Thursday, July 9, 2015

Aliens are Fungible and Travel Well

A long-lived civilization that had learned science and technology to its limits and used that knowledge to solve all the problems of the civilization and all the problems of individual members of that civilization would have certain characteristics. Thinking through what they would be helps us in figuring out why we don’t see alien starships hovering over us.

First of all, resource problems are behind them. They would have had to establish a plan for providing energy to their members and every facility in the civilization’s infrastructure that needed it. Maybe we can guess this is D-D fusion, which may have taken them centuries to figure out. Perhaps some genius figured out how to do on the back of an envelope in a half-hour. Maybe it is something else based on binding energy, or based on some other source. But they have energy. They also have resources for their members, most likely based on a high degree of recycling. They have stability, as it is fine for a civilization to grow on their planet for a while, but it has to come to a plateau where the civilization can continue on at a steady pace. With stability, things can be figured out so that everything works optimally. Life goes on and continues to go on for a very long time.

Second of all, problem members wouldn’t exist. When the civilization has mastered biology, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, neurology, psychology, and more things, problems all have their solutions, and not only that, how to prevent them is known. We don’t now have names for all the specialties that will be known perfectly in a long-lived alien civilization. Imagine an engineering profession that involves replacing cellular structures in livers. Imagine a profession that knows how to provide the best visual training for infants. Imagine all you want, and that is what they will have done, over the course of centuries of learning, research, experimentation, and theorizing. So there will be no unsolved problems. Everyone will be healthy, intelligent, happy, well-motivated, and so on. There are resources and knowledge available in any society that continues to build up their technology base to the ultimate state. It certainly is possible for a society to run into roadblocks along the way there, but they are not the subject of this discussion. We are discussing civilizations that will have starship capability, whether or not they use it.

What this implies is that aliens are pretty much alike. Maybe even identical. All the aliens would have the same ability to think, plan, discuss, lecture, and anything else. There would be no reason to deprive any individual or group of the best available. Remember there are no problem individuals left. There is no one who derives pleasure from the diminution of others. There is no one who has psychological problems that cause them to want to destroy something in the infrastructure or in social organizations. Psychology is one of the sciences and it was completely worked out in the alien civilization. After all the progress of multiple centuries, there are simply typical members of society, living according to its customs. The customs would have evolved over millennia so that they would fit well together and make the stability of life possible.

This is very different from what we know of society today on Earth and in our recent history. When we project from our current status onto some alien civilization that has technology of all kinds at its beck and call, we are mis-projecting. If we mis-project, we may misunderstand what alien travel might occur, and what the conditions of it might be. We may also misunderstand what types of signatures might be given off, either from a home planet, a star ship, a new colony, or whatever else is hiding out there in the local neighborhood of the galaxy.

That aliens may be identical has some interesting implications. One is that the crew of a ship might be interchangeable. No need for a permanent captain if anyone can do it, and since rotation is probably more interesting that permanent specialization, it might be the only way starships are organized. Of course, there may be no need for a captain at all, if the crew is asleep and the ship is run by whatever computers turn into after a few millennia.

Sometimes we make a great deal over the return of a starship crew, when the crew has slept and not aged, and they return to a society that is far in the future of the one they left. In an ordinary alien civilization, they might not be able to tell the difference. The society is stable. That means that there is nothing different in the civilization a thousand years later, if their round trip takes that long. The city they came from looks the same, except for non-essential trappings, as it was designed to be optimal. They wouldn’t have torn up the city streets and put some vacuum subway down there, because if a vacuum subway was the best thing to have, they would have put it in before the ship left. It has the same infrastructure as before, repaired to the same standards, and with the same information available.

It means that the crew, when they wake from their voyage, won’t find the people they knew before they took off, but they won’t miss them as there are people just like them to greet them on their return. The concept of displacement in time loses all its negative associations. In a stable environment, with everything the same and people the same as before, there would be no reason not to volunteer for an interstellar voyage, or no reason to object to a lottery that chooses crew members randomly. The decision to build a ship would not be based on how people feel about space travel, it would be based on the costs and benefits associated with it. There would be no reason to hold a vote on whether the civilization should go to other stars. They would simply use the overwhelming science knowledge they have to figure out if it was the best way to use the consumable resources that building such a ship would entail.

One could say that aliens are fungible, and travel well.

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