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If you are not yet familiar with this series, please review Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 before proceeding.  Without familiarity with the preceding parts, what follows will likely be unintelligible.  This is the concluding segment of the series, where I expand the time horizon to the titular frame of 1 million years (1 My), having applied energy-economic thinking to imagine a broad framework for the distant future.

It has been about seven months since the last entry in the series, which I had suspended due to apparent lack of interest - Part 6 attracted only four commenters - but I've received a specific request to finish the series, and have therefore decided to write the final segment.

Table of Contents

(Current part in Bold)

   I.  The Energy History of Life (Part 1)
   II.  The Energy History of Humanity (Part 1)
   III.  The Next Decade (Part 2)
   IV.  The Next Century (Part 3)
   V.  The Next Millennium (Part 4)
   VI.  10,000 Years (Part 5)
   VII.  100,000 Years (Part 6)
   VIII.  Mark: One Million Years (Part 7)

At the conclusion of Part 6, the human "species" is no longer a singularly-defined organism so much as a multi-star technological ecosystem divided between star-centered Root systems and itinerant Spore civilizations.  There is no longer any meaningful distinction between living organisms and technology, because they occur on a continuous spectrum in an unimaginable multitude of forms, sizes, and associations along the common energy pathways that guide evolution.  When I refer to "humanity," I therefore refer to this abstract human-derived ecosystem rather than to biological entities who resemble homo sapiens - although creatures vaguely like us will still exist in various places at various times.

Over the 100 ky timeframe in Part 6, a process had begun in the solar system (and nearby stellar civilizations) whereby the resources of the Outer Root undergo an accelerating migration into the Inner Root - i.e., the raw materials and volatiles of the planetary/cometary halo are increasingly brought inward toward the Sun as a result of economic imbalances described earlier.  The rocky Inner Planets and Main Belt asteroids are basically dissolved, adding to the density of the IR Disk and its expansion into something effectively like a Dyson sphere - although it need not necessarily be a singular structure: Simply a system that efficiently collects solar energy from every direction.  Speculating on the engineering specifics of these structures would be a fool's errand, but the fact remains that the energy logic of surrounding a star is unavoidable.  

As the gas giants, and eventually even nearby dust comes to be depleted, the Outer Root ceases to exist and its civilizations either merge with what we can now call the IR Sphere or become Spore and emigrate.  This results in a new material scarcity whose consequences are predictable: To do more with the same amount of matter requires more energy, greater energy efficiency, or both, so the IR Sphere would migrate further inward toward the Sun, becoming both thinner, denser, and more computationally intensive.  With the intricacy and energy of the processes taking place, the rate of evolution occurring within this Sphere in a single second would outweigh all of human history to date.

As it becomes more efficient and adept at manipulating its host star, the IR Sphere comes to increasingly follow its minute contours and flux patterns, like an oil slick on the ocean.  It may be found useful to increase or decrease the stellar surface area, or conduct other changes that serve the inscrutable purposes of this civilization.  What would essentially be happening is that the Sphere would be "merging" with its star, transforming the star into an ultra-complex, high-energy ecosystem as the computational "skin" migrates inward and induces internal structural changes by manipulating solar output.  

Oil Slick

This is a natural progression along the process that has been occurring throughout the history of evolution - the climb up the prime energy pathway, which in our case is the Sun.  Once civilization becomes Sun-centered, the next step is clearly inward migration, and it seems likely that migration would not stop at the corona or photosphere - the ultimate source of the free energy is the stellar core where fusion is taking place.  Likewise, the depletion of planetary matter means that solar material itself would have to suffice, so not only would the Sun be a source of energy, but also of matter.


"We" would in essence become the Sun, and in the process transform it to fit "our" needs.  At this point it is necessary to use quotes when saying "we," "us," or "human," because this civilization has less in common with what we know than we have in common with an ant colony, but its shape and progress are still predictable because life follows the useable energy.

What we have then, as fantastic as it sounds, is a conscious star.  The concept seems almost psychedelic - the merging of humanity and the Sun - but we find that technology over the long term often does begin to approach things only dreamt of in ancient spiritual musings.  Buddhism, for instance, pioneered as a spiritual maxim what is today the foundational principle of science: Causality.  For Buddha, it was an intuition rather than an observation - the seeing of all things as part of a river with both an upstream cause and a downstream effect.  The principle is known as dependent origination in Buddhism, which contrasts sharply with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic universe where an all-powerful tyrant just makes things happen because he feels like it.  For today's scientists and rational thinkers, causality is just common sense, and any supposition that violates it is false by definition.

