The Dark Forest Theory of the Universe

A terrifying answer to "where are all the aliens?"

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There may be a good reason for the Great Silence. Image by Troy Moon.
伟大的沉默可能有充分的理由。图片来自Troy Moon。

It's a pleasant night in the city. There's a cool wind and a luminous moon giving off a soft light that trickles down through the buildings and mixes with the hazy but weak street lights. You're on your way back home through the empty roads, walking in the unsettling silence. It's unsettling because it's deep night --- the time when dangerous people come out to look for victims. It's the time for drug deals and murders, for kidnappings and theft. Seeing the familiar figure of another person standing just down the street from you is a heart-pounding affair. There's no clear way to tell their intentions, no sign that they're just enjoying the view of the stars or that they have a more insidious plan on their mind. The full moon overhead, you know from watching the news, has been witness to many a person becoming a victim in the surly, uncertain dark. Walking beneath the electric lights draws attention to yourself. The safest option is to keep hidden, avoiding people and assuming the worst of them until daylight arrives. But there's a difference between the cityscape of Earth and the all-encompassing universe: in the universe daylight will never come to flood the streets, there's no locked home to go to and no policemen to seek out for safety. There's only the potential for danger and the inability to know the other civilization's true intent.
这是一个愉快的夜晚。有一股清凉的风和一个发光的月亮,发出柔和的光线,穿过建筑物,与朦胧但微弱的路灯混合在一起。你正在回家的路上穿过空旷的道路,走在令人不安的沉默中。这令人不安,因为它是深夜 - 危险的人出来寻找受害者的时候。这是毒品交易和谋杀,绑架和盗窃的时候。看到站在街道对面的另一个人熟悉的身影是一件令人心碎的事。没有明确的方式来表达他们的意图,没有任何迹象表明他们只是在享受星星的观点,或者他们有一个更阴险的计划。通过观看新闻,你知道满月的开销已经见证了许多人成为狡猾,不确定的黑暗中的受害者。走在电灯下面引起了对自己的注意。最安全的选择是保持隐藏,避开人们并假设最坏的情况直到白天到来。但是,地球的城市景观和无所不包的宇宙之间存在着差异:在宇宙中,日光永远不会淹没街道,没有锁定的家园,也没有警察寻求安全。只有潜在的危险和无法了解其他文明的真实意图。

The above thought experiment was written years before the Dark Forest theory, appearing first in the hard science fiction novel
上述思想实验是在黑暗森林理论出现之前几年编写的,首次出现在硬科幻小说中 The Killing Star by Charles R. Pellegrino and George Zebrowski. It's a very similar premise to the Dark Forest theory in which the authors ask the reader to agree to two things. The first is that a species' own survival is more important than the survival of another species. That is, to us humans the survival of humanity will always come before the survival of an alien race if it comes down to choosing. The second is that a species which has come together to ascertain themselves on their own planet and become capable of spaceflight and technological innovations, will have some level of aggression and alertness. It's certainly something which has proven true on Earth. In order to survive, humans have imposed upon other tribes, other animals, and upon the planet itself. If these two conditions are true and we assume them to be true of the other species, then they will assume it to be true of us as well. This can be a problematic manner of thinking. It leaves always on the horizon this potential for conflict.
作者:Charles R. Pellegrino和George Zebrowski。这是与黑暗森林理论非常类似的前提,作者要求读者同意两件事。首先,物种的自身生存比另一物种的生存更重要。也就是说,对于我们人类而言,如果归结为选择,人类的生存将永远在外星种族的生存之前。第二个是,一个物种聚集在一起,在自己的星球上确定自己并能够进行太空飞行和技术创新,将具有一定程度的侵略性和警觉性。这肯定是在地球上证明是真实的东西。为了生存,人类强加于其他部落,其他动物和地球本身。如果这两个条件成立并且我们认为它们对其他物种都是正确的,那么他们也会认为它对我们也是如此。这可能是一种有问题的思维方式。它始终存在这种冲突的可能性。

