Is Alien ‘Life’ Weirder Than We Imagine: Who Is Out There?
This. Is the Drake Equation. First. Presented, in 1961. By dr. Frank Drake an astronomer. At the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, in. Green Bank West Virginia. Where. In n, equals. The number of civilizations in, the Milky Way galaxy whose. Electromagnetic. Emissions are, detectable. Are. Equals. The rate of formation of stars suitable, for the development, of intelligent, life F P. Equals. The fraction of those stars with planetary, systems, an e. Equals. The number of planets per, solar system, with, an environment, suitable for life. FL. Equals. The fraction of suitable planets, on which life actually appears. AF, I, equals. The fraction of, life-bearing, planets on, which intelligent, life, emerges, F C. Equals. The fraction of, civilizations. That, develop a technology, that releases, detectable, signs of their existence, into space, l. Equals. The length of time, such, civilizations release. Detectable. Signals into space got all that, since. 1961. Scientists. Have used the Drake Equation to, stimulate, thinking about finding life elsewhere in the universe in the, words of one of our greatest cosmological. Minds are. We alone how how. Common, is this. Thing called life this. Thing called intelligence. Where. Did we come from. What are the possible, fates. Of, intelligent, beings to need, we necessarily, destroy ourselves might there be a. Bright. And very long future for the human species we. Tend to have such a narrow, view, of our place, in space and in time and, the. The prospect. Of of. Making, contact with extraterrestrial, intelligence. Works. Too deep provincial, eyes our, worldview, and I think for. That reason the, search itself, even. Without a success, as great. Merit. I. Share. Just, a couple things from, my, spaceflight experience that might apply. To this I, was. Blessed to live and work in space for. 104, days, had. The opportunity, to look out the window and. See earth and, this. Just overwhelmingly. Impressive. Way it certainly is a. Life-changing. Experience and. I. Get asked a lot did. I did, I see aliens while I was in space there. You know it's kind of like the bathroom question you're gonna get that and you know did you see aliens and. I. Can say not that I know of but. I'm, interested in, our panel session tonight because I'd like to think you know as Earthlings what. Do we have to look forward to out in this universe when we consider life and other places and does, it always have, to be life. That's, with, respect to. Us to what we consider to be, life. And intelligence so, I'm. Looking forward to introducing our panelists, and getting into this our. First participant, is the, director, of the Carl Sagan Institute. And a, professor in, astronomy at Cornell University, her. Research focuses on, modeling new worlds and how to spot signs of life please welcome Lisa, Colton Eggar. Also. Joining us is director, of astrobiology. At Columbia University. And a, global, science, coordinator for the earth life science, Institute's, origins.
Network At the, Tokyo Institute, for technology, please, welcome Caleb Scharf. Is. A distinguished, scholar at the Library of Congress, and the director, of the AI mind, and society group at the, University of Connecticut a philosopher. And cognitive, scientist, please welcome Susan Schneider. And. Our. Final participant, tonight researches, the origin of life and how to discover it on other worlds she is an assistant professor in the school of Earth and space exploration at. Arizona, State University, please. Welcome Sarah Walker. So. Before we can talk, about finding, alien life we. Need to start with a clear, operating. Different definition, of what life is. About. What your definition of life would be and I think we'll just go in this case we'll just go right down the line here so. I think I'm gonna start out by being a little bit cheeky because, I'm an astronomer so I don't have to give you the real definition of, what life is and, most of my biology colleagues. Actually tell me I'll, know it when I see it so. Good, luck with that because the other stars are very far away but we're working on it so. To me what's, really important is there's something, that I can spot in. The air of another planet in the atmosphere, like we have oxygen, in our own planet for example, is, there something, that I can spot, that life does, that, modifies. A planet. Its environment. Enough, so. I can actually pick, that up by. Looking at that planets with my big telescope, and so, that, definition, encompasses, a huge. Amount. Of life all. The, life that, changes. The signature, gases, in the air often, of the world and, Carl. Sagan looked at our world and what, he saw was the combination, of oxygen, with, a reducing, gas like methane. And that's a telltale, sign for. A nice warm, world like ours that, life's happening, right there and so, that's. What I use but. If anybody, comes up with a better definition of other gases I can look for I'd be more than happy to pass this along. Yeah. So I mean defining. Life is one of those questions, I think as scientists, we all know that, you'll get a hundred different answers, or you'll get a kind of blank stares. So. I'm going to be a little cheeky as well and perhaps a little contrary.
