Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Alien Technology - 5. Outside Influence

image credit: DigitalBlasphemy.com
"Overseer" © DigitalBlasphemy.com
Last, some preliminary thoughts about outside influence.

Again, as with most of these speculations, while there are some universalities to inscribe a boundary, there is still much room for a wide range of possibilities.

A fancy way of saying there is much that can be said about this. I can blog on this for years and not exhaust the subject.

For my first preliminary thoughts on this I am reminded about the discussions many scientists have about searching for alien life - we must first look to our own planet for clues. The discovery of extremophiles, life forms that live in extreme conditions (once thought to be inhospitable to life), has forced scientists to expand their search for extraterrestrial life to a wider range of environmental conditions. That is the jumping off point.

So, for outside influence on alien technology, we should first look to our own planet. And what we find is a bit disconcerting. It seems that mankind has evolved technology faster than it has matured to handle it responsibly. Too often we find under our civilized veneer there lies a savage beast. And a beast with access to technology is a terrible beast. And see how often a nation, a group, with higher technology treats another nation with much lower technology, even though both are just as advanced mentally.

Would this be true of most sentient races?

Maybe. Think on this: our planet is, in comparison to other planets, boring. By comparison to most, its axis isn't greatly tilted and doesn't wobble much, it circles its sun in a nearly circular orbit around a fairly consistent sun (compared to many other stars), and because of Jupiter cleaning out many asteroids, may not be as impacted as often as some, or many, extrasolar terrestrial planets. While tectonically active, it is not overly so. However, it has still experienced devastating meteor impacts, super volcanoes, and ice ages interspersed among very tropical ages - all of which puts evolutionary stress on evolving sentience to be a rather adaptive species, and part of that adaptation may mean a certain aggressiveness to explore, spread out, conquer. Only those that fought to survive, survived events and eras that nearly wiped out the rising sentient species of man.

There is genetic evidence that humans have narrowly escaped extinction on more than one occasion. One event, according to the Toba catastrophe theory, involves a super volcano on Sumatra 70,000 to 75,000 years ago which reduced the human population for the entire world down to 2,000 to 10,000 individuals.

So for an extrasolar planet with a more dramatic history caused by its having a more elliptical orbit, greater axial tilt, more tectonic activity, and/or being struck more regularly by meteors, sentient life forms may, out of necessity, be an even more aggressive about ensuring their survival.

Contact by an alien race with higher technology may mean the end of the contacted race - or that they would be subservient to the dominant race and no longer develop their own technology.

Or if such a contact was successfully initially repulsed (whether by luck or by sheer overwhelming numbers), the contacted race would throw all of their energies and will into developing technology to defend themselves from future attacks.

Of course, there are less pessimistic influences... which will be touched upon in posts to follow.


Ambrose, Stanley H. "Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic winter, and differentiation of modern humans." Journal of Human Evolution. 34. 1998. 623 - 51.


Anonymous said...

Sentient species can learn ideas and thus demand their own rights, so even a completely egoistic civilization would realize it is suicidal to enslave too many sentient species with different viewpoints. A much smarter way would be to let sentients who like a kind of work do that work instead of sentients who find the same work abhorrent to have to do. Different sociobiologies again.

Mr. David Michael Merchant said...

I am suddenly reminded of Alexander the Great and of Rome - how both did, to some extent, integrate the conquered into their society. Alexander did it too much, as far as some of his countrymen were concerned. With sentient beings there many be almost as many ways to enslave, conquer, or rule as there are different sentient species.

Anonymous said...

I meant that the enslaved sentient species may turn against them, so they would eventually have to learn to respect other sentient species. That they could do something before their First Contact does not mean they can keep acting that way cosmically.

Mr. David Michael Merchant said...

True. I would think most would have to accept a cosmic code of conduct.

Just to have some speculative "fun":

Here's a speculation to consider: It may depend upon levels of advancement. If we, for instance, came across Neanderthal like beings and enslaved them, and if their numbers were not greater than ours, they may never turn against us - maybe they'd worship us as gods.