But this scenario is a bit different in the Dark Forest theory which arises from Liu Cixin's novel
但这种情况在黑暗森林理论中有点不同,这种理论源于刘慈欣的小说 The Dark Forest , a sequel to the award-winning
,获奖的续集 Three Body Problem . In the novel, the theory becomes an attempt to answer the question of the Fermi Paradox, a problem in science named after physicist Enrico Fermi. It is, in short, an exploration of why we've so far seen no signs of alien life when we should statistically be able to see at least 10,000 of them in the universe with 20 of those alien civilizations existing somewhere nearby (on a cosmic scale). These numbers come from the Drake equation, conceived by astronomer Frank Drake in 1961. The equation is an estimate of how many civilizations should exist in our galaxy by examining the many factors that might play a role in their development.
。在小说中,该理论试图回答费米悖论的问题,费米悖论是以物理学家恩里科费米命名的科学问题。简而言之,这是对我们迄今为止看不到外星生命迹象的原因的探索,当我们在统计上能够在宇宙中看到至少有10,000个这样的外星文明存在于宇宙中时(宇宙上)规模)。这些数字来自德拉克方程,由天文学家弗兰克德雷克于1961年构思。该等式是通过研究可能在其发展中起作用的许多因素来估计我们银河系中应该存在多少文明。 In the Drake equation, N is equal to the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which we should be able to communicate. R* is the galaxy's average rate of star formation per year, fp is the number of stars with planets, ne is the number of those planets capable of developing an ecosystem, fl is planets where life develops, fi is the planets that develop intelligent life (a notable distinction), fc is the portion of those lifeforms which develop interstellar communication, and L is the average length of time civilizations survive and are able to send out communications.
在德雷克方程中,N等于我们银河系中应该能够与之交流的文明数量。 R *是星系每年恒星形成的平均速率,fp是行星恒星的数量,ne是能够发展生态系统的行星数量,fl是生命发展的行星,fi是发展智能生命的行星(一个值得注意的区别),fc是发展星际通信的那些生命形式的一部分,L是文明生存并能够发送通信的平均时间长度。

In
In The Dark Forest , the assumptions of life are this: living organisms want to stay alive --- they have a survival drive --- and there is no way to know the true intentions of other lifeforms. Because there can be no certainties of a peaceful encounter, the safest course of action is to eradicate the other species before they have a chance to attack you instead. This also explains why an alien society might want to stay quiet, reducing the risk of discovering that humanity, for example, might be hostile after all. The novel also brings up the point of limited resources. A civilization that wishes to continue expanding across the universe will need to compete for the limited resources with any other intelligent life. With this assumption, one need not even consider that the species is hostile. We endanger animal populations on our planet all the time, not out of hatred but out of need for resources.
生命的假设是这样的:生物有机体想要活着 - 它们有生存的驱动力 - 而且无法知道其他生命形式的真实意图。因为和平遭遇无法确定,最安全的行动方式是在有机会攻击你之前消灭其他物种。这也解释了为什么外星人社会可能希望保持沉默,从而降低发现人类的风险,例如,毕竟可能是敌对的。这部小说也提出了有限的资源。希望继续在宇宙中扩张的文明将需要与任何其他智能生活竞争有限的资源。有了这个假设,人们甚至不需要考虑这个物种是敌对的。我们一直危及地球上的动物种群,不是出于仇恨,而是出于对资源的需求。

"The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life --- another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod --- there's only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It's the explanation for the Fermi Paradox." An excerpt from Liu's novel.
刘小说的摘录。

This manner of thinking is supported by physicist and NASA consultant David Brin in explaining the utter silence of space. In fact, it would only take one civilization thinking this way to produce the lack of radio signals we've observed over the past century. As soon as other intelligent lifeforms discovered and began using radio, they would be eradicated by a more advanced civilization. But doesn't this mean that humanity, too, is already doomed? Even beyond the purposeful signals we've sent into space in an attempt to communicate, we've also been giving off the signals daily over the past few decades as we watch TV, use our phones, and peruse the night beneath those flickering street lights. However, signals that are just a product of our everyday life tend to be faint and aimless, making them much less likely to give us away than a signal we consciously direct towards another planet.
这种思维方式得到了物理学家和美国宇航局顾问大卫布林在解释空间完全沉默时的支持。事实上,只需要一个文明就这样思考,就会产生我们在过去一个世纪中观察到的无线电信号的缺失。一旦其他智能生命形式发现并开始使用无线电,它们就会被更先进的文明所消灭。但这是不是意味着人类也已经注定了?即使超出了我们为了沟通而向太空发送的有目的的信号,我们也在过去几十年每天发出信号,因为我们看电视,使用手机,并在那些闪烁的路灯下过夜。 。然而,仅仅是我们日常生活的产物的信号往往是微弱和漫无目的,使得它们比我们有意识地指向另一个星球的信号更不可能给我们带走。 In the film "Arrival" [spoilers ahead], aliens come to learn our language and give us the gift of seeing into the future. But films like this are optimistic about first contact. There's no universal moral code by which any lifeforms must abide. In fact, Liu believes this optimistic way of thinking is a little naive. If we can't abide by our own moral guidelines, what makes us think other beings will? Image from "Arrival".
在电影"到来"[破坏前方]中,外星人来学习我们的语言并给予我们展望未来的礼物。但是这样的电影对第一次接触持乐观态度。没有任何生命形式必须遵守的普遍道德准则。事实上,刘认为这种乐观的思维方式有点幼稚。如果我们不能遵守自己的道德准则,是什么让我们认为其他众生会?图片来自"到达"。

