class: inverse, center, middle, f36px, title # Alien Megastructures:
The Possibility of Extraterrestrial Life and the Rhetoric of Hope in the Anthropocene
**Andrew Pilsch** **
Texas A&M University
** .f44px[ **Materials: [http://atp1.us/aliens](http://atp1.us/aliens)** ] **
RSA 2018 ◊ Minneapolis, MN ◊ June 1, 2018
** --- class: inverse, f28px ## Freeman Dyson > It is remarkable that the time scale of industrial expansion, the mass of Jupiter, the energy output of the sun, and the thickness of a habitable biosphere all have consistent orders of magnitude. It seems, then a reasonable expectation that, barring accidents, Malthusian pressures will ultimately drive an intelligent species to adopt some such efficient exploitation of its available resources. One should expect that, within a few thousand years of its entering the stage of industrial development, **any intelligent species should be found occupying an artificial biosphere which completely surrounds its parent star**. (1667) --- class: inverse, f31px ## Freeman Dyson > If the foregoing argument is accepted, then the search for extraterrestrial intelligent beings should not be confined to the neighborhood of visible stars. The most likely habitat for such beings would be a dark object, having a size comparable with the Earth's orbit, and a surface temperature of 200 deg. to 300 deg. K. **Such a dark object would be radiating as copiously as the star which is hidden inside it, but the radiation would be in the far infrared, around 10 microns wavelength.** (1667) --- class: inverse, f32px ## Olaf Stapledon > As the aeons advanced, hundreds of thousands of worldlets were constructed, all of this type, but gradually increasing in size and complexity. Many a star without natural planets came to be surrounded by concentric rings of artificial worlds. In some cases the inner rings contained scores, the outer rings thousands of globes adapted to life at some particular distance from the sun. Great diversity, both physical and mental, would distinguish worlds even of the same ring. (365) --- class: inverse, f24px ## J.D. Bernal > Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk of the structure would be made out of the substance of one or more smaller asteroids, rings of Saturn or other planetary detritus. ... The globe would fulfill all the functions by which our earth manages to support life. In default of a gravitational field it has, perforce, to keep its atmosphere and the greater portion of its life inside; but as all its nourishment comes in the form of energy through its outer surface it would be forced to resemble on the whole an enormously complicated single-celled plant. (18) --- class: inverse, f23px ## Rayner Banham > For the two decades of its maximum potency it was also, probably, the hinge of a crisis in architectural thinking that may also prove to have been the terminal crisis of 'Modern' architecture as we have known it. > > That may sound over-portentious; in the megastructure years it would have sounded unjustifiably disloyal and pessimistic. Yet it is clear that by the 1960s Modern architects had argued themselves into a dilemma from which there was no escape, and from which megastructure was only a dubious deliverance: **while the architectural profession would not relinquish its distinct 'Modern' claim to responsibility for 'the design of the whole human environment', it had by now been forced to recognize that the homogenously designed 'total architecture' demand by such as Walter Gropius would be as dead, as culturally thin, as any other perfect machine.** (9) --- class: inverse, center, middle !(http://www.arch-edition.nl/images/page3/qtekening02.gif) --- class: inverse, center, middle !(https://imgs.6sqft.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/16203843/dome-e1456515560790.jpeg) --- class: inverse, f21px ## Benjamin Bratton > The *Earth* layer of The Stack is defined by this risk, also perhaps its most critical (and paradoxical) measurement and prediction challenge: the energy costs of planetary-scale computation on one side of the scale versus the energy savings of Internet on the other, the latter either rescuing us from the former or instead guaranteeing a catastrophe already underway. We may conclude that investment must be accelerated so that the costs of building The Stack do not sink the whole enterprise of industrial civilization, but if the energy and carbon costs of The Stack are too great to pay for the construction of the new grids, then the new grids cannot save us from the effects of those same costs. The Stack is in a race against its own physics, like a long-distance spaceship that must carry a prohibitive excess of fuel just to push the weight of that prohibitive excess of fuel. If disaster calls, The Stack would also itself be a causality of its own potentially disastrous impacts. Its own machines and materials are also vulnerable to the foreseeable and unforeseeable disruptions brought by the climate change that its own appetite would exacerbate and ensure. (96) --- class: inverse, f26px ## Joseph Packer > Individuals throughout history do not make use of the unity myth as some trite metaphor or simple observation of fact. Plato first deployed the unity myth in one of history's greatest culture wars as part of a strategy to undermine his sophist opponents. His victory over the sophists proved a decisive moment in the history of Western philosophical thinking. From then until now, the discussion of alien life frequently intertwines itself with political, religious, and philosophical debates. The unity cosmology's denial of alien life helps its proponents imagine a purposeful, teleological existence for humankind that poses a serious challenge to relativistic viewpoints that eschew seeing history as so purpose-driven. (21) --- class: inverse, f29px ## Claire Colebrook > The Anthropocene seems to override vast amounts of critical work in queer theory, trans-animalities, post-humanism and disability theory that had destroyed the false essentialism of the human. The "human" of the late twentieth century had increasingly become a humanity of difference, defined less by being than an ongoing strategy or performance or becoming. But this humanity of becoming and self-differentiation was possible only by way of a negative universalism, where the human was unified by having no essence other than that which it gave itself through existence. (91) --- class: inverse, middle .pull-left[ ![Cover of *The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet* by Becky Chambers](https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Keam5kKXL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg) ] .pull-right[ ![Cover of *A Closed and Common Orbit* by Becky Chambers](https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/512lARZC4uL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg) ] --- class: inverse, f29px ## Catherynne M. Valente > Life isn't difficult, it isn't picky, it isn't unique, and fate doesn't enter into the thing. Kick-starting the gas-guzzling subcompact go-cart of organic sentience is as easy as shoving it down a hill and watching the whole thing spontaneously explode. Life *wants* to happen. It can't stand *not* happening. Evolution is ready to go at a moment's notice, hopping from one foot to another like a kid waiting in line for a roller coaster, so excited to get on with the colored lights and the loud music and the upside-down parts, it practically pees itself before it even pays the ticket price. (2) --- class: inverse, f24px ## Stanisław Lem > Every civilization creates an artificial environment for itself while transforming the surface of its planet, its interior, and its cosmic neighborhood. Yet this process does not cut it off from Nature in any radical way; it only moves it further away from Nature. But the process can be continued so that an "encystment" of a civilization in relation to the whole Universe eventually takes place […] A civilization that is experiencing an information crisis and that already has access to feedback from Nature, and to sources of energy that will guarantee its existence for millions of years [...] will be able to construct an entirely new type of feedback, within itself. Producing such "encystment" will involve having to construct "a world within a world," an autonomous reality that is not directly connected with the material reality of Nature. (86-7) --- class: inverse, works-cited, f22px ## Works Cited * Banham, Reyner.
Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past
. Harper & Row, 1976. * Bernal, J. D.
The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul
. Verso Books, 2018. * Bratton, Benjamin H.
The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty
. The MIT Press, 2016. * Colebrook, Claire. “What Is the Anthropo-Political?”
Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols
, Open Humanities, 2016, pp. 81–125. * Dyson, Freeman J. “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation.”
, vol. 131, no. 3414, 1960, pp. 1667–1668. * Lem, Stanisław.
. Translated by Joanna Zylinska, U Of Minnesota P, 2014. * Packer, Joseph.
Alien Life and Human Purpose: A Rhetorical Examination Through History
. Lexington, 2015. * Valente, Catherynne M.
. Saga, 2018. * Zylinska, Joanna.
The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse
. 1 edition, Minnesota UP, 2018.