Friday, March 26, 2021

The post-Covid world of 2030

These have been boom times for “futurists,” a profession without credentials, in which anyone can opine about tomorrow’s Undiscovered Country. Ever since the turn of the century, a whole spectrum of corporations, intel and defense agencies, planning councils and NGOs have expressed growing concern about time scales that used to be the sole province of science fiction (SF). In fact, all those companies and groups have been consulting an ensemble of “hard” SF authors, uninterrupted by travel restrictions during a pandemic.

While I spend no time on airplanes now - and my associated speaking fees are now lower - I nevertheless am doing bunches of zoomed appearances at virtualized conferences... one of them looming as I type this.

One question always pops up; can we navigate our way out of the current messes, helped by new technologies? 

The news and prospects are mixed, but assuming we restore basic stability to the Western Enlightenment Experiment... and that is a big assumption... then several technological and social trends may come to fruition in the next five to ten years.

== Potential game-changers ==

- Advances in the cost effectiveness of sustainable energy supplies will be augmented by better storage systems. This will both reduce reliance on fossil fuels and allow cities and homes to be more autonomous.

- Urban farming methods may move to industrial scale, allowing even greater moves toward local autonomy. (Perhaps requiring a full decade or more to show significant impact.) And meat use will decline for several reasons - (a longstanding sci-fi prediction that seems on track sooner than anyone expected) - reducing ecological burdens and ensuring some degree of food security, as well.

- Local, small-scale, on-demand manufacturing may start to show effects by 2025, altering supply chains and reducing their stretched networks.

- If all of the above take hold, there will be surplus oceanic shipping capacity across the planet. Some of it may be applied to ameliorate (not solve) acute water shortages. Innovative uses of such vessels may range all the way from hideaways for the rich to refuges for climate refugees… possibilities I describe in my novels Existence and Earth.

- Full scale diagnostic evaluations of diet, genes and micro-biome will result in micro-biotic therapies and treatments utilizing the kitchen systems of the human gut. Artificial Intelligence (AI) appraisals of other diagnostics will both advance detection of problems and become distributed to hand-held devices cheaply available to even poor clinics.

- Hand-held devices will start to carry detection technologies that can appraise across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, allowing NGOs and even private parties to detect and report environmental problems. Socially, this extension of citizen vision will go beyond the current trend of applying accountability to police and other authorities.  Despotisms will be empowered, as predicted in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. But democracies will also be empowered, as described in The Transparent Society.

- I give odds that tsunamis of revelation will crack the shields protecting many elites from disclosure of past and present torts and turpitudes. The Panama Papers and Epstein cases — and the more recent FinCEN spill — exhibit how much fear propels some oligarchs to combine efforts at repression. But only a few more cracks may cause the dike to collapse, revealing networks of extortion, cheating and blackmail. This is only partly technologically-driven and hence is not guaranteed. 

I assure you, preventing this is the absolute top goal of the combined world oligarchies. If it does happen, there will be dangerous spasms by all sorts of elites, desperate to either retain status or evade consequences. But if the fever runs its course, the more transparent world will be cleaner and better run. And far more just. And vastly better able to handle tomorrow's challenges.

- Some of those elites have grown aware of the power of 90 years of Hollywood propaganda for individualism, criticism, diversity, suspicion of authority and appreciation of eccentricity. Counter-propaganda pushing older, more traditional approaches to authority and conformity are already emerging and they have the advantage of resonating with ancient human fears.  Much will depend upon this meme-war. Which I appraise entertainingly in VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood!

Of course much will also depend upon short term resolution of current crises. If our systems remain undermined and sabotaged by incited civil strife and deliberately-stoked distrust of expertise, then all bets are off.

What about the role of technology and technology companies and individuals?

Many fret about the spread of "surveillance technologies that will empower Big Brother." These fears are well-grounded, but utterly myopic.

- First, ubiquitous cameras and face-recognition are only the beginning. Nothing will stop them and any such thought  of "protecting" citizens from being seen by elites is stunningly absurd, as the cameras get smaller, better, faster, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous every month. Moore's Law to the nth. Safeguarding freedom, safety and privacy will require a change in perspective.