But therein lies one of the problems with this theory. Is it possible to have a civilization that's always completely hidden and silent? And even if it is, can this silence be guaranteed for long periods of time? If there was an alien civilization stalking the galaxy for any signs of life, surely they would have already detected Earth and decided to attack. Unless they
但其中存在着这一理论的一个问题。是否有可能拥有一个永远完全隐藏和沉默的文明?即使是这样,这种沉默可以保证很长一段时间吗?如果有一个外星文明跟踪银河系的任何生命迹象,他们肯定已经探测到地球并决定进攻。除非他们 have detected Earth and exist camouflaged somewhere in the night sky, patient and observing. Another possible flaw in the Dark Forest theory is that these alien civilizations will not consider the value of alliances. As a species who had to come together to achieve interstellar travel, it is likely they'll understand the rewards of cooperation and the possibility of trade --- not just in resources but in knowledge. Historically, however, the possibility of alliances hasn't stopped humans from warring with one another. Liu answers this critique of his theory by bringing up a chain of suspicion. Even if two societies were able to communicate, there would still be incredible distances to surmount, both physically and in terms of culture and language. If another civilization is younger than one's own, they may seem to pose no threat at first but this wide distance and time span between the two worlds would mean an uncertainty of how fast the other civilization is evolving. Technology doesn't follow a linear path. Instead it develops exponentially, turning a now harmless and young civilization into a threat as they advance in leaps.
探测到地球,并在夜空的某处,患者和观察中伪装。黑暗森林理论的另一个可能缺陷是,这些外星文明不会考虑联盟的价值。作为一个必须聚集在一起实现星际旅行的物种,他们很可能会理解合作的回报和贸易的可能性 - 不仅仅是资源而是知识。然而,从历史上看,联盟的可能性并没有阻止人类相互交战。刘通过提出一连串怀疑来回答对他的理论的批评。即使两个社团能够进行交流,但无论是在身体上还是在文化和语言方面,仍然需要克服难以置信的距离。如果另一个文明比自己更年轻,它们似乎最初可能不构成威胁,但这两个世界之间的这种广泛的距离和时间跨度将意味着其他文明发展速度的不确定性。技术不遵循线性路径。相反,它以指数方式发展,将现在无害的年轻文明变为威胁,因为它们在飞跃中前进。

When everything's at stake, it's easy to see why extraterrestrial lifeforms might view communication as too high-risk to entertain.
当一切都处于危险之中时,很容易理解为什么外星生命形式可能会认为通信风险太高而无法娱乐。

David Brin isn't the only scientist to consider this a plausible scenario. Stephen Hawking and a roster of dozens of other scientists have also warned against searching so boldly for extraterrestrial life.
大卫布林不是唯一一个认为这是一个看似合理的情景的科学家。斯蒂芬霍金和其他几十位科学家的名单也警告不要大胆搜寻外星生命。A petition has been signed to prevent humans from actively sending signals into space, disclosing information about us and our location. This opens up the discussion to the broader question of who can make the decision that we should be attempting to communicate with other beings? Who can decide on behalf of the planet as a whole?
防止人类主动向太空发送信号,披露有关我们和我们所在位置的信息。这开启了对更广泛问题的讨论,即谁可以决定我们应该尝试与其他众生沟通?谁能代表整个星球做出决定?

The Dark Forest theory is an examination of life on Earth: how we treat one another, our propensity both for violence and for cooperation, our ability both to consider and disregard life. The theory applies these characteristics to the great beyond --- the voids of space which may harbor life that might follow a similar way of thinking and acting. One of the biggest consolations walking the streets of Earth at night is that even if one confronts another person, one can still appeal to their humanity. We can all understand desires and fears. But that's not a guarantee when addressing civilizations in space. Would it be better if their nature was similar to ours, or should we hope to find a very different race under those warm yellow street lights? Perhaps we'll find a society kinder than ours, and wiser. Perhaps not.
黑暗森林理论是对地球生命的考察:我们如何相互对待,我们对暴力和合作的倾向,我们考虑和忽视生命的能力。该理论将这些特征应用于超越空间 - 空间的空洞,这些空间可能包含可能遵循类似思维和行动方式的生活。晚上在地球的街道上行走的最大安慰之一是即使一个人面对另一个人,人们仍然可以诉诸他们的人性。我们都能理解欲望和恐惧。但在解决太空文明时,这并不是一种保证。如果他们的性质与我们的相似会更好吗,还是我们希望在那些温暖的黄色路灯下找到一个非常不同的种族?也许我们会发现一个比我们更温和的社会,更聪明。也许不是。

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