The L-Factor Limits Contact With ET Aliens

The Drake Equation is a fascinating way to predict the chances of intelligent life existing in the universe. It combines factors of how many stars are in a galaxy, how many planets might be around stars, how many of those planets might be habitable, how many habitable planets spawn life, how many life forms achieve intelligence, and how long an intelligent civilization lasts.

That last term, how long an intelligent civilization lasts is the “L-Factor” – for length of time. At first look, it might appear that the L-factor should be infinite, or at least covering the time span from the inception of intelligence in a civilization to “NOW” and extending into the future without limit. Then comes the thought that perhaps a civilization could be destroyed in a conflict with another hostile civilization or even might destroy itself.

While violent conflict or self destruction are certainly not impossible, they seem unlikely. There is a delicate balance between ethics and scientific knowledge. Both are based on the ability to make predictions about the future. If ethics is more advanced than science, it provides some protection against violent conflict and self destruction. In our history, it seems clear that the advancement of science has been chronically more advanced than ethics. And yet, we have not destroyed ourselves because our science and technology has not been sufficiently advanced to accomplish complete destruction until the last seventy years. In order to survive the next fifty years, our understanding and use of ethics will have to catch up fast. If we make it past this crucial tipping point, we will not be likely to repeat the same mistake.

We don’t yet have any reliable method to predict how the balance between ethics and science proceeds in civilizations based on an intelligence that has developed in a manner different from our own. We don’t know if we are the norm or an outlier. We also are ignorant about the rate of development of intelligence in other civilizations compared to our own.

Our civilization has progressed from tribal nomads to our current state in less than ten thousand years, which is an extremely small span of time when considering things across the lifetime of the universe. We are now rapidly approaching a point of “singularity” where the nature of our civilization will change dramatically. We may destroy ourselves or we may become super intelligent or something else unforseen may occur. In any case, it seems likely that we may “disappear” from the “map of civilizations” either because we don’t exist or because we are no longer detectable by our current science.

If other intelligent civilizations experience a similar progression, the L-factor in the Drake Equation becomes a constraining limit in the possibility that two civilizations might make contact with each other. The gulf of distance between civilizations is two-fold: the first and most obvious being space, and the second being time. If by the time any intelligent civilization has learned enough about science to span the expanse of space between stars, it also has learned enough to make itself disappear, then the L-factor seems to dominate any calculations.

SEE ALSO:
Detecting Alien Civilizations Won’t Be Easy
The Sequence of Contact
A Quarantine of Intelligence
Post Biological Intelligence
After the Singularity
Through a Wormhole of Intelligence
Artificial Ethics
Singularity Theory May Explain Fermi Paradox
Drake Equation

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