Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

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Eduk
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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Eduk » January 29th, 2018, 7:09 pm

Steve why do you think there is massive human overpopulation?
I mean I hear that a lot. But I've never heard it backed up. It's just supposed to be a given.
To be clear I'm not saying the earth isn't overpopulated I'd just like to hear why you think it is? Especially as you tend to give sensible and proportionate answers on the forum.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Steve3007 » January 29th, 2018, 7:35 pm

I guess "over-population" is ambiguous because it's a matter of opinion as to what constitutes "over". But what I mean is that the human population of the planet as it is now is extremely large for an animal our size and consequent resource requirements. More human babies are born every day than the entire population of all the other great apes combined (Or so I've read. I better look that up again now in case it's nonsense). We've multiplied by a factor of 10 just since the time of Jane Austen. For most of human history there were no humans on Earth, give or take a few. It's difficult to comprehend just how vast the human population is compared to other animals of comparable size and how it's grown within our lifetimes. When I was born it was considerably less than half of what it is now.

That's what I meant.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Steve3007 » January 29th, 2018, 7:42 pm

All this means that we consume a huge and ever increasing proportion of the Earth's resources. In terms of the population of individuals, we've got rid of half of the world's other animals in the last 40 years. It seems pretty certain that human population pressure will drive numerous species to extinction in the wild. Not because we're bad or evil or anything. Simply because of our numbers.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Greta » January 29th, 2018, 9:39 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
January 29th, 2018, 6:30 pm
Carl Sagan excitedly imagining how when it happened the whole world would unite in the excitement of remotely exploring Mars together. Some of us are still very interested in Curiosity's tweets, but hardly the whole world. Sorry Carl. Celebrity Big Brother is more interesting, apparently.
Not for me, although I follow the video rather than tweets (not on Twitter). I love the Mars rover missions, along with Huygens, Cassini, Voyager, Venera, and of course Apollo!
Steve3007 wrote:
...An entire species doesn't need the characteristics needed for space travel, only a small minority. As always in nature, the environment effectively decides on the characteristics of its denizens.
Yes, that's true. I guess that's one of the advantages of massive human over-population of the globe.
A large population would seem essential for the level of societal advancement we see today. They say that progress is a genius-by-genius process so larger populations will have more innovators.
Steve3007 wrote:
In that sense, and given findings in epigenetics, the notion of nature/nurture is an uneven dichotomy. "Nature" is essentially just accumulated historical "nurture", driven by environmental conditions of the past.
Yes, that is a good point. Just as comedy is tragedy plus time, so Nature is Nuture plus time and selection.
Great analogy :) Any attempt to find intrinsic nature amongst all that accumulation of nurture will lead to a regression problem. Rather hard to find anything in reality that is absolute rather than relative.
Steve3007 wrote:Some of them might dispute whether these supposed biological life forms with which they're supposed to be making contact really exist at all.
I suspect they would just do the math :)
What if we met aliens and found them repulsive in odour, appearance, aesthetics, ethics and manners? (until they became trendy ;). That may help us to better understand our similarities and kinship as Earth beings.
Steve3007 wrote:I'd never really considered before that of all the problems we might face if we finally came face to face with aliens, body odour might be one. Or what if we just found them boring? Like a seldom-seen distant relative who, on the occasional family gatherings, spends the whole time talking about the car journey there. ("We had terrible trouble at those road works near Alpha Centauri...")
That is sounding like Star Trek, such as the Ferengi being a race of untrustworthy jerks :) The boredom will come from not having a clue what they are trying to communicate, although watching the eyes wobble on their stalks as trunks are expressively waved would be pretty entertaining in itself.

What do you make of tentacles? I'm thinking they are unlikely in technological beings (unless installed). Since fire is necessary to get a start on creating modern technology, underwater animals are immediately ruled out. The best underwater beings would be able to manage is, rather than evolving their technology, they evolve their culture and become the Yoda-esque dolphins of New Age' imaginations (of course, dolphins can be about as nasty as any other social animal, with rape, bullying and infanticide amongst their behaviours).