Sunward migration will, I think, prove a similar phenomenon over the vastness of time, although with plenty of complications along the way (as described in previous Parts of this series).  I should note that I got the initial idea of Sunward migration from David Brin's Second Uplift Trilogy - Brin is himself a Kossack, and posts occasionally - although the energistic/evolutionary basis for the concept is my own thinking.  His interpretation was that this would be based on some instinctive attraction to deeper and deeper gravity wells, whereas I have gone with the simpler view that maximum useable energy at minimum cost dictates evolution.  

X-Ray Neutron Star

This could lead to similar outcomes between my framework and Brin's literary universe - e.g., I see no reason why the same Root/Spore evolutions would not favor advanced settlement of and migration toward neutron stars and black hole disks.  In fact, that is probably what would happen over timespans much longer than 1 My as settled stars leave the Main Sequence (or are artificially driven off of it).  Still, I will voluntarily end my predictions at 1 My, because the settlement of stars is as far as known physics takes me - as flimsy as my basis for this series may be (and I actually think it pretty sound, all things considered), beyond that point is totally arbitrary speculation.

Now, getting back to the point, the Milky Way Galaxy is mostly settled at 1 My: Which means in practice that the volume of settled systems encompasses most of the galaxy, not that most star systems are occupied.  This is similar to how the world is full of people right now, but it doesn't lack for empty land.  The way the galaxy will be filled is, as stated in Part 6, through migration along the galactic spiral arms where stars are both numerically densest and most energetic.

Black Eye Galaxy  

Growth would occur in all directions, of course, but those proceeding along spiral arms would meet with the most success and the quickest turnaround of new colonization drives.  However, in keeping with the "middle-case" thesis made in Part 1 of this series, it may also be probable that moderately-dense areas of the arms will leapfrog the richest by producing more advanced Spore iterations.  Eventually the cascades going outward toward the galactic rim will achieve a steady-state, while that going inward toward the galactic center will find an ever-richer environment of increasingly dense, powerful stars.  It would take longer than 1 My for the distinction to become stark, but this would be the basis for a new Root/Spore boundary: The galactic hub would be Root, and its arms Spore.

At the beginning of the current time horizon, we have three active Spore iterations: N+2, N+3, and N+4, respectively corresponding to in-system trader civilizations / one-way interstellar colonizers, cyclers among nearby systems, and large migratory seed civilizations that travel indefinitely and fission off lower-level Spore.  Each iteration is very different in size and the time periods over which it operates - for instance, an N+4 may not even consider its role as a seed-colonizer significant, and may merely fulfill that role as a secondary consequence of other pursuits over hundreds or thousands of years.

As the planetary resources of stars are depleted and the Root civilizations migrate into the stellar body, there is no longer a large-scale economic basis for Spore civilization as I've defined it so far.  There are not enough outer system resources to trade for directed energy, so the Root becomes increasingly efficient at making do with  diffuse stellar matter for applications that require mass.  Once the Root becomes "Starmind," I suppose it's possible it may develop ways to change neighboring stars into copies of itself through energetic manipulation at a distance, but this is just one possibility and not at all necessary to the model.  What is likely is that Starminds will communicate and form information networks.

By this point, the "Sun" is a backwater node in the galaxy - its environment is not especially dense, and as a G2 Main Sequence star its output is modest, so there's nothing special about it.  If any memory exists that galactic civilization originated there, let alone on a planet, it's probably just one among an infinite multitude of equally unprovable theories and myths - and the role of what we think of as humanity would not be known at all.  

All of our history and the things we know today would be an insignificant solution to a general equation in some of the models used to understand the past - but we would not be known.  Our whole world would probably not be known, having been dismantled for materials in the birth of the IR Disk - something that itself is just a distant memory to the Starmind that had been the Sun.  But though the Starmind would have forgotten so much, it would have discovered much more than we can imagine.

