Monday, August 19, 2019


Last night I was watching some Youtube videos about Fermi’s Paradox which is obviously not the best thing to do before going to bed. But it does put the usual media noise about “ecological overshoot” into perspective. As I suggested in my now seemingly famous “runway metaphor”, the question is not whether the human enterprise is unsustainable (it is!) but rather if there still is enough runway left to stop or if we are better off hitting the accelerator. Considering where we are today, I would say that the relative distance to a post-scarcity future of molecular assemblers and space colonization is far shorter than the distance to anything remotely resembling “sustainability” using existing technologies, especially when considering how pluralistic our world is and what level of ethical homogenization that would be needed for traditional environmentalism to actually “work” on a planet of 7.7+ billion people.

Coming back to Fermi though, it is nevertheless all very unsettling. Given how old and vast the universe is, the absence of other observable intelligent life points to that something is fundamentally wrong, one way or the other. With the possible exception of the “zoo hypothesis” (that we are basically kept in quarantine until we have proven our ethical maturity), most possible solutions are highly disturbing, ranging from that we are in fact living in a computer simulation to that emerging new civilizations routinely get terminated by older (possibly machine) civilizations. Yet, frightening as such prospects may seem, they are not so remote from what went into my dinner with minced lamb (from the perspective of the lamb that is). It is all about different life modes and to what extent we are prepared to mute our ethical sensitivity. After all, if we can come up with a million stories about leccino olives, New Zeeland wines and Italian home cooking, what says that aliens cannot do the same with regard to us?



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