In the model presented in this class, a connected pathway of events (schematically illustrated above) have lead to the situation where the Universe can ask itself a question.

The fate of question marks on this planet is unclear.

Can we preserve the question mark through the colonization of other worlds? Is this even an appropriate way to do that? (morality vs. economics again).

Why would we colonize other worlds?:

The above reasons would all exist if your species is unable to engage in multi-generational thinking and planning. Colonization requires this.

To move several (hundred) thousand individuals off this planet towards another world is a serious effort and a serious use of planetary resources.

Such large scale colonization requires a 50-200 year planning and implementation effort. Our technological culture has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to do this kind of long range planning.

This might be a form of self-censoring. Non-equilibrium cultures can't colonize because, when they feel the need, it will be too late (resources will be gone).

Why would equilibrium cultures colonize then when they would have no reason to?

But what has colonization lead to on this planet? Most likely, the near simultaneous birth and death of civilization.


This is a story about, at once, the beginning and ending of civilization. It is the dawn of time. Dawn finds three characters:

Fred and Sam are friends. Ralph does not know about the existence of Fred and Sam.

Their entire economy is based on the harvesting of trees. Trees provide everything - food, clothing and shelter. Trees are harvested with a primitive stone axe:

With it, the harversting rate is one tree per week. Fred's culture lives in equilibrium with that harvesting rate. This equilibrium is a primitive example of the Gaia Hypothesis that suggests all systems on the earth are connected and feedback to one another.

Sam would like to improve Fred's productivity and invent leisure time so that Sam can sell video games to Fred's culture to cope with leisure time. So Sam would often go off and think by himself. One day, while Sam was off thinking on the hillside, something remarkable happened and Sam got a big clue:

Next Page


The Electronic Universe Project
e-mail: nuts@moo.uoregon.edu