Sunday, July 26, 2015

Category Zero Alien Civilizations

In a previous post, a fourth category of alien civilizations was discussed. This was the extreme case of a civilization that simply did not want to continue, not because of scarcity or catastrophe, but because of a universal belief, a meme, that devalued their civilization, so that its continuation was not a priority for the individuals. And this vision, or rather lack of one, would eventually lead to an extinction of the species that formed the civilization. On their planet, life would go on, and perhaps another intelligent species would evolve, sooner or later, but theirs comes to an end.

The spectrum of four categories spreads across one of the variables that drives the answer to the questions this blog is discussing, such as ‘Where are the aliens?’ and ‘What can we deduce about alien civilizations?’ The spectrum ranges across the desire of aliens to do star-traveling for any reason, and thinking about alien civilization has led to the indication that colonization would be almost the only justification for star-traveling that would justify the expense. The colonization variable for this spectrum ranges from category 1, which wants to colonize a lot, through category 2, which only wants to colonize if they are forced to by a catastrophe affecting their home solar system or their only world, through category 3, which doesn’t even respond to a catastrophe by emigrating but dies in place, and then to category 4, which doesn’t even want to continue colonizing, or living in, their own home world.

Despite the poor choice of numbering system for these categories, there is one on the other end of the spectrum, which we are forced to call category 0. These are possible civilizations which not only want to colonize other planets, but they want to keep other civilizations from colonizing planets in the galaxy, and in the extreme, would prefer other civilizations to expire, and may even help them do so. These are civilizations that believe in colonizing the galaxy and beyond if they can, and have no reverence for other life at all, but see it as just another factor that may render a habitable planet they find more difficult to colonize. Since interstellar trade makes no economic sense, given the distances, costs, and time to travel from one star to another, there is nothing to do with a planet with other intelligent life for a category 0 civilization but to supplant it. For a category 0 alien civilization, other intelligent life is a mistake that evolution made, and the error needs to be corrected. A category 1 civilization is looking for their own sweet spot worlds to plop down colonies in, and may simply bypass anything that makes the world less desirable. Existing life may be a grave difficulty for homesteading another planet, especially if the genetic coding is different, and it would be costly and difficult to remove or to compete with. Note that the existence of invasive plants and animals is pervasive here on Earth, but these invasive organisms have the same DNA, can eat the same things or can live in the same soil, and do not suffer the difficulties that an alien organism might have in competing with an entire home-grown ecology.

By the way, if the galaxy had one or more early category 1 civilizations, and didn’t get to Earth before we had developed our own life all over the surface and the oceans, this might be a reason why we have been bypassed. There is a ‘Too Hard’ sign on our solar system.

A category 0 civilization sees the existence of alien (to them) life as a great, interesting challenge. They think like this:
Here is a fine world, unfortunately occupied with native plants, animals, and perhaps some primitive civilization or even one getting close to the asymptotic technology limit point, and let’s take it over. Can we figure out how to do this? YES! Can we be successful? YES! Can we clean up this planet and make it a new home for our citizens? YES!

They would have the same attitude toward penumbra planets. Here is a challenge, a world with high winds, but everything else fine. Can we figure out how to get down to the planet with the winds? Can we build structures that will stand up to the winds? Can we still mine and construct a city and build power stations and launch starships? The galaxy is an engineering challenge for a civilization with this type of meme. In and of itself, the meme seems innocuous: We are problem solvers and colonizers. Nothing stops us. But alien (to them) civilizations see the other side of the meme, that of the problem. The problem is eliminated by civilizations of category 0.

This type of alien civilization would not necessarily adopt the same colonization grand strategy as a category 1 alien civilization. Category 1 probably finds the best way to colonize is to locate sweet spot worlds, which may be distant, and then establish colonies there before working to colonize less attractive and less suitable worlds. Category 0 civilizations see the nearest planets which can possibly be colonized as an immediate target, a challenge, an opportunity. They are operating in a way which is efficient in use of resources, keeps costs down, but the benefits are calculated differently. Overcoming problems is the benefit that category 1 does not see. Proving themselves to themselves is the benefit that category 0 sees. Remember that the benefit part of a cost-benefit analysis, on a sufficiently great project, comes from the memes of the civilization that is doing it. Different memes, different benefits, different grand strategy.

What would this mean to our observational program, when we expand it to the detection of biosignatures? If alien civilizations did develop billions of years ago, we would see the same thing, with all worlds that are truly habitable, not habitable in the astronomers’ sense of the world, but habitable by colonizers, inhabited. What would we see? Biosignatures and when we get to it, industrial signatures if such things are visible on a planet occupied by a long-term alien civilization. But if it wasn’t billions of years ago that the first alien civilization entered space as a category 1 or 0 civilization, but much more recently, we would see a different pattern of occupied planets. Around a category 1 home world, we would see at far distances newer colonies, and around older colonies, some development of penumbra worlds. Around a category 0 home world we would see a sphere of colonization, with everything that was habitable being colonized with machine-like precision. The two patterns are: Lots of little blips of biosignatures and industrial signatures or one big ball of biosignatures and industrial signatures.

If we see the ball, we would want to carefully figure out how far away the edge is.

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