And Say, that you, know in some ways I think it may be the, wrong question. Right now and, there. Are a few reasons for that part of the reason is quite simple and it's just that it's clear that what. We consider, to be life is actually a confluence. Of multiple. Phenomena, in, different, ratios depending on what you're talking about that makes it extremely complicated. A question. But, I'll say two other things that I think make it a difficult question right now and the first is that when we think about life we think about life. Here, in this room in this audience on the bottom of your shoe whatever. That. Has, evolved. After, four billion years it's the product of four billion years of evolution. And that may be different. Than, whatever happened. Four billion years ago it may be very different to what was the first thing, or, first system, that we might associate, with life then. The other point I want, to bring up is I think, we can't quite answer that question yet because we don't know, and. I think maybe some, of the other panel, members may have some insight to this whether. You can build life out of other stuff. So. Whether life can be substrate. Independent. Or more Universal. Than we think about not, necessarily building, out of silicon or anything like that but building. Life in software, if. You could do that it would suggest, that, life, is something, that can happen when you have components. That can build enough complexity. For, it to for, it to sort of emerge, so that's my contrary, and answer, that we can't quite, answer. That, question. Of defining life yet. Okay. So. That's really nice I'm a philosopher. So. Definitions. Are always, a train wreck. The. Worry. Here, is that. If you define life, in. Terms of life as we know it on earth all cases, of life that we know are, related. So we've, got one instance, that we know about and so if we make a definition, based, on that instance, and we go look for life somewhere, else it may. Be that we fail to detect life because, we've, narrowed, our definition, so, much that we are just. The tip of the iceberg, there are all sorts, of intriguing, cases, of life so. I agree, with both of you you know to not, use. A very, constrained. Definition, NASA's. Astrobiology. Institute, has. An intriguing, definition, which I sometimes defer, to which, is a self-sustaining. Chemical, system capable of. Darwinian, evolution I, like. That but then I kind of think again, as a philosopher. Wait a second, what. If a is. Self-sustaining, and. Has all sorts of intriguing, properties, but the instance, that we have is, created. By intelligent. Design that. Is we are the designers we, make the AI systems, and it, doesn't evolve in a, Darwinian, fashion, so I'm still not a hundred percent behind the NASA definition. Either. So. I think one of the problems that we often encounter is assuming that life is a chemical phenomena, and I think there's a confusion between the scale at which life emerges, which is probably chemical, and the definition, of life which, is likely not, related. To chemistry necessarily. And could apply to AI so. I liked that Lisa brought up the top that, I know it when I see it you hear there's so much in the astrobiology, community and. And, I always kind of like make this joke about that like if if.
I Know it when I see it I feel very alive and so you guys are observing me right now I guess I'm alive because you know it and when you see like if nobody's observing me am I still alive. Seem. Like a very good objective, criteria, for science so. I think one of the the problems that we face as astrobiologists. Is that, our definitions, are really premature because, we don't actually have a theory for life and. So what I mean by that is I the, way I think about living systems is really trying to understand, what is life at a fundamental level and a lot of our descriptions, are kind of at this very high level where. We're talking about life being reproducing. Or about, compartmentalization. Or metabolism. Or chemical. Self-sustaining. System, and. Those are probably. Attributes. Of life but not really the core property, of life the property that would be universal, in the sense that Caleb. Was talking about and if we think about what life is doing that's very unique in, my mind it's it's it's information. Processing, capability. And that we don't really see any other kind of systems that. Use, information in, the, way that biology, does and I think AI is an excellent example of that DNA. In your cells and, how that information gets read out and actually controls. The function of your cells is another example and. To that point if we start thinking about these sort of more abstract, ways of thinking about life, in, terms of information. And the way information interacts. With the physical world as being, a way of, quantifying, life. Suddenly. Life is not this black or white yes, this is alive no this is not alive but we could actually derive measurable, criteria for, life and that there's actually a spectrum of living things and so AI might fall on that spectrum chemical. Systems might fall on that spectrum but so might cities and. Multicellular organisms. Or unicellular organisms, and so I think one of the challenges for astrobiologists, moving forward is really to challenge ourselves to. Think outside the box about what life is and what the underlying laws, might be of life and whether there are principles that are really universal well. I like the way go ahead I think one of the things like a complete, again this is where you get that full. Scientific insight, that we just like talk and discuss then it's fun and then we're trying to come up with something is this. Search now. We have, going, now on the thousands, of other worlds, that we've found. And detected, does. Need some kind of definitions, that we figure out what we can spot or what we could look for. However what, we do is we keep our eyes open for weird, stuff weird. Stuff that we can explain. Geologically. Right and then we'll take that and, say look because. We have this one case earth and ours is amazing, it has a wide range of life when we look at it however it. Could be completely, different somewhere else but we'll only get that when. We look somewhere, else as we are now doing and, we're. Trying to also recreate, life in the lab that's, like what a lot of our biologist, colleagues are trying to work. Out now and, if that would work out then, we could change the chemical mix but. Right now it's basically a two pong to approach I would say looking. Out and, trying to figure out what we can find and what makes no sense so it's usually the fun in science the arica moment was like oh my god this is nothing, I would have ever expected, that's. What we really like in a way we.