- Yes, despotisms will benefit from this trend. And hence the only thing that matters is to prevent despotism altogether.

- In contrast, a free society will be able to apply the very same burgeoning technologies toward accountability. At this very moment, we are seeing these new tools applied to end centuries of abuse by "bad apple" police who are thugs, while empowering truly professional cops to do their jobs better. Do not be fooled by the failure of juries to convict badd apple officers in trials. That's an injustice, but at least nearly all of those officers are being fired and blacklisted, and that's happening entirely because cameras now empower victims to be believed.  Moreover, we are fast approaching a point where camera-witnessed crimes will be solved with far lower police staffing. Letting us be more hiring selective. Ignoring the positive aspects of this trend is just as bad as ignoring the very real problems.

 I do not guarantee light will be used this way with broad effectiveness. It is an open question whether we citizens will have the gumption to apply "sousveillance" upward at all elites. Only note a historical fact: both Gandhi and ML King were saved by crude technologies of light in their days. And history shows that assertive vision by and for the citizenry is the only method that has ever increased freedom and - yes - some degree of privacy.

Oh, privacy hand wringers are totally right about the problem and the danger presented by surveillance tech! And they are diametrically wrong in the common prescription. Trying to ban technologies and create shadows for citizens to hide within is spectacularly wrongheaded and disastrous. See The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?  

== And pandemics? So are we done? ==

Of course not. But it's too soon to make predictions except:

- Some flaws in resilience will be addressed: better disease intel systems. 

Stockpiles repaired and replenished and modernized after Trump eviscerations. 

Quicker "emergency" delpoyments of large scale trials of tests and vaccines. 

Federal ownership of extra vaccine factories, or else payments to mothball and maintain surge production capacity. 

Money for bio research.

Unspoken by pundits. This will lead to annual "flu shots" that are also tuned against at least the coronivirus half of common colds. And possibly a number of nasty buggers may get immunization chokes put around them... maybe Ebola.

And serious efforts to get nations to ban the eating or pet-keeping of wild animals, plus ideally exclusion zones around some bat populations... and better forensic disagnostics of deliberate or inandvertent release modes. Not saying that happened. But better wariness and tracking.

In fact, from a historical perspective, this was a training run for potentially much worse and - despite imbecile obstructions and certainly after they were gone - our resilient capability to deploy science was actually quite formidable and impressive.

Almost as impressive as the prescience of science fiction authors who are now choking down repeated urges to chant "I told you so!"

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Technological marvels & advances

Okay, the last 4 months were the busiest in my professional life, completing twelve book projects all with January deadlines. Scan to bottom to see them laid out. From sober nonfiction to sci fi comedy to several SF adventures for young people and fresh tactics for politics!

Only now... science and technology news!

First, many of you have heard or seen me talk about a looming Age of Amateurs You can help scientists understand our planet: Citizen science allows laymen to contribute to groundbreaking investigations, even without traveling.

See a very wise-guy ruminate about the “Precautionary Principle” and its major flaw -- a tendency to take “better-safe-than-sorry” way too far. (We saw this with covid, in the slowness of vaccine roll-out, when expanding the size of the phase three trials 10-fold would certainly have been justified.) Kevin Kelly (author of The Inevitable: 12 Technologic Forces that Will Shape Our Future) recommends instead a “Proactionary Principle,” that we should err instead on the side of progress and willingness to assess consequences more fluidly, while letting innovators generally at least try. A notion that I generally support, but that I maintain will only work under conditions of general transparency, allowing light and reciprocal criticism to expose potential errors (and errors in the criticism!) in real time. 

Indeed, that is why I support the Precautionary Principle in some cases... like shouting yoohoo “METI messages” into the cosmos. We have very little knowledge (or ‘light”) about the galactic situation re the Fermi Paradox. We are learning facts with incredible speed, but there simply isn’t any way to scale the potentially lethal consequences under any kind of illuminating criticism. There are cases when it’s ‘better safe than sorry.’

