Monday, March 28, 2016

The Dilemma of Altruistic Leadership in an Alien Civilization

It's a popular cliché for a Earth parent to say that they just want their child to be happy. Unfortunately, from an alien perspective, originating in an alien civilization that had passed asymptotic technology, it is backwards.

Asymptotic neurology will provide a complete understanding of how an alien would have likes or dislikes, and the engineering side of that would consist of ways of training a young alien so they would like whatever the trainers had chosen for them to like. We on Earth try to do that in many ways, from advertising to peer pressure, and a hundred variations. We don't do it perfectly, but like all aspects of knowledge, the ability to do such things will get better and better until the practice is perfected. This is, of course, the essence of “asymptotic”. There is only so much to learn about a subject, such as likes and dislikes in a brain built on an associative neural network, and when it is learned, that's the end.

So, in an alien civilization advanced to this level, there would be a wise collection of the things that young aliens learn to like; the collection is well thought out, so that they would encounter many of the things they liked in the civilization. Manifesting externally such happiness as is engendered by having a 'like' satisfied could take place in many ways, depending on how the aliens body is, how they communicate through various means, including posture, expression, assuming they have faces, and gestures. Manifestations could be almost unnoticeable, or they could be unmistakable; the point is not that this type of happiness is observed or recorded somehow, but that it occurs. Perhaps there will be another measure, such as the number of nanograms of reinforcement neuro-chemicals that are excreted by the various minuscule glands within the brain. Measuring is probably not important. Occurrence is.

What would the group of experts or authorities who were initially deciding what the next generation of aliens would like think about? Maybe a first Earth guess would be that they would exploit this position to provide some sort of benefits for themselves. It would be wrong. By this time in the development of alien civilizations, such exploitation would not happen. To put it simply, if you know just what likes and dislikes are, where they come from, and importantly, that they are supremely arbitrary, depending on some happenings in the young alien's life, why would any expert or authority want to do something to improve their own happiness. Happiness would be recognized for what it is, a side effect of learning and experiencing new things. Why would an alien in an advanced civilization make a big deal of it?

Instead of exploitation for personal happiness or goals, what about altruism? The alien team that is deciding on likes and dislikes might choose to be altruistic. That might be the second Earth guess.

Altruism is unfortunately a little bit too vague and too undefined to be a good choice. One example might be health. The team deciding on the likes and dislikes of the next generation of aliens might choose to have them like behaviors which promote health. But aliens in this era are intelligent, as much as genetic tinkering will allow, and so following healthy behaviors is a rational choice, and more intelligent aliens would naturally do it. The whole society would do them, so there is almost no need to have the like-dislike programming refer to it.

Perhaps young aliens might be taught to like having resources at their disposal. This will make them more competitive and potentially more able to gather resources during their lives. Unfortunately for this, resources on the planet, or in their solar system if they utilize other planets' resources as well, are a finite sum. The more that one alien has, the less another has. This holds in time as well. An alien that consumes more leaves less for later generations. If one is trying to be altruistic, is moving resources from one alien to another altruistic?

Maybe their altruism would extend to education, so alien young would like learning. Is it possible that any highly intelligent organism would not like learning? It seems this is a done deal, and needs no like programming.

There isn't any need to make them like research, as that is already done. There isn't any need to make them like work, as the robots and intellos will be doing that, and similarly for any professions. There aren't any professions left to like, as whatever has to be done can be done automatically. They could like art, but how this would be a useful thing for the panel of experts and authorities to have young aliens like would be perplexing. Art would have been subsumed under science before asymptotic technology ran its course, and creating art to have any effect on an alien experiencing it would be well known and could be done automatically.

There is frankly nothing left for the panel to seize upon. They are left allowing the residual parts of happiness to be arbitrary and random, as befits its importance, once totally understood from a neurological perspective. Once the like-dislike programming is done sufficiently so that aliens would be very happy to live in their civilization, all the rest of what any particular alien might like can be left to be random. Some might like going out of the arcology to experience the sun; others might like experiencing free-fall simulations. Some might like one color, others another. Some might prefer smooth sounds, others jarring ones. It doesn't matter.

This example, thinking out how likes and dislikes in an alien civilization might be established, should also give some insight as to how different it would be to be an alien in this level of civilization, as compared to an alien at the industrial era level, or for that matter, humans on Earth at the industrial level, where we are now. The presuppositions and assumptions made at a lower level simply have almost no relevance to how advanced level aliens would reason and make decisions. All the more justification to try and carefully think out aspects of alien civilization and to interpret how they would affect the main point of this blog: star travel.

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