Don't Know what to do after but that's where it becomes fun and, the other thing is like people trying to do this theoretically. And trying to do it practically, in the lab from the most, basic, chemical, compounds, and I, think it's, really, really cool, to. Be alive right, now. Because for 2,000, years a, little bit more people. Were asking, whether we alone in the universe and, we, are so, close to, figuring that. Lead. Into part. Two which is finding, life since, 1992. More, than, 3,500. Exoplanets. Have. Been found orbiting stars other than, our Sun and 60%, of these are rocky, planets, not unlike, ours, so. Lisa, let's start with you in the opening film we, heard from Carl Sagan himself about, the value, of searching, for life out, there in the stars as director. Of the Sagan Institute, can. You tell us how that search, is going I mean there's a lot of things going on so. Thing one, of the most fascinating, things, for me if you were saying about 25. Years ago this, whole thing is like you know there are other planets out other worlds required, a bottle, of wine and a lot of different opinions. Right. Now we, found, nearly. 4000, worlds orbiting other stars, alien. Suns so. When you look up in the sky, doesn't. Work in Manhattan but. Works once the outside, I tried. Yesterday I could find two stars. When. You out and, you, actually well. One thing that works in Manhattan if you, out and you look at the sky and you count one two, one. Out. Of two, stars or one out of two suns that you see in the night sky has. A planet, and. One. Out of five. Has. A planet that could be like ours and, what. That means is that it's small enough to be a rock and at. The right distance from, this hot star, where. It's not too hot and not too close, so you could have liquid water one. Out of five, and, we. Have two, hundred billion, stars in. Our. Milky Way, our galaxy alone. So, if you do the math we. Have 40. Billion, interesting, places to look and. We. Have no idea whether there is life out there because we had only half the telescope's yet that are big enough to actually catch. The light from this planets to check however. Rebuilding. Those and, the first one is gonna launch in two years it's the chain's Webb Space Telescope and. That. One at the edge of, the technical, possibility. Will, have the capability to spot. These, gases, life produces, in the, air of other worlds, that could be like ours so. The. Search is going well so far I. Like. Our off I, have. No answer and a, good answer actually if anybody ever asks you when you come out of this panel for example what, the chances, are that there's life out there in the universe a.
Good, Friend, of mine one of the discoverer of the first exoplanets. Michelle maher always says, 50%. Plus. Minus, 50. I think, it's a way to put it. That's. Awesome. And, we know there are a lot of other missions that are happening as well I hope you'll get a chance to discuss some of them too Caleb, when, when you think about this what, are the parameters, for. Looking. For life on these exoplanets, one of the things I'm. Very interested in with my colleagues, is, understanding. Even something as fundamental, as the nature of climate you. Mentioned the idea of the, planet needing to be just, at the right distance from. Its parent star where it's not too hot not too cold Goldilocks, so whatever, you want to call it but. That itself, is actually a very complex, problem. As you, well know so, for example, we're. Trying to take, supercomputer. Simulations, of planetary climate and. Mortal. Alien, worlds, and find, out what happens, when you change the day length of a planet what happens when you change the tilt of a planet what happens when you change the shape of the orbit what happens when you change the gravity, of a planet and so on and it turns out to be a difficult. Problem. Just. Answer, whether or not the. Surface environment of a planet, may, be temperate. Which, is kind of one of our, methods. Of selecting, out candidate. Planets for then trying, to probe deeper, with these these great new telescopes, looking, for chemical, signatures, and so on you kind of need to know the, thermal. Environment. The climate environment, so. I can give you an example of what happens when you slow a planet like the earth down you might think what how does that change climate, well it actually completely, alters the, circulation. Patterns, of the atmosphere, on a planet, and our models contain, oceans. And atmospheres, and chemistry, and salt and we're. Finding that you change the, rotation rate of a planet you actually, warm. Up the poles and you cool down the equator but, you also do other things if the planet has water it begins to build certain, patterns, of cloud that. Play, a role in reflecting. Stellar. Radiation for, reflecting sunlight back out into space and that also plays a role in setting the climate state so, the bottom line is we. We're trying to come at this problem from many different directions, and, it's all complicated. Which. Is good in the sense because we have jobs to do this it. Was easy. So. Some of the parameters are the. Raw sort, of biochemical. Signatures but other parameters, do with just understanding. The, the environment. The climate state, of a planet and that's a challenge, yes. Go. Ahead so, what. We're. Saying and absolute. We. Have a, different. Approach to this right so we have many many groups who have this, climate model that was done for, the earth so, we have one at the culligan Institute you've one with several where, we're basically making a huge data, cube, if you want well, we actually making. Our models, do. Things, for longer day lengths for, bigger gravity, but. The problem, that we encounter of course is that we have no data sample, that you can compare. That to because, we don't have an Earth's that happens to be heavier right, we, have some information, about an earth that's younger and we. Have this amazing artist's. Impression that you see behind us of what these planets. That we've discovered, or that astronomers, have discovered could. Be like some have one Sun some have two suns the, Sun's up there in man. Try. To model, the climate, of the earth and put a second Sun in this, model was never designed to have to sense because Earth's was never designed to have to self in a way so. We're. Getting a lot of insights, and. The, question really is also, if the climate when. Could, we find the, signs of life even, if they exist some. Climate, conditions, will actually, make, it impossible, for us to spot them and some.