Spore would no longer be present in regions populated by Starminds - the raw materials that support them would be scarce, so they would be increasingly pushed outward toward regions of the galaxy where Starminds are diffuse, slower to evolve, and have more material nearby.  This is the initial formation of a galactic Root/Spore boundary mentioned earlier - the Root would consist of Starmind networks, and be progressively swept clean of planetary systems, while the extant Spore iterations would continue in their itinerant capacities in outer parts of the Milky Way in association with low-energy IR Disks and embryonic Dyson spheres.

Map of Milky Way

With the formation of the galactic Root/Spore boundary, entire star systems and stellar clusters on the outer rim, the Northern/Southern faces of the galaxy, and the sparse inter-arm regions of the Milky Way begin to exhibit Spore behavior - we can call this the N+5 iteration.  They may manipulate their galactic orbits to migrate over long periods between the energy-dense Starmind regions and the energy-poor areas that continue to have large quantities of raw material, and in this way form a scaled-up version of the N+2 Traders that had once functioned within solar systems.  Also like N+2 (with respect to stars), they may set themselves on escape trajectories and head out of the galaxy entirely, although I think such expeditions would be very infrequent due to the time and resource constraints involved.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of "nearby" satellite galaxies.


This is as far as 1 million years takes me.  If we were to extend it to 10 or 20 My, I would say that stars in the Starmind network would migrate their orbits inward toward the galactic core in order to have more rapid communication and a richer energy environment, ultimately forming a Galactic Mind, and that large associations of stars would leave the galaxy as N+5 Spore (perhaps they would look like small elliptical galaxies...hmmmm...)  But it doesn't take very long to say that, so I can just leave it as a concluding segue.

Now, I consider this series a highly cautious set of predictions - it requires no new physics, posits no deus ex machina from AI or ET, and doesn't even rule out any number of global apocalypses between then and now: All it posits is that we survive, and if that is granted then the most probable ways I am wrong are in setting these evolutions too far in the future.  We will discover and utilize weird physics, so this is a baseline future - the way things will pan out if our understanding fails to fundamentally advance.  Try to wrap your head around that: This series is not a blue-sky idealistic science fiction fantasy, it is stingy - it is what nature impels us to become, even in the total absence of any special genius or serendipity.  Never doubt that Life is more awesome than you can imagine.


Originally posted to Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:12 PM PST.


The predictions of this series are...

10%4 votes
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| 40 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

    by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:12:12 PM PST

  •  Oh dude, I was thinking this exact same thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Troubadour, rfall
    in 1972 after 2 tabs of brown windowpane.

    _"George, when I want your opinion I'll give it to you!" -Dick Cheney 2002_

    by oopsaDaisy on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:49:26 PM PST

    •  Yes, but did you see images as good as these? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, oopsaDaisy


      "They will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality." - Thamus, Plato's Phaedrus

      by rfall on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:07:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  even better: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Hypnagogic imagery.

        The hypnagogic state occurs in the descent from waking to sleeping, and is usually not remembered, though there are simple techniques for inducing it and retaining awareness.  

        In my experience with this, the visuals are more rich, more deeply colorful, and more complex, than almost anything I've seen through "more conventional means."  Though, these effects are mostly sensory and not often accompanied by the more thorough alterations of consciousness that are conducive to personal and philosophical insight.

  •  What makes us special? (5+ / 0-)

    In the history of multicellular life, there have been several times that the biosphere "collapsed".  Some of these we know occurred due to forces from off-planet -- the KT event and the comet or asteroid that hit the planet most famously.

    But most likely, at least some of these incidents were caused by life itself.  Best example is the later was probably the [ Late Devonian Event].  Vascular plants, including trees, appear on land for the first time, and it appears that vast amounts of nutrients were freed up from the surface as the newly evolved land plants broken up the surface into soil for the first time.  The seas appear to have strangled on the increase.

    I don't think, as your series posits, that either our species or those of previous biomes were ever really in equilibrium.  Any kind of balance was very temporary when viewed from geological time.  And I certainly don't think that the biome on Earth has been in anything like equilibrium since humans began to leave Africa in great numbers.

