If something can't go on forever, it won't. Simple, right? And yet, the notion that things will always continue to trend as they are is a common fallacy, and leads to real estate bubbles and the collapse of monetary systems.
However, this is a relatively recent trend, and we forget how many ancient civilizations had sophisticated capabilities that have been lost to us, or that we have had to recreate from scratch. They rose, they fell, they lost the recipe. Historians continue to analyze why the great civilizations declined, but once large, complex internal structures form, they begin to differentiate into interest groups that no longer have it as their principal goal to perform their greater function, but rather to maintain or grow their share of the resources flowing through the machinery. When a system fails this way, we call this "collapsing under its own weight."
|The best case scenario?|
Now imagine that this technology is sufficiently far advanced from our own that it facilitates almost anything we can imagine and much that we can't. Those who have access and some measure of control of it may appear to us to be masters of time, space and matter, when in fact they are less sophisticated than we are, and are experiencing the breakdown and decay of their inherited civilization. We don't know how old such a civilization could be, but if it reaches a point of long term stability, I know of no inherent reason that it can't be millions of years old.
Such a decline could take a complex trajectory. There could be successful efforts to recover some of the lost infrastructural knowledge. These will, after all, be descendants of the clever beings who cut the technology loose in the first place, and they may still be partially or entirely biological. However, countless generations with every need catered to and all selective pressures removed could result in beings that can no longer properly fend for themselves in an unsheltered environment. They will need to cobble together whatever is left of their infrastructure in order to survive.
So, what this series of posts is about is: what might the observables of a once Superior Community in decline be, and would they be more or less inclined to reach out to a younger civilization like us? We'll go over some candidate observables in Part 2.
Dream of the Open Channel by Paul Carr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.