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Ned Flanders vs. Fermi Paradox

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posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:17 PM
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Hi folks,

As some of you may know I am the farthest thing from a qualified individual on the subject of UFOs, so if the following concept has been presented before I ask that you forgive me the repetition.

I ran into these articles earlier today and they peaked my interest as they seem to provide an evolutionary and slightly more philosophical alternative as to why alien species might have not gone through the effort of visiting our fair planet, premised on our own moral, scientific, psychological, sociological, and anthropological history.

The premise:

Flanders vs. Fermi


Life evolves to make use of indirect cues of fitness rather than fitness itself: it is not possible to estimate fitness effects directly of objects or actions. So we evolve heuristics that link certain properties (nutritious food, healthy mates, safe environments) with pleasure (or at least, set up motivation systems that makes us pursue them), and conversely things that tend to reduce fitness with pain or aversion.

Intelligent species are good by definition of solving problems, so they solve the problem of getting whatever they want. The result is not just improvement of real fitness (as demonstrated by the 7 billion of us) but also the ability to produce fake fitness: signals that stimulate our reward systems but do not actually improve evolutionary fitness: computer games, pornography, ultra-tasty junk food, hundreds of facebook friends.

Miller argues that any species will run into the Great Temptation as it develops, creating an environment that gives the strongest fitness signals possible without actually having a real effect on fitness. Once you can have perfect sex with an android partner, play totally engrossing VR games and avoid experiencing any suffering, why should you care about the rest of the universe? The end result, Miller thinks, is that alien species mostly go extinct because they allocate too much resources on pleasure and too little on their fitness.

I think the Great Temptation model is true: technology aims at making a magical world where desires become safe reality, and it (together with culture) can provide an endless distractions. But to work for the Fermi paradox the temptation needs to be very strong: it needs to get any alien species, regardless of whether they are eusocial scorpions, intelligent slime molds or floating brains in a brown dward atmosphere. All the species need to be unable to resist the temptation of building the experience machine and tune in. Not only that, it has to be every individual too.

Miller points out that some individuals - for various reasons - will resist the temptation and may form lineages where there is evolutionary selection for resisting temptation. He suggests the future belongs to hard-working, child-rearing, green religious beings - the Flanders families of the universe. In the long run our xbox-avoiding descendants will meet the alien serious super-parents.

But it seems that this addition breaks the Great Temptation as an explanation of the Fermi paradox. If intelligence just partially succumbs to the Great Temptation, then we should expect to see a lot of Flanders civilizations out there. And given the evolutionary pressure towards greater fitness, they might be less timid neighbours than voracious locust swarms - Robin Hanson's "burning the cosmic commons" model seems to apply here with full strength. If species always lack the coordination or foresight to avoid temptation but they can evolve to resist it, then it would seem that they can also evolve towards total fitness-maximizers in the interstellar environment (Homers?) and there would be no foresight/coordination strong enough to stop this process.

So the Great Temptation explanation seems to require a strong convergence hypothesis: all species develop technologies that entice them to turn inward, and subgroups that can resist that pull will (in time) develop something else that will catch them. Eventually everybody ends up trapped (but happy).


The fascinating original article (a MUST read):

A RADICAL EXPLANATION FOR A CONUNDRUM ABOUT EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE, AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY.

Interesting no?


Now I am not, nor do I think the author is, suggesting by any means that this theory is the most plausible as to why intelligent alien species might not have visited earth ... nevertheless I find alternative perspectives in any field fascinating and thus I thought it was worth sharing.

Most of all, I found the observations and reasoning behind the thought a poignant observation, and critique to some degree, of our own behavior as a species ... one that has introspective merit even if it were not extrapolated onto an alien theory.

Cheers!

ETA: Burning the Cosmic Commons: Evolutionary Strategies for Interstellar Colonization

[edit on 17 Apr 2010 by schrodingers dog]




posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:21 PM
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Very interesting SD.

It does make logical sense that societies or whole specie would "self destruct" by not being able to move beyong creature comforts and move towards creature enhancements.

Although I would argue that with our current knowledge of how huge the Universe is, there would be at least 1 species that would have achieved this given millions of years to build and develop.

~Keeper



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:25 PM
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Maybe they haven't visited because we are their VR game?
Ever thought of that?



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:35 PM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


So capitalism would be considered a good thing (evolution wise) because it advocates/stimulates people in being competitive?

So if this would be true, then a utopian society couldn't exist, because a utopian society would be one where work is done by droids and where pleasure is a central theme, but this would inturn lead us only down on the evolutionary scale?

So what do we learn from this? Life isn't about pleasure? I don't know.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:37 PM
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Originally posted by colloredbrothers
reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


So capitalism would be considered a good thing (evolution wise) because it advocates/stimulates people in being competitive?

So if this would be true, then a utopian society couldn't exist, because a utopian society would be one where work is done by droids and where pleasure is a central theme, but this would inturn lead us only down on the evolutionary scale?

So what do we learn from this? Life isn't about pleasure? I don't know.


Capitalism is a good thing, when regulated by the people, not the government. A Utopian society, where everybody works together, although impropable, would provide much faster technological advance.

All scientists and engineers working towards a common goal is something that would greatly benefit society.

