Friday, October 2, 2015

War and the Defeat of Progress on Alien Worlds

On Earth, it is common knowledge that war leads to technological innovation, and therefore technological innovation is accelerated by there being geographic divisions and battles between them. We have few examples to base this on. War in which there is one side that has virtual immunity from destruction might lead to technological innovation in the sanctuary that this one side possesses, but on an alien planet, this type of sanctuary might not exist in all cases. In the alternative case, where two factions battle, and the battles waste both of the sides’ territories, any advance in technology would be counterbalanced by the destruction of the means of economic survival, and possibly lead to a slowdown of progress. If the destruction was large enough and wide-spread enough, there might not be the possibility of recovery. Too much loss would do this. War like this, in which devastation was universal, might also cause a very negative reaction to technology, and its progress would be halted by common consensus among the survivors. This means no advance of technology, and possibly an abandonment of the technology developed for weapons purposes, or even related technology.

More common knowledge here on Earth is that the preparation for war, especially if it never comes, leads to technological innovation. This may also be true, in that technology suitable for weaponry is developed under the fear of war, and that technology remains around after the fear subsides, and is spread to other applications. Another point of view is that under the fear of war, technology development is directed away from most areas into those that might be used for war or defense against attack. The effect of this diversion could mean that technology development is done in such a one-sided way that the factionalism that led to the fear of war is exacerbated. The focus of the alien civilization doing this development might be solely concentrated on these avenues, and others neglected. This neglect can slow down the approach to the heights of asymptotic technology, but they can also lead to the civilization being wrapped up in war-like thinking, or security thinking, or defense thinking, and therefore ways in which the factionalism could be abated are missed. Those parts of technology development, such as psychology, neurology, economics, anthropology, sociology, education, genetics, and certainly others, which could lead to a unification of opposite cultures are instead diverted to those narrow applications which could contribute to war and its cousins.

To be more explicit, factionalism has a positive feedback loop that causes efforts spent on it to lead to greater factionalism and the ignoring of those aspects of technology that could ameliorate or mitigate it, or even eliminate it. Positive feedback loops have a way of running themselves into destruction, and the equivalent of this is that the alien civilization would so concentrate on factional topics and efforts to promote the ascendance of one faction that anything that might reduce it is neglected or actually banned. Aliens who are intelligent have a tendency to want to solve problems, but the problems need to be enunciated or somehow made visible. If the factionalism captures this process, so that problems listed or collected or more specifically, funded by the different factions, are solely for the purpose of either increasing the factionalism or in making one faction more successful than another, these will be the problems the more intelligent aliens will concentrate on. Of course, there will be some dissenting minorities, who will be forced to stand on the sidelines, while the factionalism grows and grows, until it reaches its natural limit and some catastrophe, like a major war or economic debacle, ensues.

This pathway might be common among alien societies. In a previous post, several grand transitions that an alien society would have to pass through were pointed out, and later ordered. Missing from that list was unification. Unification is the opposite of factionalism, and if unification is never achieved, but the alien civilization continues to expend resources on factional pursuits, the other grand transitions would be delayed and even never achieved. In other words, factionalism can gain such a foothold as to derail progress toward asymptotic technology by diverting efforts into only those areas of technology that can be used for war or defense purposes.

Star voyaging is not a vocation that contributes to war or defense or factionalism. Instead, it is a drain on resources that could otherwise be used by one side to seek dominance over the other or to seek independence from the domination by another. Alien civilizations which become trapped in the positive feedback loop of factionalism will not develop the technologies for star travel except in those instances in which they could principally contribute to the security efforts of the two or more factions. Star travel technologies include the genetics necessary to send seed packages to solar systems with Great Filters blocking their progress to asymptotic technology or even to intelligence at all. They include the biology of hibernation, of artificial gravity, of long gradual propulsion, of power sources with hundred or thousand year reliability, of dust protection, of astronomical observations of exo-planets remotely and from a probe. They might also include various robotic abilities, sociology of small groups quartered together for very long times, feedback ecologies in as many components of life as possible, radiation protection over the long term, radiation effect mitigation in the aliens themselves, and many more which have little or no connection with weaponry.

Factionalism is also a means for subverting the goal-seeking behavior of an alien civilization from a species-wide venture into the interstellar arena into little goals of how to promote one faction over the other. It is a means of distraction, and may also be a complete distraction from the task that an alien civilization has of deciding on its own future. If the means of education and communication are taken over by the factions, ordinary citizens will think little of devoting their efforts to improving the relative standing of their own faction, rather than more global, abstract tasks such as advancing technology across the entire spectrum of scientific areas or in specifically solving the problems posed by the initial interstellar probes.

Factionalism would certainly be cured and overcome by the development of sufficient general intelligence among the citizens of the alien world, but to do this, efforts would have to be devoted to genetics, and quite substantial efforts. Thus, if factionalism turns funding away from solving the problem of increasing intelligence universally to more mundane tasks such as faster weapons or more powerful bombs or some such, it will be securing inadvertently its own continuance. Factionalism would have to also drive the alien civilization toward resource depletion, as solving the tasks of factionalism involves short-term thinking, and taking account of resource shortage issues is a long-term problem.

As noted in an earlier post, some of the most substantial Great Filters may be sociological, and alien civilizations who have not visited us, because they never built star ships, may have simply done something as ordinary as preserved their battling over long periods, while they neglected all the things that such a civilization has to do to last a long time. It would seem that unification is a grand transition as important as the ones listed previously.

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