Thursday, October 27, 2016

Alien Citizens with Vision

Vision is not the same as intelligence. It is something that requires a good deal of intelligence, but it is certainly possible to be quite intelligent and have no vision at all. Yet for an alien civilization to pass through the various grand transitions and proceed to become more advanced, wealthy and organized, it must have individuals with vision who foresee these changes and work to bring them about.

Citizens with vision are the opposite of citizens who focus on history. A history-oriented citizen is well aware of the past and what was good about certain eras and what was bad about them. They know what preconditions there were for prosperity and progress and they know what preconditions there were for a lack of the same. Their viewpoint is of knowledge of how to do things, based on the past. They can extrapolate, but not innovate. Historians, professional or amateur, like history, and see some periods as desirable and expect that there would be a reversal of the trends toward the future, such as advances in technology and social organization.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to become a historian than to become someone with vision. An alien citizen with vision may be a leader or simply one who foresees, leaving others to implement his/her/its vision. Yet without alien citizens with vision, the civilization might stall at some point, or retrogress, never reaching the culmination where star travel, to Earth or otherwise, is possible. So it is an important question in the study of alien civilizations to understand if citizens with vision could cease to exist, at least in the numbers needed to continue progress forward, not retrogress backward. Another alternative scenario that could result in an alien civilization not being able to more forward would be if there were alien citizens with vision, meaning ones competent at projecting future possibilities and assessing their potential for achievement and the consequences of achievement, but they were simply ignored or drowned out by other citizens, enamoured of the past so much that progress was stopped.

Progress does not have to turn into retrogression in order for an alien civilization to stall its progress, it simply needs to stop moving forward and hold in place, at least temporarily. Factionalism might be sufficient to accomplish this. If there was a faction that had control of the levers of governance, or some other means of influencing choices about the future, and was able to also control much of the resource flows on the planet, they might wish to continue their own position, and therefore preferred stasis. Stasis does not have to be uniform in order to stop the progress of civilization, as there can be minor changes going on all the time. Instead, only those changes which would impinge on the relative social and economic position of the particular faction that had control would have to be stopped. This might represent some sort of false progress, where the alien civilization was dancing laterally but not moving forward.

Alien citizens with visions relating to how the whole society might transform itself, via one of the grand transformations that lead to asymptotic technology, would be the ones who became extinct or who were ignored. Alien citizens with visions relating to details of the civilization that avoided the grand transitions would take their place as those who were listened to.

Each of the grand transitions that an alien civilization has to pass through could have these lateral movers. Hunters who disparaged the planting of crops but instead led the movement of their clan to different hunting grounds or who sought to change the targeted creatures that were hunted might succeed in stopping the agricultural grand transition. Farmers who were leaders of their own agricultural society might simply move the civilization to different crop types instead of allowing the production of early machinery and its use in agriculture, or even elsewhere. City-dwellers could similarly try to stop the industrial grand transition partway through its progress by blocking some electronic advances on some grounds, or by halting automation for some reason, or by prohibiting research into artificial intelligence. They would possibly succeed in halting society’s otherwise mono-directional progress.

There could be citizens who seek to derail the genetic grand transition for reasons of their own, perhaps to solidify their own control over resource flows. They could attempt to block it in toto, or at some stage of its progress, perhaps the invention of new animals or plants, or the invention of intelligent animals, which we nicknamed intellos, or the modification of their own genome beyond some limits, or the development of new species to transcend their own evolved species. There are even more stopping points in the very diverse genetic grand transition.

Does an alien citizen develop vision because of some condition in society, or is it like being on the upper tip of the bell curve in distribution of some mental talents? If there is a decided negative view adopted of some technology, or of technology in general, by the alien civilization, perhaps the probability of the emergence of alien citizens with vision would be reduced. Likely there must be some minimum critical mass of aliens with vision in order for the society to advance. Since, at least under the theory of technological determinism, society progresses only in synchrony with the development of technology, meaning all science and engineering, people with vision need to be associated with technology. Devastating education or training in these areas might serve the faction wishing to halt the progress of civilization by serving as a subtle means of derailing progress.

The faction that seeks to halt society on a plateau, where their ascendance is prolonged, will likely find that there are no long plateaus in the progress of an alien civilization, only peaks and cliffs. Yet the knowledge of how society might progress is something that might escape being understood or accepted for a long period in the growth of their civilization, even well into the industrial grand transition’s later stages or the early stages of the genetic grand transition. If so, there would be an impetus to try and create such a plateau, even though it could only be a temporary success. The suppression of alien citizens with vision, by reducing emphasis on technology education or by any other means, could easily prove to be a fatal error for the alien civilization.

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