Author Topic: Space dogs  (Read 2659 times)

Prelate Diogenes Shandor

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #30 on: November 27, 2016, 09:36:01 am »
One thing interstellar colonization has going for it over planetary scale is that the plausible returns from an interaction with an alien civilization are by necessity not the same kind of resource grabbing nonsense we saw on earth. It is wildly idiotic to waste so much time, energy, and money stealing raw resources out from under the little green men, as opposed to mining in our own system in an inhospitable environment. it's also laughably unlikely that we will be able to infect one another with anything, or even use each other as food. If life on earth was partially or wholly seeded from outside sources, it becomes more plausible that we could be a little bit like whatever we meet out there, at least on the molecular level, but even then it's rare enough for a disease to jump between two different mammals, the differences between planets would be enormous.

Personally, I do think that dropping bacteria bombs on planets with small scale existing ecosystems would be a catastrophe. I think that interacting with intelligent life, should we ever be lucky enough to stumble upon it, is completely inevitable and as such it's more important to focus on getting that interaction right than deciding whether or not we should. It only takes one person to open their mouth, after all, and an entire planet to keep quiet.

One thing that not a lot of people realize is that carbon is very likely the only molecule that can serve as a basis for life, because of its unique bond number. So, if we encounter other life forms, it is very likely that they will also be carbon-based. A lot of what forms "life" is simply reliant on universal properties of atoms.

In short, we will probably be able to eat them, and vise versa.

That high bond number also allows for a lot of stuff that's viable but isn't actually used or usable by earthly life. One definitely viable and definitely not usable by earth creatures (or at least not by mammals, for all we know there could be some undiscovered microorganism or fungus or weird sea creature that can make use of them) is chemicals of opposite chirality.

As for cross-infection by pathogens, viruses and plasmids would likely have a very difficult time given that the the aliens genes, even if based on similar chemicals, are unlikely to use the same base pairs (there are plenty of perfectly viable nucleobases and chemical relatives thereof that aren't used in DNA (some of them, though by no means all that are possible, are used in RNA. Uracil is of course the most famous, but you also occasionally get things like inosine/hypoxanthine). Furthermore, even if they used the same bases, it is unlikely that the same combinations would code for the same things; The genetic code by which dna codons of earthly organisms are translated into proteins is highly conserved but variations can and do exist (mitochondrial DNA is translated slightly differently than the regular dna of the rest of the cell). They might not even use the same amino acids as us; there are plenty of amino acids out there with no corresponding codon.
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Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #31 on: November 27, 2016, 04:08:16 pm »
One thing interstellar colonization has going for it over planetary scale is that the plausible returns from an interaction with an alien civilization are by necessity not the same kind of resource grabbing nonsense we saw on earth. It is wildly idiotic to waste so much time, energy, and money stealing raw resources out from under the little green men, as opposed to mining in our own system in an inhospitable environment. it's also laughably unlikely that we will be able to infect one another with anything, or even use each other as food. If life on earth was partially or wholly seeded from outside sources, it becomes more plausible that we could be a little bit like whatever we meet out there, at least on the molecular level, but even then it's rare enough for a disease to jump between two different mammals, the differences between planets would be enormous.

Personally, I do think that dropping bacteria bombs on planets with small scale existing ecosystems would be a catastrophe. I think that interacting with intelligent life, should we ever be lucky enough to stumble upon it, is completely inevitable and as such it's more important to focus on getting that interaction right than deciding whether or not we should. It only takes one person to open their mouth, after all, and an entire planet to keep quiet.

One thing that not a lot of people realize is that carbon is very likely the only molecule that can serve as a basis for life, because of its unique bond number. So, if we encounter other life forms, it is very likely that they will also be carbon-based. A lot of what forms "life" is simply reliant on universal properties of atoms.

In short, we will probably be able to eat them, and vise versa.

If nothing else render them into chemical fertilizer and feed the crops.

I can think of very few scenarios in which that would be at all an ethical decision.

I was thinking along the lines of "Hey this (whatever) we found is entirely inedible because it naturally accumulates heavy metals in a novel fashion (or something).

But watch me just harvest the chemicals we need through chemistry to feed our kelp farm."

What scenarios were you thinking?  :?

The part where you're damaging an alien ecosystem for your own benefit.

OK, yeah, this.

This is exactly why the conversation on ethics HAS to happen before we embark on any kind of endeavor, and why the world would have been a better place if, say, Europe had had a clearly defined sense of ethics before launching boats at other continents.

You know the Tuskeegee experiment? That's another case where not assuming that everything that exists is a possession for us to exploit would have helped.

In my opinion a strongly preserved understanding of ethics is a fundamentally necessary cognitive development that we must utilize moving forward as a species. Evolutionarily speaking, groups who do not employ ethical considerations are dinosaurs doomed to extinction.
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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #32 on: November 27, 2016, 04:12:39 pm »
I mean, or else we will be rendered back to the Stone Age by our own stupidity, and that's just where humans will stay for the duration of our remaining existence on the planet.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #33 on: November 27, 2016, 06:19:25 pm »
I get you better now.


