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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
zingme
02:04 PM on 02/23/2013
There may be 4.5 billion earth-like planets in our galaxy, but I wonder how many could actually reproduce evolutionary history like ours? We are aware now of how vulnerable we are to asteroids and that earth has been hit many times. The evolution of mammals happened after the extincion of large dinosaurs, supposedly after an asteroid hit. If that did not happen would the dinosaur-like creatures have evolved high intelligence? Probably not. They would have been successful enough and there would be no need to get smarter. Today's birds, which are believed to have descended from dinosaur ancestors, do not possess intelligence nowhere near ours. Life without the dinosaur extinction need not have produced intelligent life. There are probably many events on this planet that did or did not happen that affected ultimately our evolution. The pressure to evolve bigger brains was due to a set of environmental changes, that a subset of the ape species experienced, to produce ancient humans about a million years ago. If these climate changes did not happen we would not be here. Another evolutionary factor is disease and it has been known to wipe out species.
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marignymitch
E pluribus unum percent
01:39 PM on 02/23/2013
Yet after all these years intelligent still hasn't emerged on earth.
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sailka
honesty, morality, societal concern always
11:45 PM on 02/23/2013
We have a Gander Goose couple flirting in our pond; he chases any cat or intruder away protecting her. Caring, affectionate ideal couple, like humans should be.
01:11 PM on 02/23/2013
Based on what humans are doing to the planet and each other, I'd say the jury's out as to whether or not humankind constitutes intelligent life.
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04:38 PM on 02/23/2013
Aren't juries made of humans :-P
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gutenmorgen
a.k.a. crowsnest
07:52 AM on 02/23/2013
Suppose that contact will be made in the future with some other planet with "intelligence". I bet the exchange of information will be restricted to:
1. "what do you eat"?
2. "is football played on your planet"?
3. "Is same-gender marriage allowed on your planet"?
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Rich Cash
Enlisted in 1971 - Retired in 1996
09:05 PM on 02/23/2013
What makes you assume they have "genders"?
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Mr Teflon
Ain't I a stinker?
10:28 PM on 02/24/2013
Hopefully the answers to 2 & 3 are "yes," and to 1' "not you."
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02:49 AM on 02/23/2013
I can't tell what's more humbling: the thought you presented or the thought that our abilities to ensure our own survival for another couple of centuries aren't in much better shape than our abilities to improve the precision of your estimate.

But if your estimate is correct, then at least chances are that some OTHER species managed to get through similar threats to their own extinction.
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oneeasyrider
E=mc2: From light you exist
03:39 PM on 02/23/2013
I don't think a fatalistic destiny is warranted. Here's why: We've endured already for thousands of years. While we do make many mistakes, we regularly demonstrate, when on the brink of economic destruction (Depression and now Great Depression) we change, people sober up and accept reality. Finally, even if an event beyond our control were to occur, like say, an asteroid impact, it's highly unlikely the event would eradicate everyone everywhere. And even if something colossal like an asteroid strike were to occur, we would rebuild faster than the past five hundred years during the scientific revolution. i.e. Germany rebounded from near annihilation, so to speak - emerging to forge a new more socially conscious economic paradigm and view of the world.

As demonstrated many times, the tree of life will endure, with or without us. However, having said that, potentially, it's A.I. that will ultimately render us useless, being far more adaptable and potentially far more intelligent.
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Rich Cash
Enlisted in 1971 - Retired in 1996
09:17 PM on 02/23/2013
Our ability to "rebound faster than the past five hundred years" is very much dependent on when the disaster happens. If it happens during the next 20 years or so, you're probably right. If it happens later than that, most printed books will have been re-cycled and the vast majority of human knowledge will exist only on memory chips. A near life-extinction event will wipe out all that stored data and we could very well experience another thousand years repeating the Dark Ages. If you get a chance, read "A Canticle for Liebowitz". You'll love it, I guarantee.
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sailka
honesty, morality, societal concern always
11:54 PM on 02/23/2013
Ever studied the effects of our caused just begging Global Warming, a few centuries from now? Human self extinction, with most other life,.
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Reincarnation TPS
Back on HP (I do not believe in reincarnation)
11:57 PM on 02/22/2013
Hmmmm....................

But, I don't believe human beings will last thousands, tens of thousands or millions of eyars into the future............

Certainly not human civilization..................

