Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reverse Currents in Alien Civilizations

As noted before, the genetic grand transition is the most revolutionary of the grand transitions. This is saying a lot because each of them transforms society. One of the premises of this blog is technological determinism, which says that the technology a civilization masters changes it, often drastically. These changes we have christened grand transitions, because they make the civilization switch from one way of organizing itself, one set of values, one way of dispensing resources, one way of working, and so on over to other ones.

The agricultural one thrust newly intelligent alien creatures into a civilization, where fixed sites were maintained as living spaces, and crops were grown and animals husbanded. This additional productivity freed up some time, and science began, first primitively, but then, after what we have termed the Baconian transition, to more formal ways of doing science and engineering, which could be expected to be blended at that time.

Then came the industrial one. It is hard to see that any alien civilization could have an industrial grand transition before the agricultural one, as nomadic hunter-gatherers, the expected state of newly emergent intelligent creatures, have neither the time nor the traditions of exploring their environment and formulating rules-of-thumb for understanding it. Since mechanical things are closer to the actual environment they live in, the ordering of changes that Earth fell into seems to be the necessary order. After mechanical comes electrical/electronic, and then informational. These three could be defined as grand transitions in their own right, or as the three phases of the industrial one. Each of the phases requires a re-organization of everything in society.

The industrial grand transition creates chaos in society. It doesn’t come with a handbook telling people how to organize, how to build infrastructure, how to do research, how to establish governance, how to cope with factionalism, how to deal with dissension, and countless other things the civilization has to figure out for itself. There is no set of guidelines for figuring out these things, either. It’s just the aliens milling around trying to get by and make decisions and have better lives and avoid suffering and catastrophes. Decisions cannot be made, by and large, by anybody but individuals. Somebody has to bite the bullet and say, build that gizmo and see if it flies. But just saying it doesn’t get the gizmo built and tested. There has to be some way for the individual aliens involved with whatever is getting done to be compensated for taking time away from hoeing crops or whatever else they might have done instead. That means capital and a capitalist making decisions. It might be organized in different ways, but at this interval of time, some individuals have to capture the authority and the resources to made decisions to improve things. Let’s say it a different way. A civilization undergoing immense changes has to have a way to make decisions, and that seems to mean individuals, in some role or another, making the decisions, somewhat arbitrarily.

There is an obvious positive feedback loop to the accumulation of individual power and wealth, authority and decisiveness. Once some alien has some, he/she/it uses a bit of it to gather more, as he/she/it doesn’t need all of it for living expenses. So, as the civilization lifts itself upwards in living standards during a time of decisional chaos, individuals accumulate the ability to make decisions. More than likely, this gets to be a lauded thing. In other words, in the time between the industrial and the genetic grand transitions, the chaos and uncertainty in how to live, organize, plan, make decisions, and so on force the civilization to depend on the arbitrariness of individuals making decisions. There is a huge current at that time in the direction of unequal distributions of power, wealth, income, and so on. The progress of the civilization demands it.

Note well: these individuals are selected in some way by the civilization. We are not talking about a vote, but about some process, any process, which lets some individuals rise in accumulation of things while the rest sink, in a relative sense. In an absolute sense, the average alien would be getting better off as well, but not relative to the top level decision-makers, who have to accumulate more authority and more control, as the era progresses, as the engineering and construction requirements of better and better infrastructure take more and more concentrated assets. Plenty can go awry with this, but to continue making the transition, there has to be this concentration of power and wealth increasing.

Now comes the genetic grand transition. This also makes countless changes in the way society does things, and coming on the tail of the industrial grand transition, society is already in a chaotic state. The key change that affects the concentration of power and wealth is the dispersal of intelligence genes and training. Whatever the selection process was during the industrial era, it won’t work after the genetic grand transition. Everybody can make these decisions, and guidelines will be written down for making them, if it is not obvious already to the brilliant aliens populating their cities.

So we have a new system, based on universal high intelligence, which contradicts the previous assumptions, and this means that governance and policies on accumulation, and everything else related has to change once again. To state it bluntly: before the genetic grand transition, strong feedback loops for the accumulation of power and wealth, control and dominance had to exist; after the genetic grand transition, strong erosive forces leveling any differentiation in power and wealth between alien individuals, fairly equal in capability across the board would replace them. Genetics will affect intelligence, but also health, longevity, athleticism, attractiveness, and all other desirable attributes. All these equal aliens will not need to have any individuals dominating the civilization, and would wonder why any particular one would be so selected.

Perhaps the right word to use is convulsion. Society has to dismember all its arrangements for organizing itself during the few generations of the alien civilization during which the genetic grand transition is happening. There will be lots of educated, intelligent aliens to do it, but the old hierarchy may not be tremendously happy about these changes. Is it possibly that they will strongly attempt to derail the genetic revolution, and keep the masses unintelligent? Is it possible that they could succeed, and over the long term, maintain something of an idiocracy? If so, this could explain why no alien civilizations have launched themselves into space and visited us. They couldn’t come because they never got to asymptotic technology. They were run into a dead end so those enjoying the previous way of organizing society could keep organizing it the same way. Can this happen? It bears further thought.

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