Thursday, June 29, 2017

Meme Cores and Meme Baggage

There is no scientific law that forces an alien civilization to expend resources and effort on exploring other solar systems. Each alien civilization will eventually come to the conclusion that there is no entity directing their future; it is their choice as to what to do. This has a great impact on whether Earth will ever have alien visitors. To try and understand what is likely to happen to Earth in this regard, alien visitors, we need to understand how alien civilizations might make decisions, and what decisions they might make.

Since there is nothing telling each alien civilization what to do with itself, it must decide, and there is no basis for some logical derivation of a direction to go. Instead, there is only the source of individual alien decisions, also not logical, that substitute for some universal directive. If the alien civilization is ruled by one individual, his decision will be the one that decides if the alien civilization will begin a star-traveling adventure. If it is some kind of democracy, then all the aliens with suffrage will be able to have their choices be weighed in the decision. So alienology should address two issues: what form of governance will a far-advanced alien civilization have, and what decisions might one make and on what basis?

There are many ways in which an alien civilization might wind up governing itself. We here on Earth have experienced many, but with changes in technology dominating how a civilization organizes itself, none of them are likely to be the one that an alien civilization, with asymptotic technology, would choose.

Remember that projecting human desires and habits on advanced alien civilization will lead to errors in assessing how their civilization is organized. We still live with primitive technology, having made some progress in physics and chemistry, but not very much in genetics, medicine, sociology, neurology, and others, including ones not yet named. Rather than try and figure out which antique Earth governance system might be used, we should try and use a normative approach, which is the standard recourse when history is largely irrelevant.

It is important to understand the timing of the choice of governance. Once the final stage of the last big technology change, the genetics grand transformation, hits an alien society, it changes from being a collection of diverse individuals, competing for influence and aggrandizement, to a society of near equals, all wise enough to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and with an understanding of how their own brains work. The emotions that motive humans on Earth nowadays, greed, lust, jealousy, anger and the rest will be likely present in the earlier stages of any alien civilization, but after the final technology changes, they will not exist or at least not be allowed by any of the civilization’s members to dominate their thinking. The changes of moving beyond emotions are monumental. Can there be a capitalism, when individuals are largely immune from greed, and recognize the diminished utility of excess wealth? Factionalism would necessarily disappear, when all of society’s members are granted both optimal genetics and the intelligence it brings, and the early life training and experiences that allow that intelligence to fully flower. Why bother dividing society into two or more groups and competing one against another when everyone is pretty much identical in all important ways?

To do the normative analysis that we would like, the proper question is, how would a society of actual equals organize itself? Here, the word equals does not mean anyone who is granted suffrage, or is somehow included in the ruling group. It means a society of genetic equals, identically trained in an optimal way. Any one of them would do as well in any post, provided the necessary education was provided. Would there need to be any voting, or would a lottery suffice? There is no point of any selection process, as all of the voters know that anyone will be just fine, in fact equally fine, as top dog or second-in-command or whatever. Voting for individuals becomes futile.

The other side of the coin involves the surroundings. If there is a decision-maker in the governance organization who is faced with some decision, he/she/it only need to ask the AI system for the options and to translate them into consequences, and then to match the consequences against the goals set up by the society. The top choice is the obvious and inevitable selection. Why have any governance figures if there is literally nothing for them to do except officiate at ceremonies? Why bother to have ceremonies, anyway, as they would be largely meaningless to such a society? So, governance is largely devolved into a use of automated systems to figure out alternatives and implement them, without any need from the individual members of the society. Assuming they have better things to do with their time, there is no need for a hierarchy of positions, or even any governance positions at all. Rather than having a lottery instead of a vote for candidates, there is simply no one involved in the governance process.

Another point to be made is that a long-lived society, past asymptotic technology, does not change much. The civilization has figured out how to do things in the optimal manner, and they simply do that. Over and over again. But the missing item is the goals that are accepted by the governance mechanism. Where do they come from? After the genetics grand transition, individuals no longer have the interest or the diversity to choose such goals, so they need to come from legacy choices made in earlier times. This is what we call memes. Young members of society are trained, during their pre-logic phases, in the memes of society, and that is what forms the goals of the society. Part of these memes, which we might call the core, is what perpetuates the training. The meme core is the essence of any set of beliefs that are passed down from old to young, the essence being that which continues to preserve the memes. The rest of the memes, the meme baggage, is what is propagated along with the core. The core provides no direction for society but only serves to preserve the baggage and to ensure it is propagated. The baggage has the goals of the society, as chosen back in the earlier days of society. Members grow to adulthood appreciating them, and the society incorporates them.

Figuring out what can constitute a consistent set of memes related to society goals in a total meme package is what is needed to understand the range of choices that an alien civilization might have taken. The package must be self-consistent, and also must have been acceptable to the civilization in its earlier phases. Thus, the question to be asked is what social goals might be found acceptable to an alien civilization finishing up its industrial revolution and just beginning its genetics one. This will tell us what we might expect to find, if we somehow were able to do a magical tour of all the alien civilizations present in our galaxy. Since this magic doesn’t exist, we will have to make do with whatever our reasoning can provide.

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