I've had a pet theory for a while (which may not be original, idk) that a possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox Great Filter is literally the existence of huge amounts of Fossil Fuels. It took millions of years of dead biological life on our planet to build up the supplies we have, and the big ol' meteor that hit us some 60 million years ago helped not only kill off a bunch of that life to create oil but set the stage for actual intelligent life. Without lots of oil, we wouldn't have hit the industrial age, we couldn't manufacture renewable energy sources, we couldn't make plastic, we couldn't make rocket fuel, electricity wouldn't be as widespread, basically everything would be different.
If oil were substantially less common, its feasible that we'd still live in a 1800s-esque society with some form of civilization development, but would be have radio? Certainly not space travel.
Point being: M-class planets might be pretty common in the universe, maybe cellular and even multicellular life is less common, maybe intelligent/sentient live is even less common, maybe civilization is even less common. And we've only really "existed" for a few tens of thousand years in the grand scheme of billions of years, those years littered with possible extinction-like events both man-made and natural. Combine all of those probabilities together, with the reality that we may have just "missed" another species on the timeline of the universe, and it seems more likely than not that we're alone in this galaxy.
Which is actually pretty awesome if you think about it. The whole playground is our's; let's go take it.
Naturally the kind of leadership that declines to consider what will happen over the next 20-30 years is even less likely to be concerned about the subsequent 200-300.
There will still be coal. Coal reserves are unbelievable.
Even if we consume that too, we should be fine so as long as there is wood. You can power cars and tanks with wood.
If we have no trees left... there are probably other, more pressing, concerns. For humans, that is.
The good thing about Earth is that there is life, not just humans. Other species may take our place if we fail, in time. Emphasis on may, since evolution doesn't guarantee this. But it seems that at least on this planet intelligence has been consistently rewarded (primates, birds, dolphins, octopuses).
If there is life, there will be an energy source. No matter what it is, that energy source can be harvested by machines too. It may take longer for a civilization to do so, depending on the difficulty of the power source. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. We are dealing with cosmological time scales after all.
Even dolphins would be able to develop an industrialized civilization. No coal needed, they can just exploit temperature gradients. Metalworking would be more difficult, but that's their problem to solve. Right after they solve fine object manipulation.
In either case, the fossil fuels that are increasingly difficult / expensive to obtain now, in an era with comparatively abundant free energy, would be even more difficult / expensive to obtain in an energy-scarce world.
And yes, I'm aware that things can burn. As a species we've known how to burn things for a very long time, but the industrial revolution really only kicked off when we used coal to power steam engines. Wood - even charcoal - simply doesn't burn hot enough for much beyond food and brass.
> Even dolphins would be able to develop an industrialized civilization.
Well you've lost me there.
I’m afraid we’re the only game in town.
That’s not a worst case or best case scenario, it’s a middle way. Worst case scenarios though could still include human survival through genetic modification (planet run by teenagers with bioengineered lungs) or underground air conditioned tunnels.
I just find total human extinction almost entirely implausible. Can you describe a scenario where that is the likely outcome?
It seems like 1000 PPM of CO2 is guaranteed, 5000 is theoretically possible but the lethal concentration for total human extinction is 10,000... is that even possible?
Or are we worried about temperature? Or cropland death?
I am envious of your optimism, but I see no evidence to suggest that small communities of highly stressed and resource-starved humans can produce anything better than a much larger number of relatively non-stressed humans with easy access to abundant resources.
I wasn't proposing any particular scenario that would cause a civilisational collapse, merely that a large supply of free, easy to obtain, high-density energy may be a prerequisite for any transition to an industrial age (and naturally all that may follow). I accept we only have one data point to hand, but it doesn't contradict this proposition.
If that isn't another low probability Great Filter, I don't know what is. Gravity is the ultimate cage.
Most fossil fuels come from plankton and algae sediments deposited over millions of years, not from one big meteor impact.
We don't have space travel now...
Nor are we able to stay on the moon, though that is a weaker point.
I don't think this is true. The industrial age was, to begin with, powered by solid fuel; charcoal and coke. The abundance of coal accelerated the industrial revolution, but is essentially fungible with charcoal derived from wood. Oil came somewhat later, and rather than enabling new applications, mostly just replaced the use of solid fuels. Rocketry was pioneered with non-fossil fuels such as alcohol, as oil refinement wasn't initially good enough to enable their use. Particularly, the sulphur content made it too corrosive.
More than anything industrialization seems to be predicated by innovation; particularly the revolutionary invention of machine tools, which allowed accurate machinery to be made. Early mills were powered by water and wind, later moving to solid fuelled steam engines.
> the big ol' meteor [...] set the stage for actual intelligent life
I'm not convinced by this. Although this freed up evolutionary niches and enabled the dominance of mammals over reptiles, and the mammalian neocortex is regarded as providing higher intelligent functioning, we have observed conventionally neocortical activities in reptiles and birds. The meteor may have actually delayed the development of high intelligence, as it wiped out the animals large enough to support the brain metabolism we expect to be necessary.
We might have 'aliens' and ET beyond our visible universe but they are further down the timeline.
Maybe, like you said, cellular life exists else where but they need billions more years to reach our stage.
In addition to laying the groundwork for complex life, there's evidence they helped in the emergence of intelligence and consciousness as well as helping save honeybees
 https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsif.2014... (pdf link)
Yes it's "a little" out there, but I think it's actually quite plausible.
Whether psychedelics are actually effective at producing 'inductive leaps' is something that is under-researched as a result of legal status. There were some very interesting study results around this from the 60s, but more research is needed (many used subjective measures). How can inductive leaps be quantified? Perhaps some sort of expert-peer-grading?
