Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Likely is Life to Get Laid?

Via Considering the Universe, this fascinating 1998 essay from Robin Hanson, in which he applies the probability theory of hard steps to the Great Filter, the idea that the reason the universe is not already teeming with life is that there is at least one and very likely far more hard steps between dead matter and a wave of colonizing life moving out at the speed of light:

To support optimism regarding our future, we must find especially improbable past evolutionary steps. And in fact we can find a number of plausible candidates for groups of hard trial-and-error biological steps: life, complexity, sex, society, cradle and language. Presuming there are about nine hard steps total here, the Great Filter could be explained if the expected time for each of these steps averaged (logarithmically) to about thirty billion years, if only one percent of stars could support such steps, and if we have only about a one percent chance of not destroying ourselves soon (or permanently banning colonization).

It's a little technical but nothing the educated reader can't handle. It's certainly something to think about, and a little comforting to think that the explanation isn't that intelligent life always manages to wipe itself out when it hits the Singularity.

Also, this excellent essay from George Dvorsky over at BetterHumans, in which he brings everyone up to date on the latest developments in science pertaining to the Great Silence.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: