The Council’s vote was in. It was a tie. She, being the Chair, has the casting vote and a devastating decision to make. A responsibility she definitely does not want but cannot now avoid. She rereads the summary for the umpteenth time, though she knows it by heart. With all the Council’s eyes, ears, noses, quanta readers and sub-quanta sensors on her, she just wants some breathing space.
Planet Orion-Arm-485-3 has followed the usual Gloop, Moved, Anchored, Extenders, Rovers, Makers, Enlightened, and Transcendent (GMAERMET) process, but is now stalled in the Makers stage. Below is a summary of its history, current situation, and available options. A decision is urgently required.
Our galactic sub-quanta spider-net picked up the normal signal of the Gloop’s chemical reactions to form the microorganisms of the Moved 3,900 million years ago. We followed procedure to set up a sentinel to watch for changes in the fractal dimensions of surface features, which would prove the planet’s surface had evolved from Anchored microorganisms to the plant life of the Extenders. This happened 470 million years ago, later than normal, but still within the expected time tolerance. We re-evaluated our time span probabilities for achieving the next stages accordingly and upgraded the sentinel to watch for the surface movements of the Rovers.
They appeared on schedule 420 million years ago but have since suffered three natural mass extinctions to delay uplift to the Makers. The fourth Rover development stalled. A reconnaissance mission identified the dominant species had evolved with two brain centres, which had reached an electro-chemical limit of coordination between them. The dinosaurs would not evolve further and were a dead species walking.
The Council reluctantly granted permission for another extinction event. An asteroid was diverted to impact Chicxulub, the one place on the planet it was guaranteed to work. This also had the advantage that the next Rover development would assess it as ‘bad luck’ and avoid any suspicion of interference.
Another species became dominant and became Makers on a standard slow achievement time curve.
Even taking unusual environmental factors into consideration, the Makers are now well overdue to become the Enlightened. Our latest reconnaissance mission proved that, unlike the previous occasion, there are no physiological factors stopping their transition. However, the mission has also identified several contributory reasons for the delay.
Resources were diverted away from their path to Enlightenment due to, firstly, the culling of their society’s weaker members being curtailed earlier than normal and, secondly, they developed an addiction to repeating actions that prevented new machinery being invented. Finally, the Makers’ emerging ability to register life auras, which is the first step to the Enlightened, was suppressed by peer pressure to conform to the average behavioural profile, backed by military enforcement.
If the current Makers do not transition within the next seventy-eight years, then their instigated climate change processes will irreversibly run away into a hothouse regime. Poisons will then be produced that will stop life at any of the GMAERMET stages ever existing on this planet.
The Makers could, in their time left, colonise their Moon or their Sun’s fourth planet, Mars. They would have to overcome the radiation, weakened gravity, lack of water supplies, and the need for permanent maintainable life-support systems. Their limited time window makes their survival prospects, at best, minimal.
The only other courses of action require our intervention.
- Do nothing. As already noted, this will almost certainly lead to the extinction of the Makers and the planet being unable to sustain any new life forms.
- Force a Makers extinction event to reboot the planet from a suitable GMAERMET stage (to be determined). This has already been done once with its Rovers, which suggests there is an inhibitor influence on this planet that we are unable to identify. We are likely to face a similar situation within 50 million years. History has shown that repeated forced extinctions will end in planet failure.
- Teach the Makers to take the path to the Enlightened. The short timescale means they must be taught at speed. Recent research proved that the taught tend to copy their teachers. After briefly thriving, the species will dwindle and finally die off, because they do not feel comfortable in themselves. This option is only a delaying tactic for their extinction and their planet’s failure.
- Forcibly mutate the Makers into the Enlightened. On the two previous occasions, the species has felt unable to cope with the transition and committed mass suicide, taking their planet with them. We can now mitigate some of the effects but are uncertain if these would be sufficient. Hence this is a very high-risk option.
The critical factor is the lack of available time. Therefore, the third option, teaching them the path to Enlightenment, is recommended, with the addition of doing research to prevent their dwindling.
The recommendation gives the Makers their best chance of survival. It is the option she is expected to pick, one of two that will save the planet in the long run. Yet she hesitates.
The choice is between zillions of taught lives and the potential for a better species in its gazillions to evolve. That word, potential, is full of uncertainty, unknowns, and variations. It applies to all the options. But which has the greatest?
She glances at the summary again. One option stands out. With all of them effectively saying the species will never become the Enlightened, she must go with the greatest potential.
Given their history, if left alone, they will stay as Makers to develop their capability beyond any of the other species. The Transcendent might even learn something from these Makers. That would really be something. Her choice is obvious.
“I vote for option one,” she announces. “Do nothing.”
She has one regret. As the laws of physics stop these Makers interacting with the Transcendent, they will be alone and will never know the true answer to what they refer to as the ‘Fermi Paradox’: why have they not found intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?