When we look up at the stars, don't forget the eyes that are watching us in the dark.
1. Where are we so far?
As you read this article, you are enjoying the convenience brought by the information age. Only twenty years ago, this text might have to go through layers of processes in publishing houses and printing factories to get into your sight. And did you know? The technology behind this text is no different from the electronic technology of the last century. It has not yet jumped out of the barriers of "0" and "1".
In the footsteps of human civilization for ten thousands years, humans have evolved from the first ape carved on the stone wall to the "master" of the present world. We can declare with confidence that mankind can control every inch of the earth and even the land of extraterrestrial planets. So let us calm down and think, is our evolutionary pace efficient, advanced?
Before the emergence of the steam engine, human society can be summarized as the gradual and efficient use of natural resources. From the grinding of stone tools, to bronze, iron, and alloy technology, the level of material technology we have gradually improved. However, these advancements are limited to "process" improvements, and we still haven't got rid of the shackles of our hands. Before the Industrial Revolution, human technological application capabilities were no different from our ancestors.
What really changed the world are the three technological revolutions that started with the industrial revolution (or four if the current quantum technological revolution is included). In less than four hundred years, we have mastered all currently known technologies. Compared with the six thousand years since the birth of human civilization, human beings have achieved achievements unprecedented in only a fraction of the time. Frankly, everyone who lives in modern times should be proud of it.
Anthropologists and historians have made the past four hundred years a stage of human technological explosion. So where are we now? Was it still in the fiery shockwave of this explosion, or in the embers that had cooled down? The emergence of the internal combustion engine marks the beginning of the electrical age, and it is only a few decades apart from the following information age. If the speed is accelerated according to the same technology, we should now enter a new advanced era.
In fact, most of the basic principles of information technology currently applied are still at the beginning of the theoretical basis. No matter how fast our mobile phones are upgraded, how fancy the picture is on our screen, their foundation is the basic principles applied at the beginning of the information revolution, such as diodes, binary operations,microprocessors, and digital signals. We seem to be "locked" by something to continue the pace of exploration.
2. What is the "lock" that holds us?
Einstein proposed the unified field theory in his later years, that is, to combine the law of relativity in the macro universe with the quantum theory that emerged at the time. But he did not accomplish this wish for life. The laws of the macro universe and the quasi-estimation of the quantum world are still hotly debated in the scientific field today. Most of the scientific theoretical achievements in recent years are also related to the lifelong research of this great man, such as the discovery of gravitational waves and black holes.
We learnt physics and chemistry in the education stage, but in the final analysis it is based on our observation of the "real world". Whether it is the movement of celestial bodies or the changes within the atoms, we are studying through the results that they appear in "eyes". However, this is extremely contrary to the "uncertainty criterion" of quantum mechanics. We want to see everything happening in the micro world, and its basic principle is "Everything is determined by probability and unobservable." Like life as a three-dimensional universe, it is difficult to imagine what a four-dimensional world looks like. This absolute cognitive difference blocks us from the door of the macro world to explore the micro world. The communication technology, nuclear physics theory, and space rocket technology that we have come to are all excluded from the quantum world.
3. What happened outside of history?
Now we will take our sights to a larger scale and think about what our evolution means to the earth and the universe. If the history of the evolution of the Earth is compressed into a single day, the dinosaurs lived “up to” an hour and forty-four minutes. However, the time of human appearance is 23:59:56.
If we put this time in the 13 billion years of the history of the universe, it can be said that human society is really a dust that even the universe itself will not pay attention to. However, at this moment, humans evolved from mammals to intelligent creatures that mastered the principles of the universe.
I don't think this one was accidental. On the scale of the universe, this event of human intelligence is not caused by the combination of countless perfect conditions. We can fully believe that in other known two trillion galaxies, countless civilizations like human society have been born. We don’t know if humans are the pioneers of intelligent consciousness, but it turns out that no extraterrestrial civilization has initiated a call with the earth. Taking the development speed of the earth as a reference, technological explosions may have already occurred in other civilizations, and they have mastered the ultimate technology in the universe.
What caused us not to hear them? Did our technology not hear them, or did they not discover the civilization of the earth?
The answer may be frightening: It is their own ways of cutting off external contacts. They hid.
4. Elements of survival, chain of suspicion and sociology of the universe
This is a good explanation. The matter of the universe is limited, and there is no regenerative matter in the universe. The ultimate technology often requires huge amounts of resources. Some of the most advanced physics experiments require a lot of energy, as well as countless interplanetary rocket experiments, and even the ever-increasing demand for survival of humans themselves will also cause strain on the earth's resources. So assuming that human beings have the ability to communicate and travel through the stars, will we choose to explore the universe like ignoring “No Trespassing” sign?
All civilizations have the basic attribute of one of "good" and "evil". The good civilization avoids conflict and self-sufficiency, while the evil civilization's greedy expansion plunders limited resources. So in interstellar communication, how can we determine whether the other party is good or evil. If we are lucky, we will meet both sides of the good civilization and live in peace. The worst case scenario is when we expose our position to evil civilization. They are well aware that we have the resources to provide technological development and the potential to master the universe and the universe laws. Then there is only one result, interstellar war.
Can the interstellar war really happen? Suppose a wicked civilization chooses to plunder the earth's resources, will they worry that our technology will broadcast their coordinates to the entire universe? In the face of survival itself, everything is secondary. So whether a civilization is good or evil, they will not choose to provoke a war of plunder.
This is cosmic sociology. The economics of the earth talks about "rational people" and both sides of the trade can benefit from the trade. In the icy universe, there is no cooperation, only survival.
Chain of suspicion: "How do I know you know that I know you are in good faith?"
5. Hunter with a rifle
Then a paradox is showed to us. Regardless of the good and evil of a civilization, it will not easily expose itself because of the existence of the chain of suspicion. Then if every highly developed civilization realizes this and protects itself, one day, the universe will be overcrowded and a "population explosion" will occur. Cixin Liu has a bold speculation in his hardcore scifi novel "Three Body": The universe has its own "cleansing" function.
Imagine the universe is a dark forest, scattered with countless armed hunters. Every hunter is paying attention to the prey that appears in the dark-"resources". A silly hunter lit a cigarette while bored. The shimmering fire seemed to tell the whole forest "I am here!". The hunter furthest away from him thought: "No one will find me by shooting him at a place as far away as me. Doing so will do no harm. The clever hunter closest to him thinks:" If other hunters discover that he must also Will expose my position or even hurt me by mistake. I had to wipe him out and protect myself first. "
It can be seen that in this forest, the hunter often leads to death by exposing himself, even if he is not malicious. The universe will also perform its ability to clean up, automatically destroying some civilizations that expose themselves. The rules of superiority and inferiority lead to the existence of civilizations in the universe are "smart hunters". They all knew that hiding in a quiet place would give the exposed civilization a fatal blow. This is why we have never received any news from trillions of galaxies outside the earth. One reason is that if our technology cannot receive information about higher life, then we are "temporarily" not a threat to other civilizations. Secondly, civilizations like ours, which are under technical barriers, have not yet mastered the ability to broadcast the entire universe.
At the end: the beautiful starry sky is not as peaceful and harmonious as we think, countless hunters are waiting for a fire in the darkness. All we can do is hide ourselves and fear the universe. After all, we, as unarmed dark forest roamers, don't even know what shotguns those hunters hold in their hands and what bullets are in the guns. Isn't it?
COMING NEXT: The Bullets