Friday, April 29, 2016

Delaying Our Doomsday

The average lifetime of an intelligent civilization is one of the variables in the Drake Equation used to estimate the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy. Attaching a quantity to this variable invites not only scientists but also political philosophers into the discussion of our path to finding intelligent life. Because our species is the only intelligent society we know of, determining the average likelihood of intelligent species is mostly dependant on our single data set sample size: us.

One reflective question to ask with outward projection: How long are we going to survive as a species. This is widely disputed across the board, but I have a fairly optimistic point of view. The naturalistic argument is too frequently paired with an outdated anti-industrialist point of view. Too frequently, take a transcendentalist. After all, I consider myself a fan of pomp and convention. It is too late to assert that as humans all we need should be water, food, and love. This is no longer true with today’s size of population. We have a lot more problems to deal with-- but in many ways we have naturally developed infrastructure to match everyone’s needs.

But that’s besides the point. If we think of the progress we’ve made in creating a structure of peace, by the numbers, modern human civilization has been incredibly successful. Consistently, decade after decade, the rate of deaths attributed to war has consistently decreased. Compared with tribes in amazon in the 1900’s, of whom the death rates ranged from 20%-60% coming from murder, the 20th century Europe and U.S. tolled immensely less (around 1%), even including World War I and II. Moreover, since those times we only become even more exponentially peaceful. The death rate attributed to war in 2016 is far below 1% of the world’s population.

Under these statistics, I really believe that we are going to keep progress moving into more consistent eras of unparalleled peace. While many argue the fact that we know are living in a world with much more risk, given the threat of nuclear power-- I argue the opposite. We have been in possession as a global power of nuclear weapons well over 50 years and we haven’t had any type of imminent threat from nuclear war for some time now. In many ways, actually, the new level of peace in the twenty first century can be attributed to the possession of nuclear weapons and the threat of mutually assured destruction.

If we are going to assume, however, that intelligent societies generally will not self implode, going forward we have to think more critically about the fermi’s paradox. If it is indeed true that intelligent life doesn’t self-destruct then why haven’t we been visited by any civilizations that are indulging in their worlds of unforeseen scientific progress and peace as we predicted.
- Sean Moore