Prose Header

Getting Attention

by Jörn Grote

“I have the solution to the Fermi Paradox,” Takera said.

“You have?” I said with a neutral tone to my voice, not really interested in what he had to say. All I wanted from him was that the fall over. He had reached the state of very very drunk, which was the state in which he was most annoying, but I didn’t know how much longer Takera would last.

“Yes, I told you that I have recently changed jobs. I work now for the SETC,” he said.

“You mean SETI.”

“No, SETC, Search for Extra-Terrestrial Computation. Initial searches have already found about six hundred units of the KSS3 type, and we guess there are many more, not to mention all the KSS2’s and KSS1’s, but those are harder to locate.”

I looked up from my bottle. I’d have to look into SETC. It must have been a very recent development, because I hadn’t yet heard of it. “KSS3?” I asked.

“Yeah, Kardashev type III solid-state civilizations. They utilize the entire energy output of galaxies to power their computations. And they’ve used all the matter of their home galaxy to build a solid-state front. They all probably exist only as uploaded minds any more. No flesh and blood or bones anywhere.”

“That,” I said,” doesn’t solve the Fermi Paradox. If these aliens are all out there, why don’t they come here?”

“Ha,” Takera said, smiling like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I wondered if he would vanish if I drank more. “We do not — and by ‘we’ I mean humanity — warrant enough attention.”

“We don’t?” I was surprised. “You mean they don’t like us? None of them does?”

“No, no,” Takera shook his head. “Not like that. KSS3 civilizations are driven by an economy of attention. Everything we have they probably have in abundance, and way more advanced: science, technology, art. There are probably countless beginner civilizations out there, begging for attention from the KSS3’s.

“And because they have everything we want, they could easily solve any of our problems with their technology. Immortality and everlasting youth would be easy to achieve with their help.

“But think of their situation. Countless beginner civilizations begging them to come and give them a shred of their attention, yet none has anything the KSS3’s would want. Why should the KSS3’s divert any attention from the problems they are working on, problems we can’t even begin to comprehend, and come here and give us some of their stuff? I bet they have FTL of a sort, but even for them it must have a certain cost in terms of time, space and energy.”

“So there’s nothing we’re doing that will make them come here?” I asked, knowing that Takera already had the answer or at least believed he had.

“Well, there is one thing they don’t have: human drama, death, misery and love. I bet they still like that stuff, no matter how advanced they are, and we can use it to lure them here. We’re what they can’t be anymore, what even their art can’t give them: authentic, finite lives full of drama.”

“But, I objected, “don’t they know that when they arrive here with their stuff, it would end all that? We would become like them? No more drama.”

Takera looked at me. “Hmm,” he said. And again. “Hmm.” Then he fell over, as I had predicted.

I checked him, but he was out cold. I shook my head. “Takera, Takera my friend, the answer to my question is obvious: when the aliens arrive, only a small handful of humans can receive their gifts. Why do you think the world is in the sorry state it is now, despite all the human achievements in the last century?

“Creating human drama is a profession we Men In Black do not take lightly. But soon we will have leached enough knowledge from the Xanadian data uplink on Mars to begin our own KSS3, right here in the Milky Way. Then the future may be evenly distributed among all of us.”

Copyright © 2006 by Jörn Grote

Home Page