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8.5 Interstellar Travel

Presumably, the Caretakers can and do travel within the solar system. However, travel to other stars is another matter. Even if they can do it, it would be a time-consuming trip at sublight speed.[103],[104] And in another star system, the learned programs of whatever intelligent-particle beings are there, may be different enough from those of the Caretakers to make personal interaction with them difficult. Thus, star systems are probably fairly isolated from each other, even for the Caretakers. However, although personal travel between different star systems may be rare for the Caretakers, it is possible that the Caretakers and other comparable intelligent-particle-being civilizations in our galaxy have an established p-common communication network that they use to transmit data between themselves using some part of the electromagnetic spectrum.


[103] Does the computing-element program allow the Caretakers to instantaneously jump to other star systems? Specifically, does the computing-element program have learned-program statements that allow a group of intelligent particles to instantaneously move itself to arbitrarily different spatial coordinates?

First, although the accessible information environment of a bion is a very large sphere centered on that particle, there is no reason to believe that this sphere’s radius is on the order of interstellar distances, because of the computational burden involved. The computational burden of examining an accessible information environment is proportional to the sphere’s volume. Thus, for example, compared to the computational burden of examining the information environment of a sphere with a radius of 100,000 kilometers, the computational burden for a sphere with a radius of four light years—which is the distance to the nearest star—is about 1025 times greater.

Without strong evidence—and there is none—one should not assume that intelligent particles can directly perceive objects across interstellar distances. And without direct perception, an intelligent particle cannot provide a meaningful destination coordinate, or address, that a move statement, or a send or receive statement for communication purposes, requires. Of course, this does not rule out a series of short jumps made within the limits of direct perception. However, there are other difficulties. Specifically, the existence of a move statement for arbitrary spatial translation within the accessible information environment, would be inherently dangerous to the stability of any population of cooperating intelligent particles. Each intelligent particle is autonomous, running its own learned programs, so there is no guarantee that a cooperating population of intelligent particles would always use such a move statement in perfect synchrony. Thus, intelligent particles could easily separate from each other, beyond the limits of their direct perception, quickly becoming lost to each other. Given these considerations, it seems likely that the only move statement provided by the computing-element program is a safe move statement, whose range is much shorter than the range of the send and receive statements.

[104] Because the Caretakers cannot directly perceive across interstellar distances, this means that if they want to travel to a different star system, they probably use a p-common ship whose p-common sensors and computers are constructed and programmed to reliably track the destination star-system and navigate to it.

As the saying goes: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, to reliably navigate to a remote p-common object (in this case a star system), use other p-common objects that respond to that destination p-common object. In other words, use a p-common ship that has p-common sensors that detect the electromagnetic emissions from that star system.

This reason to use a p-common ship to navigate to a distant p-common object also applies to the use of physical flying machines by the Caretakers within our own solar system. For example, if the Caretakers want to go to some exact geographical spot on the Earth for whatever reason, a p-common ship guided by a p-common computer that is processing data from p-common sensors (such as accelerometers) can direct and/or take both that ship and those Caretakers to that exact geographical spot regardless of whether or not any of the Caretakers on that ship can directly perceive and fly to that exact spot by themselves.

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