Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Civilizations of Intelligent Aliens

If we are going to try and get some insight as to why aliens have not visited us, it would help to know how they think, what they consider important, how they plan their lives, how visionary they are, and many similar questions. Here on Earth we are still somewhat primitive, so we might have some difficulty in imagining how a more advanced society would consider these topics. On Earth, intelligence is very diverse, ranging from what we consider retarded to what we consider genius. On an advanced alien planet, which had passed the genetic grand transition, there might easily be only genius category individuals, or what they consider genius category. Their average might be even higher than our best.

Our society here on Earth is built on the diversity of intelligence. Intelligence makes a big difference in one’s social standing, success, living standards, and interaction with others. It is not so much IQ-measured intelligence, but the ability to solve problems, to be creative, to spot errors, to organize people and projects, to manage things, and so on. We have the people who excel at those tasks running things, and feeding information to the others further down the rungs of the intelligence ladder. Assuming there is a metric which might measure this type of intelligence, you could say that the top 20% or so are in charge of the important organizations, and have influence over all the others.

Our society is organized around this downward flowing of information. The top 20% create it and the lower 80% consume it. This holds in science, technology, governance, business, art, and other segments of our social life. The measure is not ironclad, as there are certainly exceptions, but there is a substantial correlation. This would not be so on a planet with universal high intelligence.

When there is no ranking based on intelligence, how would positions and opportunities be apportioned out? One possibility is a lottery but there are others. How would living standards be decided? Would there be only one living standard and everyone got the same; housing, materials, foods, traveling, and so on? Would there be variations, decided on some random aspects, and would they exist for the whole life of each individual alien, or would an alien experience very different living standards at different times in his/her/its life?

More to the point, without some natural leaders, where every alien could do just as good a job at leading the civilization or its regions or factions, is there any impetus to do great projects, like interstellar voyaging? With no inherent leadership, would some individual alien be chosen and given the mandate to lead the civilization, and if so, would he/she/it decide on something monumental, like an interstellar voyage? On Earth, grandiose projects are usually the project of an individual, although there may be behind-the-scenes motivation and support. The projects are often things which provide that individual with psychological benefits, such as conquests, monuments, or new forms of government. An individual in an alien civilization would be living in a time when he/she/it would already be receiving an abundance of psychological benefits, as the civilization would have supplied those needs just as it supplies all physical needs. Any training would be universal, and not designed to produce individuals who felt a need to do gigantic things. So, from an individual view, there might be no one to lead the civilization to new planets and solar systems.

Perhaps the place of individual leadership would be taken by artificial intelligence. Why would individual aliens want to take on the job of figuring out the details of how to manage the civilization, when it could be automated entirely, and left to some algorithms? But the AI being used for governance would be useful for coordinating the activities of the various robotic systems so that the society would function smoothly and flawlessly, but how would it take over the job of inspiring the aliens to go into interstellar space?

On Earth, we have no serious AI, but we have many people speculating about it, and the usual speculation is that it somehow develops human emotions and starts to act like a super-person. If It was not designed to do that, it would not. At the core of the AI program is a set of metrics and goals, and the AI seeks to take actions and make decisions so that these goals are fulfilled, or the metrics brought to the highest levels. This does not involve star flight.

There would be no individuals who would take on the job of leading a movement to go to space. Everyone would be just as able to envision the idea, see the difficulties, evaluate the benefits, and make a choice. A singular individual, taking on this mission as a human being might, would find little response among other aliens.

In earlier posts, it was discussed how the goal of extraterrestrial travel would have to be encoded into the training that each alien received during his/her/its youth, and then there would be a universal consensus that this task should be part of the civilization’s activities and should be given a portion of the planet’s or solar system’s resources. With that embedded into the tapestry of the civilization’s culture, aliens would expect to devote some part of their time to furthering that goal, or at least to sacrifice some of their resources to it. But the concept that some individual alien would arise in the absence of this portion of their training, and somehow get the idea that he/she/it should lead the civilization into extrasolar space, is more a projection of what we might expect than what might actually happen in an advanced alien civilization. We like to have science fiction stories based around some inspired hero, or we write out histories as it certain individuals made choices and led movements, but these are things that pertain to our civilization with its shortage of intelligence and its dependence on downward communication of ideas and goals. If we try to figure out what happens in an alien civilization by treating it just like Earth with its humans plus some advanced technology, then there will certainly be misunderstandings and possibly even absurd conclusions

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hibernation in Alien Civilizations

An alien civilization that had passed through the industrial revolution might see the need for mining of the other planets, satellites and remaining objects of its own solar system. As the civilization moves into and through the genetic grand transition, they may need more resources, and have to go to distant planets or even objects beyond the range of their furthest out planet. It might well be assumed that just like our solar system, the typical solar system will have many objects farther out, where their orbits are not sorted out by the main planets, but still within the gravitational grasp of their star. The period of time to go out to these planets might be quite long, compared with the lifetime of an alien. Is hibernation the answer?

Recall first that there are less expensive ways to move within a solar system, once travel becomes necessary and not too infrequent. As discussed elsewhere, putting a transport vessel in an elliptical orbit and using the gravity of the target object to resteer the trajectory back to the home planet, and then doing the opposite, cuts the propulsion mass and propulsion energy down to that needed for just steering operations. These orbits are long, however.

For comparison, the New Horizons spacecraft flew nine years to get from Earth to Pluto, even with a gravity assist from Jupiter. That’s an example of a direct flight. For these cheap orbit transport times, we might use the orbital period of Pluto, which is about 248 years. It might be thought that these cheap orbits are too long to use for supplies, but remember that they would be like pipelines. It doesn’t matter how long a pipeline takes to move something, as long as there is a constant flow in and a constant flow out. They take time to fill up and get moving, but an alien civilization, planning on lasting for the order of a million years with these resources, wouldn’t have any problem with this. So, if aliens need to be move from their home planet out to some distant mining station, they need some trick to help them survive the journey, and intergenerational ships are just a ridiculously expensive idea. Hibernation is not.

Some alien civilizations might have evolved to hibernate before they became intelligent, and kept that going during all the civilizational transformations that they passed through. Even so, seasonal hibernation, if it were anything like what happens on Earth, aren’t exactly what is called for by interplanetary flight. An Earth bear hibernates by slowing down his respiration rate, his metabolism rate, and his activity level. Cellular processes are still going on. The bear uses up stored energy, fats and then whatever else provides energy, as it hibernates. If there was an intravenous supply of energy, hibernation might be extended, provided the external signals to wake were excluded. The bear is still aging, although at a reduced rate.

Hibernation for interplanetary flights might involve some other technology developed by the alien civilization during the genetic grand transformation. Aging might be eliminated, or at least reduced in impact, by genetic changes. The metabolic changes for hibernation might be written into the aliens’ genetic code, or perhaps if they can achieve genetic fluidity, it could be an option rather than a necessity. Again, speciation is a possibility, and one new species of aliens would be created for interplanetary work. Many changes in the structure and chemistry of an alien might be made for this species, but one of the changes might allow episodes of hibernation.

