Solution Berserkers

In the long run, we are all dead.

During the 1950s, Cold War strategists toyed with the idea of a "Doomsday weapon." Such a weapon was terrible, uncontrollable, capable of destroying all human life on Earth — including the owners of the weapon. If your enemy knew you were willing to deploy a Doomsday device then — so the Cold War logic went — they would not dare attack you. I suspect that

Fred Saberhagen had the Doomsday weapon in mind when he wrote his famous berserker stories.138

Berserkers are sentient, self-reproducing machines that are savagely inimical to organic life. Think of them as paranoid Bracewell-von Neumann probes with a mean streak. The relevance to the Fermi paradox is clear: ETCs have either been prevented from arising by berserkers, wiped out by berserkers, or else are keeping quiet for fear of attracting berserkers. It is an elegant solution to the Fermi paradox. But could berserkers exist outside the pages of science fiction?

If an ETC could build probes capable of colonizing the Galaxy, then unfortunately berserker construction would presumably not be beyond them technically. It is hard to imagine any intelligent species actually wanting to develop berserkers, since the technology is so dangerous to the creators as well as to all other life. Besides, what would be their motivation for constructing berserkers? If their aim was to colonize the Galaxy for itself, then it could fulfill its aim simply by being the first to colonize: remember that the colonization time for the Galaxy is much less than the age of the Galaxy. However, we should not be overly sanguine about the prospect of berserkers. Suppose the programming of a "well-adjusted" probe mutates; perhaps a collision with a stray cosmic ray changes the line of code in its core module from "seek out new life and new civilizations" to "seek out new life and new civilizations, and kill them." Self-reproducing probes will inevitably evolve, and so berserker-type devices might develop.

The berserker solution has been criticized on several grounds. Even if berserkers exist, would they be an inevitable Nemesis? Could not ETCs "inoculate" themselves, much as they would inoculate themselves against a virulent disease? Most tellingly, the berserker scenario suffers from a Fermi paradox of its own: if berserkers exist, then how come we are here? Berserkers should already have sterilized our planet. Instead, as we shall see in later sections, the geological record indicates life has been present on Earth for billions of years. To be sure, Earth has seen several mass extinctions, but there are natural explanations for these events. (The Universe is dangerous enough without berserkers.) So why have berserkers silenced all other civilizations but left us alone? We could argue that berserkers destroy only technological life-forms and need a "trigger" — presumably the detection of radio waves — before they begin work. But that extra step in the argument spoils what is potentially an elegant resolution of the Fermi paradox. Besides, we have been using radio for a century and may soon go radio-quiet despite our burgeoning level of technology. If berserkers are all they are cracked up to be, then where are they?

Survival Treasure

Survival Treasure

This is a collection of 3 guides all about survival. Within this collection you find the following titles: Outdoor Survival Skills, Survival Basics and The Wilderness Survival Guide.

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