Climate, Conditions will make it easier, for us to spot them and with, thousands, of planets out there what, we're trying to do is pick the easiest. Ones, to tease this out and, one, last point is that when Caleb and I were talking about the, habitable, sound there's, no way to say that outside, of the selm there, couldn't be life there, could be life on icy. Moons for example like your Robo Enceladus, but, it would be hidden from our view because, this ice, there would. Basically keep, all the gases, the only thing that we can really see from far, far away hidden. From our telescopes, we'd. Have to go there drill a hole and check if there fish or anything else. But. So this is why this definition of the Hannibal song just to make sure it's, not where there can be life it's, where we without. Going, there can. Pick it up if it exists, just, a tiny, little interesting. Piece to that you mentioned the icy moons and that's absolutely an. Essential thing to remember because if you look at our solar system, we have this picture of this little Oasis world, I think one of those posters, talks about the Oasis, earth sitting. Closer to the Sun but, if for example having. Liquid water oceans, defines. An oasis, then actually, the majority liquid. Water oceans, in our solar system are in the outer solar system if, you add up all the potential, liquid water inside. Europa, inside. Enceladus. Inside, even Titan, and possibly even Pluto. It's, about 13, times, the total volume, of liquid water on earth except, it's in these dark oceans, these oceans sealed, away by icy, crusts, so for all we know our solar. System is teeming. With more life but, it's locked away in these dark oceans, so. Sarah we have the. Potential with places, like Mars where, we might actually be able to get there someday but. I guess I'd like to ask you know you got the Mars 2020, and. The ExoMars 2020, Rovers that are. Going to get, a much closer look at the surface of Mars than we've ever had before so. What should they be looking for and, what do, you expect they'll find. I'm. Not convinced, there's life on Mars. But. But I've been really intrigued with this idea that life really, needs to take over an entire planet yeah um and, and, so if you look at life on Earth. Everything. About the Earth's system is, defined, by the presence of life in some sense even like the biogeochemical. Cycle so the cycling of elements is controlled by life and that's something really fascinating, about what humans are doing now is we're, starting to control those those biogeochemical. Cycles, so. If you if you look at something like the models that we, send Caleb we're talking about. One of the things I thought really intriguing hearing about those is we don't even know how to model earth without life right and, so so, I think I think this idea that that that life really becomes embedded. In a planet is really fascinating, and, gets this idea about.
Back. To like thinking about definitions, of life and what we're actually looking for we, think of life as this this you. Know chemical phenomena, in a cell as the fundamental unit for life and so we should be looking for cells on Mars but. That may be too narrow of you and if you do have this kind of expanded, view and are really looking for more. Fundamental. Basic processes. Of life it really opens your horizons, for things that you might look for and, so when I think about looking for life I'm not really thinking about looking for cells on a planet, or molecules. In an atmosphere I. Think, about looking, for an entirely new sector of physics and that seems like kind of an unusual way of thinking about it but but, we have some really amazing mathematical. Theories of the world we have quantum mechanics and general relativity and, these amazing, revolutions, and our understanding of the natural world and we don't have any, theories. That explain the, existence of life or the properties of life and. So I really think it's, it's a new frontier for us and astrobiology, to really understand, those combining, observations and. Experiments that we're doing here on earth and really, think differently. About what, kind of things we're looking for and so when I think about looking for life I think about what are the mathematical structures. That. We use to describe life on Earth that, we should be thinking about how to look for those on other planets, and. One of the ways that that has been really incredibly successful. In studying life across all scales, for. Life on Earth is is this idea of using, networks, and. So on so probably everybody in here is part of a social network right is. Anybody here a part of a social network everybody raise your hands yeah. You're. In a room with people so you're in a social network but you're probably also in a social network online. And. You can actually represent networks. Mathematically. And and they're they're quite simple mathematical, structures everybody, in this room would be represented. As a circle and if you're friends with each other you'd have a line between you and you can actually study the statistics of those kind of systems and. This is really interesting because if you look at systems, like the camera street happening in your cells or, the structure of the internet or the structure of facebook there's, a lot of regularities, in the in the way those networks are structured and and a lot of that has to do with the way information is, structuring those systems so so, if you think about a social network really you're not interacting with those people physically, you're interacting with them through, through, information, technology or some kind of information exchange and so what I find intriguing is trying to actually think about how we can use insights.
From Complex systems to look for life on earth in particular, maybe. You. Know Mars atmosphere, or, atmospheres. Of other planets, might have some signatures, in the actual system level organization, of the planet and. What I mean by that is you. Could actually just like we can represent chemistry. So, the, way we represent chemistry. And your cells as a network as we say the molecules, interact so, they would be the nodes in the network and, if they participate in a reaction together, then they have a line between them and. So you can represent an atmosphere, that way too it's just chemistry it, has the same kind of mathematical, representation, and so, some people have done some preliminary studies where they show Earth's atmosphere looks more like the chemistry inside. Your cells than it does like Mars or Venus as atmosphere, from this network perspective now. That has a lot of work to be done to confirm that this is really like a system-level property, of atmospheres, of inhabited, planets but, if it is it gives us a better window into thinking about what. Our biological. Systems, at a planetary, scale how do they shape. Planetary. Scale. Structure. Of