Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union a small group of astronomers and theorists were discussing the same questions and planning their own alien hunts. Because of the tradition of Cosmism, in Russia mainstream science has long tolerated such far-out thoughts more than it has in the United States. Perhaps because of a Marxist faith in an inevitable progression of historical stages, some of the boldest notions about the evolution of advanced societies came from Soviet scientists.
Certainly, while it lasted, the Soviet Union gave much more official support to SETI than the United States ever has. As I mentioned in chapter 14, in 1962 Iosif Shklovskii published Universe, Life, Mind, which included discussions of interstellar radio communication with other civilizations. Shklovskii independently arrived at many of the same conclusions reached by Cocconi, Morrison, and Drake.
The Soviet counterpart to the Green Bank meeting, the First AllUnion Conference on Extraterrestrial Civilizations and Interstellar Communication, was held in May 1964, at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory in Soviet Armenia. In his opening remarks Academician V. A. Ambartsumyan, head of the Byurakan Observatory, stated:
We have no doubt whatsoever that life and civilizations exist on a multitude of celestial bodies, but . . . modern technological civilization (on Earth) has its origin no more than two hundred years in the past. And yet, the ages of planets may differ by as much as millions of years. Hence it seems that Earth civilization is not yet past the diapers age, and that there should be enormous disparity with extraterrestrial civilizations.
The problem is therefore essentially a problem of communication between civilizations on entirely different levels of development. . . .
In practical terms, our aim is therefore to obtain rational technical and linguistic solutions for the problem of communication with extraterrestrial civilizations which are much more advanced than terrestrial civilization.
Echoing these comments in the first scientific paper presented at the Soviet meeting, Iosif Shklovskii respectfully critiqued the work of Drake, Cocconi, and Morrison: "It seems to us that Project Ozma was doomed from the very start, for the following reasons: (a) It assumed that civilizations may occupy the nearest stars. (b) Cocconi and Morrison's idea and its realization by Drake assumes that the extraterrestrial civilizations are approximately on the same technological level as terrestrial civilizations. But . . . we are only infants as far as science and technology are concerned."
At Byurakan, Nicolai Kardashev, Shklovskii's young colleague (and former star student) at Moscow State University, pondered what a technological civilization that survives for thousands or even millions of years might look like. Pointing to the exponential increase in energy resources available to human societies in the last couple of centuries, Kardashev proposed that expanding energy use will be a universal hallmark of advanced civilizations.
Starting from this assumption, Kardashev devised a classification system for technological civilizations. Those that have the approximate energy resources of their entire home planet at their disposal he termed Type I. Humanity, he said, will become a Type I civilization sometime in the twenty-first century. Kardashev defined Type II civilizations as those using the power output of their entire home star. Finally, Type III civilizations have access to the resources of an entire galaxy.
Kardashev observed that on Earth a Type I civilization took several billion years to develop. He predicted that the transition to Type II would take, at most, a few thousand years, and that to Type III no more than a few tens of millions. If these numbers are typical, then our level of civilization is a brief stage, and our own kind should be rare. Type II and even III civilizations should be common, since they tend to stick around for a long time.
These considerations, Kardashev pointed out, have practical consequences for our search strategies. If any Type II or Type III civilizations are out there, they might be easier to detect even than Type I civilizations located much closer to us—just as a stadium rock concert miles away is easier to hear than a ukulele across the street. A supercivili-zation might have constructed a beacon reaching a wide expanse of galactic space, to attract the attention of fledgling species like ours just turning on their radios. Or, their artifacts and internal communications might be visible from vast distances. With a million years of progress under their belt, perhaps they would have undertaken vast "astroengi-neering" projects, rearranging or reconstructing stars for their own inscrutable purposes. Such cosmic-scale works of civil engineering might be visible across the galaxy, or even from other galaxies.*
Shklovskii and Kardashev concluded that most civilizations out there must be at least Type II. This, they pointed out, suggests an entirely different kind of search strategy from that used for Project Ozma. Drake, in effect, was searching for Type I civilizations who are broadcasting toward the nearest stars likely to have similar planets. This type of targeted search of nearby stars should only be successful if the galaxy is loaded with Type I civilizations. If we think that Type II or III civilizations might be out there, then perhaps we should forget about looking at nearby stars and instead scan large areas of the sky, looking for the Big One. Kardashev's ideas, like Drake's, became part of the lexicon of SETI. Scientists in the field still refer to Type I, II, or III civilizations.
East met West at the First International Conference on Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, held at Byurakan in 1971. Later, Shklovskii wrote, "Never, before or afterward, have I taken part in a more imposing scientific gathering." In addition to astronomers, physicists, and biologists, the organizers made an effort to include representatives of various relevant fields from the humanities, including linguists, philosophers, anthropologists, and historians. All of the Soviet and most of the American SETI pioneers were there. Several Nobel laureates were in attendance, including Francis Crick, who had discovered the structure of DNA. The proceedings make for lively reading because of the fiery clashes between Crick, who thought that we could not really say anything about the probability of intelligence elsewhere, and Sagan, who thought we could.
The assembled polymaths discussed the value of L (the lifetime of civilizations) in the context of the nuclear arms race, population
*Type III civilizations always make me think of those talking galaxies in the opening scene of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. In the film they are actually angels, but we might be hard-pressed to tell the difference between angels and wise old type III aliens who have mastered and internalized technology that we cannot even dream of dreaming about.
dynamics, and conflict resolution theory. Discussions spun off into fascinating debates about the universality of mathematics, the meaning of progress, and whether the laws of physics can be changed. These considerations did not, however, really nail down the answer to the Drake Equation.
Near the end of the conference, the historian William McNeill of the University of Chicago concluded, "I must say that in listening to the discussion these last days, I feel I detect what might be called a pseudo or scientific religion. I do not mean this as a condemnatory phrase. Faith and hope and trust have been very important factors in human life and it is not wrong to cling to these and pursue such faith. But I remain, I fear, an agnostic, not only in traditional religion but also in this new one."
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