Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Spread of Alien Terminator Civilizations

In a recent post, the possibility of an alien civilization which was dedicated to terminating other life in the galaxy was discussed. This is the inversion of another category of alien civilization, the A2, which takes it upon themselves to propagate life onto planets that do not originate it, and to provide a seed to help life on some planet which has not jumped a particular hurdle, like chlorophyll, to do so. They are the embodiment of the ideal example of the benevolent uncle in an entire world full of aliens. They just like to see life propagate, because of some choice made early in their history, pre-dating some of the grand transitions.

Their opposing number, the terminator civilization, likes to do just the opposite. They eliminate life wherever they find it. If we have been unable to find any reason why the A2 civilization could not arise, it is likely, by parallel reasoning, that we would be unable to find any reason why the B civilization could not arise. Let’s use B to label terminators, and perhaps there are different varieties to be labeled B1 and B2.

One quick to surface objection would be that not killing everything in existence might be more cost-effective, and as alien civilizations pass the genetic grand transition, and become smarter and smarter, they begin making more and more of their decisions on the basis of efficiency and effectiveness. Even if the alien terminator civilization slowed down their progress in developing genetics, sooner or later, and actually only a very short time compared to evolutionary or geological times, they would do it. So here we have a civilization that is intelligent, able to calculate how to do things more effectively and very likely to make decisions based on their calculations, who go around killing off other species. Is this reasonable?

Eminently. The start of all cost-benefit analysis is the choice of metrics. A terminator civilization has a metric which says, our highest and most historic benefit is the number of other species we terminate. Now let’s use cost-benefit analysis to figure out exactly how to do that most efficiently and effectively. Do not confuse the setting of metrics, which is a non-rational process, with the computation of methods for fulfilling them, which is rational in the extreme, quantitative, and precise. There is no feedback to the setting of a metric, except if the cost-benefit analysis says that some fulfilling some metric is not affordable. Otherwise, it just helps the terminator civilization do that.

Maybe asymptotic neurology would eliminate these impulses to kill every non-useful living things. They would understand how their brains operate, from how the basis cells that comprise them work, which may be neurons like our or something else, up to how the information flows in the brain, how it is encoded, and everything else that neurology can cope with. Then they could use this knowledge to find any individuals with anti-social tendencies and work with them to make them more comfortable in society.

In a terminator society, this means that any alien who has some compunctions about slaughtering every individual of a newly found species could get help for this, and over time, dissolve these compunctions so he could better fit in with the rest of the alien society. In human thinking, we like to slip in hidden assumptions in all kinds of places, and this might be a good one. We could say that neurology serves to remove homicidal tendencies here, so it would there as well. No. That would be an error of assumption. It would be used for conformance with society’s dominant themes. Their dominant theme is termination.

Jump now to the whole galaxy. There are alien civilizations all over the place. One of them is a terminator. It finds another civilization on an exo-planet, and it terminates it, and replaces it with their own. Now there are alien civilizations all of the place and two of them are terminators. They both find another civilization on an exo-planet, and terminate them, and replace them with their own, if the planet is habitable for them. This seems to be a process that can be projected. The final state is: there are no alien civilizations all over the galaxy, except for terminator ones. This process might take some millions of years, and all the interesting things discussed elsewhere, such as resource exhaustion, would be taking place. Thus, the number of alien terminator civilizations would not be as large as the total number of solo planets where intelligent life originated, but at any given time, much, much less. But not zero. Zero is the number of non-terminator alien civilizations, except for those which are just emerging from non-intelligence and have not been around very long.

If we want to understand if the galaxy is full of terminator civilizations, there are a number of preliminary questions to be investigated more completely. How possible is it for one civilization to successfully attack another? What has to be taken into account is the level of resources needed. A home planet has immense amounts of population, energy sources, land to hide in, and everything else a home planet has. Attackers have what they can carry in a single ship, which is expensive to manufacture and send out. They also may have a tradition of lone hunters going out after horribly vicious beasts on their own home planet, which translates into a great amount of motivation to figure out some way to get rid of the aliens on this new world they discovered. They also have the choice of time to attack, and a solar system to hide in. They may have reached asymptotic technology, and the world they are attacking has not. However, this assumption is one that would very rarely occur, as the coincidence of aliens arriving during the window of technology development of this exo-planet would be very, very unlikely, unless there was something the terminators could do to find easy prey, such as a signature of immaturity in technology. If technology development, from the Baconian transition to the 99% mark takes only a few centuries, and star travel takes centuries as well, this coincidence is not likely.

So, to find out some insights into the possible prevalence of terminator civilizations on planets in our galaxy, more thought should be given to the options an attacker has, and the potential defenses a home world can use. This, combined with some estimates of how likely terminator civilizations are to spring up on a planet, would tell us the combined answer.

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