Elsewhere it was discussed how species might be created, intelligent to whatever degree desired, distinct from the aliens for the purpose of performing work for their civilization. These were called “intellos”, who are disposable creatures, might like humans regard cattle, sheep, dogs, and other domesticated or farm animals. Instead of aliens being transformed into a more suitable species for interplanetary travel, a separately designed species could be formed, completely tailored to the tasks and travel necessities for interplanetary mining. It is almost a policy decision, as to whether such creatures would be classed as aliens or intellos. How the alien civilization would treat them would be quite different. Either way, hibernation would have to be a technology that was used to enable aliens or intellos to be transported via cheap orbits out to the more distant objects of their solar system.

There are social aspects that crop up if it is aliens who do the hibernation and travel. These social aspects seem extreme to us, living in the industrial era, but after an alien society passes through the genetics grand transition, they would not have such an extreme impact. For example, suppose an alien is living on the home planet, decides or is chosen for an interplanetary mission, and goes to sleep on a transport vessel for two hundred and fifty years one say, and the same for the return. Assume their lifetime was only a hundred years. This means when they returned, five lifetimes would have passed. No one they knew before would still exist, except if there was some home planet hibernation for some reason unfathomed by us. But after the genetics grand transition, aliens are much more fungible. Everyone would have the same basic genetics, the same intelligence, the same health, the same education, the same training, and so on; each one of these would have been optimized to grant each alien the best possible life. But this means that there is not much difference between aliens after the genetics grand transition as before.

There would also be industrial gestation, meaning families would not exist, so relatives would not exist and there would be no parting with relatives at the start of the trip. Other things would be nearly indistinguishable, as the technology would have stopped changing, so society would have stopped changing. Population would likely be the same, at some optimum level. The cities would be continually regenerated, so there would be only a few details different, rather than whole new cities formed and other ones shrunk or otherwise changed. There would be no upgrade in education, as everything would have been known before the alien left on his voyage and it would still be know when he returned. So the impact of hibernation and extended life and interplanetary voyaging would be fairly minimal, both to the alien and to the civilization in which he lived.

Instead, the pressing question is whether it is better to create aliens on the home planet and ship them out to the mining colony, or ship out enough equipment to create aliens there, train them, and let them live their whole lives in the colony. This is an economics question, and likely depends on the size of the ore deposit, plus a large number of aspects that we haven’t begun to think about yet. So, hibernation is possible, technologically and socially, but may not be used for economics reasons.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Intelligent Design by Bombing

Intelligent Design means the design of the genetic coding for some creatures or a whole planet by some intelligent alien civilization. This is not a remarkable and astounding achievement, but something that will fall within the capability of any alien civilization that continues progress in technology. Genetics is part of the last group of scientific knowledge that will be gained by an alien civilization, as it depends on some previous technology to enable the research that makes it possible. Massive computing and automation is necessary to unlock the secrets of a genetic code and even more so to create a new genetic code from scratch, and test it in a simulation before committing it to actual DNA. It is part of what we call in this blog the genetics grand transformation, as it will transform any alien society even more than the industrial grand transformation.

Intelligent design of a whole-planet genetic system must depend on predictions of what evolution will do. A given species only exists for a few tens of millennia, perhaps more and perhaps less, and the extreme expense of designing a whole planet’s genetic structure and delivering it to a planet free from life could hardly be justified if the life on the planet only lasted for a few tens of millennia. There must be an understanding of how it would change with time. This opens up a whole set of questions. Since life on a suitable planet might be expected to last for billions of years, exactly what was the purpose of the alien civilization’s attempt to introduce life there?

Colonization seems to have a problem with time scales. Let’s suppose there is an alien civilization on a planet, and they have reached asymptotic technology within ten thousand years of the first little city being founded, meaning science is done and everything is known. Suppose also they are very frugal with their resource, very industrious about searching for them on their entire solar system, and very motivated to last as long as they can, keeping their population well limited. With this motivation, they would be searching for a solar system to go to when the resource of their home solar system begin to give out. This might be a few million years out from the first city founding; suppose it’s two million. Very early in this time they are able to build large telescopes to scan neighboring stars for suitable planets, and can tell which ones have oceans, land masses, not too heavy or too light an atmosphere, not too much geological activity, a star which will last a long time and does not erupt too often, a magnetosphere to block some of the high-energy particulate radiation from the sun from killing off surface life, and probably a dozen or two other things we might not have thought of yet. Now let’s suppose they find one or more suitable candidates: lifeless planets which have all the characteristics of a potential new home for their civilization.

There’s no need to go there immediately, as if they want their civilization to last as long as possible, they wouldn’t want to be burning through the resources of two solar systems at once. Rather, they would wait until they are seeing shortages of resources at home, but not so badly that they could not afford to build a starship. It would be as small as possible to do the job they set out for it, but what exactly should that job be?

If they want to transfer their civilization there, many preparations have to be made. Do they need oxygen in the atmosphere? That takes, if Earth is any guide and our scientific deductions on that are reasonable, a couple of billion years. Without oxygen, seeding the planet with life means seeding it with cyanobacteria or perhaps something else that can survive in an anaerobic environment. Multicellular organisms are possible in this environment, but none attractive to an alien civilization looking for some place like home. Perhaps the alien civilization will be sufficiently creative to make oxygenation of their target planet occur faster, but doing it remotely in under a million years seems beyond possible. Oxygen is a very reactive element, and there are many sinks for it in the rocks of a planet. These have to be filled up before the atmosphere can become highly oxygenated, and it just takes a while for this to happen.

If colonization of a barren planet takes too long, why else might an alien civilization decide to seed a distant planet with life? Recall that there is no clear reason why a particular alien civilization might choose as its goal the propagation of its own species or its own culture. They could also simply choose to be the bringers of life to the universe. Deciding to spread life is somewhat easier that preserving one’s own civilization on a distant exo-planet.

If the organic oceans hypothesis on the origination of life that was developed in this blog is true, then the probability of life can be low on planets which could support it. In that case, an alien civilization would certainly know that there might be hundreds of planets which could evolve life in the Milky Way galaxy, provided only that it gets started. They could take it upon themselves to be the agent for that initiation, and be motivated by that goal. It might be that they realize that colonization cannot happen, and take the propagation of life itself as a substitute.

If that is the case, then sending a starship with some cyanobacteria and bombing the oceans and coastlines of the target planet with them would do the job. The starship would have to be designed to last for the thousands of years of the voyage to the distant solar system, so it might be not much harder to design it to last for a few more thousands of years in orbit over the target planet. If so, perhaps it could also detect the populations of cyanobacteria in the oceans and shallow water areas, and report back to the home planet that the mission was a success. Certainly the aliens would have some equivalent of champagne for this.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bifurcation by Voluntary Speciation

There is another way that an intelligent species can bifurcate other than by accidental, geographic speciation; by voluntary speciation after the genetic grand transformation. Splitting into two separate species can happen if there is a faction that can afford or obtain improved genetics, and another residual one which cannot.