A trunk could be another matter. Still, they are complex and must take a lot of brainpower and, thus, energy to maintain.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Steve3007 » January 30th, 2018, 3:57 am

What do you make of tentacles? I'm thinking they are unlikely in technological beings (unless installed). Since fire is necessary to get a start on creating modern technology, underwater animals are immediately ruled out. The best underwater beings would be able to manage is, rather than evolving their technology, they evolve their culture and become the Yoda-esque dolphins of New Age' imaginations (of course, dolphins can be about as nasty as any other social animal, with rape, bullying and infanticide amongst their behaviours).

A trunk could be another matter. Still, they are complex and must take a lot of brainpower and, thus, energy to maintain.
I guess hands are more useful than tentacles because of their famously useful opposing thumbs. Two or more tentacles would have to be brought together to manipulate things. Might be a bit awkward. Like using chopsticks.

I know fire was useful to us, but I wonder if fire is absolutely necessary? Combustion needs oxygen because it's so fantastically reactive. If it's possible that intelligent life has developed elsewhere without going through the Great Oxygenation Event maybe they don't have fire? Maybe on other planets there is some other type of exothermic reaction that serves the same purpose. I can see how perhaps there would have to be some kind of easily started chemical reaction that gives out energy. But maybe it could be a reaction that works in water? Maybe. I don't know enough chemistry to know if that's feasible.
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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by JamesOfSeattle » January 30th, 2018, 12:31 pm

To add my two cents, I'm pretty sure tentacles are not the hold-back. Octopi have been known (at least in one case) to carry two halves of a coconut shell around as a makeshift shelter. They can crawl inside and hold the pieces together. Octopi can open screw-top jars ... from the inside! Try that with hands. I think being able to hold three or more things at once would be quite the advantage.

I also don't think fire is an absolute necessity, at least until later. What fire did for humanoids was give them more time for other stuff. Cooking food provided more calories, so less time hunting/gathering calories. Eventually, if they became very intelligent, I could see octopi learning about fire from natural fires near the shore. Or maybe actually developing ways to travel farther out on the land (wet suits?) to find it. Okay, now I have visions of Octopus Scientists building platforms just outside the water to conduct various experiments with fire, etc.

I think what is holding back the octopi is the need to cooperate. The humanoids that were forced out into the savannah had to work together to survive. They learned to divide labor. Some hunt (in groups) and some gather. Then language and cultural learning kicked in. And then evolution to bigger/better brains for such cooperation just boosted us to where we are.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Greta » January 30th, 2018, 3:57 pm

Good point about tentacles' capacities. A possible tradeoff between hands and tentacles might be hands with retractable suckers (useful for times when we find ourselves locked inside a jar :)

Octopi are mostly held back by a lifespan of about two years, making culture and cultural transmission is not possible. The strategy of laying numerous eggs in the hope that a few surprise is only seen in simpler animals, while intelligent animals lay fewer offspring with a higher standard of parental care, and that opens the door to cultural transmission.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by JamesOfSeattle » January 31st, 2018, 1:56 pm

I don't think the key is parenting, either. There are plenty examples of terrestrial animals that have a good claim to more parental care than an octopus, but not so much a claim to more intelligence. Chickens come to mind. Again, I want to point out the role of cooperation. In human society it is not only the mother that cares for offspring. Relatives and others are frequently recruited to help.

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[I think the more important question is, when we get to re-engineering our hands, do we go for octopus-like suckers or gecko-like pads?]

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Greta
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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Greta » January 31st, 2018, 6:04 pm

Not parenting so much as cultural transmission, being able to preserve and pass on the learning of previous generations. Egg layers often provide little more than food and protection while larger placental mammals with small broods can provide years years of instruction.

Suckers are much more versatile than pads, but finding an aesthetic, tidy and hygienic way to retract and extend the suckers would be difficult, and the thought is more than a little icky :)

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by LuckyR » February 8th, 2018, 12:06 pm

Greta wrote:
January 31st, 2018, 6:04 pm
Not parenting so much as cultural transmission, being able to preserve and pass on the learning of previous generations. Egg layers often provide little more than food and protection while larger placental mammals with small broods can provide years years of instruction.

