Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lackadaisical Extinction

The genetic grand transition has been mentioned many, many times in this blog, and sometimes it was spoken of as the most revolutionary one, among many revolutions, that technology wreaks upon the members of a civilization. The genetic grand transition is really a conglomeration of technology steps that fit together to make the future of an alien civilization completely different from its past.

The obvious key step is the understanding of the genetic code, and whatever that entails, including epi-genetics and the drivers of it, ontology, mutation, and the microchemistry of cells. This step alone is obvious a huge undertaking, but since aliens are inside it, so to speak, its benefits are almost boundless. One of the subsidiary steps is gestation. Another is improvement of the aliens themselves, which is the application through engineering of the just-mentioned understanding of the code. Another is the rewriting of the entire ecology of the planet, to the degree the aliens choose to. Another is the creation of tailored biological servants, or whatever they might be called, who are intelligent enough to perform whatever tasks are needed. They are called ‘intellos’ in this blog. And there are certainly more.

Another major thread in this blog is that of memes, which constitute the credo that young aliens are taught to live by, and to take life goals from. The one that concerns those of us who are peering upwards looking for aliens is the one related to star travel. This is only one of many. As noted elsewhere, science does not provide goals to intelligent living creatures, they have to provide it to themselves, or better, to each other. This needs to be done for young aliens, and that is the primary impact point of memes.

Memes are not the same as laws. Laws are precise statements of what can and cannot be done in a society, and represent the boundaries of behavior. One could have a meme restating a law, but that is a very restricted view of what memes' principal benefit is. Memes tell alien citizens what they should do, and the training that accompanies it tells them both how to interpret the memes in various diverse situations, and associates happiness with fulfilling them. This assumes that aliens have associative brains, which seems to be the only option for evolved creatures.

The clash between one particular aspect of the genetic grand transition, that of increased intelligence for all members of the alien civilization, generation by generation until they were all as smart as their type of brains allowed, coupled with the correct training to take advantage of it, and, the meme for the preservation of the species, or whatever replaced their species if they did deliberate speciation or something even more exotic, has been discussed in a post. It was about the erosion of the memes in general. Applied to the meme or memes for species preservation or civilization preservation to be more correct, this can be fatal. It can lead to a type of voluntary extinction, when the memes are not properly transmitted to successive generations. This is the essence of erosion of memes.

Unfortunately for those of us who are still waiting for aliens, there is another method by which this clash can take place. As aliens become more and more intelligent, they find more and more ways to amuse themselves and find enjoyment. An animal can be said to have enjoyment, when it fulfills two of the drives that underpin evolution, nutrition and reproduction. Survival is a release of fear, which is related to these two. Lower animals must have these two, or three, drives, or they go extinct.

Aliens after the genetic grand transition, or very intelligent aliens in general, find enjoyment in other things, which are not necessarily connected with the second of these mandatory events, reproduction or better, replication of future members of the civilization. With gestation being done industrially or in biological factories, or by some sort of biological creation, the thrill of having descendants vaporizes. What is left is a meme-generated happiness to see that the civilization is on the track to preserve itself.

The point to be made here is this: Other enjoyments may bury this interest in the midst of other activities, so no attention is paid to ensuring this process is carried out properly. Worse, it can be simply ignored, and if it does not go right, no one is watching to fix things. Automation is wonderful, but over hundreds of generations, errors may creep in. With no aliens caring much about the process, as they are totally involved in more exciting, more enjoyable, more intriguing activities of their own devising, these errors may accumulate until some point is reached where the civilization cannot continue. This is the title phrase: lackadaisical extinction. Aliens in the civilization subject to this are not interested in having their civilization go extinct, they do not feel it is faulty or evil or has any other attributes that would make it just in some sense to go extinct, and they would not vote to have it go extinct.

What does happen is that they simply don’t pay any attention to it.

Again, the problem is timing. If this difficulty with replicating the next generation happens and someone catches it, and the problem is fixed, the next time it happens something will happen, such as an automatic repair or the summoning of someone able to organize the repair. But if it happens for the first time, when the genetic grand transition is still underway, and all kinds of checks have not yet been put in place, the end might arrive. Seeing fewer aliens around might alarm some, but not if they are all of the very first universally intelligent generation, and are caught up in the process of figuring out how to live in such a civilization. Never before was there so much intelligence, and what to do with it? All the attention of society might be paid to the incredible options and alternatives that are being presented to the civilization, and not much left to maintain essential functions, which are fairly boring anyway.

Running out of water would raise an alarm, as every intelligent alien would see it and be ready to use their intelligence to fix the problem. Running out of aliens might not raise the alarm, if the population concentrated in smaller areas so that the actual count was not obvious like having no water would be. Perhaps this is a problem that is wholly imaginary, and no alien civilization could be so caught up with the revolutionary changes in society that they forget about the next generation, or be so distracted with intellectual interests that the basic requirements of society, meaning the next generation, were ignored. Or perhaps it is not.

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