Monday, September 12, 2016

Long-term consequences of observing an expanding cosmological civilization


Olson et al


Suppose that advanced civilizations, separated by a cosmological distance and time, wish to maximize their access to cosmic resources by rapidly expanding into the universe. What sort of boundary forms between their expanding domains, and how does the presence of one limit the ambitions of another? We describe a general case for any expansion speed, separation distance, and time. We then specialize to the main question of interest. How are the future prospects for a young and ambitious civilization altered if they can observe the presence of another at a cosmological distance? We treat cases involving the observation of one or two expanding domains. In the single-observation case, we find that almost any plausible detection will be limiting to some extent. Also, practical technological limits to expansion speed (well below the speed of light) play an interesting role. If a domain is visible at the time one embarks on expansion, there exists an optimum value for the "practical speed limit," and if the speed limit is much higher than optimal, one's future will be severely limited. In the case of two visible domains, it is possible to be "trapped" by them if the practical speed limit is high enough and their angular separation in the sky is large enough, i.e. one's expansion in any direction will terminate at a boundary with the two visible civilizations.

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