A few days ago the morning radio DJs were talking to kids and asking them, ‘Where did the dinosaurs go?’ It seems an innocent enough question and there were a number of theories put forward by the kids – one I quite liked about climate change causing the plants to die back and the herbivores toppling into mass extinction and the carnivores following quite soon after. The DJ’s thought that wasn’t a bad theory and I think it’s got some potential. The theory they were most approving of was the ‘giant rice bubble pointed at New York, oops, missed hit Yucatan, someone’s gonna have to pay, I’m looking at you, T-Rex’ approach.
Secretly, I remembered by own theory, which goes like this. Contrary to popular media presentation, dinos were not dumb. They were very, very smart. Far smarter than anything before or since. They were around a long time. Far longer than humans have been here. They developed high levels of technology, the kind of technology that humbles ours today. They went from the equivalent iron age to the nanotech age, in one movement, totally leaping over the industrial age. Becoming bored, they turned their enquiring minds skyward, and ye gods, there’s a giant rice bubble pointed at New York. Rather than wait for the inevitable, the smart, fit, and young minds adapted their technology, and left. That’s right. The dinosaurs left the Earth. They left their dead (as we would), the old and infirm (as we would), the poor (as we would), and range of pre-luddite, bleeding heart tree-hugging, environmental, do-gooders who wanted to stay with earth to the end – as we’d leave them too. The rest? Business class, outa here.
Could this have happened? A number of years ago I had a version on SimEarth for my Amiga 500. The game kind of ran well – if snail paced – and at one point, about four in the morning on a particularly successful earth simulation, the senior sentient life form on my earth – a form of chicken – did exactly as I explained above. These super-smart chickens went from metals to nanos without recourse to the industrial age, and left the planet. The next most developed life forms, the cetacean-oids, started their rise, while the human-oids were still way down the line.
Could this have happened? I was surprised yesterday at work when one of my colleagues pointed out that New Scientist had published an article entitled Imagine Earth without people based on this very premise. Seems there’s a reasonable expectation if humans were to cease their influence on the Earth, our record here would vanish quite quickly. A few million years later and there would be very little evidence that we had been here at all.
Pretty much as it was for the nano-saurs. Been here, done that, gone on to become the aliens and predators of our nightmares.