the, chemistry, and. How can we actually use that as a bio signature, that's not just dependent, on the particular molecules, participating. In those, networks but actually the system level organization. And so, one of the ways that that I tend, to think about that why looking at individual, molecules, is bad but maybe looking at system level properties is good for detecting life is you. You're all made of atoms in this room right but you wouldn't think of any individual, atom in your body as alive but you as a whole system level entity are alive so it clearly, has to be an emergent property of many, interacting, molecules and. So I think one of the things that we need to start doing is actually start using those kind of tools for thinking about our search for life it, gets hard with exoplanets, because you get so little. So. One of the things I find challenging for the future is to think like how do we actually extract these kind of properties from that data but. I think that there are new horizons, for thinking about how we search for life that, aren't just the way that we've been thinking about it in the past and. It really comes from trying to think more quantifiably. About the search I think that actually leads Caleb into, you, know this consideration, for the, Fermi, paradox and. Which. Can be set you know really with the question of where. Is everybody you know I mean. Where is everybody and who should, we be looking at you know and. You. Know this this idea is the answer to the Drake question zero. So. Maybe. I'll just state, what the the Fermi paradox is, and then then we have a little I, think, we have a little movie to, show so, the Fermi paradox is, this idea that, if, there. Is life, out there. If life happens, reasonably, often, in our galaxy for example, then he's, pretty old it's, at least 10 billion years old and so. Following. Our own trajectory there's, been plenty of time for some species out there to, have come, into existence if. It's been lucky or unlucky depending, on your perspective it, became intelligent and. Technological. And, decided. To try to go between the stars and the. Interesting thing about that is it turns out that once, you start doing that you occupy, the galaxy, pretty quickly, and so. This raises the question if, life is not incredibly. Rare or. If. There isn't something that prevents it from doing this and where is everybody why, hasn't it it shown up now of course some people feel it has shown up but we won't go there. I. Don't if we have the the little Fermi. Video, ready. Yeah, so let, me explain what this is this is actually the, work of Jonathan, Carroll, now I'm back and Adam. Frank who I've been working with and this is a picture of our galaxy but it's a highly, idealized, model. Of our galaxy what, looking at eternal. Point of light each little sphere represents, about two and a half million stars, and the, colors correspond. To interstellar, species. Relocating. Themselves, expanding. I would. Say colonizing, but that word has such negative. Connotation. These days. They're. Expanding out each color corresponds, to particular technological species now what you're seeing in, this representation is, a, pretty, active, galaxy, it's colorful, in the middle things, come and go because there are things like supernovae, that go off and essentially, sterilize, big pieces of our galaxy so, civilizations.
In The middle of our galaxy kind of like building a house in Hawaii all. Right. Yeah. This looks good I know there's a volcano. And. That may, be something that happens in central galaxies were there many more stars many, more supernovae. And other violent, events that might actually sterilize. Pieces, of the galaxy now, this. Is an exaggerated. Model, the part of the reason for looking at this question. This way is that things, move around in our galaxy and, stars. Have motion, and that actually, encourages. The spread of an interstellar species, because you may not have to have such wonderful rocket. Ships to go between stars if the stars themselves every, so often come. Closer to each other so that's part of what we were trying to model it's, a very exaggerated, model because in that. 40. Million years that you just saw passing, we, assume that species can travel about half the speed of light when they decide to but. Even. If you tuned it down and, you make it much more difficult to, travel between the stars and you make the, occurrence, of star Ferenc species, much less frequent, use, discover that it still, it's. Pretty easy to fill the galaxy, with life. So. The. Bottom line is it, reinforces, this big open. Question, of, where. Is everybody. So. That's essentially. The Fermi paradox brought. Up today. Both, of me okay. I'll be contrarian. So. The. Point, is like I teach, astronomy 101, so I have like undergrad, students with no science major one. Of the questions that I asked, him when we get to the Fermi paradox. So Fermi. Basically. Decided. That his answer, was that the speed of light this era limit and say, you'd have to be incredibly, motivated. Or, have a really good reason why you'd want to spend so, much of your time like. Our closest. Star after, the Sun is four light years away so, if you could go with 10%, of the speed of light it's still a 40-year. Trouble that you, have to survive you have to have energy and food for and you have to have a very good reason, to go right but. What, I do in my class when we get to the Fermi paradox into, the Drake Equation I'm. Saying look I have. This amount of money and we can go to one, planet. Let's. Assume the whole galaxy is teeming, with them I have. One planet that is 5000, years older than us and one. Planet, that's 5000. Years younger and then. I pull my class and say which. One should I spend, my money on to, go and visit and. Most. Of the time to always except, for one person who always wants to go back in time because they're scared about something new. Everyone. Wants to go to the further develop on because they want to know what's going on and, then if you take that I love, our planet I love our species, I think the astronauts, are amazing, you know let me say that but. We only made, it to the moon with, people right we made it with a rover, to Mars was, great and to tighten with a satellite, that we land in and so on but, we are really not that interesting. Assuming. There's, lots of places you could choose from so. I think, we, just incredibly. Boring. Before. That just to say I mean one issue is you're introducing. The factor, of agency. And. We try to avoid that in our modeling because we. Age. Encima be. Organisms. Are the species oh just. A quick comment so we are boring probably. We're. A relatively, young planet, and, you. Know if there truly are alien, technological. Civilizations. They could be you, know 50, million years older than us so, we, may not know what to look for but. I do think it's interesting though, that, you.