== Technology Milestones & Updates ==

This reported improvement to 30%+ efficiency of membrane desalinization purification of water could be another of those scientific wonders that might help prevent calamities in a drying world. 

MIT economists have  argued that the United States taxes machinery and equipment too little compared to labor, thereby encouraging excessive automation that eliminates jobs without making the economy more productive. ITIF President Rob Atkinson has argued in response that automation doesn’t lead to joblessness and that increasing taxes on automation equipment, including artificial intelligence, would hurt U.S. competitiveness and reduce real wage growth. Attend a discussion. 

Ryan Abbott’s new book The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law argues that, as a general principle, the law should not discriminate between AI and human behavior, and discusses how this principle should shape tax, tort, intellectual property, and criminal law. I have some disagreements… but interesting arguments.

== More tech! ==

Inertial Confinement Fusion… using 192 intersecting laser beams… has long been as much of a chimera as a useful tokomak. But finally some reports suggest they might be on the verge of “burning plasma.”

The huge Italian neutrino observatory has become sensitive enough to confirm that the sun’s core uses the “C-N-O” cycle to do about 1% of its fusion, with the rest accomplished by the simpler “proton-proton” reaction.

An optical circuit has performed a quantum computation called “Gaussian boson sampling” (GBS) 100 trillion times faster than a supercomputer could, according to researchers in China. Boson sampling is a way of computing the output of a linear optical circuit that has multiple inputs and multiple outputs. As bosons, photons obey Bose-Einstein statistics meaning they clump together without separate identity and follow group dynamics, as in a laser. Predicting the path of such aggregates could be very useful. But I have to wonder about potential biological implications, if – as predicted by Roger Penrose & allies – there are quantum elements inside living cells, like neurons. 

A Beijing institute has come up with a new family of ceramics that wrap themselves in a buffer layer of insulating air, which protects against the sudden temperature changes, making them suitable to replace most metal in engines.

United Airlines is investing in VTOL startup Archer and has placed a $1 billion order for 200 electric VTOL aircraft. Expect those downtown helipad ports soon, that we were promised in ‘the future’! (How ironic that LA just recently ended its longstanding zoning requirement that tall buildings have helipads!  Kind of like Sears ending its mail order business in 1992, of all years!)

== What's happening in biology! ==

DARPA’s RadioBio program, announced today, seeks to establish whether purposeful electromagnetic wave signaling between biological cells exists—and if so, to determine what information is being transferred. “There are many complex interactions within and between cells, so determining if electromagnetic waves, which could be low or high frequencies, somehow play a role in transmitting and receiving meaningful signals through what might be an ion-rich, aqueous solution is a significant challenge.” Evoking further wonder is whether this might correlate with the purported “quantum-molecular-computational” effects that (as I alluded separately above) some, like recent Nobelist Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have claimed might be going on along tiny structures inside cells, especially neurons, which would vastly expand the amount of ‘computing’ actually going on within us.

Potentially great news... maybe. Mouse analogues have proved unreliable for any disease or effect of aging, for reasons I lay down elsewhere. Still this would be cool, and reminiscent of Vernor Vinge’s RAINBOWS END: “A team of neuroscientists has identified a potential means to address the loss of cognitive function due to Alzheimer’s disease by targeting protein synthesis in mice.”...and “... jump-starting protein synthesis in the brain can revive lost cognitive functions.” (Please contact me, if you are involved in this work.)

Scientists studying the bio-mineral body armor of leaf-cutter ants have found the coating is made up of a thin layer of rhombohedral magnesium calcite crystals around 3-5 microns in size.

African crested rats will take nibbles from the branch of a poison arrow tree. It’s not for nutrition. Instead, they will chew chunks of the plants and spit them back out into their fur, anointing themselves with a form of chemical armor that most likely protects them from predators like hyenas and wild dogs. The ritual transforms the rats into the world’s only known toxic rodents, and ranks them among the few mammals that borrow poisons from plants.