This arrangement could happen in several ways. One is through a geographic separation. One continent or landmass is more technologically advanced, and invents the genetic means for improving the species, indeed modifying its chromosomes, and does it for those who live within its bounds. The other areas, other continents or islands or landmasses, have been left technologically behind, and cannot offer their residents this genetic change. This would seem to be a temporary problem, as technology has a tendency to seep via trade or other means, and so at some later instance, the continent without the advanced genetics capability would gain it, and catch up. This might not happen if there was some reason why technology flow was restricted. This might be connected with the resources connected to the planet, capability of the population, some financial arrangements, or even military pressure. Many reasons mean such a situation might not be unlikely at all on the various alien civilizations that could arise in the Milky Way galaxy.

Another potential cause for speciation is the caste system. It is possible that an alien civilization arises while maintaining a caste system. This would imply and require a very structured society, as when the industrial grand transformation happens, information begins to flow freely, and requiring individuals to maintain the occupational and status arrangements of a caste system would be more difficult. If the alien civilization remained a theocracy, this might happen, but a theocracy would be under great pressure for change after the industrial grand transformation started. If the theocracy transformed into some hierarchical governance system that maintained castes, this might have a greater chance of lingering into the genetics grand transformation, which would set the stage for improvements in the genetics for only the highest or higher castes.

Any other type of hierarchy of power could result in the limitation of genetic improvements, including speciation, to only those near the pinnacle of power-holders. Many forms of governance, those which do not rotate members of the governing leadership very frequently or maintain it by means of inheritance, could enforce the ban on genetic improvement for lower classes. It might even be done without public awareness, with improvements being done for one or even several generations of the leadership, but in secret. This would require a high degree of secrecy within the society itself, and that might not happen if the industrial grand transformation opens up the conduits of communication to larger numbers of individuals within the society, or within those areas on the planet where technological improvement was happening.

Secrecy might be maintained if there were myths spread about genetic improvement, specifically about the impossibility of it, or the high degree of dangers associated with it. If the society had already bifurcated, into those living perhaps in a legacy theocracy, with limited information flow, and a leadership or otherwise powerful group, then the secrecy needed for the upper group to utilize genetic enhancement might be much easier to maintain.

Is such a divided civilization sustainable, and could it manage to mount an interstellar expedition? One concern is that the lower fraction of the population, where no genetic improvements are available, or perhaps only ones associated with genetic disease prevention are available, would be susceptible to the Malthusian idiocracy that was discussed in several other posts. All that is required for this is some mild degree of affluence and a negative correlation between reproduction rates and intelligence. There are good reasons to think that such a negative correlation would be likely, and affluence is a byproduct of the industrial grand transformation. Thus, the upper faction would grow better and better, as the genetic information and genetic engineering capability improved, and the lower faction would grow worse and worse, by the natural processes.

Sustainability in this type of situation depends on the relative production, managed by the upper faction and facilitated by automation and robotics, as compared to the total population that consumed it. Without automation and robotics, production would not be able to increase, as it would require workers, many of them skilled, to participate in it. Over generations, this quota might not be able to be met, as the general intelligence declined and the population increased. Perhaps there would be a tipping point, when maximum production per capita occurred, and after that, it declined. Malthusian idiocracy does not require some particularly high living standards to occur, and in fact could occur with only some minimum amount of production. However, in this scenario, living standards in the lower faction would continue to decline, and eventually would reach a point where the worst-off individuals were living in hardship.

The technology for interstellar travel, assuming it is possible, would occur near the end of the climb of technology. We are too far from it to understand the requirements, but one point stands out: the long travel times that are necessary. Perhaps only biological starships with regenerative power could prevent reliability failures from dooming the voyages. This implies that the genetics grand transformation has run its course, and this seems to be the last stage before technology is completely known. Thus, there would likely be time for the two-faction situation just discussed to come into hardship. This would imply that it would be hard to amass resources for an interstellar voyage.

Perhaps if the proportions were reversed, the opposite result could happen. If genetic improvement, including speciation, were to happen in the large majority of the population, and only a smaller fraction was prevented from using it, or chose to ignore its benefits, then there would be no huge drain on the civilization’s resource usage for consumption of an out-of-control population, and enough could be sequestered away to arrange for the trip. Thus, an alien civilization that visited Earth would likely be from a planet where genetic modification was the common thing, although not used for everyone. There would be a large majority species with greatly enhanced intelligence, health, athleticism, and so on, and a small minority of legacy followers, still part of the original species which evolved to start the civilization. As far as the character of any visitors, they would certainly be from the majority. Only if we on Earth took the step first to travel and visit other civilizations would we likely encounter the details of speciation in any other alien civilization. This is not to say that some of what we named ‘intellos’, intelligent creatures created by the alien civilization as workers, would not be on the ship, but these should not be confused with legacy species individuals.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bifurcation by Accidental Speciation

It would be expected that an alien civilization would have a single species during its development of intelligence. To have a planet with two different species becoming intelligent at almost exactly the same time seem so improbable as to be non-existent. However, through an accident of geography, if migration happens early enough, speciation could occur, where the population on one landmass evolves some genetic change sufficiently great that it can no longer interbreed with the population on another. On Earth, this has happened countless times with all types of species, but it did not happen with humans. On another planet, it might.

In a previous post, the major possibilities for a planet with two separate intelligent species were outlined, but there, separate evolutionary paths were assumed, so the two species were assumed different, in appearance, biology, genetics, and so on. For speciation, where there is simply some genetic shift in one of the species, when the numbers were very small so it became universal, the two species could remain very similar, and perhaps even indistinguishable, except at the genetic level. They simply could not interbreed.

Most likely, one of the two species would develop the means of transportation first, and manage to travel to the other landmass, where they would, for the first time, encounter the other species. If there were appearance dissimilarities, so that one species could easily be told from another, these dissimilarities would remain after the encounters began, as the species could not interbreed and genes controlling the dissimilarities could not pass from one species to another. It is possible, though very unlikely, that the only genetic change that happened since the transfer of individuals from one landmass to another was the very one which caused speciation, and in that situation, no features would exist to distinguish by appearance one species from another. However, genetic mutation being what it is, it would be very unlikely that only one genetic transformation would have taken place. So, the principal type of situation is where the two species are distinguishable, but not very different.

It was pointed out that the behavior taken by the two species after these encounters start may set the example for how the species, one or both if they both continued to exist, would behave when they traveled to other solar systems and encountered yet another species of intelligent aliens. Therefore, the question of speciation on the home planet of an alien species is quite important. How long might it take for speciation to take place? If this is short or comparable with the time needed for a civilization to develop that can travel from one landmass to another from the dawn of intelligence, it might be fairly common on planets with alien civilizations to have two or more intermingling species, or at least a history of two species having a late initial encounter.

There are some geographic situations which would tend to make the time available for speciation longer. The time gap is between where there was some accidental transfer of at least one breeding pair, if there were two sexes on this planet, from landmass 1 to landmass 2, up to where there is the development of means of travel. The initial transfer might have occurred over a land bridge, which was washed away shortly after the transfer by a typhoon or sunk by a tsunami or torn apart by an earthquake. Alternatively there might have been some raft situation which carried survivors across the gap between the two landmasses.

