The Visit: An Alien Encounter trailer

I think that the greatest event for mankind to ever experience would be extraterrestrial life—to meet life from elsewhere. I think that would question everything that we hold to be true about ourselves and our particular place in the universe. In that respect, I think this is a unique scenario by which to explore something about human understanding and human self-perception and also, of course, ideally create a kind of a mirror. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with The Visit.

I’m interested in using this outside perspective of a creature coming from elsewhere, outside of human understanding, outside of human self-evidence about everything in this world that we inhabit. I assume that a kind of a task force would be formed in such an event—what sort of things would they be asking about? What would they be explaining about human beings? What’s important to understand about human beings? These are the things that I’m interested in. You can also say that I’m trying to create a kind of philosophical launch within the audience, in terms of these questions.

And the question is—this is something that I was very interested in exploring with the experts—to which extent are we able to perceive something that is not like ourselves? How can we see something that is fundamentally different? And this is also of course what is being discussed in terms of lifeforms and so on. But how do we actually detect life that’s not like life on earth? With it comes other minds, other feelings, other emotions, other types of memory, other perceptual faculties, it’s just exponentially more difficult. But, of course, there is also something infinitely wondrous about this. What if somebody comes here and has a completely different experience of reality and we could learn something from that and could of course expand our own world?

I think this is connected to something deeply human and perhaps the whole thing why we do look to the stars and ponder if there is life out there. Because there is a very interesting longing toward space and what’s out there. I think it has to do with this hope or idea or longing towards being seen by something other. By being seen, also by something superior, you actually gain existence, because you’re recognized as something.I think if somebody came here and left again without a word, more or less, without any [idea of] why they [came] and so on, I think, yes, that would plunge us into a collective depression, because we would get the idea that we were nothing. We weren’t worth wasting more time on. It was just like they just stopped by on the road and there was nothing to see and then they just drove on in a way. That would give us a kind of inferiority complex, which we might already have.

Let the record state that my mission statement has long included  “positioning myself on the Rolodex of Humanity, to be called upon in the event of First Contact” 🙂

Dark Mystic Astrobiology Team, ASSEMBLE!

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Geoffrey Landis’ percolation theory as to lack of detectable Type III Civilisations

Perhaps the best reasoning as to why an advanced civilisation possessing the ability for interstellar travel would fail to colonise an entire galaxy is Geoffrey Landis’ percolation theory. Landis makes the assumption that interstellar travel is short haul only. We might be able to make direct flights to alpha Centauri or epsilon Eridani, but anything […]

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Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life.

They found the standard star has about two planets in the so-called Goldilocks zone, the distance from the star where liquid water, crucial for life, can exist.

“The ingredients for life are plentiful, and we now know that habitable environments are plentiful,” said Associate Professor Lineweaver, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.

“However, the universe is not teeming with aliens with human-like intelligence that can build radio telescopes and space ships. Otherwise we would have seen or heard from them.

"It could be that there is some other bottleneck for the emergence of life that we haven’t worked out yet. Or intelligent civilisations evolve, but then self-destruct.”

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“Fine, I’ll tell you. But I have to warn you, Richard, that your question falls under the umbrella of a pseudoscience called xenology. Xenology is an unnatural mixture of science fiction and formal logic. At its core is a flawed assumption—that an alien race would be psychologically human.”

“Why flawed?” asked Noonan.

“Because biologists have already been burned attempting to apply human psychology to animals. Earth animals, I note.”

“Just a second,” said Noonan. “That’s totally different. We’re talking about the psychology of intelligent beings.”

“True. And that would be just fine, if we knew what intelligence was.”

“And we don’t?” asked Noonan in surprise.

“Believe it or not, we don’t. We usually proceed from a trivial definition: intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It’s a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from his dog, who seems to understand everything but can’t speak. However, this trivial definition does lead to wittier ones. They are based on depressing observations of the aforementioned human activity. For example: intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural acts.”

“Yes, that’s us,” agreed Noonan.

“Unfortunately. Or here’s a definition-hypothesis. Intelligence is a complex instinct which hasn’t yet fully matured. The idea is that instinctive activity is always natural and useful. A million years will pass, the instinct will mature, and we will cease making the mistakes which are probably an integral part of intelligence. And then, if anything in the universe changes, we will happily become extinct—again, precisely because we’ve lost the art of making mistakes, that is, trying various things not prescribed by a rigid code.”

“Somehow this all sounds so … demeaning.”

“All right, then here’s another definition—a very lofty and noble one. Intelligence is the ability to harness the powers of the surrounding world without destroying the said world.”

Roadside Picnic – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
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There are a lot of assumptions here: For one, that alien biology will have comparable physical requirements to our own. If biotic life isn’t limited to Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone—a restriction that precludes the icy moons Europa and Titan—the number of life-harboring worlds could actually be much higher.

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Searching for the ruins of alien civilisations

The glow we see at the Milky Way’s core began its voyage towards us at a time when prehistoric hunters were chasing mammoths across Europe’s ice sheets. The galaxy itself spans 100,000 light years, and its nearest equivalent, the great disc of Andromeda, is 2.5 million light years away. We see it as it looked when humanity’s ancestors walked the African savannah. When interstellar archaeologists tilt their telescopes to the sky, they are gazing into the deep history of the cosmos, but to find a civilisation more advanced than ours, they have to tilt their imaginations into the future. They have to plot out a plausible destiny for humanity, and then go looking for it in the cosmic past.

Searching for the ruins of alien civilisations

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Scientific American: Which religions are more open to the idea of alien life? David Weintraub: Asian religions for the most part are easily accommodating. In Buddhism, for example, there are lots of worlds. Reincarnation is an important part of that view of life. I could be reincarnated in principle anywhere in the universe. There’s nothing […]

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So are we alone? Well, there is one other possibility, at this point. I’ve lately been trumpeting my revision of Clarke’s Law (which originally said ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’). My revision says that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Nature. (Astute readers will recognize this as a refinement and further advancement of my argument in Permanence.) Basically, either advanced alien civilizations don’t exist, or we can’t see them because they are indistinguishable from natural systems. I vote for the latter. This vote has consequences. If the Fermi Paradox is a profound question, then this answer is equally profound. It amounts to saying that the universe provides us with a picture of the ultimate end-point of technological development. In the Great Silence, we see the future of technology, and it lies in achieving greater and greater efficiencies, until our machines approach the thermodynamic equilibria of their environment, and our economics is replaced by an ecology where nothing is wasted. After all, SETI is essentially a search for technological waste products: waste heat, waste light, waste electromagnetic signals. We merely have to posit that successful civilizations don’t produce such waste, and the failure of SETI is explained. And as to why we haven’t found any alien artifacts in our solar system, well, maybe we don’t know what to look for. Wiley cites Freitas as having come up with this basic idea; I’m prepared to take it much further, however. Elsewhere I’ve talked about this particular long-term scenario for the future, an idea I call The Rewilding. Now normally one can’t look into the future; in the case of the long-term evolution of technological civilization, however, that is precisely what astronomy allows us to do. And here’s the thing: the Rewilding model predicts a universe that looks like ours–one that appears empty. The datum that we tend to refer to as ‘the Great Silence’ also provides the falsification of certain other models of technological development. For instance, products of traditionally ‘advanced’ technological civilizations, such as Dyson spheres, should be visible to us from Earth. No comprehensive search has been done, to my knowledge, but no candidate objects have been stumbled upon in the course of normal astronomy. The Matrioshka brains, the vast computronium complexes that harvest all the resources of a stellar system… we’re just not seeing them. The evidence for that model of the future is lacking. If we learn how life came to exist on Earth, and if it turns out to be a common or likely development, then the evidence for a future in which artificial and natural systems are indistinguishable is provided by the Great Silence itself.

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Claiming there is no other life in the universe is like scooping up some water, looking at the cup and claiming there are no whales in the ocean.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in response to “Aliens can’t exist because we haven’t found them yet” (via samuraifuckingfrog)
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NASA Meets Theologians to Discuss How We Respond to E.T.

The audience was given an update on the current search for extraterrestrial biology including finding chemical signatures in atmospheres of exoplanets that indicate life, direct observation such as Curiosity uncovering layers of carbon strata as it climbs the hills around Mt. Sharp, or detection of radio signals which would indicate intelligent life elsewhere. They were then asked how humanity should handle such discoveries. If we discovered microbial life, what kind of impact would that have on us? If we discovered a technically sophisticated life, what would our reaction be? Further discussions focused on transcending anthropocentric thinking, questioning whether we should assume that all life was built on the same principles as life here on Earth, that our biology wasn’t universal. In the event of coming across life built on chemistry different from ours, would we even recognize it as life?

Theologians were asked to consider the status of alien life within the context of morality. What would be our responsibilities in dealing with extraterrestrials whether microbial or more complex life forms? We humans here on Earth have shown through past behavior little regard for other living things. If we can’t eat them or domesticate them to help us then we often decimate them. It’s only recently that conservation and biodiversity have been adopted as core values within our human existence. So in discovering life elsewhere what would be our behavior? Destroyer or conservationist?

In one session Christian theologians were asked if they would baptize an extraterrestrial A Jesuit in attendance is quoted by the Huffington Post as stating “any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.” So on the question of baptism, if E.T. asked baptism would be granted.

NASA Meets Theologians to Discuss How We Respond to E.T.

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