Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The End of Exploitation

One concern that people have in thinking about alien contact is that there might be exploitation. The history of Columbus and his immediate followers coming to the Americas comes to mind. There are other examples that could be used, but the general idea is that the new arrivals, with higher technology, perhaps better command and control, more secrecy of motivation, and so on, were able to convert some of the older inhabitants to serfs, servants, or slaves. There was a desire to use the New World as a source of resources to benefit the originating area in the Old World. At that time, the types of resources that were valued or were useful were precious metals and foodstuffs. Obtaining both of these at the time was labor-intensive, and the new arrivals used forcible means or other types of coercion to induce the older inhabitants to provide the labor for less cost than the value of what they produced.

Could such a phenomena occur between two different civilizations when one, the more technologically advanced one, arrives in star ships from their originating world and begins to interact with the second one? There are two things to consider: one is the possibility that it could happen, and the other is the reasonableness of it happening.

It is not feasible to transport a large number of individual citizens in a star ship. This means that any exploitation that would occur must be mediated by some form of technology. This in turns means that there would have to be a technological disparity between the two civilizations. Since the transition from the onset of civilization, which is the settling into cities of the alien population, to the achievement of asymptotic technology is a short time compared to almost everything else, such as evolution, stellar lifetimes, gaps between ice ages or other catastrophic phenomena on the planet, and much else, the timing of the initial visit of the more advanced aliens would have to be very fortuitous, if the second civilization had not committed some sociological blunder that put them on a plateau. For example, if the second civilization had allowed themselves to descend into idiocracy, this window of opportunity would enlarge greatly. If factionalism was predominant, and had diverted technological advances from the broad scope of possibilities to those wholly concerned with factional competition, the window would be stretched. If there had been planet-wide warring going on, with no sanctuaries existing where technology could be preserved, protected, and advanced, the window would be wide.

In a sense, if the second civilization does not adopt some long-term view of their own that promotes unification, technology, and calmness, they are making themselves into potential victims of another civilization, if indeed it is possible for such a phenomena to ever occur. The range of expansion of the window is large. If technology advancement to the end-state of asymptotic technology might take a few millennia, something like idiocracy or factionalism could last ten or a hundred times as long, if the civilization descended back to a simple sustenance-only standard of living.

Another aspect of the possibility of exploitation concerns the mechanisms by which it could be in place. With a severe technological advantage, the arriving civilization would have to be able to constrain the indigent population from simply migrating away from the sites where they were being exploited. Human history has examples of this could be effected, by dividing the population into castes, and using the mechanism of personal benefit to the higher castes to induce them to be the force that maintains the population in place. Other, more technological means could be employed, such as securing some monitoring equipment onto the citizens of the second civilization.

Here on Earth we have already explored many ways to force individuals or groups to comply with demands they would otherwise ignore, and it could easily be assumed, that, if the first alien civilization had a desire to do the same, they could, and would be able to do them even more effectively, given their improved knowledge of psychology, neurology, learning, and so on. Organizing the exploitation could be simply done by a junior version of the master computer that would likely be maintaining the infrastructure on the home world or home worlds of the first civilization.

Thus it is possible, if an advanced technology civilization could get to the planet of another alien civilization, especially one that had parked itself on a lower technology plateau, it could arrange for some forms of exploitation to occur. The more telling question is, would they?

Recall that an alien civilization that had reached asymptotic technology would be making decisions using an evaluation of the costs and benefits involved with any project of large scale that they were contemplating. There is no way that the costs of transporting any materials back to their home world could be covered by the value of the transported materials. Star travel is simply too expensive. So any benefits of the exploitation would have to be obtained on the visited world. Cost-benefit analysis indicates that the only likely benefit that an alien civilization could have for undertaking star travel would be colonization, either in extremis because their home world was facing a peril or resource exhaustion, or because they were in category A1 with respect to memes, those civilizations who have made the decision to propagate their species, original or modified, to other planets.

So the make-or-break question, under the assumption that star travel is feasible, is whether the exploitation of a resident alien civilization could be used to make colonization by another one easier, i.e., less demanding of transport weight. If resource gathering, such as by mining, was one of the major tasks needed for colonization, using a population to do it is remarkably inefficient, compared with doing robotic mining, in the eyes of an advanced category A1 civilization. Perhaps in the very first period there would be some advantage, but as soon as the capability to manufacture robots was established on the surface of the planet, the utility of the second population would cease.

Thus, exploitation is possible if the second civilization puts itself in a low-technology plateau, but not likely for reasons of inefficiency. This means that instead of exploitation, the first civilization would likely simply eliminate the second one as an obstacle to colonization.

No comments:

Post a Comment