A reader of the Mapped Space books asked, “What kept other civilizations from claiming Earth before sentient beings evolved?” This was because in my novel, In Earth’s Service, it was hinted that other alien civilizations had visited Earth long before the Human Race had evolved, yet none had colonized Earth.
The character Hadley tells Sirius Kade the planet Hardfall had been colonized by humans, and aliens before them, because it was classified as a dead end world. This was expanded upon by the following: The appearance of intelligent life was random and didn’t occur on every habitable planet, but where it did, it was protected by galactic law.
The Mapped Space Universe (MSU) is not a chaotic, survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog jungle as depicted in much science fiction, but a rules based universe. In the distant past, a collection of highly civilized, ancient alien races established a cooperative and lawful pan-galactic civilization, where tolerance and respect of all species is the norm, irrespective of their level of development.
The assumption is that rational, ultra-advanced civilizations are likely to evolve sophisticated laws and ethics while aggressive races will eventually be destroyed by alliances of peaceful civilizations that unite against a common threat. The Intruder Civilization is an example of an ultra advanced aggressor species that forced peaceful civilizations to unite against it, while the Matarons are a medium level, aggressor civilization whose worst impulses are restrained by their fear of more powerful, older civilizations.
Because aggressive civilizations would not survive long, I placed the Intruder Civilization in a globular cluster outside the galaxy proper, where it developed in isolation until it could pose a genuine threat to the galaxy. By contrast, the Matarons are located near Earth, in the galactic spiral, where they are forced to restrain their warlike tendencies by more advanced civilizations. Indeed, one of Sirius Kade’s primary purposes is to ensure the worst members of the Human Race are not allowed to let their aggressive impulses undermine mankind’s place within galactic civilization.
The Mapped Space Universe assumes intelligent life has been appearing for millions to billions of years. A detailed consideration of why this is so is presented in the densely populated universe discussion.
Early civilizations in the Mapped Space Universe are called Precursor Civilizations, or sometimes more colloquially, Firsts. One of the Firsts was briefly encountered in The Mothership, to complete the technological parallels in that book. There were four broad civilizational levels in The Mothership, which placed Human Civilization in a relative cosmic context as follows:
(1) Stone Age societies, represented by Australian Aborigines,
(2) Planetary Civilization, (i.e. pre-stellar) represented by contemporary Australian and American characters,
(3) Interstellar Civilizations represented by combatant alien civilizations within the galaxy, which comprise most civilizations in the MS Universe, and
(4) Trans Galactic Civilizations, represented by the Firsts, who comprise the oldest and most advanced species in the Universe, and are true inter-galactic, trans-universe civilizations. Theoretically, there may be a group above this level comprising civilizations with Inter-Universe capabilities, but such a civilization would not concern itself with events described in The Mothership and so was not encountered.
The Antaran Codex indicated that conflicts between early interstellar civilizations occurred before rules governing interstellar relations had been established. After all, when the first interstellar civilizations appeared, there was no existing framework in place, which may have been a time where the 'law of the jungle' prevailed. However, common self interest and a shared appreciation for law, morality and ethics eventually led to an agreed code of conduct that created the Rules Based Universe. This is a political concept defining interactions between independent and autonomous societies at all levels of development, and one could argue is rationally the kind of universe we actually live in, even if we don’t know it yet.
The evolution of civilization on Earth is an example of this process. It shows a steady progression toward a worldwide rules based system that gives a place to all nations and has consequences for rogue nations that break the rules. This progression is likely to continue as mankind becomes an interstellar civilization and encounters even more advanced societies.
If the Rules Based Universe hypothesis is true, it is a very important concept not just for the Mapped Space Universe, but for the future of the Human Race. It means when the human race becomes an interstellar civilization, we will not emerge into a survival of the fittest universe – because that era is long gone – but into an established multi-lateral interstellar polity with laws that protect and constrain us.
The proof of this hypothesis is that our planet has not been conquered by vastly more advanced civilizations who have probably been visiting this planet for a very long time, quite possibly for millions of years. This suggests a commonly accepted and enforceable framework preventing the conquest of Earth.
In the Mapped Space Universe (and perhaps in reality) very old civilizations appeared so long ago, it was before Earth was habitable. An oxygen atmosphere appeared on Earth long after the planet first appeared, and long after life first may have appeared. Our oxygen atmosphere was the result of the appearance of photosynthesizing life forms which produced oxygen as a byproduct. That oxygen would have been a poison to earlier life, effectively triggering a mass extinction for any earlier life forms (if such existed).
By the time Earth was habitable in the MSU, the Precursor Civilizations had long established a rules based pan-galactic civilization. This was long before the appearance of proto humans and is where an unwritten assumption is hinted at in the books and is why Hardfall was classified as a dead end world under galactic law.