The earlier this transfer happened during the evolution of intelligence, the more dissimilarities there would be between the two species, and the resulting differences in cultural levels when they had their first encounter. Also, besides the normal evolution of greater and greater intelligence, which is a random process to some degree, there is the effect of the size of the landmass, if that translates into the number of aliens there might be on each of them. If one landmass is larger, say a continent compared to an island, it would be expected that the population would be larger there and more mutation opportunities would occur. Or if one of the landmasses has large amounts of area, but much of it is uninhabitable by the alien species, being a desert or glacier-covered, the same distinction would happen.

At the time of first encounter, there might be little difference between the intelligence levels of the two species, or much; there might be little difference in the cultural levels as well if the intelligence was similar, or there might be much. These distinctions might affect how the species that created the means of transportation, assumably the more intelligence or more developed of the two, would regard the other one. With distinctions being very large, there would be no application of rules that developed on their landmass for meetings between factions there. These rules might dictate war was inevitable, perhaps of some particular sort, or they might dictate that peaceful trade would be the preferred mode of interaction. If the distinctions between the two species, both in intelligence and cultural level, were not too great, these rules might transfer over, and the lack of interbreeding capability not play much of a role at all. The second species might take on the role that some factions played on the first landmass, being allowed to continue their dominion over the second landmass, or perhaps only the part of it they already occupied at the time of the first encounter.

On the other hand, if the distinctions were large, some sort of subjugation might be expected. The dominant species might attempt to exterminate the less intelligent or developed one, and simply take over their landmass, bit by bit. They might attempt to enslave them, for whatever purpose might be economically useful. At the most, the dominant species might simply maintain them as vassals of whatever faction discovered them, with some tribute being taken as transport allowed.

The history of the encounter would certainly become part of the lore that undergirded the dominant species' behavioral choices. If they had exterminated the second species, they might undertake exploration of the nearby solar systems with the idea in mind that if they find anything intelligent there, they would kill it. The other end of the spectrum is the ‘let’s share the universe’ concept that might arise if the first species had simply accepted the second as partners on their planet. This example appears to be a fruitful one for further examination.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Religion in Alien Civilizations

The word religion is used to cover several different things, so let us go along with the trend and use it, successively, to mean some different things. The point to be made overall is that religion, like other aspects of an alien civilization, is dictated by the technology level reached in the society, and as technology improves, religion, in all meanings, also changes. Since religion might play a role in an alien civilization’s decision to explore other solar systems or to colonize them, it is well worth the effort to try and get a glimpse of what an alien civilization religion might be or has to be.

An alien species might become the object of study for an alien civilization when it begins to use tools and then develops more intelligence, meaning a way of recognizing problems and finding solutions to them, other than instinctual behavior. Dexterity, omnivorousness and communications are things which improve the chances that a given alien species will achieve this. Hunting improvements follow, as does more mobility, and technology glacially advances. Seeding deliberately would be a logical next step, and then husbandry and agriculture. These technology steps correspond to a major change in the life of the alien species, from mobile to stationary, as agriculture improves enough to provide sufficient sustenance.

In the hunting stage of civilizational progress, there is learning about the behavioral characteristics of other aliens in the same clan, and once this is accomplished, analogies are made to animals, probably rather than the other way around. Animals are seen as human-like, which assists in outsmarting them in the hunting process, but also means they are thought of as having recognizable identities and characteristics, just as humans do. Then the generalization can take place to impute some form of cognitive self to many other things. In the sense of a religion as an explanation of things otherwise unknown, one exists at this point. Creatures have personalities which explain their behavior, and gradually other things might as well, such as the local star, any satellites or visible planets, some phenomena of the atmosphere or the ocean, even trees or mountains or other geographic landmarks. The idea that early versions of aliens learn first about the members of their hunting clan and then make analogies explains how a spirit world might come into existence on any planet with an intelligent alien species.

Once these personalities are assumed to be present in a wide variety of objects, the next step of the analogy might happen. Just as interpersonal relations in a hunting clan might involve one member appeasing another, the question would arise as to how to appease some of these spirits, and then who might do it. This becomes a matter of status within the clan, and therefore would be appropriated by individuals, rather than left to random interaction with random members of the clan. Looking back through the experience of the tribe becomes more valuable now, so those who learned by communicating with other older members, such as parents, have a step up in this process of development of religion. Invention of rituals, and behaviors to follow and to avoid will become part of the common knowledge of the clan. Thus, not only is there a religion, meaning an explanation of natural phenomena, there is a set of rules to follow, which is another aspect or meaning of religion.

A big change comes with the agricultural grand transition, when clans start to live in a single place and subsist on husbandry and agriculture, done locally, along with hunting and gathering, but done locally. Then the largest part of an individual member’s interactions would be with other members, and so there is a need for some further rules on behavior. When the early religion of spirits in natural phenomena starts to be modified to provide rules for interpersonal behavior, a new phase of religion begins. Formerly, interpersonal behavior was simply an extension of animal pack behavior, where alien members understood the dangers and possibilities of opposing the will of another member. But to start to modify these behavioral choices because of the possibility that some spirit somewhere would become aware and would be able to have an effect on the individual or the clan requires a whole new level of concept of spirits. The concept of privacy is diminished, but more importantly, the idea of supernatural spirits is created.

Along with this, the process of alien member death might be drawn into the circle of the religion. Once the idea is formed that there are disassociated spirits, it is only natural to think that aliens would assume, sooner or later, that they have one as well, or at least important members of the clan did. How this might be incorporated into the religion can vary, but it provides some relief for the natural, animal-origin, grief connected with death of alien members of a clan.

At this point, social evolution might take place. Those clans which develop spirit belief systems which encourage the survival of the clan and its success, whether in seeking sustenance or in providing shelter against natural phenomena or in protecting itself from predation from other clans, will grow and perhaps bud off and form other ones. Thus, self-sacrificing beliefs, although they are apparently somewhat detrimental to the individual and to the clan, might be overall something which provides some overall growth. Praise of strength, resistance to pain, persistence against formidable odds, altruism and other features might grow. So also might obedience to authority for those with no possibility of being in authority. Thus, the features of a religion which persists during the clan phase or into the beginning of the agricultural phase should be found by considering the social evolution of clans.

Time scales need to be considered. The hunting phase and the agricultural phase are certainly long enough to allow social evolution to run its course. But the next phase of any alien civilization, the industrial phase, does not last long enough. Thus, those memes which might affect space travel are those which originate in the agricultural phase and which can persist through the industrial phase into the genetics phase. By figuring out which beliefs would likely come through this process, it might be possible to shine a light on the decision-making a civilization beyond the asymptotic technology transition would make. Recall that memes do not originate in the late phases of a civilization, they simply propagate from earlier phases.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Impact of Industrial Gestation

As part of the genetics grand transformation, an alien society learns the mechanism, down to the tiny microbiological details, of how aliens gestate, which means grow from a genetic seed to viable organism. Once this is learned, it is only an engineering problem to devise an artificial mechanism to do this. If aliens give birth, it means that birth will occur inside some factory or other industrial setting. This would seem to have consequences other than simply to facilitate reproduction of the species.

