IEET colleague Jamais Cascio has responded to Nick Bostrom's suggestion that the detection of extraterrestrial life would be bad news.
Cascio is unconvinced that the parameters of Bostrom's argument are entirely correct, including the assumption that super-advanced civs take up interstellar colonization as a hobby.
Specifically, he argues that technologically advanced ETI's must be post-Singularity civs, and by definition, outside the bounds of current trajectorial models. As Cascio notes, "The demands and concerns and requirements of a post-Singularity civilization wouldn't be based on a pre-Singularity pattern."
Consequently, Cascio makes the claim that galactic empires are likely not on the post-Singularity to-do list. "To be clear, this isn't an argument that these interstellar-capable civs just sit at home. They could and would likely spread, and certainly explore," he writes, "But the notion that they'd hop from solar system to solar system planting their colonies, strikes me as terribly unimaginative, and definitely a pre-Singularity perspective."
I'm not entirely on board with Cascio here, but I will say that he is absolutely correct when he suggests that speculations about colonization-capable civs must presuppose their condition as being post-Singularity.
And I'll further this by noting that we should adopt a digital perspective. As NASA's Steven J. Dick has noted, we should be looking for post-biological brains.
Consequently, when we try to figure out what futuristic civilizations might look like, we should consider:
1. the demands imposed on a civ that's completely reliant on megascale computing
2. the potential mindspace of a post-Singularity superintelligence, its interpretation of utility, and the manner in which it achieves its goals
For the first point, we're talking about a postbiological modality that would likely require a hideous amount of computational power.
As for the second point, good luck with that one.
But where Cascio and I diverge is in how he deals with the non-exclusivity problem -- i.e. finding a solution to the FP that applies to ALL advanced civs.
Cascio argues that Galactic colonization is "unimaginative" and a "pre-Singularity" perspective.
Sure, this may be true. And perhaps 99.9% of all advanced civs would agree with him.
But it's the 0.01% that I'm concerned about.
It's not impossible or ridiculous to imagine at least one non-conformist civilization taking it upon itself to expand its presence across the Galaxy.
Moreover, the colonization process for a post-Singularity intelligence would be a rather pedestrian exercise -- one that doesn't really require much of a commitment. Interstellar colonization would be a largely automated process that exploits the happy consequence of exponential growth.
To be fair, Cascio does suggest that there may be an a universal upper bound to growth. Cascio notes, "Interstellar-capable civilizations that somehow remain wedded to colonization would inevitably fall into internal conflict because of speed-of-light communication/travel lag and divergent evolution (social or biological)."
I think the disconnect here is the notion that galactic colonization necessarily implies the expansion and interconnectedness of communication, economic and political networks. I'm not so convinced. Nodes spawned by Von Neumann probes could be stand-alone and completely segregated from its parent system. One could imagine a Von Neumann wave expanding outward, uplifting all life and matter in its path and leaving computronium in its wake; the probes would not be equipped with rear-view mirrors.
Cascio also presents another possible reconciliation to the Fermi Paradox -- the notion that we are not yet capable of detecting the activities of advanced civs. Specifically, he suggests that ETIs may use alternative communication schemes. Again, as Cascio argues, because we're talking about post-Singularity life, we simply don't know what we're supposed to be looking for.
Unfortunately, this doesn't really solve the Paradox. We are still still stuck with the colonization problem.
That's the crux of the the Fermi Paradox why it remains a non-trivial conundrum. It's also why the FP was given new life in the 1970s by Michael Hart, John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, and why in recent times it has become more perplexing than ever.
The Fermi Paradox is alive and well.