Proteins are the building blocks of life, responsible for most of what happens inside cells. How a protein works and what it does is determined by its 3D shape — ‘structure is function’ is an axiom of molecular biology. Proteins tend to adopt their shape without help, guided only by the laws of physics. Now a Deep Mind program has made a huge advance in predicting protein folded shapes from just their genetic sequence. AlphaFold’s structures predictions were indistinguishable from those determined using ‘gold standard’ experimental methods such as X-ray crystallography. 

Researchers have used slime molds – amoeba communities that clump in filaments and clusters – to mimic resource patterns like metropolitan subway systems, and now possibly vast filamentary structures linking both galaxies and dark matter clumps in the cosmos.

== TWELVE books? Are you kidding, Brin? ==

Okay then, see this jpeg for all the projects that came due (successfully) last month. In fact, by liberal interpretation, the count is SIXTEEN!

...including my sci fi comedy, my 4th nonfiction book Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction & Hollywood, two series for young adults... and revised/updated re-issues of The Postman, The Practice Effect and five Uplift novels, all with new introductions and covers. Link to most of them here!

Hot off the presses is VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Politics Post Trump

Out of all the post-impeachment theater, one moment stood out for me... as Republican Party committees and caucuses all over rallied for Trumpism by attacking defectors, like the (slightly) Magnificent Seven senators who (for a brief moment) put country and honor above lickspittle cravenness, what stood out was this news from Utah.

The Utah Republican Party released a statement Monday accepting the different votes of the state's Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee in last week's impeachment trial, marking a stark contrast with how some other state and county GOP party operations have pursued censure against Republicans who voted to impeach or convict former President Donald Trump.

"Our senators have both been criticized for their vote," the Utah GOP wrote. "The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on 'unanimity of thought.' There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah."

Set aside the almost certainty that Sen. Lee is just another Foxite nutjob shill for Putinism and treason. The fact that the Utah GOP is even willing to entertain the possibility of anything other than pure Nuremberg-rally discipline in support of treason is actually quite telling. I said it in Polemical Judo and repeat it... Democrats should reach out to Utah! 

"We know you will never be majority-liberal. But you represent the kind of conservatism we can negotiate with and that will negotiate with us, dropping the demonization... an almost vanished American conservatism that's ethical, moral, principled, and willing to test its polemic against things called actual facts. 

"Your dilemma isn't unprecedented! In 1947 the Democratic Party split over whether or not to continue believing the monstrous lies of Joseph Stalin. We passed that test (with flying colors!) and we pray that American conservatives will pass this one. If enough of them do - sufficient to save the movement of rational citizens like Barry Goldwater and Robert Heinlein, then we expect one major center of that rejuvenation and rebirth of sane conservatism to be Utah."

== Stop Sweating Joe Manchin ==

Everyone's talking about the Senator from West Virginia. The deal-maker who sends liberals tearing their hair out... but who has mostly been there, when needed. And yes, he represents a state that is culturally deep, deep red, even when that runs against the actual best self-interest of WVa voters. Luring them back into the Union that their ancestors so bravely joined, in 1861, will take savvy and effort and we need to make allowances for Manchin's role in that project.

And yet, we also need for him to keep stepping up! So, get him to truly commit to the filibuster 'compromise' he spoke of, on-and-off:

 1- All future filibusters must be talk style like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with no yielding to colleagues or breaks... and the chair can force the speaker to "stay germane."   Manchin might agree that saves face, because that's what the public already thinks 'filibuster' means.

2- Adjust rules so that cloture (stopping debate) must be assertively STOPPED by 41 senators of the minority, instead of demanding that 60 senators to actively invoke cloture. The burden is on them. Do that and we'll manage.

3- Each Senator gets one per session, or per year.

These are measures that Manchin could get as part of his deal to "save" the filibuster. And yes, he has a point about 'minority rights... or would have a point, if McConnell's GOP ever intended to play fair, ever, even once, at all. Ever. Of course they don't.

But hen, let's test Joe M's sincerity. Do you actually want to ensure minority rights for legislators in a way that reduces partisan discipline and enhances the old American tradition of autonomous representatives and senators? Possibly freeing more Romneys and Murkowskis to grow the kind of courage shown by Adam Kinzinger? Well then... Included in my long to-do-list of proposed judo moves is this one that Nancy Pelosi could use to change Congress in ways that benefit us all. And especially Democrats... whether in the majority or some future minority.

