Well, Igor, it’s been quite a while since we’ve tried one of these Monday posts, but for some reason I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by. Wikipedia has that my birthdate (and Charles Bernstein’s, go figure!) is within a few days of this guy’s (we’ll need lots of silly coincidences like this in future, it would seem):
NYT (12/29 ’11): “Charles Krauthammer: Are we alone in the universe?”
… As we inevitably find more and more exo-planets where intelligent life can exist, why have we found no evidence — no signals, no radio waves — that intelligent life does exist? // It’s called the Fermi Paradox, after the great physicist who once asked, “Where is everybody?” Or as was once elaborated: “All our logic, all our anti- isocentrism, assures us that we are not unique — that they must be there. And yet we do not see them.” [emphasis in original]
Back a generation ago David Frum’s mom had C.K. on her national TV program practically every month. I thought she was pulling our leg by exposing someone that scary, but apparently (from her son’s subsequent career) she was playing it straight.
Further on in the piece Krauthammer is asserting that after humanity’s near-death experience in ’62 there’s a “high probability that advanced civilizations destroy themselves” and it’s clear that politics is key to our survival. Well, that too, but I think that the problem has more to do with how the Periodic Table is organized in such a way that we are offered abundant useable energy through the simple expedient of cramming lots of heavy atoms close together with the single downside that the byproducts cannot be contained over the long term and will kill everyone when they inevitably escape
Put your mind to it and you can do a heck of a lot more damage with a plowshare than with a sword — that’s perhaps the real legacy of Guy Suits and his friends.
But where is everyone? I think one or a few of them are right here. If 3/11 hadn’t occurred in just the way it did we would not have gotten a definitive demonstration that the waste building up at nuclear power plants was becoming an existential threat to the species. Without that Cass nudge we’d merrily have continued on our way creating spent fuel rods and our chance of survival would have sailed over the horizon like a toy helium balloon. It’s very likely we will anyway.
The bad news is that the Drake equation implies getting the right answer to this skill testing question is likely something around 1 to 100,000 against. The good news, though, is that the presence of a kibitzer giving us a small hint implies the existence of that “1”
So here I am, addicted to yet another “Save the World” video game where I’m trying to, well, save the world. Happy New Year to all you doomers out there and please wish me luck as I dream some anthropic dreams. Sancho, my horse!