Some time ago, I realized that the cosmic microwave background at 2.7K meant the universe was too warm to allow superfluid helium to form “in the wild”. Superfluid helium shows up at temperatures below 2.17K, so the universe needs to expand and cool of a bit more before the science fiction stories involving superfluid helium life forms become even theoretically possible. Maybe alien civilizations have decided to wait until superfluidity and superconductivity are common outside of cryogenics labs?
“While it is possible for a civilization to cool down parts of itself to any low temperature,” the authors write, that, too, requires work. So it wouldn’t make sense for a civilization looking to maximize its computational capacity to waste energy on the process. As Sandberg and Cirkovic elaborate in a blog post, it’s more likely that such artificial life would be in a protected sleep mode today, ready to wake up in colder futures.
If such aliens exist, they’re in luck. The universe appears to be cooling down on its own. Over the next trillions of years, as it continues to expand and the formation of new stars slows, the background radiation will reduce to practically zero. Under those conditions, Sandberg and Cirkovic explain, this kind of artificial life would get “tremendously more done.” Tremendous isn’t an understatement, either. The researchers calculate that by employing such a strategy, they could achieve up to 1030 times more than if done today.