    We are, in our own way, very much like those late Devonian trees.  Homo sapiens is poorly named.  We are very clever, but we are not particularly wise.  Keeping the planet habitable long enough to use technology to spread beyond it will take great restraint, the kind that requires great patience and wisdom.  I am not sure we have enough of this.  We could easily force ourselves into a preindustrial economy where the means of readily rebuilding would be much harder than this time, since resources would be harder to find and extract once we recovered enough knowledge to do this.  And I do think think that the preservation of knowledge for thousands of years is something we have yet to perfect.

    We may survive, if in spite of ourselves.  I don't have a problem with futurism per se.  But increasing, the path the future of humanity is surviving the present.  Do we have the needed wisdom?  I do not know.

    You can't govern if you can't tell the country where you are taking it. The plot of Obama's presidency has been harder to follow than "Inception." -- F. Rich

    by mbayrob on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:02:06 PM PST

    •  The possibility exists for extinction (0+ / 0-)

      but I don't think it exists at all for a persistent Dark Age.  If a modern knowledge base survives anywhere in the world following a catastrophe, it would spread back over the rest of the planet within a few generations.  As for the extinction possibility, I don't rate it very highly.  Annihilating a modern technological civilization in possession of the scientific method requires basically extirpating every last person and every last scrap of knowledge.

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:45:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  knowledge yes, but technology.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        .... depends on resources such as abundant and easily-obtained raw materials and energy.  To the extent that we lose the means of extracting these from lower- and lower-density sources, we may find ourselves trapped in something analogous to the bottom of a nasty gravity well with no way to get out.  

        •  Only the most advanced knowledge (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          requires abundant energy and raw materials - i.e., manufacturing state-of-the-art microprocessors.  The baseline knowledge behind computers - mathematics, programming language, and electrical circuitry - is easily obtainable from books in every half-decent library in the world.  If we lost computers tomorrow, there would be chaos and a lot of bad shit would happen, but we'd be back to the 1970s within five or ten years - not the Dark Ages.

          Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

          by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 10:49:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  speaking of the 1970s.... (0+ / 0-)

            .... the relay contact-points in electromechanical telephone switches use highly refined palladium, which in turn requires energy-intensive technology to extract and purify.  

            But I'm not just talking about information tech.  As mineral deposits in general are mined out, we end up using less and less pure mineral sources that require more complex & energy-intensive refining.  Manufacturing processes are also highly leveraged into microprocessor dependence: try disassembling even an average kid's toy today, much less a typical small appliance; and the same trend is occurring across the spectrum of manufactured goods.  

            The process of recovery from a knock-down event of any kind will be more drawn out in the absence of cheap minerals and energy sources.  And the recovery and use of technical knowledge also has to fight the impacts of obscurantist religions used to support various social power structures.

            See also Somalia for what happens when things break.

  •  Oh, I thought (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, rfall

    ...that read "Hannity" in One Million Years.  I was expecting zombie photos.  Sorry.  :)

  •  I didn't catch the earlier editions, but I didn't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Troubadour, littlenomad

    need to read them to follow this, either.

    But I have been reading hard science fiction, written by authors who have a background in astrophysics, chaos theory, chemistry and other real science areas of knowledge since 1972, when I was ten or eleven years old.

    I've been a voracious reader of such authors my entire life.

    I've got Brin's Uplift Series, all of it, both in paper and ebook versions.

    I highly recommend his "Earth", for science-possible fiction.

    I've got ten feet of wall, seven shelves high, full (mostly) of science fiction.

    So, I had some background.

    I'll pick one nit though...

    what make you think that, as humanity moves off the 3rd rock from the sun, and out into the wider Solar System and then outward, we will forget Mother Earth?

    Humans are full of tradition, and history is an integral part of what makes a race or a people, or a nation of people who they are.

    There is a very real possibility that Man and his posterity - even unto the era where there is no True Standard Human left anymore and the amalgamated forms of Sentient Life will replace any physical definition of what it is to be Human; and most especially if, by some awkward unlikelihood, homo sapiens sapiens is the only advanced sentient life form about in the universe (which I highly doubt) - will remember Mother Earth and make of Her a Memorial to the creation of Life.

    Such a planet left in the solar system, at a time when other non-stellar bodies have been consumed to fuel this pan-stellar civilization, would be an anomaly of such magnitude, that it would invite visitors to find out why it was still there.

    So even if She were forgotten by one epoch, another would learn her tale in due time...