Dmitry Belyayev was able to produce a tame variety of the red fox within 4 generations of breeding:
> Then at slightly higher doses, he contended, the mushroom acts to sexually arouse, leading to a higher level of attention, more energy in the organism, and potential erection in the males, rendering it even more evolutionarily beneficial, as it would result in more offspring.
> At even higher doses, McKenna proposed that the mushroom would have acted to "dissolve boundaries," promoting community bonding and group sexual activities.
> At these higher doses, McKenna also argued that psilocybin would be triggering activity in the "language-forming region of the brain", manifesting as music and visions, thus catalyzing the emergence of language in early hominids by expanding "their arboreally evolved repertoire of troop signals."
I'm not saying we don't have evidence for what happened in prehistoric times. As you said, that's hard. But the above is the outline of Mckenna's theory, taken from wikipedia. My point, is that he makes a number of claims as to the effects of psilocybin - see above - and none of those claims of what the drug can do are backed up by evidence.
I assume that Mckenna may have been speaking from personal experience, that the drug improves visual acuity and can sexually arouse, but there's no evidence for it.
> that the drug improves visual acuity and can sexually arouse, but there's no evidence for it.
If you're referring to formal, peer reviewed studies, of course not. But the sexual arousal and community bonding aspects I'd say there's plenty of anecdotal information consistent with the possibility. This of course in no way proves that his theory has any validity to it on a historic basis, but it at least doesn't rule it out as being impossible.
The whole theory is best taken with a healthy quantity of salt (and it's best to listen to audio of it), but it is a really interesting theory/prediction. One's opinion of the plausibility is likely proportional to their experience with psychedelics, those with a lack of experience would likely have some difficulty with the "how" part.
So, what you're saying is that it's state-of-the-art work in the burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology.
This isn't a question of "evolutionary psychology", but of neuroscience.
- psilocybin has been proven to reduce vision capabilities under all circumstances, and this is conclusively proven in that report?
- each of his contributing sub-theories must have been true (all are pre-requisites) for his overall theory to have some unrealized truth to it?
- there are conclusive studies demonstrating it is not possible for psilocybin to effect evolutionary psychology?
Just trying to get a clear understanding of what you are saying, and what you are not. Typing is such a low-bandwidth medium.
EDIT: -1, gosh I find it frustrating how difficult it seems to be to communicate with others on certain topics.
Not saying it’s correct, but that’s the hypothesis.
I also think comparing human level of consciousness to animal level of consciousness is a hard position to defend.
Anyway I guess you're missing the original point. What it theorizes is that some mushroom compounds might have had effect on our ancestors brains and helped them develop to what we are now, over long periods of time. A bit like agriculture or writing had a huge impact on our societies, but it's not a on/off switch, it's a very long gradual process.
I don't know if there is a lot of evidence supporting it, but it's not news that some drugs can temporarily or permanently reshape parts of our brains.
It happens sometimes—feral children who are neglected or abandoned in various ways.
I’m not sure if that person would be more conscious than a dolphin, or a bear.
If you are a circuit board, getting some water on yourself would be one way to (potentially destructively) learn about what your design actually is.
Or fault injection or fuzzing, same idea. By making errors happen, you find out about possible errors that even can happen, and that tells you something about the overall design. Maybe the design cannot be fully determined this way, but a portion can be learned, maybe a portion unreachable by any other means (MRI, neural probes, etc) so research into the mind and consciousness by use of psychedelics does make sense.
Out of curiosity, have you tried them before?
Yes, I agree.
I'm not convinced, from a system perspective, that disturbing a system by poking its most intimate internal parts, and in an unusual way, means that the disturbance was directly required or a part of the emergence of the system.
I will admit that this perspective is mostly logically pedantic and, perhaps naive, disregards the universal usage of psychedelics throughout human history.
I suppose the question would be, what's the evolutionary advantage to temporarily modifying your brains behavior? Any raw structural changes from the use wouldn't be passed to your offspring, leaving mostly social advantages. One could argue that sensitivity to these compounds could promote these advantages, leading to a natural selection of those with more sensitive, and perhaps necessarily more complicated, brains.
What's that social, or perhaps functional, advantage? Maybe epigenetics could have played a role, along with the occasional tribe saving, trip induced, insight?
I would very much enjoy any facts or ramblings on this topic, it's very interesting.
> have you tried them before?
No, just LSD.
Almost like claiming that smashing subatomic particles together might give insight into the relationships between and properties of said particles?
In my experience LSD is far different from Psilocybin, in that it "feels" more artificial, definitely does not give the same feeling of belonging to a greater organic whole that you may get with mushrooms.
Terrence McKenna has a theory on the evolutionary contributions psychedelics might have made: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_McKenna#%22Stoned_ape%...]
Not necessarily structural changes as a direct result of usage (but maybe), but I can easily see social changes resulting in structural changes via greater evolutionary success being passed down, as you note in your next sentence. This stuff is extremely complicated, we only have a rough idea of how it all works, and much of what we "know" is actually just theory.
> What's that social, or perhaps functional, advantage?
I would put my money on the notion that they promote things such as greater "wisdom" and behavioral strategies (via thoughtful meditation while normal neurological filters are reduced) resulting in more peaceful and successful coexistence between people.
> No, just LSD.
Functionally more or less the same thing I would say.
There are some well reasoned arguments that life is utterly common and almost inevitable when conditions are even basically adequate.
specifically the ontology described during a "pink storm" in A Day for Damnation. A fungal-like substance (the pink fuzz, which looks suspiciously like cottonwood storms south of Seattle) is the catalyst for the rest of the ecology.
Also, be prepared that the series was never completed (IIRC he had a son with autism that took time away from writing).