Tag Archives: extraterrestrials

Alien Supercivilizations Absent from Nearby Galaxies

This piece from Scientific American:


is mostly about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).  But on the way, it gets into some interesting musings on exponential growth, energy usage, and whether our picture of what “advanced civilization” entails is realistic.  Here’s a quote:

In 2011 the science fiction author Karl Schroeder coined an all-too-plausible reason for the apparent absence of aliens: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature.” In this view the future of technology would not consist of star-hopping civilizations spreading like wildfire through galaxies, disassembling planets and smothering suns, but rather of slow-growing cultures becoming more and more integrated with their natural environments, striving for ever-greater efficiencies and coming ever-closer to thermodynamic equilibrium. Simply put, profligate galaxy-spanning empires are unsustainable and therefore we do not see them. “SETI is essentially a search for technological waste products,” Schroeder has written. “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.”