The Two Types of Civilization Out There: Limbaugh versus Zen?

A famous astronomer once stated that if there were indeed intelligent life elsewhere in the universe,  that raised the question: ‘Where are they?‘ Why haven’t we heard from them, or been visited by them? More recently, I read someone comment on this problem. I can’t recall who had the insight, but thought the insight interesting, and I have elaborated on it below:

They suggested that as civilizations reached the level where they could communicate across vast distances, or even travel outside their home planet, they would simultaneously reach the point at which they could destroy themselves with the weapons that were possible at this level of technology. So maybe there were two types of civilizations.

  • Type 1  or what might called Limbaugh Civilization, would be so mentally screwed up, that while it would capable of and wanting to reach out to colonize, dominate, destroy or very least heavily disparage other civilizations over the ‘ether’, it would thankfully  destroy itself before it could do that. So we will not be hearing from them….
  • Type 2 or what might be called Zen Civilization would have figured out what life is about, would have found no need to develop very destructive weapon systems, and been quite comfortable with itself and while fully capable of traveling to other planets or communicating with them, would see no real point and so we will never hear from them either and they won’t reply to our messages as they will probably assume we are a Type 1 Limbaugh noisy, over-assertive civilization, and that we will have destroyed ourselves before their polite decline contact message reaches us.

Actually I think there is a third type of Civilization missed by this analysis:

  • Type 3 or Steve Jobs Type, which is a bit like the Zen Type, lacks the hatred of the Limbaugh type, but values curiosity and creativity and so would explore the universe for the sheer joy of finding new places, new stuff and learning from different civilization. The Charles Darwin rather than conquistador type explorer. We haven’t heard from these folk because it is probably quite rare, more’s the pity. Or maybe they are waiting for us to settle down and be ready for some mind expansion?

I guess we are at a sort of cross roads in the 21st century as to which Civilization Type we are going to become. Steven Pinker in his recent book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: the Decline in Violence in History and its Causes’ produces a lot of evidence to suggest we may be headed for the optimistic Zen or Steve Jobs versions. Listening to talk radio suggest he might be over optimistic. I guess I have a certain Camus-like optimism and just as I see Sisyphus happy as Camus suggests, I also see us becoming more creative and more Zen….and if we can do that and let go of our fundamentalisms: religious, political and economic/free market, then there is hope.

Footnote: By the way I like the self contradictory quality of the plural form of the word fundamentalism…fundamentalisms….it suggest that a fundamentalist belief system’s truth is in question if there are lots of fundamentalisms, all claiming to be ‘the one true faith’

These civilizations have died out from rage:

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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