December 24, 2014
Robin Hanson On Very Advanced Aliens

Robin makes 5 points on what advanced aliens should be like. This is most worrisome: An old advanced alien race can be expected to make very careful calculations about whether to be friendly or hostile toward humans.

...very advanced aliens should not be either generically friendly or generically hostile to outsiders. Instead they should be very good at making their friendship or hostility appropriately context-dependent. That is, aliens should be very good at figuring out when and in what precise way being friendly or hostile will best achieve their ends. Such strategies should be far subtler than simple-minded ethnocentrism, family-loyalty, or xenophobia. Instead such aliens would ask themselves in great and careful detail, what exactly could humans eventually do to help or hurt them?

Here's my worry: I do not think we'll have anything to offer the very advanced aliens. So they are likely to think of us primarily from the standpoint of threat assessment. How big a threat are we? Worth taking the trouble to wipe us out?

Unless the advanced aliens enjoy owning slaves the only way I can see we might be useful to them is as proxies to fight a third alien species so they won't have to.

Robin think it is a bad sign that we have not come across any indications that other species are out there. Either previous intelligent species are all dead or maybe a few are hiding from berzerker robots that go around wiping out bio lifeforms.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 December 24 11:50 AM 

Abas said at December 24, 2014 3:47 PM:

Very interesting, But why a force like US army will be concerned with threat of an amazon tribe? too big of a difference.

Gerard Mason said at December 25, 2014 12:55 AM:

The question has been raised before by others. In particular, Greg Bear did a gripping treatment in his novel Forge of God and its sequel, in the 1980s.

Human culture has all the wisdom and foresight of a 5-year-old running towards a toy in the middle of the road.

Brett Bellmore said at December 25, 2014 3:15 AM:

I tend to think another intelligent species has to, at least, offer another possibly novel perspective, a chance, however slim, to have any of your own conceptual gaps, the things you don't notice you're not thinking about because you don't think about them, pointed out. Which is potentially valuable, and no way to assess in advance how valuable.

And like Abas said, too big a difference for us to be viewed as a threat. Not only are our capabilities very limited, the fact that we threw away Orion demonstrates that we're fundamentally too cowardly to ever be a threat.

DK said at December 28, 2014 1:29 PM:

There is a very simple explanation for the great silence out there: All technologically advanced civilizations self-destruct quickly. So they can't accomplish much during that historical blink of the eye. And ours is unlikely to become an exception.

David A. Young said at December 29, 2014 6:12 PM:

One of the reasons put forth for suggesting a lack of advanced alien civilizations is the abscence of large, astronically sized engineering constructions. I find this argument highly questionable. TRULY advanced civilizations may have no need for such gargantuan projects, and may even find them unasthetic. At one time we built huge dams to provide for our power generation needs. Now we can accomplish the same things with much less environmentally intrusive nuclear power plants. In the future, if the mini-nuclear generators now being worked on prove out (and are accepted), our power generating footprint would become even less obvious. I see this as a trend that would likely continue as technology advances, for everything from power generation to manufacturing. We may see no signs of High Tech Alien Civilizations not because they don't exist, or are hiding, but simply because their tech expertise renders their footprints so small and unabtrusive.

Paul Rise said at January 3, 2015 6:54 AM:

Likely we will never know the answer in our lifetimes, but I suspect there is no other sapient life in the universe but us. Even if races somehow developed slightly beyond our level and then wiped themselves out, surely we would have heard their transmissions or fragments of them?

Cluebat said at January 5, 2015 7:11 AM:

I am confident that there is intelligent life out there. I don't expect they will hear our radio signals anytime soon. Those signals will probably be lost in the background clutter before they reach alien ears. Assuming that the light speed barrier is absolute- then even if we were detected, we would need to be deemed to be worthy of investigation.

Nah. I don't expect visitors anytime soon. I expect that we will have colonized other star systems before we detect other intelligent life. And in order to colonize another star system we would need to develop automated systems with the ability to boot the process from frozen (and damaged) embryos.

If we are successful in reaching that level of technology, then the process can be self replicating. A worthy goal.


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