X-Message-Number: 21645
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 00:35:02 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: More on Galactic Civilizations

This is a reply to Thomas Donaldson, #21631.

>Though it is very popular in science fiction, the notion that the
>Galaxy has many civilizations falls upon one simple fact: even now,
>with all the (increasing) restrictions of planets habitable by
>and suitable for the evolution of technophilic (intelligent) life
>there is a range of millions of years between the birth of each
>such planet and others. This essentially means that the very first
>expansive civilization (notice I did not say replication) would
>take over the Galaxy relatively quickly, before we or any other
>had even the time to become human beings rather than apes. We
>would never even have come into existence.
>And why should expansion occur? Because the more of the universe
>you control, the better you can control your own fate, whether
>or not you wish to replicate yourself.

I've said before that I doubt that advanced civilizations are common, 
though for other reasons than the argument above. One weakness I see in it 
is that there could be a big tradeoff between how fast a civilization could 
expand versus how much "control" it could really exert at distances of 
thousands of light years. It wouldn't do for a far-flung civilization to 
break up into many warring factions, for instance. With slower growth might 
well come greater wisdom and greater security for the individuals. Also I 
think that the galaxy, even in relatively small volumes of space, would in 
many cases furnish ample resources to support a civilization for a very 
long time, which would lessen the urgency of expansion, possibly to a 
near-vanishing point.

Mike Perry

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