reply to post by ngchunter
Fantastic post, ngchunter. Of course, ‘seed ships’ are a well-established science-fiction trope, used by everyone from Ursula le Guin to James
Blish. One of the finest (and most charming) SF short stories ever is Blish’s ‘Surface Tension’, which describes some of the hazards and
problems involved – and proposes some solutions. It was published, by the way, in 1952.
I’m not sure if von Neumann machines are really possible at ourlevel of technology. The only von Neumann machines human beings have ever yet
produced are... human beings. Biological entities are Nature’s very own von Neumann machines. To me, this suggests that good old-fashioned sexual
reproduction is the most efficient way to produce them – which takes us back in a loop to the OP and his seed-ships again. Frankly, I think we’d
do best to forget about artificial VNMs and just stick with the natural ones.
So future interstellar colonization may involve the colonists returning to the wheel and fire stage for a few millennia. No harm in that. Their more
technologically accomplished descendants could make up stories about supernaturally powerful beings who descended from the skies in ancient times to
fashion the race. In twenty thousand years or so, they’ll even have conspiracy web sites to discuss it on.
reply to posts by Wertdagf and
What a pair of Jonahs you two are.
Wertdagf: so what if you need millions, or even billions? Sperm and eggs are available in unlimited quantities. So, it would seem, are stars with
Have you ever watched ant or termite queens swarming? They emerge from their underground nurseries in thousands and just fly – randomly and blindly,
it would seem – until they find a suitable place and land to start a new colony there. One of the most memorable nights of my life was passed in a
jungle pavilion lit by oil lamps on a rainy night when the termites swarmed. Every mound in the area exploded with flying queens, and of course our
lights attracted them. The lamps were glassed-in, but within twenty minutes or so dead termite queens were piled in vast hills and drifts around them.
These grew until we turned the lamps out and went to sleep under mosquito nets among ramparts of dead insects. At dawn the next morning we were woken
by early birds in a feeding frenzy – forest birds made so bold by this bounty they hopped among us like tame budgerigars. When it got properly
light, the servants swept away bushel-baskets full of dead termites. But of course, enough survived the night’s carnage to breed next season’s
That, my friend, would be the perfect model for interstellar colonization. What the SF author Iain M. Banks calls a Hegemonizing Swarm. Of course, the
rest of the population of the Galaxy may not like it very much, so we’d better watch out for giant flying Flit-cans.
Which brings me to you, akkad. I think we can rule out time travel, but it’s quite likely that any attempt to spread ourselves into space will bring
us into contact with other civilizations which may regard us as invaders or simply as pests. The Sun and his children are ours, but if we plan to
spread ourselves off-system we had better be well tooled up, because there will be objections – violent ones – from our fellow sentients.
Notice I say ‘will’, not ‘may’...