Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Happy Life Alien Civilizations

In a previous post, a potential Great Filter was discussed, termed the Happy Life Great Filter. In essence, this said that one way that an alien civilization could be blocked from achieving star travel was for them to be successful at making themselves happy, in fact, so happy they didn’t really want to go star traveling, or anything else that might disrupt their lives.

This type of alien civilization, one that has mastered the art of supplying their citizens with everything they needed, within limits, and many things that would amuse, interest, entertain, or distract them, was also implicitly included in the categorization of alien societies, under an alias. Category A4 refers to alien civilizations which value their comfortable lives over everything else. They like the status quo and want to maintain it. In other words, their lives are happy and they want to keep them that way. The first categorization parameter, denoted by the A in A4, refers to what the civilization as a whole values. A different category related to star travel. Alien civilizations in category A4 have happy lives. They may or may not want to do star travel. That was parameterized by a second parameter, denoted by B.

Recall that parameter B was given three values: one where there was a desire to travel under any circumstances, two where it would only be done when the planet they reside on was under threat of some kind, and three where it would never be done. In order to try and understand if there is a strong coupling between A4 and B3, which is the postulation that having a Happy Life Great Filter makes, it is necessary to see if there is any mechanism that would make this coupling the most common one of the three that A4 can make to category B’s.

One way to look at this is to consider what exactly happiness would be or could be in an alien civilization. Happiness means that the aliens, assuming they have brains analogous to ours, react to neurochemicals that reinforce learning. This is how an associative brain works. Actions that lead to the satisfaction of needs, or are connected in a chain of associative learning to the satisfaction of needs, get reinforced. Happiness is having needs satisfied, or some connection, perhaps distant, to those needs made with some external action.

To be more clear, happiness initially comes with basic needs being met, such as by having a meal of good food. We can assume aliens eat, for now. It also comes from activities that have been connected with it. If someone provided good food in the past, seeing them is associated with good food, and brings happiness. Chains of association may be long, and knowing what the connections are is virtually impossible for the citizen who is becoming happy, but they exist.

If the majority of alien citizens find happiness in things connected with mundane satisfactions, or with personal interactions, or with amusements, or with physical activities, or with any number of other things, there will not be any impetus for star travel, and no desire to do it. Only if somehow a connection is made with it, perhaps via exploration in general, or an appreciation of astronomy, or a desire to travel, or something else that would connect to star travel via associations, will the society find happiness by being involved in an interstellar adventure, either by participating in the preparations, in hearing about the progress that is being made, or learning how it might be done.

The bottom line is elementary. If the alien civilization does not arrange so that one of the sources of happiness is star travel, the citizens of the planet will not support it. Much or most of the setting up of associations is done when the citizens are young, meaning that the way the alien civilization decides to educate its young members will determine how strong is the connection between having a good life and feeling happy and supporting and experiencing aspects of star travel is.

Education of the young citizens of an alien civilization would be expected to be done in an efficient and effective way, for the same reason that everything in the society would be. The civilization has intelligent members, and ways to improve anything not near optimal would be eventually found and tested, and then put into practice. Thus, if the alien civilization decides that an appreciation for star travel, or something more general that includes this, should be taught to the young members of the civilization, it will be and it will be done so effectively that the young will become adults who want to support star travel. It is a curriculum choice, and what determines that?

All the patterns of an alien civilization would be set down during the period when technology was being figured out, that period of a millennium or so when science was being competed and engineering was still developing ways to accomplish various tasks. The educational curriculum would be part of what was created or modified at that time. If there was a feeling among the citizens of that transitional time that related to travel or exploration, it would possibly be incorporated as part of the history of the civilization. Young members would learn that, for example, there were ten continents and aliens arose on one, and gradually explored and settled the other nine. They might also learn that there were ten planets, and their predecessors had gone and explored all the other nine, and set up satellites or ground stations on each of them, resulting in some benefits. This type of exploration would be taught as a positive experience that assisted their civilization to accomplish its goals and to make their high living standards possible.

Other examples could certainly be found that would serve to provide a motivation for the citizens during the transition time to make the decision to include events and historical episodes in the curriculum that would tend to associate star travel with one of the higher orders of happiness. On the other hand, an alien civilization without such history, or which had for some reason chosen to denigrate it, would not be making the right associations, and the A4 civilization would never leave their own solar system.

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