If the vision is there, the means will follow
Everyone seems to
be driving in the fast lane now. Academia and industry are getting increasingly
short-sighted in both evaluation and investment. Even organizations
with long-term goals (such as scientific knowledge, or profound social
change) attempt to characterize their progress by short-term bottom
lines such as published citations or employment statistics. Though this
is understandable, the short-term markers move to the heart of these
organizations and will eventually destroy them. We need the long-term
vision and the theory that springs from it. What good is playing chess
if you do not have a board ? What is the value of astronomy without
the framework of the heliocentric universe
? What good is chemistry without Mendeleev
table ? There seems to be a poignant need and a big opportunity
for a laboratory with long horizons. When
we started to use "in this place one hundred years means nothing"
as a signature in our email messages, Seth
Lloyd suggested we should change this to "but one hundred qubits
could mean everything". So we did.
Big Blue Homepage
Where is the
deep future ?
are several philosophical theories about the deep future. John
Horgan wrote about some of them (the New Polynesia and Omega
Point) in the
End of Science .
In the Coming of the
Golden Age, Günther
Stent promises the science community an era of social and intellectual
stasis and universal leisure. He called it the New Polynesia. Frank
Physics of Immortality suggests that the entire universe
will be transformed into a single all powerful, all knowing computer :
Point. The theory goes back to a Jesuit priest, Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin, who had envisioned a future in which all living
things merged into a single, divine entity embodying the spirit of christ.
According to Tipler we will one day have the power to recreate via computers
(resurrect) everyone who has ever lived for an eternity of time. In this
scenario God managed to create the universe,
pass on messages to it via the prophets and all this time He only existed
in the future.
is less philosophical about the future but quite comprehensive in Visions
: How Science will revolutionize the 21st century. He sets his long
horizons by a Soviet astrophysicist Nikolaï
Kardashev : the K-civilizations.
a classification of 3 levels of civilisations based on their levels of
- Level one (also
know as K1) was a civilization that advanced enough to use all of the
energy resources on a single planet.
- A level-two (or
K2) civilization would be more advanced technologically, enough to use
all the energy provided by a single star.
- The highest or
most advanced civilization (level three or K3) would be able to use
all the energy of an entire galaxy.
levels and their accompanying energy
signatures were used in the speculation about extra-terrestrial
life, see SETI.
We are now, according to this theory, A K0 civilization . We have just come
from burning wood and coal for our energy and moved over to dead animals
(fossil fuel). A K0 becomes K1 when it survives the discovery of element
92 and the development and maintenance of a chemical industry. Then
it starts to work towards a synthesis of all its knowledge.
The Planetary Civilization
- ~ 4 x 1012
W energy requirements
- It uses the energy
of the entire planet : they mine the oceans, go deep in the crust of
the earth and modify the weather
- Planetary politics
: the nation state will be no more. It will be understood that if one
nation releases vast quantities of ozone-depleting gases, the entire
planet is affected by it.
- They will set
up outposts on nearby stars
- They will have
a working planetary communication system
- The civilizaiton
will develop a planetary culture and economy
- K1 will be one
species : the larger the breeding population, the slower the rate of
K2 The Stellar Civilization
- ~ 4 x 1026
W energy requirements
It will see the end of the universe,
if there is one. Nothing known in nature can physically destroy it.
It can fend off astronomical/ecological disasters by their technology
(ice ages, meteors , comet impacts) probably by micro-adjustments to
the planet's spin.
- Its energy requirements
are so large that it will derive its energy directly from its own
sun (not passive solar collectors,
but spaceships that mine the sun's energy)
- It can build
sphere : huge sphere around its sun thereby capturing all its
- Only infrared
detectors will be able to spot it . It will probably conceal its electromagnetic
signals or scramble their messages across the complete bandwidth and
unscramble them at the receiving end. But it will not be able to conceal
waste heat (2nd law
The Galactic Civilisation
- ~ 4 x 1037
W energy requirements
- Rulers of the
: master interstellar travel
- They will know
the secret of Planck
(keeps together the fabric of space and time)
- They will be able
to drill dimensional holes in space and will not need a spaceship
- They will use
probes or astro-chickens (Dyson) to colonize other planets. These are
small robotic probes that land on the moons of distant planets and build
self-replicating factories. They will be a combination of biotechnology
and AI (self-repair, foodfinding, progeneration) and will have emotions
(pain=danger, pleasure=refuel, joy=mission accomplished, maternal=progeneration