We're too c r a z y dan gerous........................
10:35 PM on 02/22/2013
news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/partial-reversal-of-aging-achieved-in-mice/) And how about our latest modern miracle of non-aging mice for a certain implied and ominous portent? Of, say, having to live in 10 year shifts alternating with 20 years of suspended animation until galactic colonization can tidy up on humanity's excess proliferation? Or perhaps mulching the remains of those choosing virtual sublimation so as to enable interstellar colonization would be the optimal solution to Malthusian constraints. Upload colonists' consciousness to a digital utopia for the interstellar journey! On arrival, download such colonists to the optimal format required for any given alien habitat! The Galaxy is ours!Minimize the earthly resources required for colonization! Relieve both the tedium of interstellar 'Daddy, are we there yet?'s as well as our planetary congestion! The galaxy is ours!
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Akla
Leave No Trace, Just a Good Impression
09:28 PM on 02/22/2013
I wonder if we will be able to recognize intelligent life? After all, we supposedly elect our best and brightest to office.
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sailka
honesty, morality, societal concern always
11:58 PM on 02/23/2013
Calling the politiscians who get into office 'our best and brightest'? Since when; name any. George Washington was a big Brandy brewer; he and Lincoln's wife had slaves, etc., etc.
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Mr Teflon
Ain't I a stinker?
10:33 PM on 02/24/2013
What's wrong with brandy?
07:33 PM on 02/22/2013
What intelligent life? Human who are destroying the planet, ecosystem and biosphere? Human males with their violence and war-mongering and guns and rape and racism and misogyny? Humans who believe in one of the ridiculous patriarchal religions with their all-powerful imaginary male god in the sky? Nope, there is not much evidence of intelligence in the human species. A species that destroys its life support system cannot be considered intelligent.

Many non-human mammals show far more intelligence, decency and compassion than humans ever do. One never sees a dog or a cat kill a loved one by firing four bullets into a bathroom imagining a non-existent burglar, nor are animals stupid enough to buy that someone who fired four bullets at a target did not intend to kill.

As Gandhi said, when asked that he thought of western civilization, "It would be a good idea." But if humans were actually to develop intelligence, would it simply make them more murderous and better at making more killing devices and more excuses for killing?
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08:42 AM on 02/23/2013
"One never sees a dog or a cat kill a loved one by firing four bullets into a bathroom imagining a non-existent burglar"

That's a somewhat fatuous observation. They couldn't hold the gun or pull the trigger. Who knows what they might do if they could?
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11:47 AM on 02/23/2013
Guns don't kill people, opposable thumbs kill people.
01:13 PM on 02/23/2013
If humans were truly intelligent, they would be able to see the error of their ways. Our self-destruction is Darwinism at its finest.
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07:05 PM on 02/22/2013
We have barely begun to collect the data to make any meaningful guess on this topic. Our definitions of life are no doubt highly parochial, and our knowledge of actual events outside our tiny, tiny, tiny corner of this universe is paltry.

Fascinating question, but far too many variables to provide an answer any more meaningful than a good scifi story today.
06:59 PM on 02/22/2013
But then there's Fermi's Paradox: Where are they? Assuming we don't exterminate ourselves. the colonization estimations of galactic colonization - http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/science/physics-and-astronomy/how-long-would-it-take-colonise-the-galaxy - mean we could colonize the galaxy in a million years. That's so short a period in the history of the galaxy that if there's anyone else out there, they would have already colonized it. And we'd know it.
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UnderTheHedgeWeGo
Show me some evidence.
10:41 AM on 02/23/2013
Where they are is extinct by there own hand. If we consider our own species to be typical, there comes a time when the species is intelligent enough to exploit resources for profit and build devastatingly powerful weapons yet not intelligent enough to control their avarice and fear. If human kind makes it another 200 years I'd be very surprised.
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12:04 PM on 02/23/2013
Humans have had the ability to sail vast distances for more than 1000 years, yet people in the western hemisphere may have spent more than 10,000 years looking out at the sea and wondering if they were alone or not before Europeans turned up. That we might theoretically colonize the galaxy in a million years is far removed from reality. The list of things we could potentially do but haven't is exceedingly long.
06:50 PM on 02/22/2013
Is that a rhetorical question?
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oneeasyrider
E=mc2: From light you exist
08:16 PM on 02/22/2013
No, but ironically your question qualifies, even though doubtful you are aware - which is funny. This is actually an exceedingly simple and interesting postulation that is quite profound.

If carbon based life here on earth coincided with peak star formation and subsequent three billion years of natural selection leading to our current place at top of the tree of life, then is makes perfect sense among 4.5 billion potential earth like planets, elsewhere in the Milky Way, carbon based life should have began appearing and evolving four to five billion years earlier than here on earth since obviously carbon was available in planet formation much earlier than peak star formation.

It's an amazingly brilliant idea in it's sheer simplicity. You should be able to see justification for intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy far more evolved than us. Also, it's not such a stretch to imagine they know about us but aren't interested in interfering with our development. In fact, you can imagine quite a few plausible possibilities from this simple revelation. Wow!

"How is that for a humbling thought?" - is right!!!
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Rebecca Limback
Educator, artist, musician
06:50 PM on 02/22/2013
Judging by some of the new folks in Congress, I think we're still waiting for signs of iltelligent life!
Fascinating topic.
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12:33 AM on 02/23/2013
Beat me to it...