Daily Archives: October 11th, 2010

The Year One Million and the Galactic Internet

When I first read this post on the Daily Galaxy, I chuckled to myself. How could anyone in their right mind guess about human civilization in the Year One Million?

Chances are, we wouldn’t be human at all, but a descendant branch of humanity, perhaps one of many branches.

Also, what kind of technology would we have? At a guess, we’d have something that wouldn’t be made of matter at all, but some kind of ‘fake’ matter made up of fields of force, controlled mentally.

And what about biology? Chances are we’d be some genetic hybrid of natural and artificial intelligence, or something that would have sentience, but no consciousness.

How could that happen? Author Peter Watts in his novel ‘Blindsight‘ offers up how this could happen and that we could be the aberration, not the norm.

The main thrust of the Daily Galaxy post is the Galactic Internet and that we’re seeing the beginning of it with our nascent Interplanetary Internet.

In the 21st Century, NASA is planning to implement an  Interplanetary Internet (IPI) that will allow NASA to link up the Internets of Earth, spacecraft, and eventually Moon, Mars, and beyond. By the Year Million, billions of “smart dust” sensors will be connected to a distant descendant of the IPI, exchanging data in real time or via store-and-forward protocol or wireless mesh on planets and in spacecraft to track asteroids, comets, and space junk, exchanging three-dimensional position location and time data (similar to GPS on Earth) via multiple hops between sensors.

As commercial public space travel becomes available, the IPI could serve as the core of an interplanetary version of air traffic control. The IPI could also become the standard communications protocol as we expand out beyond the solar system’s planets, and then beyond the stars and to other galaxies, starting with potentially habitable planets beyond the solar system, such as Gliese 581d, the third planet of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 (about twenty light-years away from Earth)

By the Year One Million, as we reach out to communication nodes orbiting more distant stars, or in other galaxies, we will need to use a lot of power-as much as the entire power of the Sun. A civilization able to do that kind of cosmic engineering is referred to as Kardashev Type II, or KT-II. By contrast, our civilization used about fifteen terawatt-hours in 2004 (a terawatt-hour is one billion kilowatt-hours) of electrical power. New York University Physics Professor Emeritus Martin Hoffert and other scientists calculate that if our power consumption grows by just two percent per year, then in just four hundred years we will need all the solar power received by the Earth (1016 watts = 10,000 terawatts). And in a thousand years, we’ll require all of the power of the Sun (4×1026 watts).

Eventually, when we have become first a KT-I and then a KT-II civilization, we will reach even farther out to supergalaxies and even to clusters of supergalaxies, which could require a Type III civilization-one capable of controlling the power of an entire galaxy, some 1036 watts. The communication latencies (transmission delays) for such a system would be millions or even hundred of millions of years.

Possibly by the Year Million engineers will solve this time lag with extreme cosmic engineering feats such as wormholes, or even communication via parallel universes. One intriguing possibility is the use of quantum entanglement-that is, allowing an entangled atom or photon to carry information across a distance, theoretically anywhere in the universe.

An experiment testing the possibility of communication using this principle is in progress in the Laser Physics Facility at the University of Washington by professor John G. Cramer. Cramer astonished physicists at a joint American Institute of Physics/American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in 2006 by presenting experimental evidence that the outcome of a laser experiment could be affected by a future measurement: a message was sent to a time fifty microseconds in the past. So in principle, perhaps one could bypass the speed-of-light limitation and have messages show up in a distant galaxy long before they could have been received by radio or laser transmission, or even before they were sent.

I don’t foresee the Galactic Internet as a purely electromagnetic entity, only to use wormhole or quantum technology as a transport or storage medium. That’s too materialistic in my opinion.

I could be wrong of course, but so could the other folks who are speculating on this too.

And I would bet even money we are.

Will the Internet Span the Milky Way by Year 1,000,000?