What will ET look like when we meet him/her/it?

Space travel would be impossible without computers.  We need to machine parts precisely, navigate perfectly, and do so many other things exactly in order to send a human into space.  Even the Curiosity required precise parts.  Humans are not precise.  We never needed to be, before the modern era.  Ergo, space took the development of computers on our part.  Could other species do without computers to get to space?  I don’t think so.  Could the computers be biological or otherwise unrecognizable? Absolutely.  Think about a bacterial computer!  Of course, the fastest computers would be electrical, because the transmission of light and/or electrical signals are faster than the movement of matter.  Even human’s brains operate using electrical signals.  Oh wait.  So Biological computers are a possibility.  Are biological computers a monstrosity? Depends on the construction, but possibly.

Our nature as humans, as mammals, as animals, is dependent on environmental constraints.  One of the most fundamental constraints is chemistry.  Certain chemical reactions are simply more efficient, easier to control and simpler to evolve than others.  I think our own water and carbon oriented reactions are a prime example of this.  I think life evolved because of the unique nature of water and carbon atoms.  However, several organisms operate on other chemical planes.  For example, there are bacteria near deep sea vents that use sulfur reactions in the same way that plants use photosynthesis.  Scientists study these organisms to hypothesize about the chemical nature of life on other planets.  As cool as this is (IT’S AWESOMELY COOL!!! in case you were wondering) we are handicapped when we use these organisms to hypothesize about extra-terrestrials, because all life on Earth has the same starting point.  If you have different starting points, it would make sense that you have different results.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” –Albert Einstien

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad Manners. Lack of consideration of others in minor matters.” –Robert Heinlein

Is cultural death inevitable?  In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, mathematical genius Hari Seldon is able to predict what large masses of people will do.  (The actions of one individual are completely unpredictable, but in any group of people, most actions will fall into a predictable pattern.  A bell curve is one example of a predictable pattern that people might fall into.)  One of the things he predicts is the end of the Galactic Empire, an endlessly bureaucratic, rude culture with no original scientific discovery.  In the Galactic Empire, I saw the reflections of the USA and the Roman Empire.  After the end of the Roman Empire (as well as after the fall of the Galactic Empire), there ensued a time of barbarism for all nearby cultures.  In this era of globalization, almost all cultures are nearby.  Is the USA destined to cultural self-destruction?  Is it possible for a widespread culture to escape the fate of the Roman Empire?  I’d like to think so.


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