Where might the line be drawn for inappropriate "harvesting" and taking samples for expanding knowledge? One feeds bodies, the other minds. Both are absolutely critical for survival.

My fictions are just that, but I'm interested in showing an inhuman sense of exploratory ethics as a contrast for folks to think about. The protagonist is in a dilemma exactly like any other drastically different cultural exposure might cause. Over time he gets more "human" as he begins to absorb concepts like friendship and environmental conservation on a world that "his kind" would probably rather burn down and forget out of sheer dogmatism and (not unfounded in story context) fear of facing true deviance.

I hope you don't mind my references to a story I've not yet largely written down or made public, but it's the closest thing that I have to a body of thought on the subject.



Also...
Possible highly relevant reference on the "EM" drive. Happened to be the first thing I saw on Yahoo just before I came here today.

http://www.newsweek.com/nasa-em-drive-space-exploration-525147?rx=us 
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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #34 on: November 27, 2016, 06:24:48 pm »
I mean, or else we will be rendered back to the Stone Age by our own stupidity, and that's just where humans will stay for the duration of our remaining existence on the planet.

You know there is a reassuring appropriateness in our bombing ourselves back to the Stone Age. I mean just because karma is a bunch of weirdo bullshit it doesn't mean that you can't be hoist by your own petard.
"Just because the village idiots have spoken doesn't mean we have to destroy the village"

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #35 on: November 27, 2016, 07:19:17 pm »
Where might the line be drawn for inappropriate "harvesting" and taking samples for expanding knowledge? One feeds bodies, the other minds. Both are absolutely critical for survival.

That's exactly the discussion I am interested in; that's the question I'm asking in the OP.

Where might that line be drawn? It's something we HAVE to think about in advance of spending billions of dollars, which represent real resources, on development of any form of interstellar travel.

It may be hypothetical now, but it might not remain hypothetical if the EM drive effect is real, and it certainly seems to be real at this point.

And lets just dispense with any of these silly fantasies in which we are forced off the planet by our own waste and idiocy; if we can't sort our shit out enough to survive on this planet, we aren't going to sort our shit out enough to send people to other solar systems.

I don't know whether anyone has yet mentioned the inevitable heat-death of the sun, but before anyone does lets just take that logical step and understand that life on Earth has existed for around 3.8 billion years, our genus has existed for about 4 million years, and our species for roughly 400,000 years. Earth will become uninhabitable due to expansion of the sun in 5 billion years. It's completely irrelevant to this discussion so lets just don't. If we leave the planet, it will be because we want to, and have chosen to put excess resources into developing space travel, not because we have to; a scenario in which we have no choice is for comic books, not for NASA scientists, who are already having serious conversations about the ethics of space exploration.

Basically, IF we do manage to maintain a technological civilization, and IF the EM drive leads to interstellar exploration, first we have to have, and will have, a set of policies in place dictating how we will handle other planets in varying stages of their own evolution. For example, we might decide that disrupting another planet's ecosytem is unethical, and take measures to avoid introduction of Earth organisms. We might decide that garden planets with no animal life are open season for exploitation and development, but that planets with animals are off-limits. We might decide that animals that demonstrate self-awareness are the "owners" of their own planet. We might decide that only animals that demonstrate self-awareness and human-level intelligence or the equivalent are worthy of being granted that respect. After all, we have no qualms about exploiting non-human animals on our own planet.

We don't know how likely we are to encounter planets with life, but we have to at least have some ideas of how we will behave before we get to that point. We have to because it's what people do; it's the kind of animal we are. Nobody, be it NASA or some distant future space agency, dumps the necessary level of resources into a project like space exploration without a massive scaffolding of bureaucracy. That's just reality.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #36 on: November 27, 2016, 07:22:22 pm »
I mean, or else we will be rendered back to the Stone Age by our own stupidity, and that's just where humans will stay for the duration of our remaining existence on the planet.

You know there is a reassuring appropriateness in our bombing ourselves back to the Stone Age. I mean just because karma is a bunch of weirdo bullshit it doesn't mean that you can't be hoist by your own petard.

We certainly seem hell-bent on barrelling our dumb monkey asses directly into resource depletion and social instability. :lulz:
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #37 on: November 27, 2016, 08:10:13 pm »
I get you better now.


Where might the line be drawn for inappropriate "harvesting" and taking samples for expanding knowledge? One feeds bodies, the other minds. Both are absolutely critical for survival.


We have existing frameworks for what we think is appropriate for scientific study here on earth that we can build on looking forward. Removing a small sample for study is generally accepted as long as you're not taking a ton (compare the recent run of Antarctic sea floor exploration with Darwin's adventure in eating all the tortoises). Observing without interacting or with minimal interaction is generally more acceptable.

Where it gets wonky is when any interaction is likely to decimate what you're studying. If you land on a brandy brand new planet with a baby ecosystem, and you've got even one badass earth-tested bacterium chilling out on your rover? That could be lights out for the developing strain of life on that planet. And I do think that would be a terrible thing. I like the idea of seeding properly dead planets with life, because I am a little Manifest Destiny when it comes to life in general. That's not the same thing as aborting an entire planetary ecosystem just as it's getting started.
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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #38 on: November 28, 2016, 12:45:51 am »
I get you better now.


