Tuesday, January 26, 2016

King Canute in Alien Civilizations

King Canute was a Viking King of England, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the so-called North Sea Empire, around 990 AD. He is used as a symbol for trying to stop the tides, or any impossible to stop thing. That’s not exactly what he did, but his memory has been so misused that now ‘King Canute’ is a nickname for someone trying to stop the inevitable.

Is technological progress as inexorable as the tides? Would every alien civilization which does not run out of resources or get pounded by an asteroid or have their planet’s orbit perturbed by a supernova gradually move upward in technology to the final end state, which we call asymptotic technology in this blog? In an earlier blog, it was suggested that it could be stopped, and by alien activity, rather than a peril which engulfed the planet. Planets with stopped civilizations were referred to as plateau planets, for lack of a better name.

Alien civilizations might be said to have reverse currents, meaning a push to develop more technology and a barrier to stop it, it was noted that the momentum of technology development is very high during the industrial grand transition, and that momentum spills over to the genetic grand transition. However, it was noted elsewhere that there are powerful factions generated by the industrial grand transition, perhaps powerful enough to actually destroy the civilization’s march to a better life by developing more technology.

The industrial grand transition depends on some alien making the decision to develop a new technology, many times over. This alien could be part of some governance group, or part of some group of individuals, or some proponent of technology, or some alien trying to take advantage of the benefits of new technology and steer them disproportionately in his/her/its direction. But the point made there was the society is not stabilized, where everybody knows what to do because they have all done it for twenty generations and everyone remembers. Just the opposite, chaos reigns, compared to what a stable alien civilization would be like long, long after technology is all figured out. Nobody knows what to do, or rather any alien can do what they want to, in keeping within whatever credos exist on their planet. This situation must give rise to individuals who make decisions, and who accumulate power to accomplish those decisions. Any number of ways of doing this could exist, but the vacuum that exists in knowledge of how to conduct a society says that only individuals or groups can organize the flow of resources to made technology advance. Technology does not advance through the industrial revolution because people have ideas or because they do research successfully. It advances when the infrastructure to implement the technology is built. That takes an allocation of resources, and those who control that allocation process dictate the progress of technology.

Here’s the rub. If those who control the allocation of resources to technology are very, very happy with the way technology is, or in other terms, with how technology has shaped society to date, they don’t necessarily want things to change in meaningful ways. What I just said is they want to block the genetic grand transition or somehow prevent the key change, the one that threatens the societal structure than gives them the advantages they have, which is the widespread dispersion of the genes, along with appropriate training, for intelligence.

This is the counterflow. Would it be possible for any alien civilization to have a faction, those who are on the top of the heap in resource control, who could stop research in a particular area? How could they do it?

Do they block the research into intelligence genes? Or do they block the dispersion of intelligence genes to the public and absorb all the changes themselves? The former requires them to be able to control research, and why couldn’t important individuals arrange for research to be forbidden in certain areas. Well, because other individuals, perhaps those potential beneficiaries not on the top of the heap, might become discomfited with this action. So, the process that the top individuals would have to follow would be to convince the general alien population that having much more intelligence available to all young aliens would be bad. Doesn’t make sense. Can’t be done.

Is it possible the argument of side effects would be made. No, because that would call for more research into side effects, which would add to the genetics-intelligence research effort. The only method that seems available to the top echelon, to prevent the genetics grand transformation from taking effect is to impose costs on intelligence genes. If there is no intrinsic high cost to it, artificial costs could be added. But this would have the same effect, and be obvious to the population. Instead of a cost, there could be bureaucratic barriers set up, but the same effect.

It looks like King Canute is showing up on alien planets, trying to command the genetic grand transition to not take place, or specifically the dispersal of high intelligence genes to not be done. The best that might be done is to add some delays in both the research and the delivery of it to the population.

In addition, part of the genetics revolution is the development of artificial gestation, in other words, young aliens created and born in a facility rather than by individual aliens. This means that, at a certain point in the transition, those in the top echelons will have no direct descendants. Who do they hope will carry on the tradition they have created of being the top dogs? The bin is empty. So, not only will the demand for increased intelligence from the general population continue unabated, the motivation for the top echelon to hold on to their positions only can last for their lifetime. With the genetic grand transition stretching out lifetimes, this might be a while, but it too comes to an end. The only thing that can happen is delay.

Compared to the next fifty millennia after the genetic grand transition and others conclude, during which the alien civilization will be at the peak of their capability, individual after individual, having a delay of a century or so will not amount to much in their history. It seems that it is still safe to conclude that alien civilizations will be just as asymptotic technology forces them to be.

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