Civilizations Lost in Deep Time
April 22, 2019 2:06 PM Subscribe
“Wait a second,” he said. “How do you know we’re the only time there’s been a civilization on our own planet?” [...] There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.
It’s not often that you write a paper proposing a hypothesis that you don’t support. Gavin and I don’t believe the Earth once hosted a 50-million-year-old Paleocene civilization. But by asking if we could “see” truly ancient industrial civilizations, we were forced to ask about the generic kinds of impacts any civilization might have on a planet. [...] Once you realize, through climate change, the need to find lower-impact energy sources, the less impact you will leave. So the more sustainable your civilization becomes, the smaller the signal you’ll leave for future generations.Adam Frank and Gavin Schmidt discuss the Silurian Hypothesis: would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record? (And what would that mean for our industrial civilization?)
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