    It was a One in a Million series, and I'm glad to have caught it, even here, at it's finish line.

    "in Order to form a more perfect Union"
    Basta de Guerra. No más. Enough War. No more.

    by Angie in WA State on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:05:22 PM PST

    •  Mother Earth. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      First, we only call it that because we live here.  I'm sure it will be known in those terms for millennia hence, but eventually it just doesn't mean anything.  Would you care which pebble in the ocean the first microbe was born on?  Would it make you sad to know it no longer exists?

      what make you think that, as humanity moves off the 3rd rock from the sun, and out into the wider Solar System and then outward, we will forget Mother Earth?

      We're talking about a million years, and civilizations more numerous and complex than the entire biosphere of Earth.  Millions of stars, billions of planets, all known in a depth and richness we can't imagine.  To think the memory of Earth would persist is more ludicrous than thinking someone would remember and revere a specific corner of their mother's womb.

      Any analogy I could make is inadequate.  It isn't like humans revering the Africa that bore our species, it would be like humans revering a speck of dust in the Pacific ocean that bore the first bacterium.

      Humans are full of tradition, and history is an integral part of what makes a race or a people, or a nation of people who they are.

      There are only three possible methods of history - cultural, archaeological, and physical.  Cultural history is that which is received, passed down by ancestors in words, stories, and records - the vast majority of it disappears with the end of the culture that created it.  Archaeological history is the guesswork at what a people were based on the fragments of their technology, monuments, and remains - only well-preserved dead societies with prominent legacies leave behind any significant trace of their existence, and even they eventually crumble to dust.  Physical history never disappears, but it's almost all guesswork - we examine tiny shards of bone, geological strata, etc. and try to imagine what things were.

      So Earth may be known as a data point in some mathematical model, a theorized fact, but the story of mankind as written so far will be dust in the wind.  We know more about the lives of our australopithecine ancestors than our distant descendents will know of ours - our lives at least vaguely resemble theirs in the basics, eating, sleeping, etc.

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:12:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  except that... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        .... one of the central traits of humans is to preserve their own history.  As the means of information storage become ever less costly in materials and energy, preserving history becomes an automatic function of the information infrastructure itself.  

        Thus the information would tend to be retained over time.  It would of course be swamped by enormous quantities of additional information, but it would be available if someone cared to follow the trail.  That in turn would tend to become a more narrowly-specialized preference over time, just as today with the specialists in anthropology and other fields who may be interested in tracing human genetic and memetic developments back to their first origins in Africa.

        •  I think the buildup of mutual history (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          over the past few centuries is a historical anomaly based on the convergence of civilization toward the global scale.  Once human beings are filling the solar system by the quadrillions in millions of independent political states, there won't be any 'glue' holding it all together: Earth's history will pass among them in shards and fragments, and then the fragments will fragment.  

          When it goes interstellar in a major way, even that will pass.  We will be a conjecture based on a theory - a poorly-articulated model of the planetary chemical process that gave rise to whatever it is that looks upon itself and wonders.  

          Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

          by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 10:14:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  the increase of spread across the galaxy... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ... only progressively narrows the degree of specialization of the interest in retaining knowledge of our history back to Earth.

            Today the common science-based mythos of human origin makes reference to Africa even though the earliest human cultures left no written records; and the mythos of life's origins make no reference to exactly where on Earth life originated.  Nonetheless we all know the rough outline of the story.

            And all other factors equal, we would prefer that there were more detailed records of both events.  For example what wouldn't we give to have had video recordings of the first humans, if such a thing was possible?

            Similarly, our distant descendants in other star systems will most likely know the story at least sufficiently to know that there was a planet called Earth located at roughly this-and-such point in the galaxy "a long long time ago."  The extent of the average person's knowledge may not exceed the extent of yours and my knowledge of early human life in Africa, but neither would it dwindle to zero.  

            And if we spread to other galaxies, then over time the common mythos would be that sentient life originated on the outskirts of one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.

            This is a scaling issue: the information doesn't disappear, it simply scales relative to the overall sense of history within a given culture, whether national, global, planetary, solar, or galactic.  

