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Alien trade

  1. Aug 25, 2004 #1
    This was posted in another forum and I was just wondering what the Physics Forum thinks should be chosen.


    Alien trade

    Imagine if you will. An alien spacecraft the size of London appears suddenly over New York.

    After the inevitable panic, mayhem, calls to God etc, the aliens make contact with the UN.

    They have a proposition for us.

    They want to establish a small scientific base on Pluto. They promise not to land on any of the other planets in our system without our permission, or to in any way interfere with our society. In return for our agreement, they will give the world ONE of the following:-

    1) 10 Machines the size of a car that can each cleanly produce 200 tons of food per day, for the next 100 years.

    2) A machine the size of a house that can provide enough totally clean electricity to supply the entire world for the next 100 years.

    3) Software for a genuine AI.

    4) Four large craft capable of lifting 100 tons of material into Earth orbit per day.

    5) One small ten man craft capable of travelling to any place in the solar system in six hours.

    6) A total clean-up of the Earth's environment. Removing all toxic waste, polution etc. This is a one off. If we dirty up the world again, that's our problem.

    7) A working base on Mars (but only with our current technology level).

    8) A permanent cure for the top 3 world diseases.

    9) A 100% accurate lie detector.

    10) A machine the size of a house that can rebuild the human body. This machine can handle up to 1000 people per day. It can cure any disease, fix any disablement, and even change your body to look like another person or gender if you wish. However, it cannot change the basic human make-up. It can give you peak human fitness, but not turn you into a superhero etc.

    The technology of the machines in generally far beyond what we can produce. Therefore we cannot take the orbital lifters and make more.

    Which should we pick? Or should we say "no thank you"?
    or ask for something else??
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2004 #2
    I would say the house that can provide all the electricity the world needs. It would help with cleaning up the enviroment as it would make electric cars more viable and no more coal power plants spewing out ash. No more Nuclear plants making toxic waste etc etc.
  4. Aug 25, 2004 #3
    Here's the ones I wouldn't pick:

    1) Our current food problems are with distribution, not supply. This isn't that helpful.
    2) People would be upset because entire industries would then collapse leading to massive unemployment.
    3) We'd be worried about all the plots of movies where negative results happened as a result.
    4) We already have the ability to put things into orbit, so not sure how useful this would be.
    5, 7, 9, 10) Useful, but everyone would be fighting over it if there was only one.

    8 would be wonderful if the cures could be distributed to the entire world. We already have problems with cures that are available only in certain places and are not distributed to everyone.

    6 benefits the entire world and I can't imagine how it could be fought over. This is what I would pick.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2004
  5. Aug 25, 2004 #4


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    I agree with Miles, the clean electricity option sounds best to me, and addresses a number of the other issues we have.

    A lot of those things, we just don't need at all...living on Mars, AI, etc.

    As for curing the top 3 diseases, they'd just be replaced by a new top 3. And that machine that would cure everybody of everything would really make a mess...then we'd also need those ones that would let us colonize Mars because we'd really run out of room on Earth for all the people who weren't dying.

    Our major source of pollution is in the production of energy, so clean energy would stop adding to that and give us the ability to focus resources on cleaning up the messes, since oil companies would no longer have so much control over these issues. Of course, I'm not sure what we do after the 100 years is up. But that should be enough time to work on making big changes to our own technology.
  6. Aug 25, 2004 #5
    Number 2, hands down.
  7. Aug 25, 2004 #6
    I personally think (6) would be a better option than (2). I very much doubt that producing clean electricity alone would cut off on toxic gases significantly. How about all the CO2 emissions from cars, aircrafts, industries, ...! Now, you might say that people would move to electric cars, but I very much doubt that will happen either, specially in the states. (as far as I am aware the US has lower speed limits than europe and despite this, they drive 4L engines :surprise: whereas europe drives 2L engines!) So, I just don't see many people moving to electric cars.

    A one off complete clean up, I believe would be more beneficial as it would buy us some time to work out how to reduce toxic gases.

    (1) would be an option I would consider too, given the common state of famine in third world countries. But then again that raises the issue of a steeper increase in population.
  8. Aug 25, 2004 #7

    jimmy p

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    I think that (2) is the best option. We arent in a big rush for scientific exploration. The energy concern is big, and if this stops levels of pollution and CO2 from rising, then that steadies the rate of disease and suchlike. A clean energy source all over the world would provide many impoverished nations with a better chance of surivival, and allows expenditures in the richer countries to be focused on other important matters, such as curing diseases, reducing waste, etc.

    (4) is just stupid. All that debris in space for what? The world produces more than 100 tonnes of material daily.
  9. Aug 25, 2004 #8


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    I think introducing an incomprehensible alien technology of far reaching impact is more dangerous than useful.

    I plead the Prime Directive.
  10. Aug 25, 2004 #9


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    If the electricity was FREE, they would. Though, I'm rethinking my choices. They are bringing this offer to the UN? Hmm...then it hardly matters. The UN would bungle the whole thing, or spend the next 100 years fighting over which country the machine will be kept in, and the electricity might be clean and free to produce, but they'd still find a way to charge us to distribute it. I'm changing my vote to #5...with any luck, we'll have 10 less politician types in the world when they all travel somewhere else in the universe and can't get back!
  11. Aug 26, 2004 #10


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    why would we want them not to interfere with our society? Think about what an amazingly historical event this is. I would definately say "No thanks" to all of the options and maintain contact. Heck, they may land on any planet in the system for all I care. I`ll invite some of their scientists to come over for tea. Think how much we can learn from them. Don't opt for not interfering with us.
  12. Aug 26, 2004 #11
    #3, if we had a genuine AI with a little time we could have these things anyway
  13. Aug 27, 2004 #12
    results from the formula 1 racer BB poll

    1 Food Machines 1 1.75%
    2 Power Machine 29 50.88%
    3 AI 2 3.51%
    4 Orbital Lifters 2 3.51%
    5 Personel Transport Ship 0 0%
    6 Environmental Cleanup 11 19.30%
    7 Mars Base 0 0%
    8 Disease Cure 3 5.26%
    9 Lie Detector 1 1.75%
    10 Total-body Rejuvenator 4 7.02%
    No Thanks 4 7.0

    more posters here and on an other BB wanted the clean up of our earth then the free power by 5-4
    AI and lie detector got 2 votes each and heavy lifters and rebuilt bodys got a vote each

    the best non-listed idea "teach us how this stuff works" got three votes
    as did no thanks

    Question wonder and be wierd
    are you kind?
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