When first developed, like all new technologies, industrial gestation would likely be used for some medical purposes, and then gradually would be pulled over to other uses. Around the same time as this development, it would be expected that a full understanding of the alien genome would be completed. This does not mean a transcribing of each gene, but instead a complete understanding of what each gene does in the various cells of the alien. First, a mapping of the various cells would be done, and then the signals that cause differentiation to occur would be needed. Next, an understanding of which genes were active in the different types of cells would follow, as well as a catalog of the variant types for each gene in the genome, along with what effects the variants have in each cell type where they are active. There may be some variants that don’t exist in the population, and these would be found once theoretical, computational ways are found to understand gene expression and gene reproduction. Synthetic genes may involve more work that all the rest combined, but after some period of time, the alien scientists will be able to design improved versions of the alien genome.

This understanding of the genome would be coupled with industrial gestation to make improvement of the population easier to accomplish. There would be much more to the genetics revolution than these two items, but they fit together well and, in and of themselves, would have a large impact on the alien society.

If the initial use is to provide an alternative means of reproduction for alien individuals who wish offspring but cannot for physiological reasons, the effects would be minimal, not much more than any other medical innovation. But if the civilization, due to various life choices, starts to lose population, and industrial gestation becomes the solution to maintaining the population at a chosen level, the effects will grow large. If industrial gestation, having advantages of being very safe and minimizing disruption of life, starts to be a universal substitute for aliens’ normal reproduction, then a possibly subtle change happens.

There are two instincts that aliens in any civilization should have relating to reproduction. First of all, it is a mandatory instinct to keep the population of pre-alien creatures from accidentally going extinct. This has to be a very strong instinct in pre-alien creatures, and should continue to exist in aliens once they evolve into intelligent creatures. Once there begins to be a trend toward providing offspring with ideal genes, in small or large doses, the connection between individuals of one generation and their offspring in the next generation diminishes. Genetic tampering might be subtle, but over time the lack of a genetic tie between individuals and the offspring they raise would take its toll. So also would the reduction in contact between these two as tutoring or organized training becomes more dominant, all in the pursuit of the goal of making young aliens as capable as possible. Then, when industrial gestation begins to displace normal gestation, the desire to participate at all in the process of raising the younger generation may diminish and even disappear, leaving industrial gestation and mostly automated training to take its place.

This result is simply an outgrowth of the natural desire of aliens to have the best possible offspring and to provide them with all the training they would need to benefit from the opportunities that the society offers. However, step by step, the connection between one generation and the next is cut, until, when the technology is fully developed and put to extensive use, there is little connection left.

Evolving creatures are not necessarily long-term in their outlook. The other instinct, to provide sustenance, protection, shelter, care and so on, drive the creatures to have a short-term outlook. This might be affected by annual or other weather cycles or cycles driven by some other cause, but basically, outlook stays short-term. Some unique individuals may develop a long-term outlook, but the most likely cause for individuals to plan for times longer than their own lifetime is the provision for their own offspring and multigenerational descendants. This provides an impetus to preserve, build, innovate, and take other actions so that future generations will have an improved life situation. What happens when this bond is sundered by the various changes that arise during the genetic grand transition? Clearly the only direction is toward less concern with future changes that happen after one generation.

Population is one decision that an alien civilization makes, or in different words, the civilization may have a goal of having a particular number of aliens in existence at any time. Would generations living after the genetic grand transition has minimized the interest of one generation in the next one make the choice to reduce population? Why not, as offspring no longer play a role in the lives of adults?

Another choice would be the development of interplanetary mining, to provide more resources for the population. This development is a long-term project, and would it be chosen by the society as a goal, or as part of the goal of maintaining access to as much resources as possible? Alternatively, would the society just decide that allowing population to decline and eventually disappear was acceptable, as long as the lifestyle of the generation making that choice of goals was not reduced.

The other goal, an extension of the interplanetary mining one, is the expansion of the civilization to other solar systems. Since this is a many-generation task, indeed, perhaps longer than any other chosen task, it might just be ignored as of no interest and no consequence. If this is a common effect of industrial gestation, we may have found one more reason why there are no alien visitors.

Meme Cores and Meme Baggage

There is no scientific law that forces an alien civilization to expend resources and effort on exploring other solar systems. Each alien civilization will eventually come to the conclusion that there is no entity directing their future; it is their choice as to what to do. This has a great impact on whether Earth will ever have alien visitors. To try and understand what is likely to happen to Earth in this regard, alien visitors, we need to understand how alien civilizations might make decisions, and what decisions they might make.

Since there is nothing telling each alien civilization what to do with itself, it must decide, and there is no basis for some logical derivation of a direction to go. Instead, there is only the source of individual alien decisions, also not logical, that substitute for some universal directive. If the alien civilization is ruled by one individual, his decision will be the one that decides if the alien civilization will begin a star-traveling adventure. If it is some kind of democracy, then all the aliens with suffrage will be able to have their choices be weighed in the decision. So alienology should address two issues: what form of governance will a far-advanced alien civilization have, and what decisions might one make and on what basis?

There are many ways in which an alien civilization might wind up governing itself. We here on Earth have experienced many, but with changes in technology dominating how a civilization organizes itself, none of them are likely to be the one that an alien civilization, with asymptotic technology, would choose.

Remember that projecting human desires and habits on advanced alien civilization will lead to errors in assessing how their civilization is organized. We still live with primitive technology, having made some progress in physics and chemistry, but not very much in genetics, medicine, sociology, neurology, and others, including ones not yet named. Rather than try and figure out which antique Earth governance system might be used, we should try and use a normative approach, which is the standard recourse when history is largely irrelevant.

It is important to understand the timing of the choice of governance. Once the final stage of the last big technology change, the genetics grand transformation, hits an alien society, it changes from being a collection of diverse individuals, competing for influence and aggrandizement, to a society of near equals, all wise enough to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and with an understanding of how their own brains work. The emotions that motive humans on Earth nowadays, greed, lust, jealousy, anger and the rest will be likely present in the earlier stages of any alien civilization, but after the final technology changes, they will not exist or at least not be allowed by any of the civilization’s members to dominate their thinking. The changes of moving beyond emotions are monumental. Can there be a capitalism, when individuals are largely immune from greed, and recognize the diminished utility of excess wealth? Factionalism would necessarily disappear, when all of society’s members are granted both optimal genetics and the intelligence it brings, and the early life training and experiences that allow that intelligence to fully flower. Why bother dividing society into two or more groups and competing one against another when everyone is pretty much identical in all important ways?

To do the normative analysis that we would like, the proper question is, how would a society of actual equals organize itself? Here, the word equals does not mean anyone who is granted suffrage, or is somehow included in the ruling group. It means a society of genetic equals, identically trained in an optimal way. Any one of them would do as well in any post, provided the necessary education was provided. Would there need to be any voting, or would a lottery suffice? There is no point of any selection process, as all of the voters know that anyone will be just fine, in fact equally fine, as top dog or second-in-command or whatever. Voting for individuals becomes futile.

The other side of the coin involves the surroundings. If there is a decision-maker in the governance organization who is faced with some decision, he/she/it only need to ask the AI system for the options and to translate them into consequences, and then to match the consequences against the goals set up by the society. The top choice is the obvious and inevitable selection. Why have any governance figures if there is literally nothing for them to do except officiate at ceremonies? Why bother to have ceremonies, anyway, as they would be largely meaningless to such a society? So, governance is largely devolved into a use of automated systems to figure out alternatives and implement them, without any need from the individual members of the society. Assuming they have better things to do with their time, there is no need for a hierarchy of positions, or even any governance positions at all. Rather than having a lottery instead of a vote for candidates, there is simply no one involved in the governance process.