That is, if an alien race tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of years more advanced, technologically as well as mentally (evolutionarily) than another alien race, enslaves the less advanced race, the less advanced race may never be able to rebel as they would first have to develop the mental capacities to understand the very advanced world they find themselves in, and then catch up enough (wouldn't have to catch up all the way I would think) to then be able to successfully rebel, or at least make life difficult for their masters. And this is if their masters had become stagnant and no longer continuing their advancement. Such a master alien race would never have to learn to respect others.

Yes, I realize the universe is big, and for every bully or super advanced race, there is probably another race even more advanced and so the bully couldn't bully every race and get away with it. Maybe they realize this and only go after very "backwards" sentient beings.

The more dark possibility is that they are one of the first sentient beings in the galaxy, and there are no others more advanced.

OK, enough dark possibilities! Here's hoping for a good Cosmic Code of Conduct!

Anonymous said...

Once you have crossed the explanation barrier, that is, searching for explanations to things you do not understand directly, "intelligence levels" stop mattering, for you just need the right explanation. Research have shown that chimpanzees who fail to perform a task do not try to gain knowledge about why they failed. Homo erectus (and by extension neanderthals) could study the climate and use the patterns to prepare for the future, otherwise they would have remained jungle-bound like apes. Thus they had crossed the explanative barrier. Homo erectus technological stagnation was likely because they were the ancestors of all later explanative earthlings thus had no other explainers to exchange ideas with. The upper paleolithic breakthrough coincides with three erectus-descended species coexisting for millennia in west Siberia(one were modern humans) likely the breakthrough was caused by exchange of ideas. Being three, they likely had a fairly stable "code of conduct". If Homo floresiensis too had been in west Siberia it could have been even stabler possibly lasted today.

Anonymous said...

The research on hominid coexistence in west Siberia is by Svante Paabo. I inferred its connection to innovation part due to coinciding time and part because exchange of ideas causes innovation. The chimpanzee research was made by a woman with Italian surname and shown in channel 9s "Human Ape". Homo erectus successful spread to various environments is cited in all paleoanthropological literature. K-strategy Homo erectus cannot be compared to r-strategy invasive species due to importance of minimizing deaths. The whole idea of a "great chain of intelligence" is wrong, many animals outperform humans on SPECIFIC tasks but explanative thought is what opens new possibilities and makes the mind more than a sum of particular capabilities.

Mr. David Michael Merchant said...

Have you seen the videos about the dolphins discovering on their own how to form ringed bubbles (a bubble in the shape of a hoop or ring)? They experiment with them, learn how to do new things with them. Others observing, apparently wanting to do it too, try to figure out and then experiment themselves (thus, after failure, they try until they get it).

Anonymous said...

That dolphin thing is just play. Despite learning dolphins symbols and grammatical rules the dolphins never ask why-questions. Chimps, cats and so on also learn techniques by playing. In explanative thinkers no absolute mind limitations exist, degree is just velocity. Try to have a discussion about why something should be done with a dolphin! It is impossible unless the dolphin is genetically engineered in the correct(now unknown) way.

Anonymous said...

Do not misinterpret me, I am not religious. Explanative thought will be scientifically explained as some form of brain process by future science. But dolphins who play do not discriminate between inoffensive passenger ships and seabottom-destroying types of fishing ships. With a great multitude of intelligent life, idea exchange trumps standalone dominance. But with environmental destruction, that is not what happened on Earth. Also any standalone dominant species would wipe out all other intelligent life in its way unless idea exchange trumps it, so the dolphins should be extinct. And I have not heard of human dictators suppressing ideas in nonhuman "intelligent" life.

Anonymous said...

Heard the new research on early human population levels? They were extremely rare all along, so they did not have to compete for resources at all. That rules out the competition-based theory about the extinction of other early human species. Not having to compete were probably crucial for evolving language since competition creates motifs for deception which causes suspicion toward rational arguments. New research on crows do disprove the theory of sudden emergence of explanative thought, but communication with smart animals still face their limitations. Probably because the smart animals suspect all reason. So aliens with true culture would not be bioinherently competetive. Some may be temporarily competitive due to overpopulation, but space colonization would solve that. And I recommend experiments of exposing gorillas, bonobos or orangutans to "post scarcity"-like conditions to see how it affects their communication (in a humanlike direction?).