Know We. Do tend to think of this issue in terms of this model, of galactic. Expansion. It's called the coral model, right where we start. In one spa and then we send out maybe von Neumann, probes which are a eyes or, spaceships. In, the old-fashioned, way and then, they send out their ships and we expand, but, that's highly, at the prom or 'fuck but intriguingly. We have already started interstellar. Missions, we have project, breakthrough starshot, which, in I believe 20, years, is aiming. To go to the, Alpha Centauri region, and I. Think. The speed that they're anticipating if, things work out I mean there's issues like space dust, when, your the. Way they do it is that they're incredibly small. There's so light that they can go very very fast these little light sail ships but the point here is if you do want to. Expand. In this way even, we have the resources, to begin to, at least examine. These. Other regions, fairly. Cheaply, I mean each ship is fairly inexpensive of, course it takes a lot of energy to. Send the ships out but. I think the question here is. Will. Are we being too anthropomorphic. When. We think of the Fermi paradox I. Mean we're thinking of galactic, expansion. But, these civilizations. That. Are. Perhaps. 50. Million, years older, than us are thinking entirely. Differently. Than we are so. Who knows maybe they have already visited. And, just don't know I hope no reporters, call I. Mean. By our meek, intellectual. Resources. There. Are dozens of intriguing. Responses. To the Fermi paradox but. There's been nothing that convinced, me. You. Know either, way. Well. Interested, in asking CEREC question, about. The. Sort of information. Approach. To. Life networks. And so on we. Automatically, kind of think of it as old life well it's it's tough here but could, it be applied on, a much grander scale to, understand, something, like the Fermi paradox I hope, so so I was first gonna disagree with all of you because I don't think we're boring. One. Person on the panel that doesn't think we're boring. I, think, we're the most fascinating thing in the universe it's really crazy that we're here having this conversation right now but, from the perspective of the Fermi paradox I mean my resolution, is is very similar to Susan I just I think we don't know what we're looking for and, if we if we understand, life on Earth better and. We do we develop, these kind of quantifiable, criteria, to answer your question then we should be able to identify it and it might be that we identify, it in completely different ways, than we had anticipated previously. And. So one of the things that I made this argument before that that life isn't a chemical phenomena, and, I really, do think it's not so when when I say that like cities are alive I really think cities are alive and I think computers are alive and I think AI is is, life, and. So, these are all examples of the, same kind of infer, information. Mattering. To the world re emerging at different scales and we don't really know how high up in a hierarchy, that goes we know that that chemistry organized, into unicellular organisms. And that, those, organized, into multicellular, organisms, and then we had social systems and then we had cities and we have technological civilization. That's now globally, integrated and, now we're inventing artificial, intelligence, and so hi how, how, many scales are there to that kind of living, process and hierarchy, and so very advanced life could look entirely.
Different. Anything. That we could anticipate right now or life in different. Media could look entirely different it doesn't need to be the kind of chemistry, that. We have on earth today so I think what we really need to understand is what is what life is and what it's doing before, we can really ask. And. Rule, out possibilities. A. Very short thing I think a completely. Agree that we just a little bit to earth centric, right because. Maybe, if we evolve a little further we actually gonna be fine with the energy and the resources we have we gonna actually manage them right because usually it colonization. Or moving out right, it's because you're running out of resources, you need something else, and in, addition. 75%. Of all, the stars out there are small, red stars who have a much, much longer, lifetime, than the Sun so, they, don't have to go anywhere to find somewhere else we, do and so this is why I love the astronaut program no that's before. We, have about a billion years on this planet before. Because. The Sun like every other star gets right, - with time it's just what they do it's. Gonna get hotter on the earth so even without us amplifying. The co2 we can speed the process up but, even if we don't then. In about a billion years it's gonna be way, too hot, here so we're gonna lose the surface oceans with all the models that we're running and, so, we'd have to be either a spacefaring, species, at that point to go somewhere else to, build hopefully, one of these amazing. Space station, that I keep seeing in the science fiction movies and I really want to live on one of those and. You could think about a space station being, Paris, one London one New York and, I. Have no problem I don't need another planet if that's the case, but. I think a lot of the time you know because, the Fermi paradox and, the Drake Equation where. This amazing. First attempts. To. Quantify the problem but. I think it's also deeply. Rooted, and our idea, that we won't get our resources, sorted, out that, we will have to expand, to survive and that everyone, does and so I'm very much with Susan hopefully, that, if. A 15 million year older, civilization. Or you. Know the numbers are staggering they could be six. Billion, years older than we are so. Older. Than us when the earth was born, it's. Not even something I can imagine but. I do help I'm a positive or I'm an optimist, for humankind. And civilization, I hope, we get our energy. And, resources. Sorted. And then we wouldn't have to expand we would go and find out because we're curious we could travel but, we wouldn't have to colonize, and, therefore, this whole idea that you would spread over the whole galaxy to, actually make it yours might. Not appeal, to us because I think some, of us in the audience right if you see a place where you'd love to live but, you see somebody else has built a house there I'm not gonna go and actually push it down and say no I'm here and I, hope as a species, we evolved to that system. Too and so we have our amazing, planet, and Oasis in space maybe. We don't need to occupy, everything, else I agree. With a lot of that I mean I think the one thing is though and this, is often an argument I use when people, ask me well why do you study things, like astrobiology. And life and universe because, it's the way we're going to learn about ourselves and. I. Just wonder where the part, of a motivation. For spreading across. The universe is you still looking for answers about yourself, and you may never be able to find all of those by staying at home I just, just, just to put that out there if we accept, that there is life, out there, let's. Talk about whether or not that life might be intelligent. Whatever that, means. So what does that mean I think one of the things that's very interesting about. Us as an intelligent, civilization is that we construct theories of our world and we can and don't like laws and, we can use those to. Do really interesting things like launch satellites into space or people into space and, so so, so, theories, themselves, are actually information. About, the world and their information that allows us to do things and so that's one way that I actually define intelligence is when you start having, things, that. That. That, those systems actually have knowledge, or information. Allows. Them to generate structures, that wouldn't be possible without, having, knowledge there, is no possibility. That you would have all, those satellites, orbiting, our planet unless, we had a technological, civilization with. Intelligence. And knowledge about the laws of physics so when we're thinking about looking for intelligent life out there I think what we need to look for is things, that can't be explained by physics and chemistry alone, but require additional. Information. In the system to actually generate those structures now as I'm saying that I have no idea what the heck that means, but.
