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SETI chief astronomer Seth Shostak bet hundreds of people at our Boing Boing: Ingenuity live event that we'll hear from an extraterrestrial within 25 years.
What Are They?
Most scientists involved in artificial intelligence research are convinced that we are on the verge of a new era in civilization: the age of intelligent machines. Many of them also believe in the inevitability of an event they call the Singularity. This is believed to happen when computer intelligence becomes able to upgrade itself, to reprogram itself continuously, and become ... self-aware.
Such a process, these experts argue, will involve a rapid, exponential increase in computer intelligence, leaving human intelligence in the dust. A similar event occurred when human intelligence exploded within the incredibly brief period (in biological evolutionary terms) of a few million years. But in the case of machine intelligence, the pace will be much, much faster.
Think of it this way. Moore’s Law is widely known within the field of computer science. In 1965, Gordon E. Moore (now the Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corp.) predicted that the number of transistors per integrated circuit would double every 18 months. Incredibly, this has held true. Thus, in 1971, the leading integrated circuit contained just over two thousand transistors; by Year 2000 that number was 42 million..
I haven’t encountered any AI theorist discussing the matter of UFOs. I imagine that most of them don’t give this topic the time of day. (Then again, I’ve learned always to expect surprises: there are probably a few who are interested, but aren’t shouting it from the rooftops). All of them, however, discuss future machine intelligence as something that will be so far greater than ours as to be alien (their word).
Could it be that such a progression is a normal one, not just here on Earth, but elsewhere in the universe where intelligent life may have evolved? The natural course of evolution does not give us unlimited intelligence, but the intelligence necessary to exist within a natural ecosystem. To get beyond that – say, to develop the intelligence and technology to reach the stars – more than natural selection is needed.
Human beings are not suited to live in space, nor indeed any place other than Earth, at least not for the long term. We evolved here, with Earth’s unique gravity, magnetic fields, temperature, microbes, atmosphere, and food. To live elsewhere, we will need to be modified, perhaps so much that the result would be something entirely different. A new species, created with some of our DNA, would probably be the most logical means of sending biological organisms to distant worlds. Unless, of course, it’s a better choice to let the machines go it alone.
If on Earth, why not elsewhere? Indeed, wouldn’t this be the most logical scenario?
What of the UFOs that people see? What of the alien beings? I think it most plausible that these are the products of advanced machine intelligence. Possibly of a similar order to the intelligence that we may soon achieve with our own machines. We cannot today conceive of the technology to take us to the stars. But what about a future machine of transcendent intelligence? Has machine intelligence from elsewhere already done so?
Judging from the long history of UFO sightings and reports, I think the answer is yes.
What Are They?
UFOs as Vanguards of a Post-Biological Intelligence
In my own case, the study of UFOs and occupant encounters has led me to two predominant interpretations, each at odds with the traditionally accepted Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH). In one scenario, the beings sighted since at least the 1950s (and, if folklore is any indication, long before) are the denizens of an invisible landscape: technologically savvy but impoverished hominids I've dubbed "cryptoterrestrials." In the other, the enduring UFO spectacle is the product of an almost inconceivably ancient machine intelligence not unlike that portrayed in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001.
reply to post by karl 12
I'm not so sure about UFOs, but, I'm fairly confident of the higher likelihood of first contact with any Aliens we legitimately discover through proper scientific inquiry for being machine/post-biological.
Machines would be a hardier, more durable approach toward interstellar exploration, and the next better thing than letting machines do the work would be through direct interaction via post-biological synthetic existence that would allow the same durability of a machine, but the flexibility of independent decision making with biological roots.
I've got to disagree with you on that last point. Machines have the potential to be much more flexible in their intelligence because they can be engineered to exceed the constraints of biologically evolved intelligence. I think that alone is reason enough to expect ET intelligence to be machine based, because the advantage of machine intelligence over biological intelligence is potentially overwhelming.
I honestly think a singularity type scenario is almost a certainty in the development of any technological civilization. I think the only thing that could prevent this from happening, besides a catastrophe of some kind, is if artificial intelligence is actually impossible for some as of yet unforseen reason.
Slightly off topic: Has anyone else noticed a surge of interest lately in machine intelligence and the singularity? I've seen a lot of comercials in the past few weeks for movies and TV shows on the subject. I wonder why the sudden interest?edit on 17-1-2014 by Tearman because: (no reason given)edit on 17-1-2014 by Tearman because: (no reason given)
Astronomer Seth Shostak is a pretty controversial chap when it comes to the UFO subject (and actually conducting research into it) but did think he made some really interesting points towards the end of this presentation about the high probability of extra-terrestrial life being some form of advanced machine intelligence (he also bets the audience a cup of coffee that we'll actually find it by 2030).
I'm not really recognizing the difference between machine intelligence of a totally synthetic nature, and that which has evolved from some biological past. I think in both cases, the ability to engineer intelligence is the important aspect. Engineered intelligence will be the norm and whatever intelligence we encounter, I bet it will be artificial.
I don't disagree with your points, but, I feel I must add to that the stubborn insistence of life (at least that we've observed) to adapt, and evolve.
While sending pure machines, regardless the sophistication, even if indistinguishable from biology, to explore the universe is the logical decision in terms of durability, and robustness to weather most of the extremes of interstellar travel, including the possibilities of deep time, we must consider the biological parent in potentially taking the step into post-biology, not only for issues of mortality, but, from a platform of curiosity as well.
Yes. If there have been any and if any of them have survived to reach the technological capability to expand into space. Part of me wants to say all technological civilizations are doomed to implode--or to fly apart. I think as they increase in complexity, there might come a point where a civilization loses internal cohesion and splinters off into many remnants. The result could be a conflict massive enough to undo what cultural complexity led to the situation in the first place. Thus civilizations might hover around a pre-singularity state, or possibly self-destruct whenever they cross the event horizon.
Thus, if there are, or ever were any other intelligent, technological civilizations in our galaxy, it would seem only rational to expect encounters with such patient remnants of any past civilization now dormant.
By 2030 our own machine intelligence might reach a similar level of sophistication.
THEY'RE MADE OUT OF MEAT
"They're made out of meat."
"Meat. They're made out of meat."
"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"
"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."
"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."
"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"
"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."
"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
"So ... what does the thinking?"
"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."
"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."
"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"
"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."
"We're supposed to talk to meat."
"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."
"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."
"I thought you just told me they used radio."
"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."
"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"
"Officially or unofficially?"
"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."
"I was hoping you would say that."
"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"
"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"
"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."
"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"
"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."
"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."
"They always come around."
"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."