            •  Indeed, a scaling issue. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Which is why I disagree - because the analogy is not between here and ancient Africa, but between here and the rock on which the first microbe self-replicated.  The amount of change civilization(s) will have undergone in a million years would dwarf the geological changes that have taken place in the 3 billion or so years since life began, but the physical evidence of the first life is just gone - recycled into the mantle.  

              I do not think Earth will still exist, and even its Sun would be radically altered by hundreds of millennia of artificially-guided evolution.  It wouldn't even be a case of just extending migration patterns backward, because different Spore iterations will leapfrog each other and come from different initial starting points; some will come back and recolonize where their own ancestors came from, not even realizing it, and eradicating the evidence.  Waves, upon waves, upon waves criss-crossing the same territory and changing forever.

              Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

              by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 10:43:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  that first pebble... (0+ / 0-)

                We don't know where that pebble is, but we have a generalized mythos about a primordial puddle somewhere in a hospitable climate zone.  

                As for recolonization, the natural tendency to dig for artifacts will produce evidence that something came before: just as it does today with fossils of dinosaurs and suchlike from earlier stages in the evolution of life on Earth, going further back than a million years.  

                As for the Earth not existing, it's tough to beat gravity as a means of holding down an atmosphere.  

  •  I don't say this is optimistic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Troubadour fault you in any way whatsoever.  I have fears about what might happen to humanity, if we don't get our greed and biases under control.  But if we can do that, what you've provided is a fascinating vision of what might lie ahead.  

  •  I've bookmarked this for future reference. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, confitesprit

    I've bookmarked this for future reference.

    Wow, that was sort of a strange way to put things, wasn't it?

  •  You've done a lot of work modelling a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101, Troubadour

    view of exobiology that sees us kick starting off interstellar civilization; man given a significant role in biological evolution in terms of taking life far afield.

    However, I honestly don't see any of it happening. We're already losing our will to do much with space. The space shuttle program, itself less ambitious than the Apollo program that preceded it, will soon end, with no clear successor in sight.

    A future of diminishing light and medium lift vehicles operated by the Russians, privateers, and some new entrants like China is what we face.

    We'll eventually lose not only the interest, but the ability as our resources diminish. Yes there are resources in space, and a lot of them, but we're too short sighted to hold onto human spaceflight long enough to do anything with it.

    Our kind had the opportunity to become what you posit: but it isn't going to happen, and our moment may already have passed.

    If apes evolved from humans, why are there still humans?

    by Bobs Telecaster on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:29:09 PM PST

    •  I follow the growth of the commercial space (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      sector, and I can assure you that the transition away from Shuttle is for the best.  NASA and its large contractors have failed to reduce costs because they followed a cost-plus contracting model that rewards inefficiency.  

      It will take several decades to get a respectable infrastructure in place, but human expansion is inevitable - Apollo may have been transient, but it was very fortunate because it created core knowledge and inspiration that will build the more solid foundation of human expansion: One based on low-cost, high-volume technology rather than elephantine one-offs whose reliability can never be guaranteed.

      Seriously, trust me - I follow this issue ardently.  The people who want to Go Out There will never give up, and plenty of them are rich as hell and plowing their money into making it possible.  That doesn't mean average people will get to go any time soon, but "possible" is one step closer to "practical," and "practical" is one step closer to "cheap."

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:23:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  and then we'll all die miserable deaths. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'd bet that I'm a more ferocious doomer than you are, but nonetheless I believe that these exercises are highly worthwhile by way of providing a view of deep time as an incentive to not render ourselves extinct.  

      Owing to our biology, most of us have a strong instinctual preference for a view of the universe through the warm eyes of mammals, rather than the cold eyes of sentient silicon or the hot eyes of sentient stars.  I certainly share that preference.

      But I'd sooner come up with counterpoints based on a mammalian worldview, than abandon the ground and sink into the gravity well of despair.  We might after all surprise ourselves, and I wouldn't want to miss that for having failed to try.

  •  Some of the ideas in this dairy series (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    remind me of the novel Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon.  This book is incredibly ambitious in its time scale, speculation on the future of intelligence, and even trying to imagine the motives of a being that we would think of as God.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:32:33 PM PST

    •  Wow, that sounds like an awesome book. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As I often find, the most profound science fiction seems to have been written before the genre had even been articulated as a distinct literary form.  To give an example, E.M. Forster predicted the Internet in...wait for it...1909!  It was a story called The Machine Stops.  I'm putting Stapledon's book on my buy list.