Suckers are much more versatile than pads, but finding an aesthetic, tidy and hygienic way to retract and extend the suckers would be difficult, and the thought is more than a little icky :)
Well it is a self regulating thing. If the adult requires intellectual thought (as opposed to instinct) to survive, then a parent (or pack) will be there to provide the training for the youngsters (pre-adults). If not, then it is just wasted energy.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Steve3007 » February 8th, 2018, 12:48 pm

JamesOfSeattle wrote:Eventually, if they became very intelligent, I could see octopi learning about fire from natural fires near the shore. Or maybe actually developing ways to travel farther out on the land (wet suits?) to find it. Okay, now I have visions of Octopus Scientists building platforms just outside the water to conduct various experiments with fire, etc.
It's interesting to consider this upside-down world of the intelligent octopus. Just as we send submersibles to the Mariana Trench, perhaps they'd send probes to the top of Everest. If they invented space travel I suppose if they'd already ventured onto land they'd have a head start because they'd already be in water-filled suits. Of course, so are we. But our's evolved rather than being invented so aren't suited to use in a vacuum. They'd probably also be more comfortable in zero-g than us and wouldn't have the problem of losing bone mass.
JamesOfSeattle wrote:[I think the more important question is, when we get to re-engineering our hands, do we go for octopus-like suckers or gecko-like pads?]
Greta wrote:Suckers are much more versatile than pads, but finding an aesthetic, tidy and hygienic way to retract and extend the suckers would be difficult, and the thought is more than a little icky :)
I vote that we go for a whole variety of detachable tools. Like on a vacuum cleaner.
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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by A Poster He or I » March 18th, 2018, 4:50 pm

For what it's worth to the discussion, sci-fi novelist Larry Niven describes the evolution of an underwater crab-like alien race from pre-technological levels all the way to space-faring explorers in a surprisingly credible manner, as part of his "Known Space" series of novels. Personally, I think the ability to create fire or any other specific expectation to be able to become technologically advanced is just human bias. Intelligence and physical control of the universe could be accomplished in other ways besides technological methodologies.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Greta » March 18th, 2018, 5:20 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 8th, 2018, 12:48 pm
JamesOfSeattle wrote:Eventually, if they became very intelligent, I could see octopi learning about fire from natural fires near the shore. Or maybe actually developing ways to travel farther out on the land (wet suits?) to find it. Okay, now I have visions of Octopus Scientists building platforms just outside the water to conduct various experiments with fire, etc.
It's interesting to consider this upside-down world of the intelligent octopus. Just as we send submersibles to the Mariana Trench, perhaps they'd send probes to the top of Everest. If they invented space travel I suppose if they'd already ventured onto land they'd have a head start because they'd already be in water-filled suits. Of course, so are we. But our's evolved rather than being invented so aren't suited to use in a vacuum. They'd probably also be more comfortable in zero-g than us and wouldn't have the problem of losing bone mass.
:lol: How would clever octopi manufacture their "dry suits" for living on land? The fire problem remains.

They'd have to evolve to become terrestrial. Certainly they already show signs of this with some species known to scurry across rocks a fair way to access prey in new pools, and this is the kind of motivation seen in animals further long this line of adaptation such as mudskippers. So they would need to grow a dry, tough outer membrane, most of the tentacles are going to have to harden up and act as legs. I suppose they could keep a couple of tentacles to evolve like solid versions of an elephant's trunk. An issue there is that such body parts are highly complex and must require more energy to maintain than much less flexible arms and fingers. Not sure they would remain viable out of water.

The biggest issue is lifestyle. To advance they would need to become gregarious and this leads to questioning the nature of what intelligence is. In a sense animals join groups so they don't need to be so intelligent as to solve all of their problems of survival themselves. So the octopus would need to sacrifice aspects of its intelligence - to take some steps backward - to devote to social bonding and coordination.

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Re: Spin-off: The Rare Earth hypothesis

Post by Atreyu » March 19th, 2018, 5:14 pm

The main problem with "The Rare Earth" hypothesis is that is assumes that the only life that could exist in the Universe is life as we already know and define it.

Once this assumption is eradicated, a new view of the Universe can be had, one in which life could possibly be the rule rather than the exception...

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