Another point to be made is that a long-lived society, past asymptotic technology, does not change much. The civilization has figured out how to do things in the optimal manner, and they simply do that. Over and over again. But the missing item is the goals that are accepted by the governance mechanism. Where do they come from? After the genetics grand transition, individuals no longer have the interest or the diversity to choose such goals, so they need to come from legacy choices made in earlier times. This is what we call memes. Young members of society are trained, during their pre-logic phases, in the memes of society, and that is what forms the goals of the society. Part of these memes, which we might call the core, is what perpetuates the training. The meme core is the essence of any set of beliefs that are passed down from old to young, the essence being that which continues to preserve the memes. The rest of the memes, the meme baggage, is what is propagated along with the core. The core provides no direction for society but only serves to preserve the baggage and to ensure it is propagated. The baggage has the goals of the society, as chosen back in the earlier days of society. Members grow to adulthood appreciating them, and the society incorporates them.

Figuring out what can constitute a consistent set of memes related to society goals in a total meme package is what is needed to understand the range of choices that an alien civilization might have taken. The package must be self-consistent, and also must have been acceptable to the civilization in its earlier phases. Thus, the question to be asked is what social goals might be found acceptable to an alien civilization finishing up its industrial revolution and just beginning its genetics one. This will tell us what we might expect to find, if we somehow were able to do a magical tour of all the alien civilizations present in our galaxy. Since this magic doesn’t exist, we will have to make do with whatever our reasoning can provide.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Is it Worthwhile Going out to Meet Aliens?

Suppose we here on Earth just keep muddling along, learning more and more technology, getting smarter and smarter about the universe, solving our problems one by one, and still waiting for aliens to come and visit us. Scientists and many non-scientists have written about why they don’t come, and even seminars and conventions are held, journals are started, and no one has a definitive answer, although there are several excellent ideas. Then, some one just gets fed up and says, “If they’re not coming to us, we’re going to them!”

After a lot of political skirmishing, budget revising, technology compiling, and generally jumping around, we decide to go visit aliens. Is this a worthwhile expense of our planet’s resources?

It certainly appears so, on first thinking about it, but that may be an illusion. Let’s dig deeper.

If we’re going to do this, we need to have technology well in hand, meaning, it’s probably several centuries later than now that we can finally think we might be able to do it. So, all kinds of things have been learned, all types of inventions have been perfected, all kinds of branches of science, even the now-murky ones like sociology, are understood down to little details. If science doesn’t do this, as if we get stopped at some year, like 2040, for some reason, there is no hope of going to other solar systems. So we have to assume that science has continued to march forward, crushing every kind of question we could think up.

Adding some hypothetical details to this supposition, it’s 400 years in the future, and we have gigantic telescopes in solar orbit, maybe out beyond Neptune, and we’ve detected a planet with advanced alien life on it. They’ve been broadcasting electromagnetic signals for centuries now, and we’ve been detecting them. They are too faint to decode, but they are there. So we decide to go see them, and figure out that, for a alien solar system 100 light years out, with a stupendous effort, we can get up to 5% light speed, meaning that in something greater than 2000 years our ship would arrive, as we need to add a few centuries for acceleration and deceleration. So, in under 3000 years we would have our ambassador on their soil. Possibly we could manage, once there, to set up a large communications antenna, and start beaming messages back to Earth, which would arrive here after a hundred years delay. Earth people alive after this 3000 year delay would be able to know we had contact with an alien species, finally. We could answer them, and after only a more hundred years of waiting, they would hear our Hello!

Back to the pseudopresent of 2517, and the decision to build and send this ship is being debated, as not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. Someone asks, what if the people of 5517 don’t really care that much about ambassadors of Earth sending back communications? Can the people of 2517 actually figure out what the people of 5517 would like or not like? Would there be any people in 5517? What a joke it would be if Earth went to all this effort, but humanity died out before the ambassadors got to Planet X.

So, before sending out any starships, we would want to make sure that we really understood how to survive for thousands of years, and were really stable in our values. This means that if the people of 2517 would like something, they could be sure that the people of 5517 would like it too, and they would have survived until that time, and would survive much longer as well. It obviously wouldn’t be so good if at 5517 there was a last generation of humans, or whatever we evolve or modify ourselves into, and after that generation, there would be nobody home at Earth to get later messages from Planet X.

This sounds like it means that there wouldn’t be any Earth-originated star travel until we had really stabilized out culture and civilization here in our own solar system. That means we shouldn’t send out a starship as soon as we are able to, but instead wait until our own problems at home have been worked out and we know we are going to survive, in some unchanging fashion, for millennia. At this point in our experience, we are still very primitive and can’t see when such a plateau might be reached. If humanity is lucky, perhaps it would be 2517, or perhaps it would be 3017 or even 3517. Technology is racing forward now and it is hard to project that there will be problems left after 2517, but we can stop and realize that the problems we face now, we didn’t know existed until recently, meaning a century or so. So, problems in 2517 might be ones we uncover in 2417, and we aren’t about to guess them now.

We are not unique compared to other potential alien civilizations, and if it doesn’t make sense for us to go traveling between stars until after we have figured out all our local, solar-system-only, problems, it doesn’t make sense for any other alien civilization to do it either. So maybe this is another clue as to why there aren’t any alien visitors.

Now, back to 2517 in this supposed example. Let’s just say we have figured out every last problem that a non-star-traveling civilization would encounter. We have found them all, and solved them all, and can mostly sit back and congratulate ourselves at being so ingenious and industrious, and having avoided all the pitfalls that civilizations might run into. So during the starship debate, someone asks: what’s the point? Why bother doing it? We have all our problems solved here and there is nothing any alien civilization can surprise us with. We can’t learn from them. If it is just curiosity, can’t we just figure out what possibilities their civilization might have, and content ourselves with knowing the possibilities? If there are ten possibilities, and of course Earth science can figure out if it is five or ten or fifteen, Planet X might have one of them, but who cares which one? If Planet X isn’t Type 1, then maybe Planet Y, a bit further away, is. Or Planet Z. Who really cares which one is which type?

So, with nothing to gain, and a huge cost, it seems the decision might be made to not ever go to Planet X. The illusion that we are going to discover things if we go there is clearly false, and all the science fiction about interesting cultures on far-distant planet is just a projection of our current primitive state onto the future, but of course, our current primitive state is just that, and is not the state of the civilization on Earth when star travel becomes possible. Other science fiction dissolves away the times and costs involved by invoking some magic, like warp drives or whatever, and that also changes the situation somewhat. Magic is not going to get us to Planet X, as it is just a reflection of the sorry state of science education on planet Earth. So, once again, we return to the same conclusion. It is hard to justify an advanced alien civilization going to visit another one.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Food and Taste Industries in Alien Civilizations

The higher levels of organisms on the food chain in any alien planet would be expected to have some sort of sensors to help them discriminate useful food from everything else. As organisms evolve there, these sensors would evolve as well. Food discrimination includes recognizing the source, such as a tree with edible parts, the food item itself from shape, texture, hardness and other attributes, and finally chemical sensors, both for soluble and for volatile compounds, which we label as taste and aroma.

