Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Can Alien Civilizations Handle Malthusian Idiocracy?

We on Earth handle Malthusian populations all the time. I do it myself. There are lots of ways to do it. For the last week, I have been spending time looking for lubber grasshoppers every evening on my fruit trees. For those of you who don't live in the southeast US, lubber grasshoppers are a variety of grasshopper that likes leaves, especially new leaves. The grasshopper grows to be almost three inches long, and while it is not like a plague of locusts, they don't do young trees any good. So I hunt them. If I didn't brutally kill them one and all, they would face the affluence of my fruit trees and eat and eat and reproduce and reproduce, until the fruit trees were damaged and I was very sad.

So, the massive killing strategy works for Malthusian populations of the insect type.

Another Malthusian population I have is bats. Bats get into people's roofs, and if there is an opening, into attics. Sometimes they even fly inside the house. They are an endangered species, so it is illegal to kill them, but not to deprive them of living quarters. You have to either build a one-way door for them at the opening they use to get into their diurnal sleeping quarters, or work at night when they are all out hunting insects.

Another anti-Malthusian population strategy is depriving them of one of the essentials of life, spacious and predator-free living quarters. This works for flying mammals, of which there is only one type. Bats.

I also spend time picking weeds, when there are only a few sneaking into my lawn, and chemically poison them when there are lots. Weeds cannot compete with good, well-kept lawns, so that is another, difficult-to-achieve way of dealing with Malthusian populations. Crowd their living space with competitive organisms. If it doesn't work, try poison.

So, solution three is competitors and solution four is poison.

Frogs like to use my pool for breeding. I have woken up to ten thousand miniature creatures awaiting me in the pool. Almost too small to see, unless you leave the pool pump off for a few nights. The pool filter does a good job on them, after swimming in chlorine-treated water has done its work as well. You have to clean the filter pretty soon though.

So, solution five is mechanical contraptions and solution six is poisoning the water supply, although the water isn't poisoned for anything which doesn't swim in it with gills or whatever tadpoles have.

Fungi are another problem. They like to congregate on leaves and make large, easy-to-distinguish black spots, under which is a very damaged leaf. Lose too many leaves to 'black spot disease' and you lose the tree. The solution is not necessarily to put fungicide on fruit trees, but some innocuous oil which coats the leaves and makes it difficult or impossible for the fungi to adhere.

Solution seven: put a barrier between the Malthusian population and their food source.

We suffer from no-see-ums, which are tiny insects that can squeeze through screen windows for the purpose of biting you. One solution is to wear a lot of clothes at all times in the house, or at least during their feeding hours. Another solution, which I am trying today, is to build a little trap to attract and capture them. The clothes solution is just the fungi solution one, putting barriers between the Malthusian population and their food source, which is me.

But solution eight is to trap them in a place where they can do no damage, and likely will expire.

So, at least eight solution strategies to deal with potential population explosions of the Malthusian variety. Any organism that evolved is likely to become Malthusian, if there is a surfeit of all the essentials for life, which includes a living space, no predators like me, food with no barriers, no competitors, clean water and so on.

Ouch! Solution eight does not seem to be working.

All these solutions seem to work well for the ordinary Malthusian population, but Malthusian idiocracy is another story. An alien civilization would encounter this during the interval between the industrial grand transition, which makes resources available to the general population at a rate not before experienced, and the genetic grand transition, which marks an end to evolution for the alien species, and an end to Malthusianism.

Perhaps some alien civilizations have left behind coercive techniques at their stage of civilization, and only tolerate voluntary solutions. Voluntary solutions involve a voluntary restriction of population, and the voluntary restriction has to be effective. The problem with an idiocracy is that the members of that subset of population may not be very effective at voluntary restrictions. It would be quite expectable that the negative correlation that exists, which starts off idiocracy, between reproductive rate and intelligence, would become even stronger if one factors in voluntary restrictions and effectiveness.

How this works is quite transparent with a numerical example. Suppose on Planet X, a population of 1 billion is in danger of becoming a Malthusian idiocracy, so the more advanced part of the population tries to use education to halt the process. The half-billion on the lower end of the intelligence scale are both less likely to understand the reason for the requests, and are less likely to be able to implement the requests. Thus that half-billion reproduces at a higher rate than the other half-billion, meaning that intelligence falls even faster, on the average, than prior to the intervention.

Because of these negative correlations, coercion may be the only process that works for some alien civilizations. On other ones, the period between the two grand transitions might be so short, measured in generations of aliens, that the phenomenon never has a chance to make much of an effect.

If coercion is necessary, there are at least eight very severe methods listed above, but also many other less unpleasant and less harsh that those. If the Malthusian population is very large compared to the one that has already shifted into the post-genetic-revolution way of population management, there could be a control issue. This ratio would be changing as time progressed, so those alien civilizations which do not have a high rate of research, and are spending a lot of time between transitions, might run into this problem.

So far, this blog has not touched at all on the rate of progress of technological advancement. Perhaps it should.

Ouch! As soon as solution eight is perfected.

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