From the prologue of Infiniti Eternia: Astrobiology is a multi-disciplinary subject whose researchers are, to one extent or another, focused on life not of Terran origin. Geologists look for structures that might harbor life; biochemists study how chemicals become critical to microorganisms; physicists watch the skies for fossil evidence that advanced civilizations might inevitably leave behind; and engineers design projects that space-faring species may require for (inter-)stellar travel.
In graduate school I fell into the latter; just before moving to California, I was working on a new philosophical focus for the field. My purpose was to bridge the academic distance between the biochemists and geologists looking for microbial (or smaller!) organisms, and the physicists, engineers, and socioanthropologists focused on very advanced alien life and technology. I dubbed said bridge the “mildly advanced civilization”, or MAC.
I still hate that acronym.
MACs are not an original concept, nor one unstudied by academia or fiction; yet, there exists little mainstream familiarity of my recognition of Terranity’s current stage of technological advancement.
(While humans are obviously Terran, I use this term to encompass all life on Terra, including any near-sentient species of our geologic past, and those of our future once humanity destroys itself.)
Of critical importance is the fact that Terranity is currently a MAC. However, studying Terranity as a MAC is not the deep structure of the MAC construct; instead, I propose study of MACs to improve our ability to detect alien MACs (“aMACs”). Much of astrobiology is constructed upon this foundation—not to be alien life, but to detect alien life. Therefore, by understanding Terranity as a terran MAC (“tMAC”), we can predict ways in which aMACs’ archaeological traces can be found.
My thesis proposes two postulates core to the initial development of the MAC on the spectrum of astrobiological study:
(1) A mildly advanced civilization is one “newly capable” of space travel, exploration, and/or colonization.
(2) Terranity is currently a mildly advanced civilization.
“Newly capable” refers to the time in which a MAC could initiate space travel, terminating in an as-yet undefined end-level of technology—presumably, some collection of academic and technological development that would signal a species’ next astrobiological era. I leave the discipline’s practitioners to reach consensus upon this, but I postulate that such a transition would necessarily require advanced and/or manned activities outside a solar system.
Technological progress for aMACs need not mirror our own; e.g. finally perfecting a refinement method for aluminum had little to do with the development of computers. However, as other astrobiological philosophers have suggested, it is logical to assume a certain set of “coincidental” technologies would be developed to facilitate space travel. For example: rocket boosters require the calculus of rocket momentum; tracking the many functions of a space ship requires some level of computing; communication must be at a distance, requiring radio technology. Classifying Terranity as a MAC, therefore, provides a schema for the evolution of a space-faring civilization.
Astrobiology also attracts philosophers, socioecologists, and psychologists. What collection of ideas permits space travel? What psychological traits of sentience are required, what sociological entities must exist to facilitate space travel? What anthropological accomplishments lead to space flight? How do the technological developments of a MAC affect the ecology of a planet, or of a solar system?
“Of a solar system” is key to studying MACs: what has Terranity done to achieve space flight, what must we accomplish to maintain or expand our space presence, and what might we do that can be detected from other star systems?
“Astroengineering projects”, or AEPs, are (usually large-scale) objects that a society develops to facilitate space exploitation. Examples could include space- or moon-bases or stations, satellite networks, exo-colonies, and discovery probes or signals. Yet, there are other phenomena which we could detect in other solar systems, including the presence of pollutants which derive from AEPs, solar wind patterns altered by large structures or satellites, or changing radiation patterns created by the presence of space bases or ships. Much like archaeologists use impression/cast fossils to study structures which have since dissolved or eroded, astrobiologists can use traces, echoes, and other clues in absentia to study the evolution of a MAC into its next phase…and the remnants this evolution leaves behind.
This has been a brief monograph on the concept of a Mildly Advanced Civilization, or MAC. I intend to write about 25 monographs—roughly one every two weeks—in 2018 to catalogue my own work on the subject. Perhaps it will inspire others to study MACs.
MACs 02 (will link when posted)