Why are Aliens more likely to be post-biological AI ?
Dernière mise à jour : 20 avr. 2022
An increasing number of experts and theorists (astronomers, astrobiologists ans futurists) consider that Extraterrestrials, but also humans in the future, are more likely to be artificial intelligences than to be a biological form of life. The reasoning is simple : taking into account the fact that computer processing power is exponentially increasing, it may be one or two more centuries before we as humans are transcended - or dominated - by inorganically entities, such as AI machines. Indeed, humans could be overtaken by robots, computers or any other kind of high-evolved technology, in the more or less distant future. But rather than being reduced to slavery by AI, humans could also choose to enhance themselves with genetic modifications in combination with technology. Cyborgs or post-humans would thus be hybridized entities with partly organic and partly inorganic parts. It is certain that carbon-based life forms, such as present-day humans, would not last as long as (hypothetical) AI forms in a hostile galactic environment. And if extraterrestrial intelligences have evolved in the way described above, that is to say faster than classical Darwinian timescale, it would be highly unlikely that humans encounter them in their still embodied biological existence. On the scale of the cosmos, the biological life form would be a very limited interval compared to the potential of a non-organic - artificial, digital, electronic - life form. These speculations did not stem directly from a science fiction film but from the research of a prominent astronomer, Lord Martin Rees from the British Royal Society. According to him, as the universe evolves, ‘intelligent species may get unfathomably clever’.
Another theorist, the transhumanist G. Dvorsky believes that, despite the fermi paradox, advanced aliens do exist but in a ‘self-imposed state of hibernation, waiting for a future era of the cosmos in which they can flourish to the greatest extent possible’. He suggests that conditions in Universe are too warm for a computer-based civilization, and that it makes sense for extraterrestrials to enter into hibernation until the universe is colder than now. Many futurists think that advanced intelligences shall eventually transition into a digital mode of life. So, there is a good chance that when humans meet aliens, both will be post-biological beings. To conclude, it is worth quoting Rees' reflection : the lifetime of an organic civilisation may be millennia at most, while its electronic diaspora could continue for billions of years. It seems there may be more civilisations out there than we thought, but that the majority of them would be artificial. We may even want to rethink the term alien civilisations. A civilisation connotes a society of individuals. In contrast, extraterrestrials might be a single integrated intelligence.
Before scholars began to seriously consider the issue, the subject had been addressed by science fiction writers, film producers, video game makers and, of course, ufologists. Beyond the famous 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which masterfully explores themes of AI, human evolution, technology and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, or the equally famous 1979 Alien film featuring androids and aggressive alien lifeform, 2001, we can mention Solaris (1972) the Soviet science fiction film directed by Tarkovsky and based on Stanisław Lem's 1961 polish novel of the same name. This poetic and quasi-mystical film - which was a response to what Tarkovsky saw as the phoniness of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - features an extraterrestrial intelligence that mysteriously possesses all the characteristics of the current AI algorithms : analyzing human’s mind in order to discover our most secret preferences and desires. Indeed, the planet Solaris which is also an ‘alien thinking brain’ is able to materialize what lies in the human psyche through incomprehensible data processing models.
There are other lesser known examples taken from popular or esoteric culture. For instance, in Terry Bisson’s story They’re Made Out of Meat (1990), the aliens that explore Earth are robotic beings. In the short story, the extraterrestrial intelligences are disgusted by ‘thinking beings' composed of meat and bones (made up of organic material), namely us human beings. In the System Shock, action-adventure video game released in 1994, the player attempts to hinder the plans of a malevolent AI. The action takes place in the space station positioned in an orbit above Saturn and dedicated to genetic and robotics research. The Station's systems is governed by an AI called SHODAN. Here again, humans are treated as ridiculous entities made up of flesh and blood.
SHODAN is not an extraterrestrial entity in the strict sense as it was created on earth to serve as the AI of the TriOptimum Corporation's research and mining space station Citadel Station, which orbits around Saturn.
In a more esoteric way, we can mention the literature of ufologists on classification of so-called ‘close encounters’ : in 1972, the American astronomer J. Allen Hynek classified encounters between humans and extraterrestrials into three main categories. The first kind is the sighting of an unidentified source (UFO), the second kind is any observation of UFO together with its physical effect (radio/TV interference, damage to vegetation), the third kind of close encounter is any observation of UFO occupants that could be biological, robotic or hybrid beings. In, 1973, Hynek was sent by NBC News in Pascagoula (Mississipi) to get to the bottom of a possible alien abduction of two men who gave testimony that ‘robotic beings’ emerged from a glowing UFO. Nowadays, a growing number of testimonies (more or less fanciful) tend to show that the famous « little greys » (not to be confused with little green men) also referred to as Grey aliens or Zeta Reticulans, are ‘bio-robotic entities’.