Galactic-scale macro-engineering: looking for signs of other intelligent species, as an exercise in hope for our own


Voros, Joseph

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If we consider Big History as simply 'our' example of the narrative of cosmic evolution playing out, then we can also seek to broaden our view of our possible fate as a species by asking questions about what paths or trajectories other species' own versions of 'Big History' might take or have taken. This presentation is intended to be a fun exploration of some of the wilder implications of taking a really big-picture long-term view of the future possibilities of successful intelligent species. I hope you enjoy the ride! This presentation explores the broad contours of a one possible scenario for the future evolution of an intelligent species---a scenario which might lie in our own distant future, or may have been part of another species' own Big History story. If the latter, then mounting a search for evidence of such galaxy-scale macro-engineering projects---such as will be sketched here---provides a basis for some hope in our ability to navigate the phase of 'technological adolescence' at which we find ourselves in the long-term view of the possible evolutionary 'future histories' of our species. I consider the case of using the 'Dysonian' form of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) thinking to examine what an intelligent species---possibly biological, but most likely post-biological and effectively immortal---might decide to do in terms of macro-engineering projects. After astro-engineering its own star to harvest its luminous energy (eg creating a Dyson sphere), it might then decide to expand outward into the galaxy and re-engineer the galaxy itself to more efficiently harvest the luminosity from the galactic core by removing intervening material. I describe a possible sequence of activities which leads to the creation of a significantly macro-engineered galaxy consisting of a central inner core of stars surrounded by a more distant ring of stars separated by a relatively sparser gap, where stellar materials and stars have either been removed, 'lifted' or turned into Dyson spheres. When one looks to the sky, one finds that just such an object indeed exists---Hoag's Object (PGC 54559) in the constellations Serpens. This leads one to pose the question: Is Hoag's Object an example of galaxy-scale macro-engineering? This suggests a possible program of observational activities and theoretical explorations that could be carried out in order to answer this beguilingly intriguing question...

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Conference paper


Teaching and researching Big History: exploring a new scholarly field, the Inaugural International Big History Association Conference, Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States, 02-05 August 2012


Grand Valley State University

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Copyright © 2012.

Additional information

This paper was later published as part of a selected papers volume from the IBHA conference ( A slightly expanded version of this presentation was given as part of a plenary session at the 'Planetary Futures Event' held during the Asia-Pacific Foresight Conference in Perth in November 2012 (