittedly, that’s a poor example – but there must be similar constructs that are visible). Why don’t we see examples of pure carbon galaxies due to runaway carbon nanomachines (sounds strange, but just a little bit of time reading Nick Bostrom and you realize just how possible it is)? Why don’t we see some galactic paper clip making machines in distance galaxies? Why don’t we see engineered supernovas triggered early as a form of energy consumption?
A standard answer of course is the speed of light – what we see hasn’t had enough time. But I don’t buy it. Your typical molecule on earth has gone through two to five full solar life cycles. Surely given the near infinite mass of material we can see even now (or rather even back then), there must be at least something. Could it just be that we aren’t looking for it smartly enough – or at all – such that we wouldn’t know it if we were?
That last question has been the focus of my thought. Instead of unique oxygen or protein markers in atmospheres of exoplanets, perhaps instead we should be looking for strangely consistent homogeneous systems in stars – or even galaxies. Surely, a borgified galaxy will be visually distinctive from other galaxies from a distance. Surely the wavelength of harnessed stars should have distinctive shifts not explainable by science. Why are we not more actively focused on all the unusual entities in the night sky, and theorizing how they could be shining beacons of evidence of higher higher intelligence?
And then to conclude, I have to admit that if you combine this week with the previous week’s question on a runaway intelligence spark, the answer is more disheartening. We should have seen life earlier… and we should be able to see life out there, but we aren’t. That’s 0 for 2 for evidence of the inevitability for higher life … or worse, if you count individual stars as data points. The hit to my psyche is more than just asking why we don’t see evidence of life, but the realization that we are in the hole, zero for two.