Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Last Leg of the Space Race

(via Futurismic) I'd love to see this work its way through the SF bloggosphere. Dr. J. Richard Gott III's Copernican Principle gives a 95% likelihood that the human race will survive at least 5,100 more years but not longer than 7.8 million. These odds can be improved if we colonize other planets, but - get this - he gives a 50% chance that we're already at the midpoint of the space program, giving us only another 46 years to beat the odds. I'd love to see some smarter minds than mine discuss this, though his answer to the Fermi Paradox should be of interest to all writers and readers of speculative fiction.

7 comments:

David Louis Edelman said...

This has to be one of the most fascinating things I've ever read, hands down.

Reminds me of something I read once about the possibility that we're living in a virtual simulation like the Matrix. The author basically concluded that, not only is it possible we're living in the Matrix, but it's statistically likely.

Lou Anders said...

I remember that. The thinking was that given there was a near infinite number of possible simulations, but only one base reality, it was statistically unlikely you were in the base reality. The conclusion was that you should "live interestingly" in order to keep the interest/attention of the gamers, so they wouldn't take you out of play. What a basis for a moral system!

Meanwile, Stephen Baxter had a short story out last year or so, the title of which escapes me and I'm running out the door, but it was about the successive civilizations after ours collapses, all rising and falling until the end of the world. Each one stripped out more natural resources, heavy metals, etc... until at a certain point getting off planet was impossible because earth no longer had the heavy metals etc.. necessary to facilitate this. One of the most chilling and depressing stories I have EVER read and another take on this "window" we have to make it off the rock.

Ted said...

You're probably thinking of Nick Bostrom's work. He's made both the argument that doomsday is near (see here) and that we are probably simulated (see here).

Anonymous said...

This kind of argument always begs the question, what if we made it x years ago?

So suppose we made the argument when the space program was 2 years old. Was there anything about the space program then as opposed to now to skew the odds? Maybe ignorance of future costs so Congress was happy to fund it, or maybe the Cold War so the same, but so what, today we may just be in ignorance of the next big breakthrough in energy generation, or the next Cold War, or...

If not, then you could predict the space program would last only a little and you would be wrong.

Similarly with the doomsday. What's magical about 200 billion? why not make the argument when there were 100 million humans around (aside that it took a while to get a tech civilization going but that's another story)

I never buy this type of argument just because by repeating it in the past you see how meaningless it is.

Regarding simulations versus base reality, that is another fallacy, but is philosophical rather than logical.

I read a very thorough refutation of it, that to me boiled down to the confusion between things that may exist, and things that do exist, and the inapplicability of statistics to discern between such.

So when we apply statistics to estimate a likelihood of some outcome, usually we know that outcome is possible however unlikely, but we do not know about these simulations, never seen one so to speak outside of the movie Matrix and related books/movies of course...

You know Pascal's wager about God's existence? It's 50/50 and if I am wrong about it on one side, I'll be in Hell for the rest of eternity, if I am wrong on the other side it won't matter since I'll be dead anyway, so better be right on the eternity side. Similar fallacy as with the simulations from a philosophical point of view

Liviu

A.R.Yngve said...

If this is a simulation, how do you explain Paris Hilton? (Glitch? Stupid Easter Egg? Coders being self-indulgent?)
;-P

dave hutchinson said...

A.R. Yngvie - really attentive producers...

dave hutchinson said...

A.R., please forgive me, I had an attack of the typos and spelled your name wrong.