Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Civilizations of Intelligent Aliens

If we are going to try and get some insight as to why aliens have not visited us, it would help to know how they think, what they consider important, how they plan their lives, how visionary they are, and many similar questions. Here on Earth we are still somewhat primitive, so we might have some difficulty in imagining how a more advanced society would consider these topics. On Earth, intelligence is very diverse, ranging from what we consider retarded to what we consider genius. On an advanced alien planet, which had passed the genetic grand transition, there might easily be only genius category individuals, or what they consider genius category. Their average might be even higher than our best.

Our society here on Earth is built on the diversity of intelligence. Intelligence makes a big difference in one’s social standing, success, living standards, and interaction with others. It is not so much IQ-measured intelligence, but the ability to solve problems, to be creative, to spot errors, to organize people and projects, to manage things, and so on. We have the people who excel at those tasks running things, and feeding information to the others further down the rungs of the intelligence ladder. Assuming there is a metric which might measure this type of intelligence, you could say that the top 20% or so are in charge of the important organizations, and have influence over all the others.

Our society is organized around this downward flowing of information. The top 20% create it and the lower 80% consume it. This holds in science, technology, governance, business, art, and other segments of our social life. The measure is not ironclad, as there are certainly exceptions, but there is a substantial correlation. This would not be so on a planet with universal high intelligence.

When there is no ranking based on intelligence, how would positions and opportunities be apportioned out? One possibility is a lottery but there are others. How would living standards be decided? Would there be only one living standard and everyone got the same; housing, materials, foods, traveling, and so on? Would there be variations, decided on some random aspects, and would they exist for the whole life of each individual alien, or would an alien experience very different living standards at different times in his/her/its life?

More to the point, without some natural leaders, where every alien could do just as good a job at leading the civilization or its regions or factions, is there any impetus to do great projects, like interstellar voyaging? With no inherent leadership, would some individual alien be chosen and given the mandate to lead the civilization, and if so, would he/she/it decide on something monumental, like an interstellar voyage? On Earth, grandiose projects are usually the project of an individual, although there may be behind-the-scenes motivation and support. The projects are often things which provide that individual with psychological benefits, such as conquests, monuments, or new forms of government. An individual in an alien civilization would be living in a time when he/she/it would already be receiving an abundance of psychological benefits, as the civilization would have supplied those needs just as it supplies all physical needs. Any training would be universal, and not designed to produce individuals who felt a need to do gigantic things. So, from an individual view, there might be no one to lead the civilization to new planets and solar systems.

Perhaps the place of individual leadership would be taken by artificial intelligence. Why would individual aliens want to take on the job of figuring out the details of how to manage the civilization, when it could be automated entirely, and left to some algorithms? But the AI being used for governance would be useful for coordinating the activities of the various robotic systems so that the society would function smoothly and flawlessly, but how would it take over the job of inspiring the aliens to go into interstellar space?

On Earth, we have no serious AI, but we have many people speculating about it, and the usual speculation is that it somehow develops human emotions and starts to act like a super-person. If It was not designed to do that, it would not. At the core of the AI program is a set of metrics and goals, and the AI seeks to take actions and make decisions so that these goals are fulfilled, or the metrics brought to the highest levels. This does not involve star flight.

There would be no individuals who would take on the job of leading a movement to go to space. Everyone would be just as able to envision the idea, see the difficulties, evaluate the benefits, and make a choice. A singular individual, taking on this mission as a human being might, would find little response among other aliens.

In earlier posts, it was discussed how the goal of extraterrestrial travel would have to be encoded into the training that each alien received during his/her/its youth, and then there would be a universal consensus that this task should be part of the civilization’s activities and should be given a portion of the planet’s or solar system’s resources. With that embedded into the tapestry of the civilization’s culture, aliens would expect to devote some part of their time to furthering that goal, or at least to sacrifice some of their resources to it. But the concept that some individual alien would arise in the absence of this portion of their training, and somehow get the idea that he/she/it should lead the civilization into extrasolar space, is more a projection of what we might expect than what might actually happen in an advanced alien civilization. We like to have science fiction stories based around some inspired hero, or we write out histories as it certain individuals made choices and led movements, but these are things that pertain to our civilization with its shortage of intelligence and its dependence on downward communication of ideas and goals. If we try to figure out what happens in an alien civilization by treating it just like Earth with its humans plus some advanced technology, then there will certainly be misunderstandings and possibly even absurd conclusions

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