The assumption is that Precursor Civilizations mastered evolutionary biology and as a result are able to identify which lines of evolution lead to the appearance of intelligent life and which do not, i.e. an Earth verse a Hardfall. The assumption is that the genetic markers of intelligence might go all the way back to fundamental forms of life. This is based on the very specific and complex nature of DNA and cell structures, which are extremely difficult to form. The first appearance of life is likely to have been an extraordinarily rare event, and was probably RNA related, a precursor evolutionary stage to DNA.
On Earth, the evidence suggests that all life on this planet has one Common Universal Ancestor (CUA) that appeared a very long time ago. If we are able to identify genetic traits in the Common Universal Ancestor that indicate an evolutionary path leading towards intelligence, then it would be possible to determine when nascent life on a planet might lead to the rise of an intelligent life form, even if that might not occur for another half a billion years.
In a rules based universe, where super advanced civilizations have developed high ethical and legal concepts, the natural conclusion is that they not only respect all life, but respect all possible intelligent life, even if it has not yet evolved.
Assuming the appearance of any form of life is extremely rare, then the importance of panspermia should also be considered. This is the process whereby basic life is spread through space while frozen in comets and asteroids. Over millions of years, the appearance of life in one part of the universe could spread to other planets in that part of the universe via Panspermia. In the MSU, the idea is that some original life had markers leading to intelligence and others did not. If the appearance of life is rare, and markers for intelligence exist, then some regions may have evolutionary paths leading to intelligence and some not, or perhaps two panspermic distributions might even overlap.
With panspermia, it is possible that intelligent life in different parts of the universe may share a common ancestor. In the MSU, this means humans may share a common ancestor with the Tau Cetins or the Matarons or even a Precursor civilization that arose a billion years ago. Being the masters of evolutionary astrobiology, they may see their own evolutionary origins in humans.
How far the common ancestor could have spread is limited by distance, velocity and time, so there are probably multiple panspermic origin points throughout the Universe. How many will be determined by just how difficult it is for life to appear. Considering human scientists have been unable to replicate the creation of life in the laboratory, we should assume such an event is rare, or requires conditions we are unable to replicate, at least with our present understanding and technology.
If there are relatively few Common Universal Ancestors, super advanced civilizations would know what they are and how they are encoded. Consequently, they would be able to identify the markers of each type of CUA in the basic life present on new planets. For example, CUA Type 1 leads to intelligent life while CUA Type 2 does not. The law they could then frame would prohibit colonization of Type 1 planets while permitting colonization of Type 2 planets (i.e. Hardfall type dead end worlds). With such knowledge, the possibility exists that Precursor type civilizations might even seed likely planets with CUAs of one type or the other, depending on their objectives.
None of this astrobiology is mentioned in the books, but it’s part of the science underlying the Mapped Space Universe. This is why Hadley was able to say, “Hardfall’s officially classified as a dead end world.” Note, he did not say humans classified it this way. This knowledge was passed to humans with the mapping data given by the Tau Cetins. That data would say you can colonize certain dead end worlds, but not other worlds which were on their way to evolving a sentient species. Hardfall was clearly a world full of life, but it was descended from a Type 2 CUA, indicating it lacked that critical genetic ingredient leading to intelligent life.
So, Earth was protected when it became habitable because the Precursors knew it was potentially a home to future intelligent life. In the MSU, humans are descended from a Type 1 CUA. If that first life got to Earth via Panspermia, then all the nearby interstellar species might share a common ancestor, although their individual evolutionary paths took that spark of life in many different directions. Being a Type 1 life supporting world, in the Rules Based Universe, Earth was off limits to colonization in order to give its future, potential intelligent life a chance to fulfill its promise.
An additional point is that super advanced interstellar civilizations might prefer to terraform worlds ideal to their requirements rather than colonize habitable worlds. This is because terraforming a sterile world avoids the problem of hostile microbes which less advanced civilizations (like humans) are prepared to risk. Hostile microbes is a huge, and oft ignored (by science fiction) obstacle to colonization of outwardly habitable worlds. Indeed, one might argue that the more ‘habitable’ a world is, the more uninhabitable it is from a microbial perspective.
Terraforming an entire world is likely to be a very long process, much longer than science fiction usually considers. In the MSU, mankind has begun terraforming, but it is a long and slow process. In MS2, it is mentioned that New Liberty is being terraformed and will become a second Earth in a thousand years, making it a two thousand year effort. Considering it took billions of years to get Earth to the point it’s at now, even two thousand years to terraform a planet might be optimistic. The difficulty of terraforming is also likely to decline as a civilization advances, perhaps becoming a trivial undertaking for civilizations a billion years ahead of mankind.