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 process of cosmic evolution playing out, then we can 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 paper explores the broad outlines of possible scenarios for the evolution of long-lived intelligent engineering species—scenarios which might have been part of another species' own Big History story, or which may yet lie ahead in our own distant future. A sufficiently long-lived engineering-oriented species may decide to undertake a program of macro-engineering projects that might eventually lead to a re-engineered galaxy so altered that its artificiality may be detectable from Earth. We consider activities that lead ultimately to a galactic structure consisting of a central inner core surrounded by a more distant ring of stars separated by a relatively sparser ‘gap', where star systems and stellar materials may have been removed, ‘lifted' or turned into Dyson Spheres. When one looks to the sky, one finds that such galaxies do indeed exist—including the beautiful ringed galaxy known as ‘Hoag's Object' (PGC 54559) in the constellation Serpens. This leads us to pose the question: Is Hoag's Object an example of galaxy-scale macro-engineering? And this suggests a program of possible observational activities and theoretical explorations, several of which are presented here, that could be carried out in order to begin to investigate this beguiling question.

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Book chapter


Teaching and Researching Big History: Exploring a New Scholarly Field: Selected papers from the inaugural International Big History Association conference, Michigan, United States, 2-5 August 2012 / Leonid Grinin, David Baker, Esther Quaedackers, and Andrey Korotayev (eds.). / Leonid Grinin, David Baker, Esther Quaedackers, and Andrey Korotayev (eds.), Chapter 14, pp. 283-304


Uchitel Publishing House




Copyright © 2014. The accepted manuscript is reproduced with the permission of the publisher.

Additional information

This chapter is based on two presentations, the first of which was the initial conference paper selected for the IBHA conference held in Grand Rapids in August 2012 (, the second of which was a slightly expanded version given as part of a plenary presentation at the 'Planetary Futures Event' held during the Asia-Pacific Foresight Conference in Perth in November 2012 (