This could ruin a lot of good science fiction movies … and create interesting plots for the next generation of them, not to mention influencing how humans deal with space aliens when they first encounter each other (assuming they haven’t already). A timely article by The Daily Galaxy reviews the study “Alien Minds” by Susan Schneider where the professor and author discusses her theory that our first meeting with an extraterrestrial will be with a billion-year-old robot. Wait, what?
“I do not believe that most advanced alien civilizations will be biological. The most sophisticated civilizations will be postbiological, forms of artificial intelligence or alien superintelligence.”
Susan Schneider is an associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy Cognitive Science Program at the University of Connecticut. “Alien Minds” has been presented at NASA and the 2016 IdeaFestival in Kentucky and was published in The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth. It is her response to the question: “How would intelligent aliens think? Would they have conscious experiences? Would it feel a certain way to be an alien?”
“I actually think the first discovery of life on other planets will probably involve microbial life; I am concentrating on intelligent life in my work on this topic though. I only claim that the most advanced civilizations will likely be post biological.”
Schneider’s theory is based on three components or “observations.” In her “short window observation,” she presents the idea that a civilization or species that can conquer long-distance space travel is already very close to moving from biological to artificially-intelligent beings. An example of this “short window” is the relatively brief 120 years it took humans to go from the first radio signals to cell phones.
Some of those species will be much older than us, which is Schneider’s “the greater age of alien civilizations” observation – one accepted by many. And not just a few generations older but billions of years beyond us, making them far more advanced and intelligent. How much more?
Schneider’s last observation is that any species that can travel to Earth will be intelligent enough to develop robots that they can upload their brains to. The robots would probably be silicon-based for speed of ‘thinking’ and durability, making them nearly immortal.
Should we fear these superintelligent robots from other galaxies? Schneider thinks we may not have a chance to. If they’re so much further advanced than we are, why would they bother dealing with is in the first place? Or, as she so bluntly puts it in an interview with UConn Today:
“Would you really cross the universe to interact with an ant?”
That’s a relief … I guess. However, she leans to the side of caution when the discussion turns to sending signals into space to proactively contact any life forms listening.
Like the philosopher that she is, Susan Schneider leaves herself an out: there may not be any other species – superintelligent or lower – at all:
“The universe could be a lonely place, we still do not know the conditions that created life on this planet.”
Will our first ET encounter be with a billion-year-old superintelligent robot? Just to be on the safe side, repeat after me:
“Klaatu barada nikto”