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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity? 608

An anonymous reader writes "The discovery of Kepler-186f last week has dusted off an interesting theory regarding the fate of humanity and the link between that fate and the possibility of life on other planets. Known as the The Great Filter, this theory attempts to answer the Fermi Paradox (why we haven't found other complex life forms anywhere in our vast galaxy) by introducing the idea of an evolutionary bottleneck which would make the emergence of a life form capable of interstellar colonization statistically rare. As scientists gear up to search for life on Kepler-186f, some people are wondering if humanity has already gone through The Great Filter and miraculously survived or if it's still on our horizon and may lead to our extinction."
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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

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  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:50PM (#46836267)

    But the way the human race is behaving currently, getting off this dirtball in any meaningful way seems exceedingly unlikely.

  • Fermi paradox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:53PM (#46836283) Homepage Journal

    answer: Space is really big.

    A race could have populate half the galaxy's out there and we still wouldn't know.

  • Maybe it's just us (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:53PM (#46836289) Journal

    Maybe the inhabitants of those other planets aren't ravening imperialist douchebags. In that case, I'm liking our odds.

    Consider Jack Handey's observation:

    I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they'd never expect it.

    --Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts

  • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:13PM (#46836465) Homepage

    Capitalism didn't create the internet or WWW that you're currently talking shit on. In fact we learned today that the FCC is going to allow capitalists to fuck the internet up at least in the US.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:22PM (#46836523)
    We haven't created or destroyed any elements. We just use them, or modify the chemicals they are in. If we need them (and have dug them all up), we can't mine them from the ground, but we can mine them from the landfills and buildings, like some are doing with copper now. Materials are more easy, not less easy.
  • Re:Fermi paradox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:29PM (#46836587) Homepage Journal

    Because they aren't possible? becasue they have populated the other half of the galaxy? becasue they don't need to grow that fast? becasue they have all been wiped out be a variety of event. Specifically wiped out faster then they can be built?

    It's like getting a thimble of water from the ocean and asking "where are all the fish?"

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:29PM (#46836589) Homepage

    There's about 5,000 years of recorded human history. But there's only about 200 years of industrial civilization. It's been just about 200 years since the first time a paying customer got on a train and went someplace. Think of that as the beginning of large-scale deployment of powered technology.

    It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that human activities started making a big dent in planetary resources. By now, we've extracted and used most of the easy-to-get resources. There's argument over how long it will take to run through what's left, but it's not centuries, and certainly not millennia. More difficult and sparser resources can be extracted, but that's a diminishing-returns thing.

    It's quite possible that high-power technological civilization only has a lifespan of a few hundred years before the planet is used up. We might be saved by the Next Big Thing in high-power technology, but there hasn't been a major new energy source in 50 years. Nobody can get fusion to work, and fission is riskier than expected.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:33PM (#46836623) Journal

    Government is the problem, not Capitalism. The moment government gets involved, people get paid off to fuck with the system in such a way that it because a good old boys club. Unrestrained Capitalism has its own problems as well, but those are solved simply by time in most cases. It is patience that is lacking because government only reacts to the "We must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it" tyranny. Nobody stops long enough to ask "why" we must do something.

    It is at this point, that people call me names but cannot offer a coherent response to the question "Why must we do something". Because something bad might happen? Yeah, something bad might happen. And even if you get everything you want, something bad might happen, still. In fact, something bad WILL happen, because we cannot stop all bad things from happening. Ever. The three laws have only one inevitable outcome .... the system becomes tyranny in order to protect us ... from ourselves.

    But then again, nobody reads enough classical thinking to get it.

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:34PM (#46836627)

    We don't deserve the stars.

    We deserve death.

    Incorrect. Evolution is sick, twisted, and blind. We deserve better. I believe we still have time to take control and become a better, post-human species.

  • Re:First? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:39PM (#46836675)
    Ours is not one of the early-generation stars, but life as we know it requires some trace heavy metals, so complex organism require later generation stars (so that the older stars can generate heavy elements and nova them out). So we are a young system, but could be the oldest capable of life as we know it.
  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:43PM (#46836723)
    Which is why space travel is important, especially colonization. Think of it this way: a herd of animals lives in an area with plenty of food and water. Now, after a while, the food and water starts to dry up. Does the herd just sit around and wait to die, or does it venture out into other areas, expanding its territory. Essentially it is a natural process, and the only hope humanity has of any significantly long term existence.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @07:00PM (#46836883)

    It's not really government per se that is the problem, it's concentration of power. Concentration of power pretty much always leads to bad outcomes, be it in the public sphere or private. So as it turns out the conservatives are right, big government is bad, but it also turns out the liberals are right, big corporations are bad. Sadly, they're both too busy arguing to figure out that they agree on the underlying principle.

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @07:13PM (#46837003)

    Big corps are about 0.1% of the problem big governments are. Based on megadeaths in the 20th century.

  • by Ly4 ( 2353328 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:22PM (#46837799)

    Am I saying the Drake Equation is almost certainly full of shit? Why yes I am.

    Oh, the Drake equation is just fine. It's anyone who thinks they know any of the values to plug into it that's probably full of it.

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