~Keeper



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:38 PM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


It is an interesting perspective for sure, but I think this argument has a serious flaw in that it ignores the greatest temptation of all:

Curiosity.

This is what ultimately keeps (at least some of) us "divergent" and looking beyond rather than inward - and the only real cure for it is to perpetually keep going.

Of course it's entirely possible that might be what destroys us in the end - but that's a whole other can of worms



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:52 PM
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Originally posted by tothetenthpowerA Utopian society, where everybody works together, although impropable, would provide much faster technological advance.


This can happen when we get Star Trek replicators and everyone has everything they wish. Of course it would take multiple generations of depression, suicide, drug abuse, and general laziness before that Utopian society ever came in to existence. I know at least 50% of the population would never leave the confines of the holodeck.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 12:56 PM
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Or perhaps you could, you know, open your eyes and get over your childish insistence that extraterrestrials have not visited Earth. Unless that would just blow your mind.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 01:24 PM
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I posted a similar discussion here. I think these ideas are interesting, because it really does seem like the Fermi paradox must have answer, and that answer may very well tell us something about what happens to advanced, intelligent civilizations.

Think about this: it's really only a matter of time before we can modify our brains in whatever ways we like. When we can give everyone implants which make every single person satisfied, happy, and wanting nothing, will we do it? From our current perspective - without the implant - it seems like this kind of existence would be fake or superficial in a way that is undesirable. But, once the implant is in, you wouldn't feel that way. You will feel no discomfort, only pleasure.

If we can engineer a world in which machines maintain themselves and provide us with everything we need, and furthermore we can apply a certain technology to our brains which takes away all desires, discomfort, and disatisfaction and instead makes it so we only feel peasure, will we do it? Why wouldn't we? Once we did it, we wouldn't think that it was lame to have stopped progressing, we would be cool with it because the technology would make us cool with everythig. Maybe this choice is very tempting to civilizations with the option to take it. Maybe sufficiently advanced civilizatons just dope themselves up and have robots keep them alive.

If this is not an appealing solution, it begs the question of what the point of our existence is, and how we can figure out what we're suppose to do if it's not seek happiness.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 04:44 PM
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The article is flawed for its main presumption is that ET has not visited yet and thus UFOs are not in any way related to ET civilizations. This premise is surely debatable.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 10:18 PM
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I think it could be said, on the point of visitation or not, that what makes us believe that we would recognize an extraterrestrial if we saw one? Given the vastness and diversity of our own life on Earth, could species that we readily identify as common in actually be the descendants of a long past visitation?

Take for example the Siamese cat. Blue eyes, extreme vocal compared to other cats, capable of producing meows that mimic human words. I had a cat that was part Siamese that was able to say Greg, quit, out, drink, sh**, Bill, Spinx, as well as a few other words that was very clear and did not require time spent with the cat to be understood. She also used these word appropriately. Such as drink at the sink and quit when touching her tail.

Given the vastness of space, would an extraterrestrial that is advanced enough to travel here find humanity of any interest? Would we not be as limited as a cat to them? Would they exist in the same phase that we do? Perhaps what we think of as ghost, demons, angels are visitors just outside our observable vibrational phase?

Lastly, would these beings happen to have a recognizable form? Why not a sentient plant or mineral life form? Or perhaps an insect?



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 10:23 PM
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Interesting, I've heard the same sort of theory with a digital network, that any intelligent race that would advance far enough would simply go into the network, unable to contact any other civilization, and without the want to do so.



posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 11:05 PM
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A time and a place for everything, some people just enjoy video games. They can educate and free minds, relax and vent anger in a safe manner. It's draconian to say they should be outlawed, or displayed in public as "trapped souls in a garbage vaacuum of self-indulgence". Have you considered the social impct of grading people according to their past-times? It could be argued that certain leaders should play more, because they're obviously stressed out playing around 24/7 with real lives.

What about training your mind, or reflexes, or operating a simulator, a navigation training program, or exploring an alien 3d world. Is that so bad?

One person likes to fish, another jog, another plays video games. They could all switch roles a week later! I see your outside-the-box thinking in full display, but I think it needs more investigation over what's inside the box. Especially the social divisioning of a stygmatized gamer population.

[edit on 17-4-2010 by Northwarden]



posted on Apr, 20 2010 @ 04:15 PM
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Originally posted by mc_squared

It is an interesting perspective for sure, but I think this argument has a serious flaw in that it ignores the greatest temptation of all:

Curiosity.


Indeed, that is where the hope rests.

However if one were to agree with this premise from the original article ...


Maybe the bright aliens did the same. I suspect that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable after any intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species—to shape their subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without the substance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children. They eventually die out when the game behind all games—the Game of Life—says “Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot to reproduce.” *


... one could see curiosity succumbing to the law diminishing returns, thus taking a civilization further away from the will to visit others.

That been said, there are many assumptions in the paper which are at best premised on the assumption that alien intelligent species would evolve parallel to anthropological evolution ... that in itself is quite the assumptive reasoning leap.

Nevertheless, like I mentioned in the OP, the article if nothing else does provides a launching point for alternative reasoning and consideration. That can't be a bad thing.



[edit on 20 Apr 2010 by schrodingers dog]



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