Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Fermi Paradox: The Transcendent Hypothesis

Warning: SingularityThe Transcendent Hypothesis argues that technological development is exponential and that such development eventually leads to a period of asymptotic development with culminates with a technological "Singularity" at the asymptote. The TH suggests that when a species reaches this singularity, it "transcends", meaning that it either moves to another plane of being inaccessible to us (e.g., to another dimension), or that it becomes something so utterly alien that pre-singularity cultures are incapable of recognize it, much less comprehending it.

Critics of the TH complain that it is so utterly speculative as to be worthless. Even if we grant the notion that civilizations eventually reach some sort of technological singularity, the notion that they "transcend" is spiritual mumbo-jumbo thinly disguised by a science-fictional gloss. Lacking an actual mechanism to support the notion that civilizations can "transcend", it ought to be dismissed out of hand. Supporters of the TH contend that the notion of a singularity is firmly ground in real-world extrapolation and that the notion of transcendence is nothing more than a restatement of Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". As such, any attempt to deal with the Fermi Paradox from a level of our own technological development is simply naive and we should expect advanced civilizations to be fundamentally incomprehensible.

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