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So Much Presumption!

October 1, 2014

According to the Business Insider, which again has delved into topics unrelated to economics or business, there is a futurist who seems to prefer the assumption we are the only sentient race in the universe. Source:

Where to begin…

First, I don’t know who put Ajai Raj and Jennifer Welsh up to this or if they pursued this on their own. All I know is a magazine or online magazine labeled the Business Insider has no merit on topics like this except as human interest pieces—which this one is—although they should choose their content better. This one is so loaded with presumption all around it belies complete incomprehension of all major facets of this topic.

I’ll get to them one by one. But before that, Nick Bostrom is a “famed futurist.” Who is this guy, and what is a futurist? I’ve never heard of him or his direction of the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University, which means I don’t have any clue how that validates his statements. What does that institute do? I can’t imagine it’s rife with practical applicability in modern Western society, but if it is at Oxford, I would assume it has the intellectual basis and repute enough to matter.

Fine. But the term “futurist” is never defined. That means, without duly considering he is a director of an institute at Oxford University, he could be as valid a source for rationale as any loud and bias pundit on Fox “News.” Even being from an Ivy League or Oxford school is no guarantee he’s worth listening to, either—Barack Obama graduated from an Ivy League school, as I recall. I think very little of him in any capacity except his ability to produce manure for the White House garden. The same holds for most any appointee he put in office, so far, if he or she has an affect at all on the system overall.

Now for the host of assumptions implicit and explicit in this article. Oh, boy.

1.  If one reads the article, we have this fleeting, undeveloped suggestion of building a city on some of the most fertile soil found outside Earth. This is one of the most stupid ideas possible if one intends to colonize.  The Western world did this in the New World and we apparently haven’t learned the lesson of manhandling nature rather than using its resources without being belligerent. (That means we should be more Taoist, in that way.) Much of southern California and surrounding cities were built in areas too dry to support them, so the Colorado River was all but siphoned before its natural end to fix it. Dry spells in the Western United States only underscore how unwise this approach was. Draining away the Colorado River, and others, killed at least one animal species dependent on it—a frog that used to live at the outlet of the Colorado River, I think—out of sheer oversight or indifference and irreversibly altered ecosystems all along the route.

In a similar spirit, someone thinks building an alien city on the good ground is a good idea. Building cities near fertile areas is a good idea. Building cities on them? Horrible for logistics of producing food and outright disregard for ecological repercussions of the act. There is no practical reason for doing this. Lima, Peru was built on one of the best flat spots in the Andes for growing food (if I recall correctly), by the conquistadores, and it was idiotic. Of all places to build a new city in the ANDES, one of the few, level spots good for crops? Moronic. Don’t do it on another planet too. Future colonists will need every home-grown calorie they can get.

2.  The first presumption gives a good indication of the poor logic to follow. The second presumption is the main source for this article is a valid commentator on any such topics as colonizing other worlds or possible interaction with other species. Is this guy worth listening to about astrophysics, xenobiology, or theoretical space travel and astronomical navigational concerns? I don’t know any of his work and I read science news. Where was his paper published first? No indication.

3.  Now we have moved into a mode of thought unimproved by poor cultural choices in previous centuries, and presumed the main source for this article has valid thoughts on the topic. Next, what is the reason for Bostrom’s “apparent negativity?” Because it may imply life is more common in the universe than science tends to believe. And, an extension of the thought means other life forms should have contacted us by now if that is so. It must be said, there is no way to know how common life may be. So we automatically assume there are tens of thousands, or millions of life forms (probably ones like us, since science rarely considers other forms—that would make life much more likely again) and they would contact us.

The concept of many alien races developing is not averse to me. It is the basis of most science fiction. But we cannot fairly assume the type of life forms: least of all carbon-based, oxygen-breathing, atmosphere capacity for around 15 pounds per square inch, with our temperate or solar limitations before we start getting ill or injured. Let’s not get hung up on how many alien races there may be. We have no idea.

4.  Say there are alien races with the capacity to reach or speak to us. That assumes extraterrestrial technology, culture, geology, and mentality are to the point they could (likely) and would want to (again, no way to know).  Why should we think any majority of alien races would have the curiosity we do? If they could travel between stars, would it be wrong with them being content to watch from a safe distance, or not make the trip at all?

5.  I believe aliens or entities have landed here, based on unidentified flying objects reports I have seen. I can’t say if they are from another place astronomically, temporally, or dimensionally. I just know sometimes things happen no human or natural cause is sufficient to explain, and they aren’t religious. God, angels and demons don’t behave in ways consistent with the Bible, ecclesiastical accounts, and the unexplained reports like the UFO in video shot by the STS-48 in 1991 or over Washington, D. C. in 1952.  So why didn’t the aliens say hello?

Incorrect assumption in the asking. They did. Hundreds of alien encounters reported show them saying exactly that and giving advice, although we have no way to know how many of them were real. Some have to be, especially of the earliest accounts in the 1900s. Maybe the aliens, or the ruling alien councils, prefer greetings on a small scale if they have preference. Maybe they did say hello to governments and there really is a conspiracy. We don’t know and there are half a dozen questionable accounts from probes or astronauts that could be an indication of alien interaction. Don’t presume. Besides, what are authentic crop circles if not at least some measure of announcing themselves, if only by indifference to us knowing? There are real ones, not made with 2x4s beams and rope.

6.  So, now we are thinking enough to realize there may be no major prevention or avoidance of contact—but I think there is a mental reservation to that. Why not say hello to humans? Have you seen the way our species acts?  I wouldn’t announce myself on any large scale. Maybe the aliens don’t want to meddle until they think we are useful as slaves first, at the cultural or technological level, or maybe they simply aren’t suicidal. We kill each other over the date of a religious holiday. They are probably just not willing to risk themselves.

But, if there are limitations like global catastrophe, astronomical collision, simple difficulty of interstellar travel, cultural self-destruction, what have you, how does this have any influence on the question of whether we can be contacted in this article? These theoretical dangers and hindrances are already known factors. They have no undue effect on the likelihood of life being common. They would be a smaller number than the possible life forms that develop interstellar travel, if the Drake Equation is at all applicable. So what if we don’t find a trilobite outside Earth in our solar system? Does that have ANY bearing on the probabilities of billions of other, alien planets in other star systems, or their propensity for visiting stellar neighbors?

The algae we may discover on Mars has no bearing on potential psychology of an extraterrestrial individual; it also has no bearing on the potential judgment of alien councils governing initiatives like alien contact. Let’s not make connections that don’t exist. If there is a “Great Filter,” it is as likely to be a stumbling block as the mentality and culture of all species involved. At any rate, we already knew asteroid impacts, global pandemics and huge climate shifts. They are a known, probably marginal factor here. Move on.

We can only be great if we think about how we communicate ideas. If humans are to become a great, interstellar race we cannot be so limited, intellectually or culturally, and permit such presumption to direct how we conceive of a universe we simply don’t understand. We must learn the lessons from our mistakes and be willing to see existence in a wider scope. So long as we don’t forget who and what we are, we should be fine.

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