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Life's struggle to survive

On Tuesday I'm giving a talk at the SETI Institute. You can see my slides now:

Abstract. When pondering the number of extraterrestrial civilizations, it is worth noting that even after it got started, the success of life on Earth was not a foregone conclusion. We recount some thrilling episodes from the history of our planet, some well-documented but others merely theorized: our collision with the planet Theia, the oxygen catastrophe, the snowball Earth events, the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event, the asteroid that hit Chicxulub, and more, including the events we are causing now. All of these hold lessons for what may happen on other planets.

If you have any comments our questions, that'd be great!

Source Text:hoidle

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1.
edited December 2013

Looks really nice. I wish that I had more time to really study it.

A couple of typos:

The link to the pdf file above has a typo, it has ".pf" for the suffix, not ".pdf"

Sometime between 3.5 and 2.6 billion years ago ... started dumping a deadly gas into the atmosphere: oygen!

Oy that oygen.

Last point. It may be by your design as an author, but the ending, which refers to the present day conditions, is terse -- it left me waiting for the next slide. I suggest a slide or two more with some of your key observations about the current challenges we face -- in relation to the large sweep that you describe -- as a way to close it out.

Good luck with the talk.

Source Text:Looks really nice. I wish that I had more time to really study it. A couple of typos: The link to the pdf file above has a typo, it has ".pf" for the suffix, not ".pdf" > Sometime between 3.5 and 2.6 billion years ago ... started dumping a deadly gas into the atmosphere: oygen! Oy that oygen. Last point. It may be by your design as an author, but the ending, which refers to the present day conditions, is terse -- it left me waiting for the next slide. I suggest a slide or two more with some of your key observations about the current challenges we face -- in relation to the large sweep that you describe -- as a way to close it out. Good luck with the talk.
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2.

I fixed the link - thanks!

Yes, my ending is terse, perhaps because I was desperately rushing to finish the slides. I'll certainly expand on my final point verbally, regardless of whether I stick more stuff in the .pdf file. Since this talk is for the SETI Institute, I'll say a bit about how perhaps most intelligent technological civilizations run into a resource exploitation 'tragedy of commons' situation that they don't manage to escape. I'll say that we are in the midst of collecting one data point about this hypothesis.

I may also mention Easter Island, but the story there is subtle, and I don't understand it well, so I should probably refrain.

I will try to improve my slides. But also, a video of the talk will appear on YouTube (and the Azimuth blog).

Source Text:I fixed the link - thanks! Yes, my ending is terse, perhaps because I was desperately rushing to finish the slides. I'll certainly expand on my final point verbally, regardless of whether I stick more stuff in the .pdf file. Since this talk is for the SETI Institute, I'll say a bit about how _perhaps_ most intelligent technological civilizations run into a resource exploitation 'tragedy of commons' situation that they don't manage to escape. I'll say that we are in the midst of collecting one data point about this hypothesis. I may also mention Easter Island, but [the story there is subtle](http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/12/09/249728994/what-happened-on-easter-island-a-new-even-scarier-scenario), and I don't understand it well, so I should probably refrain. I will try to improve my slides. But also, a video of the talk will appear on YouTube (and the Azimuth blog).
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edited December 2013

I may also mention Easter Island, but the story there is subtle, and I don’t understand it well, so I should probably refrain.

On a first account the Easter Island story doesn't sound as if there was a complete resource exploitation: citation from "What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario":

According to MacKinnon, scientists say that Easter Island skeletons from that time show "less malnutrition than people in Europe."

but it seems there was a "mass extinction" of trees, so maybe one can take the Easter Island example at least as an example for possible scenarios of anthropogenically shaped environments.

But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do. One niggling question: If everybody was eating enough, why did the population decline? Probably, the professors say, from sexually transmitted diseases after Europeans came visiting.

Yes it seems birth control was less likely to be adapted in earlier times, so since there was no famine and since there were no predators, like wild animals, diseases are a possible option that the population didn't soar. However in some other poulations cannibalism and other forms of killings were also leading to that result. Was there any investigation into that direction?

Humans are a very adaptable species. We've seen people grow used to slums, adjust to concentration camps, learn to live with what fate hands them

It sounds inappropriate to say that "people adjust to concentration camps". That is some people seem to adjust, but some do not adjust and expecially with respect to victims the wording is more than awkward.

Source Text:>I may also mention Easter Island, but the story there is subtle, and I don’t understand it well, so I should probably refrain. On a first account the Easter Island story doesn't sound as if there was a complete resource exploitation: <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/12/09/249728994/what-happened-on-easter-island-a-new-even-scarier-scenario">citation from "What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario":</a> >According to MacKinnon, scientists say that Easter Island skeletons from that time show "less malnutrition than people in Europe." but it seems there was a "mass extinction" of trees, so maybe one can take the Easter Island example at least as an example for possible scenarios of anthropogenically shaped environments. >But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do. >One niggling question: If everybody was eating enough, why did the population decline? Probably, the professors say, from sexually transmitted diseases after Europeans came visiting. Yes it seems birth control was less likely to be adapted in earlier times, so since there was no famine and since there were no predators, like wild animals, diseases are a possible option that the population didn't soar. However in some other poulations cannibalism and other forms of killings were also leading to that result. Was there any investigation into that direction? >Humans are a very adaptable species. We've seen people grow used to slums, adjust to concentration camps, learn to live with what fate hands them It sounds inappropriate to say that "people adjust to concentration camps". That is some people seem to adjust, but some do not adjust and expecially with respect to victims the wording is more than awkward.
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edited December 2013

The video of my talk is now available here, along with a discussion of 2 problems with the talk.

Source Text:The video of my talk is now available [here](http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/seti/), along with a discussion of 2 problems with the talk.