Is it possible that any alien species could gain intelligence and then advance technologically without being something of an omnivore, meaning able to digest directly photosynthetic organisms or components of them, as well as higher organisms in the food chain? Likely not. In general, the wider the variety of foods an organism can utilize, the further it can range, the more robust the species will be against famine, and the less likely it would become extinct due to a loss of a food species. After the very first steps of technology, such as fire or cutting implements, food possibilities would enlarge again. To facilitate this expansion, before and after food technology starts, requires sensors able to discriminate against toxic components of the food chain and non-nutritious ones as well. Thus it might be safe to assume that typical intelligent alien species have a variety of food items, plus would be equipped with food senses with a wide range of capability. As technology advances, this would likely not disappear, but would remain a feature of the alien species. So, barring some very unusual planetary ecology, an alien species can be assumed to develop a food industry. This means the steps of organized hunting, then intermittent agriculture, then continuous static agriculture, and then food processing procedures and labor specialties would be almost mandatory elements of any alien civilization.

The industrial grand transformation does not necessarily lead to any change in the omnivorous nature of the aliens. It is more about satisfying these physical needs in a more efficient manner, by affecting agriculture and husbandry, as well as food storage, transportation, and processing. Biological knowledge is gained, but because of the intrinsic difficulty of biology as compared to chemistry, it would not be of the same depth, and would not allow a deep understanding of the biology of food and taste. Food and taste would be explored in an experimental way, and via these means, quite a lot of knowledge gained, but not on the microbiological level. Thus, the industrial period of any alien civilization would have a food and taste industry grounded in experimental facts, with perhaps some deeper knowledge based on the physical structure of food items. By the way, Malthus would still be present in this period, meaning population would grow to match the available food supply. Until the genetic grand transformation gets going, photosynthesis would be the basis for the food supply, constituting the lowest layer of the food hierarchy, and thus land use would change in response to Malthusian pressures. The food industry would be a substantial component of any alien civilization at this stage of their development.

What might be called the taste industry would also be present. The industrial grand transformation is concerned with satisfying desires that existed since the alien species first became intelligent, and these included finding foods that passed the taste sensors’ thresholds. In other words, alien species all evolve to have taste sensors, and the neurology of that set of sensors is that aliens seek foods which have good taste, according to whatever experiences they have had since their birth or whatever reproductive system they evolve with. The point to be made is that taste satisfaction decouples from nutrition satisfaction to some degree. Food additives which change the taste, food processing techniques which change taste and texture, food labor specialties which concentrate on good tasting food all make their appearance and become widespread. This means there is an impetus within any alien society to understand taste and to learn to master it experimentally. We are saying that there will be alien chefs.

The alien civilization would continue its march forward developing technology, and when it passes through the later stages of the industrial grand transformation, where electronics and automation are prevalent, and then the beginning stages of the genetic grand transformation, where microbiology and neurology give up their secrets, food and taste will finally be understood at a fundamental level. There will be an understanding of nutrition, in particular, what are the requirements of the alien body, typically and specifically for any individual, in terms of various food compounds, both chemically and physically. The physical form of ingested items, for example fiber, may be important to alien health and well-being. The genetic understanding of how organisms grow will likewise allow them to be tailored to meet these newly understood nutritional requirements, in an industrially efficient manner. Agriculture will finally phase out, as anything needed can be created more efficiently in a controlled environment. This will increase costs, but all technology increases costs in return for an improved life. It might be questioned whether aliens will accept this phase-out, but technology is inexorable, and the questioning will eventually subside.

The taste industry will similarly undergo transformations, as understanding is further developed as to how the various aspects of taste and desirable food are formed. It is rather obvious that taste begins to be developed in the earliest period of an alien’s life, and continues to develop, especially if taste sensors change with the age of the alien. Just like with the food industry, efficient ways of creating taste substances will be developed, and would become industrial, just as food itself would.

The key transformation that happens is that the neurology of taste would be understood. This means that aliens would all understand that what they like as taste in a food is completely a natural development, including any instinctual, i.e. genetic, preferences, plus those learned during life, largely as a child. The psychological impact of this may not be initially obvious. It means that individual tastes are inconsequential, and simply the result of a random roll of the experience dice. Instead of aliens seeking out foods that most match their taste preferences, these taste preferences will seem unimportant. One way to express that is to say food together with taste will become a simple commodity, easily available, and not worth too much attention. This means the food and taste industry will implode in these later periods. The civilization will simply stop concerning itself with this aspect of life.

It is becoming clear that technology eventually undermines all aspects of evolutionary life, by providing first abundance and then understanding. It hits employment, which will decline and become an avocation rather than a necessity. It hits dining, as optimized food is simply available whenever and wherever. This would seem to create something of a vacuum in alien civilization at these later periods. Knowing what will fill this vacuum may provide a clue as to the willingness of an alien civilization to embark on some sort of space exploration to other solar systems.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is There a Gulf between Electronics and Genetics?

It is difficult to know which characteristics of an alien civilization to isolate and concentrate on when trying to figure out if they will attain the capability and desire to travel between stars. Sociology has simply not developed sufficiently to indicate what might go wrong, much less to provide some explanation of why or how common it might be. So it is necessary to fall back on some very basic principles.

Here is one scenario. Technology develops and civilization follows right along, with the initial result of technological advancement being that the basic needs of society are better and better met, followed by some more superficial ones. The basic needs of society are simply the basic needs of the population, or at least the portion of the population that has some power or influence over what happens in the civilization. What might happen to a civilization when the basic needs of the population are increasingly met for little effort on their part, owing to increasing use of industrial and later electronic means of boosting productivity? In previous discussions, the closeness in time of the genetics grand transition, when intelligence improves along with almost everything else, to the industrial grand transition provided the rationale that there would be a uplift in society in general, owing to the availability of personal intelligence, creativity, artistry and so on, along with materials and leisure time to take advantage of that.

However, there is a gap in time between these two grand transitions, and is it possible that an alien civilization, or all alien civilizations, could undergo some sort of collapse? The collapse would not be of the productive economy, but of the spirit of the society. To paraphrase it, when work almost disappears, what might replace it in the daily lives of the population? Note that some equivalent of work has demanded the time of the population since before the agricultural grand transition. There is no previous interval of time in which these demands have abated. There certainly must have been for all alien civilizations, at some time and place on their planet, good intervals where the demands for work have been reduced. An example would be when a clan moved into a new area with abundant game and gatherable foods. But population always expands to take advantage of available resources, and eventually these good intervals would be replaced by a long period when population pressure keeps the demand for effort for sustenance high.

After the industrial revolution, population pressure still exists, but it does take some time to exert itself. In addition, however, is the pressure for improved life situations, meaning higher consumption levels of energy and resources. As this becomes as much of a demand as the demand for sustenance, there is again the same situation, where work takes up as much time of the population as possible. The underlying premise is that work would be available. The alternative possibility is that without the genetics grand transition and the tremendous social and psychological changes this would bring about, work to increase living standards might not be available for some slice of the population.