Give every member of Congress a permanent right to issue one subpoena per session, to use as she or he sees fit!

Sure, some would donate theirs to their committee chairs. Most would hoard theirs to summon some witness for 3 hours of testimony to impress voters, back home. 

But many would use this power to investigate some unsual thing. And it would mean that Democrats would never again be unable to probe while in the minority. And it would be seen as utterly revolutionary and there will be no way for Foxites to bad-spin it.

 (Will goppers try to use it to clog things while they are in the minority? Sure, a bit, but surprisingly little. LIGHT unevenly helps justice. Anyway, many members will hoard their subpoenas, regaining a habit of defying their party leaders.)

Just... think about it. Someone. (Anyone?) It's in Polemical Judo.

== Simple. Un-Redact! ==

ONE THING Biden's folk can do right now that will have aggressively political effects without seeming ostensibly aggressive will be to without much fanfare just UN-REDACT the MUELLER REPORT! Or rather, leave redacted only those parts that the intel community and prosecutors actually asked to have redacted. Let us all see the portions William Barr chose to exclude, in service to his  patrons!

In a terrific twist, this move would call attention exactly to the parts Barr wanted to hide. They would leap off every page. And prosecutors would be asked to think again about their redactions, too.

Time for this delayed-fuse bomb to go off. Now.

== The Russian Connection ==

An ex-KGB agent spills the beans about how early Trump was groomed for his role, as detailed in Craig Unger's American Kompromat. Though I yawn at how “of course” it all is. What’s more significant is how few defectors we get these days. Ex-KGB colonel Putin knew that was a fatal flaw in the old Cold War and he has systematically terrorized potential defectors and used agents like Trump to wreck our biggest draw... the moral high ground.

Robert Mueller - whose nitpicking to evade decisive results caused us so much frustration... while unleashing other prosecutors to charge and convict a myriad trumpists... said repeatedly that he would have charged Donald Trump, if he had not been president. Here he also says decisively that the Russians had plenty of material to blackmail Trump, even without a ‘pee tape” or the Deutsche Bank money laundering papers. 

== And political miscellany ==

A U.S.-bound caravan thwarted in Guatemala as pressure against migrants continues. 

One win-win aspect to Biden addressing immigrations problems would be simple. Go after the oppressive ruling elites and the criminal gangs in Honduras and other mafia states, who terrorize their people and turn many into refugees. Assisting local democracy activists to establish justice and rule-of-law would help make up for past US crimes in the region, it would burnish our rep, it would do tons of pragmatic good…. and it would dry up sources of refugees, thus luring some others of our own US neighbors out of their paranoid “MAGA” funk.

Amanda Gustafson wrote on my FB thread: “I recently learned that Fox News gets a big part of its funding by being part of cable channel bundles. What if a bunch of us reached out to our cable providers and said we don't want it as part of our bundle and that we do not want to pay for it? and that we will shift cable unless they take us seriously? what if Fox news was something that people had to pay extra for like the fringe it is?”

It’s not too soon for at least some of us to note the lineup that is forming for 2024, and there is zero doubt in this observer’s mind that Nikki Haley sees herself seizing the helm of the Republican Party, whatever the anointed prince-in-waiting – Paul Ryan – has to say about it.  

One of you observed that “totalitarianism in general is predicated on the assumption there's one born every minute - and I suspect we won't find the folks with whom the BS is originating putting up stakes.  In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the folks in whatever constitutes the 'QAnon Core' have been making a bit of side money betting against their own prophecies.”  

And it’s all of a similar mindset overseas. Rob Atkinson offers a cogent comparison of Germany’s trade predation 1900-1945 to similar tactics being used today. The number of blatant overlaps makes for riveting reading. “In writing about Germany in 1941, Douglas Miller, former U.S. commercial attaché to Germany, could easily have been writing about China today: “We must get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as having purely economic relations with the totalitarian states. Every business deal with them carries with it political, military, social, propaganda implications.” 