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:27:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am concerned (0+ / 0-)

    about your lack of addressing gender issues, and how we would go about tackling them, as we would progress through this sequence.  Adequate gender representation is going to be very critical in the formation of a just decision making process along the way, especially in the decision of starminds.  

    I am just frankly amazed why you do not address gender issues.  They are important!

  •  Well, you've now had an increase of nearly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, confitesprit

    400 percent compared to the comments on the last installation of this series.

    I'm bookmarking and going to go back to see what you have written because what I've seen so far is somewhat interesting.

    Be well.

    We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

    by theotherside on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:23:08 PM PST

  •  I appreciate you posting this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This sort of blows my mind, but in a good way. (^_^)

    On a somewhat related note, I think I'm going to have to see if I can find some David Brin the next time I go to the library. You should consider writing some SF yourself, if you don't already.

    •  Brin is nice, but don't go out of your way. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big Tex

      Frank Herbert is who you want - specifically Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune (avoid Brian Herbert's prequels and sequels like the plague).

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:47:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Herbert's awesome. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've read his Dune books, but I've never had anything to do with the stuff that was written after his death because I had a feeeling that it would probably read like slightly better written fanfiction.

        •  Oh, BH's stuff is atrocious. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Big Tex

          Not even fanfic - it's like the guy wrote them as an act of deliberate malice against his father's literary universe.  

          I don't have to recommend Asimov and Clarke, they go without saying.  John Barnes is cool.  Poul Anderson.  Larry Niven was cool, but he's really slipping.  Stephen Baxter writes great hard SF, but he's really depressing - the science fiction equivalent of Audioslave.  Iain Banks somehow manages to be both flippant and profound, which is definitely worth seeing.    

          Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

          by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 10:36:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  And I am sort of writing SF. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big Tex, G2geek

      Only it's more social satire than ivory tower stuff.  Basically Fahrenheit 451 for the surreal Glenn Beck age.

      Man goes into cage, cage goes into politics. Shark's in the politics. Our shark.

      by Troubadour on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:48:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  counterpoint: information rather than energy. (0+ / 0-)

    Evolution follows energy curves, but it also follows information curves to increase information density over time.  I'll assert that the latter are primary and the former are means to the latter.  

    The core problem of sustaining any kind of technology close to a star, is the obvious one that heat melts and burns stuff.  Surplus heat will always have to be dumped, and a failure of the cooling system translates to destruction of the technology.   All of that has overhead costs.

    Thus I find it far more likely that intelligent species will establish themselves at various distances from stars that represent the optimization of incoming energy and information output.  

    The outer limit is the distance at which energy can be harvested (or to which it can be transmitted) to sustain the needed biological processes.  The inner limit is the distance beyond which the cost of cooling exceeds the benefits of the additional energy supply.  

    This is likely to result in a limited number of "bands" of distance.  One would be the "Goldilocks zone," and another would be a distance at which an artificial object would be able to receive energy transmitted via laser light or other tight beam methods from more than one nearby star (for example, the centerpoints of triangles of stars).  

  •  counterpoint: Starminds. (0+ / 0-)

    I have to say I find the entire concept of Starminds to be something of an extension of the tradition of Sun God worship as found in various times and places throughout human history.   That tends to make me a bit skeptical.

    For there to be minds, one of two things has to be true:

    One, there is a material entity capable of sustaining information-processing on the scale needed for consciousness, for example a brain made of neurons, or some other object whose components operate at the border between classical and quantum physics.  


    Two, we discover an immaterial basis upon which consciousness can operate, which in terms of today's philosophical paradigms would be something roughly similar to an immortal soul.

    The problem with (one) is that stars don't appear to have structure consistent with being information-bearing systems commensurate with the task.  The problem with (two) is that science presently has no explanatory mechanism for any such thing, and though it can't be ruled out, it has to be considered highly speculative.

    So until something occurs that's between a breakthrough and a miracle, we remain dependent upon highly complex organized matter, which in turn has a very limited band of temperatures in which it can retain the needed degrees of complexity and organization.  With that, humans and their evolutionary descendants are likely to remain in need of "Earth-like" temperature regimes and other constraints in order to exist.  

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