Saturday, July 30, 2016

Alien Civilizations without War

War is a very large component of history of humans on Earth. It occurs on all inhabited continents, during all recorded time, and between most neighboring peoples and many distant peoples. Would it necessarily be a similarly large part of the history of alien planets?

Because war is so universal, seeking the origins of it in specifics of clans, tribes, city-states, nations or whatevers seems to answer the wrong question. These studies, related to the incidence of war, try to analyze when it might occur, and what are the underlying causes of it. But to suggest that an entire planet, filled with sentient beings, able to master technology, would evolve without any war at all calls for a different approach.

War between nations might be seen as an outgrowth of war between city-states, as social development enlarges the scale of a single governed unit. And war between city-states might similarly been seen as an outgrowth of war between villages, inhabited by tribes. This again is instituted by the growth of social organization. Tribal war grew out of smaller scale battles, between small clans, and clan conflict grew out of … what? Individual combat. In many mammalian species, there is battling between individuals, often for mating predominance. So, the root cause in an evolutionary view, of war can be considered to be mating combat. Different species evolve to specialize in this, and some otherwise unnecessary and not useful attributes evolve because of it, such as large antlers.

There are other means of mating competition in the vertebrate world, and one is attribute specialization, and again, this has led to otherwise unnecessary and not useful attributes, such as male peacock tails. However, it is not clear that a species could not develop tool-using without having the genes that predispose to mating battles, but instead are based on attributes, even useful ones such as hunting prowess.

As the scale of governance increases, battling and warfare is gradually banned inside the governed organization, probably because it detracts from the efficiency of the group both in sustenance and productive activities, and also in defense preparation. This is not the mechanism that is being considered for the non-existence of war in an alien civilization, but something more basic, a different coding in the genes for how mating competitions are conducted. If the competition turns out to be conducive of evolving traits which are also useful for the individual and the group to which he/she/it belongs, then fitness is aided as well, and evolution gets a boost in this direction. So, it is not too hard to see that an alien civilization might evolve from creatures that do not battle one another, and therefore be free from war at all levels. It would simply be something that was not in their genetic heritage to do, and likely not something that would be invented at a high level of social organization, such as in a city-state or a nation.

Technology development is often said to be partially driven by military needs, at least in some areas and in some times and in some subjects. This is because military activity is a dominant one, as the consequences of losing a war are so high. If there were no military activity at all, something else would assume the dominant role and would replace to a degree the impetus that military requirements have given to technology development. If, as in the above example, hunting prowess was used for mating competition instead of individual competition, in the species that preceded the evolution of the intelligent one, then tools for hunting might feel the developmental pressure, which would then gradually shift to other tools for other purposes. Technology development might actually go as fast or faster in a non-war alien civilization.

Another missing effect of war, at higher levels of social organization, is conquest. Conquest allows governance to expand, and the larger area covered allows internal trade to be more widespread. External trade, between two separately governed organizations, has to be done with the express approval of the two governing organizations, and therefore suffers from more impediments than internal trade, which is authorized and perhaps encouraged by a single organizational entity. While this may be true, it presupposed the absence of a third effect. If there is no war, relations between neighboring organizational units would be very different from a situation in which war was known and considered possible. More amorphous borders might result, and even voluntary mergers might happen. It might even be that unification of governance would happen as soon as the technology enabled it. Once transport and communication were possible over some distances, then it would be possible for unification to occur over those distances and be effective. Or the concept of organizational entity might melt and diffuse, so that different functions might occupy different geographical areas. Guilds for textiles, if they had such things, might operate over one area, but a governmental organization for seed propagation might be done over a different one. And these areas might change more readily with time.

It is therefore not at all clear that a non-war alien civilization would have slower technology development, nor achieve the level of social organization able to bring technology rapidly up to its culmination point. This means that such an alien civilization might attempt star travel.

Would the goals of such a civilization be the same as one which grew up on an alien world where there was evolved traits of mating battles, and all the subsequent phenomena such as war and conquest? If they managed to pull off star travel, and encountered an inhabited planet, what would be their response? Conquest doesn't fall within their heritage. Perhaps hunting would. Would the inhabitants of the visited planets be seen as simply targets for them, or as the next level of colleagues to be met and possibly merged with? Their values need to be explored, and these might depend on some deep details of evolution on their planet. What did they have as hunted creatures? How diverse was the species or even multiple species that developed intelligence and became unified on their home planet? These questions might have some influence on their reaction to inhabitants of a distant planet.

A different approach might be via their memes. Perhaps they had developed not only a lack of interest in individual battles, but an anathema toward it. If they came to a visited planet where war and battling was rife, would they react with utter disdain for the creatures involved in it? Would these creatures be far beyond their limits as to potential colleagues? Would they simply detour around such a planet and make sure that no contact was ever allowed with it? Food for thought.

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