The economy has fared far better under Democrats. The gap, as one academic paper puts it, is “startlingly large.” A key element: Republican presidents over the past 40 years have pursued one economic policy above all other — tax cuts, skewed heavily toward the affluent — and there is little evidence that they do much for economic growth. Find it all here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Space news that's farther out!

Let's just dive in... to the Sky!

The WFIRST project – now renamed the Nancy Roman Telescope – is a fantastic story. First, it’s built from a spare – obsolete – US spy satellite that uncannily resembles NASA’s venerable Hubble, donated by one of the intel agencies. (There are parts for one more, though that would be a slog. But I know what to do with it!)  

The Roman will give us fantastic views of the universe in infrared. But this article shows how it may also vastly improve our knowledge of  brown dwarfs and dark “planet-sized” objects in the nearby interstellar medium, detecting them by brief intervals – hours or days- making background stars flicker with gravitational lensing. (A bit like I described in EXISTENCE.)  How wonderful that we are a people who can do such things! And did YOU feel an organic thrill when Persverance landed on Mars?

And how awful that so many of our neighbors turn their backs on science and the godlike trait of curiosity.

== Peering further into space ==

Astronomers examined the light from 43 quasars—the very distant, brilliant cores of active galaxies powered by black holes—located far beyond Andromeda. The quasars are scattered behind that neighbor galaxy, allowing scientists to probe multiple regions. Looking through Andromeda at the quasars’ light, the team observed  differing effects caused by cold gas in immense halos surrounding our neighboring galaxy, revealing enrichment in heavy elements, presumably from earlier supernovas.   It also gives you some idea how many quasars we’ve discovered, since those old debates between Halton Arp and Maarten Schmidt, at Caltech over what quasars were. I witnessed some!

Andromeda’s halo extends out 1.3 million light-years from the galaxy, almost halfway to our galaxy, and brushing (pushing?) against our galaxy’s halo. 

In related news: A string of 13 dwarf galaxies in orbit around the massive galaxy Andromeda –remnants of the population of primordial structures that coalesced to form giant galaxies like the Milky Way–are spread across a flat plane more than one million light years wide and only 30,000 light years thick–a distance so vast that they have yet to complete a single orbit. Our galaxy seems to lack such a ring of companions.

Brian McConnell published his paper on the Interstellar Communication Relay this week, which can be found here.

And cool? This animation depicts a star experiencing spaghettification as it’s sucked in by a supermassive black hole during a ‘tidal disruption event’. Recently observed! 

== Might an ever-expanding universe "renew"? ==

Have physicists discovered the remnants of previous universes hidden within the leftover radiation from the Big Bang?  I’ve discussed with the brilliant Roger Penrose (Britain's most recent Nobelist and far more interesting than tabloid nobility) his cosmological theory called conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) in which universes, much like human beings, come into existence, expand, and then “renew” themselves in a weird and wonderful way. (I contributed some very small insights!) 

The notion is quirky and weird… and revives the symmetrical notion of a ‘cycling’ universe that restores itself to youthful vigor, without needing the Big Crunch that Frank Tipler relied upon in his baroque tome THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY… a crunch that’s been disproved by astronomers discovering accelerated expansion.  

In the Penrose conformal cosmology, the ultimate universal dissipation reaches a point where “distance” and “temperature” become meaningless and 'vastness' might -- just maybe -- map into a new Bang.  It cannot happen till fermions dissipate... or at least lose their ability to 'know' where and when they are. That is a LONG way into the Great Dissipation! But in a universe rules by bosons (e.g. photons) it seems (so far) as if a cold-vast cosmos might map itself right back into another Big Bang!

If that isn't mind-blowing enough... there may be isolated spots where the old metric clings obstinately… perhaps where a final, ancient black hole is finishing its final, Hawking radiation dissipation, or else where a few residual fermions “insist” on their old individuality. (My contribution.) In which case the NEW Bang might contain patches where information survives from one universe to the next!