I Think that we need to think about that kind of perspective in. Order to really clarify the questions that we're asking so, we're. At this point in the program where, we're gonna transition, to part four which is life. In the future we have this idea that we're gonna make AI alive, and. Is. That an okay to think the thing to think about so. What we're seeing on earth right now with. The development of artificial, intelligence, is a revolution. And, it's, changed all of our lives we're on the internet we have our smoke smartphones, we'll soon like, have very. Sophisticated personal. Assistants, I mean in a blip, when you look at the cosmic, scale of things it's a blip we, will you. Know within a hundred years start upgrading, our own intelligences. To. Where we. May actually be post biological. We could become, cyborgs. If you will instead. Of carrying around a phone it will be in the head we'll have mobile internet connections. We'll have enhanced working, memories. We'll. Learn. Languages, quickly, because we may just get a new neural. Implant, it could look like science, fiction well. If that's, the trend, that we see on earth. People. Have increasingly, started, asking, what alien. Civilizations. Could, be like if. Life. Does survive, on, other. Planets, past its technological. Maturity, that. Is if they don't have terrible. Problems, like nuclear wars, or you. Know environmental. Catastrophes. They. May, have. The opportunity, to become synthetic. Beings. Intelligence. Is. Realized. In a lot different, ways, as, people. Here appreciate. The. Same sort, of neural. Algorithms, could be run as Sarah knows in a. Different, substrate, we. See intelligence. Systems. That are silicon, based for. Example on earth so, all this. Suggests. To, a certain degree that, when, we're searching for intelligent, alien. Civilizations. The. Little, green man or, ET, model as much as I like Yoda it's my favorite alien that's, not. Necessarily. What we want to be looking for when we're looking for. Technological. Civilizations. We might be looking, for. Synthetic. Intelligences. That are computronium. The, size of a planet, mmm. There are a lot of moral, and ethical issues to. Think about, here. They. May not be conscious, and, it may not feel like anything, to be them if they're synthetic we may find out answers to these questions as, we develop, our own a eyes on Earth. That's. Not to say however the, intelligent, civilizations. Are out there. One. Thing that didn't come up in response, to the Fermi paradox that. I thought I. Of. As incredibly, interesting, is the idea of the great filter, so, there's, this. Is. Called the great filter argument, by the economist, Robin Hanson and he suggests, essentially. That you. Know we, don't even know how easy it is to. Find. Life I mean to actually get. Life kick-started. On another planet, because we don't know how really. What. To say about the origin of life on Earth so, we actually don't, know, given. All those exoplanets. How. Many places are actually inhabited. Because we don't know how easy it is for life to get going but, suppose you do have microbial. Life on these planets well, how, difficult, is it to get, from, microbial. To more complex. Forms. Of life and then from there how difficult, is it to get to, intelligent, life and then from there how, long how possible. Is it to survive technology. Maturity, and we have nuclear. War, super. Intelligent AI all, kinds of global catastrophic, risks. That our civilization faces, and maybe it's that way for other civilizations so, Hansen suggests there could be a great filter anywhere, at all from. The, very beginning, from the inception, of, life. On a planet to. Highly, intelligent life, so, I think these are the kind of issues which. Are, interesting. To think about when, it comes to things like the Fermi paradox, and. You. Know Sarah with the idea of looking for complex systems and these networks. What. Would. You consider AI to, be life based. On based on that yeah, I. Definitely, do so. So I I think that the post biological. Phase of evolution is really interesting, but, people tend to think it's really different than what we've seen in the history of life so far but if you adopt. Sort. Of this informational, perspective, of life it seems like the natural consequence, of the way, life, evolves, on a planet, that if, it is increasingly. Building. Better, information. Processing, systems, that that would be an inevitable outcome and, it's not that it's an unnatural one or that, it's a bad one it's, just, what.
