Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coming to Peace with Extinction

Category A5 alien civilizations do not seek to travel to other star systems, not to migrate nor to colonize. They simply see no value in preserving their own civilization, no matter how splendid it might have become. When some problem comes their way, a peril that will eliminate life on their planet or at least intelligent life in a civilization, or they run out the resources they have available, they simply turn off the gestation machines and do not make any young aliens. Nobody runs around committing suicide, and no one has to, as the peril is detectable long enough in advance that the existing alien generation can live out their normal life spans. There just won’t be any young aliens around to watch. There can be an orderly shutdown of their infrastructure, or maybe they will just leave it running when the last alien expires, as nobody cares about using up the last bits of fuel. Only the robots and intellos will be around when the peril arrives, or perhaps they will all have disappeared also, in some orderly way.

This process is reminiscent of Confucius’ guide to living. He divided up the life of a human person into seven stages, and the last stage, from age seventy to end of life, was devoted to coming to peace with a loss of vitality and final expiration. Coming to peace means letting go of the desire to stay alive, as it would be futile. It is very much akin to what Buddha determined was the way to happiness. He taught that true peace only comes when we cease striving and simply accept whatever comes. Much of the techniques that he taught, such as meditation, were directed toward seeking that peace that comes when one does not desire anything at all.

Category A5 aliens have to come to peace not only with their own demise, but with the demise of everyone they know and the end of everything that their entire civilization has accomplished. When Confucius and Buddha taught individuals how to cope with their own mortality, they taught in a situation embedded in the culture that they lived in. There were others around at all times. They did not give lessons on how to be the last human alive. They did not contemplate such a situation, although if they did, perhaps they would have had some insights. Nevertheless, aliens in a A5 civilization all face this prospect. How would they cope with it? Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect that any alien civilization would voluntarily become extinct.

Perhaps they would have a framework that assists them in accepting this end. Being omniscient, they would understand that life is a spontaneous development on many worlds, and it was on their home world. They could think that their existence is a fluctuation in a larger pattern, and that on other worlds in the galaxy, and in other galaxies, the same phenomena will recur. Other alien civilizations will rise up and reach the same heights that they do. With their knowledge of these processes, they would know how different other civilizations might be, and which ones might be favored by the distribution of solo world parameters. They would know that all the things that they accomplished would be accomplished again by other civilizations, and likely had already been accomplished many times by other civilizations. Their knowledge of astronomy would be extensive, and they might know that in every one of the hundred billion galaxies in the universe, there would be the origination of life and the climb to intelligence happening hundreds or thousands of times. In other words, they might see themselves as simply one blip in a huge process, occurring everywhere from one side of the universe to another. They might never have had contact with any other civilization, but they would know that they exist somewhere. Alternatively, they could have astronomically detected signs of other civilizations, but done nothing about this detection, other than to use it to confirm their scientific knowledge. It would be a verification of their place in the universe, which they see as one of billions of near identical processes, leading to near identical civilizations, all choosing to accomplish the same things, or not if they so chose.

As to travel to other stars, they might think that having one more world with an intelligent civilization, perhaps instead of two billion there would be two billion and one, and what exactly is the point of striving for that accomplishment? If they know the average civilization lasts a half-million years, but it could be extended by a factor of ten or twenty or more by migrating, colonizing, re-forming planets with adverse conditions, or whatever, what would be the point? They have a comfortable life, enjoy themselves as aliens do, and they just head for the exit.

Why seed other worlds that will not develop life, or that will be stopped by the lack of evolution of mitochondria or chlorophyll or trees or something else that could stand in the way of that planet achieving an alien civilization just as grand but no grander than their own. Why not seed them as well? Perhaps the alien civilization, prior to its expected demise, just for the fun of it starts off alien life on a half-dozen planets, and then allows their own planet to become barren of intelligence. They might expect that, in a likelihood, these planets would, after ten million or a hundred million or a billion years, have a civilization whose achievements would equal their own.

This type of attitude is the equivalent, for an entire civilization, of what the great Eastern philosophers had for their framework. They lived in a situation where other people would always be around, after an individual passed away, and the existence of others mitigated the loss of vitality they would experience. Buddha taught that the greatest thing that a person could do would be to delay achieving nirvana, the peace of nothingness, so that they could provide guidance for others to escape their striving and unhappiness. Without any other people, that cannot happen, so the existence of others was a cornerstone of his philosophy. An alien civilization might be aware of other civilizations, either through observations, virtually via their probabilistic calculations, or because they had seeded other planets, and this could provide the equivalent framework for extinction that Buddha found for an individual’s demise, the mitigating factor that was never singled out, but was always there as an unremarked assumption.

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