Thus there are two threats to this period, the gulf between the late industrial revolution and the full-blown genetics grand transition. One is the Malthusian idiocracy which was discussed at length in previous posts. The other, introduced here, is the dislocation of society, or rather a different slice of society, in which there is no opportunity for work, simply some sort of sustenance arrangement.

To make this gulf more obvious, consider an alien civilization which has developed robotics and AI, and the cost of it is so low it is used everywhere. What does the population do? This is assumed prior to the great population-wide improvement in intelligence that is one part of the genetics grand transition. Everyone from CEO’s down to the lowest clerk is easily replaced, and they are. Some arrangements have to be devised so that the benefits of all this automated productivity are distributed, and they could be of a wide variety. With no one working, there is not even a shred of justification for inequity in distribution, but inequity in distribution of society’s products has been a driving force for individual motivation since clans broke up with the agricultural transition. Will the typical alien civilization figure out some way to broker an inequity in distribution of production, based on some sort of competitive tourney?

Another alternative, at least in the first portion of this gulf, is that legacy arrangements will be allowed to remain. An economy is based on past events, resulting in some privileges or rights or ownership or some other label, and on present events, where the actions taken by some individual member of the alien civilization does something, which we might call work, and receives rights to production from that. The gulf we are discussing is one in which present actions are of less and less value on the average, and eventually become of negligible worth. So the past is the only thing differentiating alien members of the civilization from one another. This might seem to be tolerable for some time, but it would become less and less so the further the society gets into the gulf.

There are some very important questions to be raised about this gulf between grand transformations. One is to ask if a typical alien civilization will cross the gulf and not allow it to damage the civilization, its infrastructure, its directions, or its progress. There seems to be some possibility of this damage, as there is no precedent for a society’s organization in the gulf, and it must be devised from a blank sheet of paper. The second question flows from the first. What modifications of the civilization are inevitable as it crosses this gulf, and what effect would these modifications have on its interest and willingness to make an interstellar space voyage? It would be most peculiar if the real reason there are no aliens visiting us is that their civilization inevitably will have to modify itself into something unlike anything we have imagined, and that the resulting arrangements, governance at the least but possibly much more, lead to a non-interest in space voyages, or perhaps even to a lack of interest in the prolongation of the culture at all.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Later Stages of the Industrial Revolution

It’s not completely simple to figure out the stages of an alien civilization’s climb to technological sophistication and the accompanying societal changes, but at least we here on Earth have one example. We have some recorded history of the agricultural revolution, some archaeological results, and some understanding of agricultural technology’s stages to use. For the first part of the industrial grand transformation, we have just recently lived through it, and have an infinite amount of detail to examine. But for later stages of the industrial grand transformation, meaning the technological revolution and the societal changes they induced, we have to project forward. More care is needed.

The first stages of the industrial grand transformation involve energy sources, transportation, mechanical devices, and chemical engineering. The elements were discovered, oils were found to be useful for lubrication, coal was found for energy, and the engineering process of conceiving a new invention, testing it in gradually increasing steps, and then developing a manufacturing process to produce it came into being. The scientific method initiated by Francis Bacon gets all the credit, but the engineering process was as much a contributor to the industrial revolution as was the scientific method. These two methodologies contributed to all stages of all subsequent grand transformations.

Later stages of the industrial grand transformation are only speculation, as we do not know, for example, if fusion will become a success story and power humankind for the next many millennia, and neither do we know if any alien civilization will succeed, even if we fail. Possibly if we do fail, there will be some scientific understandings that will result from the attempts that can clarify the possibilities with fusion. For now, we can only guess that the difficulties will eventually be overcome, in some manner, and power will be available. Without it, an alien civilization might power itself with uranium, dug on its own planet or on ones closer to its star, stellar photons collected on the planet in some way or another, in space or on some other planet. It even might have monumental sources of chemical energy, such as we might tap by skimming hydrogen from Jupiter and somehow bringing it back to Earth for combustion. Power sources make a huge difference in an alien civilization’s options for star travel, and the only way to deal with this unknown is to consider both options, fusion and no-fusion.

The internals of the alien civilization are not affected so much by the sources of energy as by the computational powers and communication options afforded by the electronics component of these later stages of the industrial grand transformation. They eliminate the need for aliens to work, and work itself transforms from a dire necessity to an interesting amusement. This represents a huge upheaval in the organization of their society. During the agricultural phases and the early part of the industrial grand transformation, work had to become specialized and these specializations led to stratification of society, inevitably. But when work disappears, what is left to provide a stratification and a hierarchy of control? There is nothing that is mandatory, and this means that any alien civilization will have organizational options available to it that we can only imagine.

In our society, work is used as a rationale for the existence and magnitude of the hierarchy of wealth and power that exists. Would an alien society, in the later stages of the industrial grand transition, have anything but legacy to justify these hierarchies to an increasingly intelligent population? It is hard to see how the inevitable result of the later industrial grand transformation would be, after some long duration of social change, anything other than more egalitarianism.

Another product of the later stages of the industrial grand transformation is a reduction in scarcity. Technology makes production increase, and if it occurs fast enough, more rapidly than population increases, this will mean a higher level of per capita production. If the diversion of production to capital and infrastructure costs is not too great, this means scarcity diminishes. Thus, unless deliberately enforced by the alien civilization, material needs and wants are increasingly satisfied to some mininum level, and an increasing segment of the alien population sees no need for work, as it becomes less and less tied to the alleviation of scarcity. A legacy hierarchy would see less and less aliens willing to work in lower positions, and more and more substitution of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Does this still respond to such a legacy hierarchy top members’ desires for feeling superior and in control of others? Possibly not. So, not only would there be less interest in maintaining a legacy hierarchy from the bottom, but also from the top levels as well.

Property, or better the desire to possess property, is a result of scarcity, plus other factors. To think about this, imagine a situation. In an alien civilization, there was housing available in abundance. For whatever reason, completely furnished dwellings were everywhere vacant, and maintained by the in-house automation. What would be the reason a particular alien would want to own one? The costs of one would be nil, as there were vacant ones, completely in good order, paid for by the civilization itself rather than by any individual aliens. Wouldn’t the aliens adopt a habit of moving whenever it suited their needs? This might be thought of as a hotel culture, as opposed to a home culture. This is simply one more example of how technology determines culture, as embodied in one of the main ideas of this blog, technological determinism. What would it mean to the society if there was a surfeit of housing and anyone could move into a vacant dwelling, all largely identical, anywhere they chose? With no work to tie them to a particular location, aliens would become internally nomadic.

The lack of ties to particular pieces of property does not mean than individual aliens would become nonchalant about maintaining them in good condition during their period of residency. This attitude is more connected with cultural norms in the property surfeit situation. It the prior stages of the alien civilization, there was scarcity to propel individual aliens to protect and maintain property that they had control over, but with scarcity gone, something else would need to take its place, and only cultural norms seem to fit that requirement.

Now it is possible to ask a germane question: With no sense of desire for property, would the aliens in such an advanced civilization want to go and establish colonies on distant exo-planets, far from their star? How much does the desire to avoid scarcity establish a psychology for colonialism, and after centuries of experiencing none at all, does this impetus remain?