Happens, And so, I think I, think that that we tend to be afraid of these things but I don't I don't think that we should be afraid of artificial intelligence I think it's it's just a part of what we are and who we are and and in, some sense, that. Those systems will be our progeny in a long-term future and they may be biologically. Integrated, they may be entirely artificial, but they are still something that we created that, we will, send, out into the universe and so, something I find really intriguing about this discovery of alien life is is that it might be very likely that the things that we discover artificial, but, also what's discovering, them is artificial, because, we don't usually send humans out into space we're sending machines, and we're probably going to be sending machine learning algorithms, and aio into space so, really when we're talking about making alien contact it may not even be biological. It's gonna be artificial. Systems making contact with other artificial systems and will they consider ours alive. It, raises some interesting ethical, questions really interesting, yeah maybe. Just to inject. Contrarian. So as I'm sitting here listening to this what I'm what I'm realizing is you know in a lot of these discussions to do with things like the great filter and also the Fermi paradox and, spreading around space, there. Seems like there's this, implicit. Assumption. That species. Remain, the, same and. And. You mentioned you know earth, in a billion years when the Sun has gotten a bit hotter and our planet has this runaway greenhouse wall day we. Won't be there evolution. Will have taken care of that evolution itself, might be the filter because, we're, not static, no matter how much we might imagine. Ourselves, you. Know a million, years in the future humans. In the future we will not be the same biological entities. That we are now neither will our machines, be the same machines, that they are now evolution, is perhaps, the most unstoppable. Force in, the universe and so, I just wonder you know if we're talking about life in the future. You. Know it's going, to be totally. Different than anything that exists, right now I think we can say that with certainty. Even. As us we. Won't be around even despite, our best intentions right, we can we can solve our energy problems, we can you, know write, records of everything we have literature, and so on you, know biologically. I'm not, sure, it's. Either possible, or desirable. To. Halt our, biological. Evolution and, it evolution, hat Darwinian, evolution, happens at multiple time scales it's happening right now like. That it's also happening over millions, of years and it's very very, difficult to see where. It's going so. I think you, know part of what's happening is were kept. We're, getting to this point where well, humans. In the future we won't be humans, anymore, we'll be something else, we. Should be. Protecting, allows. Absolutely. Because the timescale may be very odd but this may also, have. Something to, say about the. Fermi paradox about, the great filter that it's, actually evolution, that that, just that aggressively. Expanding, species it, takes it still ten million years to get anywhere interesting in the galaxy by the time it's done that it's not the same species there, is this like intrinsic, need to be the same but like but the thing that always strikes me is really interesting is we aren't physically the same as we were like ten years ago I mean literally like the atoms in your body or not the same I'm not for sure. Think. About as being the same is is, very subjective, and, so, I so I think I think Caleb's absolutely right that we are continually, evolving systems and we're systems, that where information is constantly restructuring.
Us So so the reason that you're still you, know a coherent, entity ten. Years later even though you don't have the same atoms is because your body is constantly rebuilding itself, and, so an, evolution, just does that on a different time scale it builds new systems from the previous systems, and and that's totally fine so I think I think our definition of what we are needs. To be expanded and that's one of the also the reasons that I like this idea of thinking about life at a planetary, scale because we are all life on Earth and it's, very integrated, as you were describing before we, can't really take out a piece of it and say it's separate and so, when we're thinking about the evolution, of life on this planet we have to think of that entire, planetary. Sitting. And. We are definitely going to evolve into something else in the future and probably. AI is gonna be tightly integrated with that we don't know what that's gonna look like but but, it's not not, gonna be us it's still gonna be the same lineage. I, like. Astrobiologists. So much because. Meteors. So laid back. The. Next 200 years because. You think of everything when these grand. Timescales. But. I think we have to remember that. We. Right now have. A lot, of issues with emerging, technologies that. Urgently need to be navigated, so that we do. Press. On and, that we can make decisions, about. How. To design minds. If you will so Caleb, you talk about it, all being a matter of evolution. In a Darwinian, sense but even. Richard Dawkins said, recently in a film that, we were both in called super sapiens, when, it comes to artificial, intelligence and brain, enhancement, it is now the era, of. Intelligent. Design we. Are the designers which, is why I think the idea of being earthlings, is so important, if we're looking at ourselves as as planetary, system, it's. Not just me deciding, it's not just you deciding, it's as as, this. The inhabitants, of this planet we have to decide how are we going to work together for, that. Future that I'd like to think you know my son who's only 15, he's got his, life to live and you know and yeah there's this, grander. Scale of time but where we all change at all that happens but I want to know that you. Know as human beings we're gonna figure out how we survive, here, too. I. Mean this is another motivation. For finding, other life. And. If. We ever got to the point where we could interrogate maybe.
Interrogate. What. Mistakes, they made. You. Know there. Are other stories out there potentially. That, could tell. Us how. To do, things and actually make it through this. Augmentation. Period. Or make it through a filter you, know there may be other places where it worked and places where it failed and. We could learn from that too that's a stretch but yeah, I think, they call in the beginning after you. Ask why we. Should care for example if we don't find life out there what. What our reasons would be and I think Caleb, just touched on one of those, by. Finding, other planets, like ours out there we'll find some, that, are older, than us and even if evolution is different, let's, say some will be in a further evolutionary. Stage than we are and that is, the only way, that allows. Us the glimpse, in our potential. Future and the. Way I usually talk, about this is like for example we see all older, Earth's have. A lot of so2, in the atmosphere, comes, from volcanoes, we, can't breathe it. That doesn't mean it will happen to the earth but, it would mean that it would be intelligent, for us to develop a technology to, filter, it out just, in case this is something that, happens, to all earth and so, even. If people don't care about whether we alone in the universe what's. Coming. Being, as informed. As we can whether, we become synthetic. Or not. Taking. As good, care as we can of our own planet, I think, it's the imperative, that right, now we are guarding this planet and we. Are. Responsible. For it I love. That as kind of a closing note because, when. We think about exploring, further off our planet finding, or not finding, what we consider life, to be out there we. Know from what we've done already, even in low-earth orbit, and as human beings only getting to the moon so far that. We. Have learned a lot about, ourselves and. About how we do those things to, improve life here on earth I want, to thank all of you for a really really, impressive. You.