Monday, November 9, 2015

The Disappearance of Demarcation in Alien Civilizations

Demarcation between what? Between aliens.

Factionalism, under certain circumstances, can be the bane of technological progress in an alien civilization. Factionalism, being the division of aliens along some dividing line, i.e., some demarcation boundary, and the devotion of effort into promoting one faction’s position relative to others, serves to slow down progress in those areas of technology progress which do not contribute to the relative advancement of a faction.

In simpler terms, if the aliens on some planet are divided into battling groups, and spend all their creative energies on figuring out how to best the other groups instead of preparing for star travel, they may never get there. They may never want to get there, as the interesting thing to them is on the home planet and it is all about how to be the superior faction.

Demarcation is the division of the alien citizen population into ‘us’ and ‘them’. It can be based on any attribute. On Earth, we have used language, race, color, ethnicity, economic status, religion, caste, and probably others. On an alien planet, they might have their own demarcations, based on left-preference or right-preference, vocal tract details affecting vowel sounds, color vision or blindness, eye color itself, feather shape, ability to jump, or many other things that would make sense to an alien, but not to us. There are some things that make more sense to draw the line on, such as those which lead to a better gene pool, such as health and immunity, intelligence in its many varieties, nerve conduction speed, temperature or altitude tolerance, and so on. These are the qualities which might be selected for after the genetic grand transition provides the technology to improve the aliens’ gene pool. The other ones, perhaps not.

Try and consider what happens to the alien society if the ability to produce better individuals in the next generation becomes widespread. Yes, it is conceivable that initially one faction would try and monopolize the genetic knowledge and technology and use it to promote their own faction. But knowledge both seeps out past barriers and can be duplicated. Once the initial use of it partially is overcome, what is the point of maintaining the former demarcation barriers?

To make the situation more transparent, consider an example. An alien society exists with several factions, geographically based initially, but more deeply based on the colors of head feathers. There is the red faction, the purple faction, the yellow faction, the brown faction and so on. Each faction, some more than others, seeks to have their faction have a larger share of the ownership of some things important, like land or possessions of some ilk. They do this for centuries and the division of ownership fluctuates, or maybe it stays in the purple faction’s hands for a century, or whatever. Along comes the genetic revolution, and the purple guys got first access to most of it and used it to ensure their citizens were the smartest and all the other good things. But then the red feather guys got it, and sooner or later, everybody has it. So the purple guys are sitting around thinking about how they still have the majority of the good things to have. Somebody asks what difference does it make now, since all citizens are pretty much optimized in all evolutionary and utilitarian attributes. Everyone’s smart and productive and healthy and attractive, except for head feather color, and strong and so on. What is left to be a big deal about purple feathers?

The purple feather guys can try and maintain their hold on ownership rights, but it is going to be harder and harder, as the competition is just as smart and everything else. So there likely will be a gradual dissolution of the ownership aspect. What is left? Head feather color has become an obsolete attribute. It is caused by a few genes on some chromosome, and anybody anywhere with access to genetic coding technology can change these genes in a fertilized egg, or whatever type of originating cell they reproduce with. So, intelligent as they are all now, they would realize the futility of maintaining demarcation boundaries, where the purple feather people try to hold onto some excessive ownership fraction.

And yes, as in all major social changes, the drift from strong demarcation boundaries to weak demarcation boundaries to only legacy demarcation boundaries to where nobody really cares anymore demarcation boundaries will take generations. But as noted elsewhere, generations aren’t long in the overall history of an alien civilization.

The purple feather citizens will, at the conclusion of this process, treat red feather citizens and yellow feather citizens just like they treat purple feather citizens, although it would have been taboo to do this ten generations ago. The demarcation boundaries would certainly have served as governance barriers, but now the gate is open to unification and more efficient control and operation of the infrastructure of the planet. Perhaps other demarcation boundaries will arise, but only in an artificial way, such as in sport or intellectual or whatever other competitions exist to amuse the population and provide them with interesting aspects for their daily lives. There might be several to which each citizen, who desires to, can be part of. Demarcation as a fundamental attribute of a citizen’s life is over and past.

As noted elsewhere in this blog, the genetic grand transition has claim to being the most profound and transforming of the grand transitions, although all of them make great changes in the alien civilizations that pass through them. This may be an overestimate from a point of view based on where we are now on Earth. Stepping back, the transformation from a hunter-gatherer society to a civilization where citizens live in cities and engage in some sort of crop raising or animal husbandry or algae farming or whatever works there for feeding the population, is also a good candidate for being the most impressive change in an alien civilization. Perhaps grounds could be made for the other ones as well.

What this means is that if we do meet any aliens, they may have different physical attributes such as head feather color, but beneath that, they will be largely identical, and have social structures based on the intrinsic equality of citizens as happens after the genetic grand transition. Making judgments on the basis of appearance of the aliens would probably be a mistake, even if they have chosen to be wildly different in appearance. Now we just have to wait.

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