 And so… are these shapes in the CMB telltales from such an earlier epoch? Or just eager shape recognition? And sure, I have a couple of short stories about just this. In my coming-soon Best-of collection!

== Life out there? ==

I’ve been in the “who's out there calculations” game since 1983. We sure know a lot more now. These astronomers now figure that G-type stars like our sun, which make up about 7% of the Milky Way’s approx.. 200 billion stars, likely on average have one Earthlike planet orbiting in a “goldilocks” (liquid water on the surface) zone about half of the time.  "We estimate with 95% confidence that, on average, the nearest HZ planet around G and K dwarfs is 6 pc [parsecs] away, and there are  4 HZ rocky planets around G and K dwarfs within 10 pc of the sun."

The new research did not consider red dwarfs, also known as M dwarfs, which make up about three-quarters of the Milky Way's stellar population. A 2013 study based on Kepler data estimated that about 6% of red-dwarf systems boast a roughly Earth-like planet in the habitable zone, and one such world is the closest alien world to our solar system, at a distance of merely 4.2 light-years — Proxima b, which orbits the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.”

What all of this leaves out is the most stunning discovery of the last 20 years to my mind… that our solar system doesn’t just have one “ice-roofed” ocean world – Europa – but as many as twelve! (By various definitions of ‘ocean’.) Which means just about every star out there might have some of those. Not just in 'habitable zones' or near stable stars but almost ALL of them!

Exoplanet K2-141b is about half again as big as Earth, so close to its M class star, that it completes several orbits each Earth-day with the same surface permanently facing the star. ‘Now, scientists predict those factors mean that two-thirds of the surface of K2-141b is permanently sunlit — so much so that not only is part of the world covered in a lava ocean, but some of that rock may even evaporate away into the atmosphere.’  One has to wonder if such churn might create some mineral states that, like bio cell walls in our early seas, allow accumulation of complexity.

This series of Fermi Paradox papers:  (especially #XII) explores the “Water Worlds hypothesis.” And yes, my 1983 paper pioneered much of this.

== A SETI/METI compromise? ==

Been reading the July 2020 special issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society’s issue on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and especially the arguments (I’ve been deeply involved) over whether humanity should risk transmissions that shout ‘yoohoo!” into the cosmos, a rash and pseudo-religious program oft-called “METI." Of special interest is ‘Reworking the SETI paradox: METI’s Place on the Continuum of Astrobiological Signaling’ by

Thomas Cortellesi .

As for the summary of Meti pro/cons made by Cortellesi, while incomplete and a bit chaotic, it is pretty good, but it leaves out one of the most devastating challenges to METI. METI zealots assert that relatively nearby aliens -

(1) can easily detect Earth’s comms leakage or other tech-signs, and further they

(2) would contact us, but only if they receive a deliberately assertive first move on our parts.

While this pair of linked assertions is not impossible, #2 is based upon a strange (even illogical) assumption: that the younger and more technologically backward civilization - facing the widest range of potentially dangerous uncertainties - should bear the onus and risk of initiating contactThat contorted logic, alone, would discredit the notion. But there is a deeper, more devastating question.  If advanced aliens can easily detect Earth’s comms leakage, but are waiting for us to move first then why do the Metists insist on transmitting in ways that multiply the at-target brightness of Earth’s tech-signatures by many millions-fold? 

Since the ETs already know of us, would not a signal with just twice the at-target brightness and clarity be more than sufficient to trigger their supposed contact scenario? Are not efforts to multiply detectability many millions-fold a refutation of belief in assumption #1?  

(And in fact, #1 is just flat-out wrong! ET is not watching "Mr. Ed.")

While this question devastates a core METI argument, it also opens a door for something missing, so far… a negotiated solution. A potential compromise.

*Let Meti guys send their ‘messages,’ but monitored and supervised never to exceed in power, detectability or decipherability twice the magnitude that Earth’s current leakage would create, at the same site.*

In this way, the claim that benevolent aliens already know of us and are awaiting our first move can be tested, but in a way that stands little likelihood of alerting those who are unaware of us, giving humanity time to better understand the galactic 'lay of the land' - especially whether darker scenarios might reign out there.