Where might the line be drawn for inappropriate "harvesting" and taking samples for expanding knowledge? One feeds bodies, the other minds. Both are absolutely critical for survival.


We have existing frameworks for what we think is appropriate for scientific study here on earth that we can build on looking forward. Removing a small sample for study is generally accepted as long as you're not taking a ton (compare the recent run of Antarctic sea floor exploration with Darwin's adventure in eating all the tortoises). Observing without interacting or with minimal interaction is generally more acceptable.

Where it gets wonky is when any interaction is likely to decimate what you're studying. If you land on a brandy brand new planet with a baby ecosystem, and you've got even one badass earth-tested bacterium chilling out on your rover? That could be lights out for the developing strain of life on that planet. And I do think that would be a terrible thing. I like the idea of seeding properly dead planets with life, because I am a little Manifest Destiny when it comes to life in general. That's not the same thing as aborting an entire planetary ecosystem just as it's getting started.

Yeah, I think there are pretty major ethical considerations to be made when dealing with any level of life, and beginning stages might just be the most fragile. After all, it looks like Mars may have once had life, and it just didn't take off. If two different planets in the same solar system had life arise spontaneously, it might mean that life is simply a spontaneous series of chemical reactions that will happen anywhere conditions are favorable... in that case, any planet we find is likely to be in some stage of evolution. While find it, fuck it, destroy it may have been the mode of behavior for Homo Sapiens for the last few thousand years or so, we are not locked in to past behavior; we are still evolving as a species, and that means that behaviors will change as environmental pressures change. It is possible that we will at some point conclude that the only ethical interaction with other life-supporting planets is trade with other intelligent spacefaring inhabitants. 

I can't help imagining a sad story in which probes identify a number of burgeoning young planets for potential settlement, but bacteria carried on the probes wipes out all the life and when the colony ships arrive a few centuries later, the planet is barren and atmosphere-less. Everybody dies.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


MMIX

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #39 on: November 28, 2016, 04:24:30 am »
What kind of body would even be responsible for making sure that "we" don't gatecrash some other planet's party without a valid "ethical standpoint". I mean; who are "We"? Space is increasingly the domain of private, for-profit, enterprises. The world of business and finance isn't renowned for its spotless hands and cleaner than clean ethical standards, and there are also plenty of governments who would like a slice of that potentially profitable and internationally significant space action.

so, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #40 on: November 28, 2016, 04:45:54 pm »
What kind of body would even be responsible for making sure that "we" don't gatecrash some other planet's party without a valid "ethical standpoint". I mean; who are "We"? Space is increasingly the domain of private, for-profit, enterprises. The world of business and finance isn't renowned for its spotless hands and cleaner than clean ethical standards, and there are also plenty of governments who would like a slice of that potentially profitable and internationally significant space action.

so, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Currently, governmental space programs such as NASA. If private interests do end up taking the lead, regulation would be necessary, but enforcement becomes a problem.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #41 on: November 28, 2016, 05:42:25 pm »
I'm looking into the not too distant future and seeing a SpaceBus [executive class only] with TRUMP on the side. It is not a comforting thought.It wouldn't be conspicuously better if it said VIRGIN, either.
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The Wizard Joseph

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #42 on: November 28, 2016, 08:56:07 pm »
At this point we're going to be much more like the Ferengi than the Federation, which only formed after the world had gone through a geno-war that went thermonuclear.

...  :facepalm: aaand thread now has Startrek. Sorry.
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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #43 on: November 30, 2016, 05:52:39 pm »
Hi everybody!   :wave:   Interesting thread...

If we encounter a planet with no life on it, and no obvious 'potential for life', I think it's "fair game" for mining and exploitation.

I think that planets which may one day have life need to be approached cautiously. But then the question becomes - When does life [on a planet] begin? At something like amino acids?


In my daydream hypothetical contact with alien life, I imagine the definition of 'life' will come into question. Like maybe life on other planets don't consist of distinct organisms, but something like distributed systems with lifelike properties.

There's a really good Kim Stanley Robinson book where space explorers have to deal with sickness caused by these alien 'prions'. It's basically just a protein molecule that unfolds in a dangerous way when exposed to some of the chemicals in our bodies. Like a virus, we don't consider a prion to be living... but when you're on an alien planet, how can you be sure?

I conjecture that we can (and should) come up with an agreement about ethical exploration.. but I think that parts of the plan will be confusing to apply. Whether a planet has 'life' or not may be fuzzy, hard to determine until we're already knee deep.

The Wizard Joseph

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Re: Space dogs
« Reply #44 on: November 30, 2016, 06:32:34 pm »
 :eek: Cramulus' back!
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You can't get out backward.  You have to go forward to go back.. better press on! - Willie Wonka, PBUH

Life can be seen as a game with no reset button, no extra lives, and if the power goes out there is no restarting.  If that's all you see life as you are not long for this world, and never will get it.

"Ayn Rand never swung a hammer in her life and had serious dominance issues" - The Fountainhead

"World domination is such an ugly phrase. I prefer to call it world optimisation."
 - Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality :lulz: