VIII. Pedia Sapiens: A New Genesis Future
D. Ecosmocene Destiny: The Greening of the Galaxy
Impey, Chris. How It Ends: From You to the Universe. New York: Norton, 2010. The book off-handedly considers the fateful future demise of everything from earthly organisms and we people to the entropically expiring cosmos. As such, one more book this year resigned to the material machine paradigm of an indifferent, absurd multiverse, devoid of any generative source or purposeful destiny, that is seemingly bent on inflicting this despair and death sentence upon us.
The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny beyond Earth.
New York: Doubleday,
In his latest, consummate work the CCNY polyphysicist and science expositor imagines a stellar and universal vista looking outward and ahead. In three sections, Leaving the Earth, Voyages to the Stars, and Life in the Universe, a vast traverse from our waning, doomed world to planetary and galactic habitations near and far, no longer as homo sapiens, and onto a cosmic abidance, maybe eternal, akin to visions of Olaf Stapledon and Isaac Asimov. While a grand ride, it quite remains in the old mindset, or lack thereof, which cannot imagine or allow an independent, ordained reality, of which evolutionary life, intelligence and persons are a crucially creative phenomenon. Its opening pages list an array of scientists and scholars that Kaku has spoken with over years, but its ratio of men to women runs 25 to 1.
Kaku, Michio. Visions. New York: Anchor Books, 1997. A physicist tracks the three revolutions of the quantum, computer and biomolecule to foresee a planetary civilization coming to achieve its own intelligence. The inchoate ability of human beings to contemplate such future possibilities are equally part of the development cosmology and point to extrapolations of solar and galactic transformation.
Kaku, Michio. Who Will Inherit the Universe? Astronomy. February, 2002. More considerations of the potential for life and mind through its human agency to rearrange and recreate solar systems and galaxies.
Krakauer, David and Caitlin McShea, eds. InterPlanetary Transmissions: Proceedings of the Santa Fe Institute’s First InterPlanetary Festiva. Santa Fe: SFI Press, 2019. The chapters such as Intelligent Systems, Autonomous Ecosystems, Origins of Life in Space, and Living in Space are transcripts of group discussions with luminaries such as Jessica Flack, Geoffrey West, Caleb Scharf, Jennifer Dunne, Neal Stepheson, and many more diverse voices.
This volume is a record of the proceedings of the first InterPlanetary Festival, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in June of 2018 by the Santa Fe Institute. An annual free public event, the InterPlanetary Festival combines an exploration of complexity science, which SFI has pioneered, and technological innovation with a summer festival full of music, film, art, food, drinks, and more. The first project of its kind to combine celebration with experimentation, and conversation with analysis, the InterPlanetary Project seeks to be nothing less than a whole-planet project—beyond borders, beyond politics, beyond economics—to activate the collective intelligence of our first planet: Earth.
Makukov, Maxim and Vladimir Shcherbak. SETI in vivo: Testing the We-are-Them Hypothesis. International Journal of Astrobiology. Online July, 2017. A concurrent version is at arXiv:1707.03382. Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute and Al-Farabi National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan (enter a name for more) physicists draw together a planet-filled cosmos, searches for exointelligence, microbial panspermia, and more to theorize that a universal genetic signal might be contained in Earth life DNA complements. The paper considers how to detect, analyze, and sort such alien markers in a tacit life-encoding cosmic milieu. A later section enters a semiotic study of how symbolic codes, textual writing systems, linguistic parsings might be interpreted. This is an innovative essay with many references which glimpses an essentially living universe as a promiscuous cosmomic to genomic procreation.
After it was proposed that life on Earth might descend from seeding by an earlier extraterrestrial civilization motivated to secure and spread life, some authors noted that this alternative offers a testable implication: microbial seeds could be intentionally supplied with a durable signature that might be found in extant organisms. In particular, it was suggested that the optimal location for such an artifact is the genetic code, as the least evolving part of cells. Here we refresh the seeded-Earth hypothesis in light of recent observations, and discuss the motivation for inserting a signature. We then show that ‘biological SETI’ involves even weaker assumptions than traditional SETI and admits a well-defined methodological framework. After assessing the possibility in terms of molecular and evolutionary biology, we formalize the approach and, adopting the standard guideline of SETI that encoding/decoding should follow from first principles and be convention-free, develop a universal retrieval strategy. (Abstract excerpt)
Matloff, Gregory, et al. Living Off the Land in Space: Green Roads to the Cosmos. New York: Springer, 2007. A survey of the imperative migratory expansion into galaxy and universe by an employ of available energy sources such as “aerocapture” of exo-orbital forces.
Ultimately, Gaia’s children will inherit the sky, altered by the new environment to become true citizens of the cosmos. (5)
Mautner, Michael. Life in the Cosmological Future. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 58/5-6, 2005. (This journal, first published in 1934, is a prime source for conjectures of this genre and scope.) A chemist at Virginia Commonwealth University summarizes a decade of work on quantifying solar system, galactic and cosmic resources of matter and energy for their intelligent conversion into further organic development. In this vista, the universe appears to create itself along a trajectory that passes to and through sentient human-like species on conducive planets. Mautner notes such a scenario could offer a vital challenge and incentive to earthkind.
The estimates of biomass for each ecosystem in the galaxy can be extended to the universe by multiplying by the estimated 10 to the 11th power galaxies. (175) The maximum rate of growth of biota in the galaxy, i.e., the biotic potential in ecological terms, is likely to depend on technology and purpose rather that on natural limitations. (175) Combining astroecology and cosmology yields a framework that can quantify future life. The projections of cosmo-ecology suggests that we can expand life with a view to an immense future. (176)
The Future of the Universe.
Cosmological speculations based on the standard model wherein observers on an infinitesimal planet who can glimpse such vistas remain of no phenomenal account.
Michaud, Michael. Contact with Alien Civilizations. New York: Copernicus Books, 2007. A former scientist and diplomat, who has been thinking and writing about this subject for decades, provides one of the most comprehensive volumes on the auspicious gamut of life and mind in the cosmos. As it courses from self-organizing teleologies to extremophiles, and everything else, one gets a sense of our eartkind starting to query a responsive universe for kindred neighbors.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence may be unique among scientific fields in sustaining a community with a grand shared vision of sentience in the universe. (201) There is reason for long-term optimism. We may be embedded in a favorable trend: the growing emergence and spread of intelligent life. We may have entered the period of galactic history when mind asserts itself over mindlessness, when intention is imposed on chance. (357)
Milner, Yuri. Are We Alone?. www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/AreWeAlone. On a site for the Breakthrough Initiatives project launched and funded by the Russian entrepreneur, and physicist, this page exhorts that in a galactic cosmos now known to be filled with habitable planets, it is of ultimate import whether our precious bioworld is uniquely aware, or do we have myriad neighbors. It is endorsed by many luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Jill Tarter, Nikolay Kardashev, Sara Seager, and Kip Thorne. Another endeavor is Breakthrough Starshot, more below, to scope out and initiate the sending of probes to Alpha Centuri, the closest star to our sun. The announcement was on the nightly news, and in the NY Times for April 12, 2016 as Reaching for the Stars, Across 4.37 Light-Years by Dennis Overbye.
Who are we? A mature civilization, like a mature individual, must ask itself this question. Is humanity defined by its divisions, its problems, its passing needs and trends? Or do we have a shared face, turned outward to the Universe? Because the biggest questions of our existence are at stake. Are we the Universe’s only child - our thoughts its only thoughts? Or do we have cosmic siblings - an interstellar family of intelligence? There are likely billions of earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. And with instruments now or soon available, we have a chance of finding out if any of these planets are true Pale Blue Dots – home to water, life, even minds.
Mullan, Brendan and Jacob, Haqq-Misra. Population Growth, Energy Use, and the Implications for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Futures. 106/4, 2019. In a special Detectability of Future Earth issue edited by J H-M, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science scholars reconsider a classic 1975 prediction (see Abstract) about the global fate and cosmic future of human sapiens. A half-century later, a terminal moment has indeed been reached which will drastically affect everything as we know it. A litany of familiar calamities from climate gases, resources, epidemics, AI impacts, and so on are tabulated, for which we are in denial, let alone do anything about. The paper closes with a dour view that an inability to stabilize and sustain one’s planetary civilization may answer Fermi’s question Where Are They? about the absence of ETs. They are no longer in existence because they could not save themselves.
In a 1975 paper Population Explosion and Interstellar Expansion, (J. British Interplanetary Society, 28/691, hereafter VH75) Sebastian Von Hoerner examined the effects of human population growth and agricultural, environmental, and other consequences from observed growth trends. Using straightforward calculations, VH75 predicted the “doomsday” years of 2020-2050 for these scenarios when we as a species should run out of space or food, or induce catastrophic anthropogenic climate change through thermodynamically direct heating of the planet. Now that over four decades have passed, in this paper we update VH75. We perform similar calculations as that work, with improved data and trends in population growth, food production, energy use, and climate change.