Thursday, October 15, 2015

Would Intellos Revolt?

The idea behind this post is extremely simple. As an alien civilization progresses, it conquers genetics and can create any plant or animal it wants, within obvious limits, structural, ontogenic, energy-related, and probably a thousand more. But by and large, a huge variety of animals could be created, with as much intelligence as the designers wanted to give them. In a previous blog, it was noted that some tasks in an alien civilization might be better done by intellos, intelligent synthetic creatures, rather than robots. One reason was that it might be easier to make an associative brain biologically than electronically. Another reason might be that intellos are more energy-efficient. There could be plenty of reasons, but listing them is not the point of this post. The point is, if there was an alien society with lots of intellos around, and the intelligence given to the smartest of them was enough to do any task in society, meaning that perhaps it was a bit higher than almost everybody on Earth at the present era, they might just decide to quit, or to band together and upset the apple-cart.

Here on Earth we are much further along in designing robots than intellos, and so in discussions of the future it is robot this and robot that, but the truth may be that intellos are simply better at some tasks than robots, they are much cheaper to make and maintain, and can be designed with possibly more capability. The question of cost seems almost impossible to answer any other way than that one can grow an animal cheaper than to manufacture a robot. As for maintenance, if the designers of the intellos put in the same capability that all organic life would have, the ability to self-repair most minor damage, it might be inherently cheaper to keep intellos running than to keep robots running.

Training intellos would be individually done, unlike robots which can simply be programmed with downloaded code. Training intellos is a separate operation, whereas training robots can mostly be done in the factory where they are made. Robots do need to be calibrated, if they make precision motions, but this is a small task compared with teaching an intello everything it needs to know in order to perform some function. So there is a cost-tradeoff, with some advantages favoring intellos and some favoring robots. Let’s just assume that robots do not win hands-down, and there are plenty of intellos in some alien civilizations.

There might be intellos functioning in industrial jobs, although that seems more natural for robotics to intervene. Our experience on Earth is that assembly work is automatable and can be done more cost-efficiently than done by humans, even if they are maintained at a low standard of living.

They might be used in all service tasks that are not automatable, if there are any. Consider the medical field. Aliens are going to require some medical treatment, even though they probably have licked all ailments. Accidents will occur at a very low rate, for the very same reason that other problems get fixed. Intelligent aliens, observing their society for millennia, will see what leads to accidents and design the infrastructure to eliminate them, or at least reduce them to a small amount. They will not be injuring one another deliberately, as a millennia or two of psychology should be enough to understand the alien brain well enough to eliminate that syndrome. But, even though rates have been lowered through the centuries, there will likely be a residual amount of medical attention that is needed. Will intellos play a role? Probably not in figuring out diagnoses or remedies, nor in doing surgery or wound treatment. Perhaps only in the interface between all the robotics and automation and the aliens themselves. It might be possible to design a robot which looked and acted like an alien, but is that what would make the aliens most comfortable? Perhaps a sympathetic creature devoted to their needs would serve better?

Continuing in that vein, perhaps all the interfaces where any length contact with aliens was necessary would be done by intellos. This might amount to a large number of them. For example, each alien might have several intellos acting like personal servants. Perhaps they would be designed to nap when not performing some function.

Analogies with Earth situations that have a hierarchy like this, with some number of those at the top, and a much larger number of those serving them at the bottom, can be made. Some of them have ended poorly, with a revolt by the serving classes. But intellos are designed creatures, so they might not be able to even conceive of a revolt.

Is it possible to design creatures which are both highly intelligent and absolutely docile? There are certainly animals on Earth which are quite docile, and breeds of others which are. Only a few animals have been converted to human use on Earth, and all of them are mostly docile. The first ones taken from wild conditions might not have been, but breeding for many generations has produced desirable qualities, which for many animals includes docility. Race horses and guard dogs are obvious exceptions, but they have been bred to emphasize other traits. So, it is possible that there exist combinations of genes which make an Earth animal docile, and this means that alien designers of intellos could choose from the same palette. This, however, does not answer the question completely. Is there anything about intelligence which would prevent docility from being bred in as well?

Intelligence, as we use it in this blog, means problem-solving ability. This means that intelligent synthetic creatures would be able to figure out how to disrupt their servitude, if they chose to. Once again, we are at the situation where goals are somehow set, and not derived from anything else. Would it be possible for some intello to set itself the goals of escaping from his position, and living independently? The master computer would probably have multiple means of surveillance operating, meaning that neither of these goals would be easy. Perhaps in the first days of intellos, when they were beginning to populate the civilization, some escapes and temporary hiding happened, but this would be a situation to be remedied, both in the design of intellos to be more docile or even afraid of being alone, and in their training, to promote more loyalty and devotion to the good of the aliens.

The more severe question asked in the title, could there be an intello revolt, is something that might occur in science fiction, if science fiction writers understood what was coming with the genetics grand transition. However, as with the fear of automation taking over the infrastructure and dispensing with the aliens themselves, there would be signatures of behavior that might lead to this, and it could be remedied much earlier than after the first revolt. How could an alien civilization, full of intelligent citizens, not notice such signs and ignore them? The civilization, once it passes the grand transitions, is also past the possibility of a degerating culture, where all aliens forget about maintaining the civilization and simply involve themselves in their individual interests. Each generation of aliens starts anew, with the same training. This means that any tendency in one generation to ignore important signs would not lead to a worse situation in the next generation. Every generation is given training that would prevent this.

So the answer is no. In a vivid imagination, a revolt of intellos could happen, but not in the context of an advanced alien civilization, unless there was some disaster which crippled the society’s ability to function. Without dumb citizens, dumb things do not happen.

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