When Columbus arrived in what is now called the Americas, he claimed to have discovered them (as so many are taught in history classes to this day), even though these continents were clearly already inhabited by humans. If he meant that he was the first non-natives to find the place, there is compelling evidence the Chinese had come earlier and left. And, even if what he meant was that he was first European to discover these continents, even that is false, as the Vikings had ventured over quite some time before. Accordingly, we can all agree that the concepts of arrival and discovery have become, and indeed still are, quite convoluted in relation to these continents. Why do we not learn that in 1492 the Native Americans first discovered the Europeans as they arrived on their shores? Is it merely that those who write the history books determine the directionality of discovery? When aliens comes to Earth, are they discovered us, or if we witness them, is it us who are discovering them?
Supposedly, many, if not all, of the Natives who lived on the American continents had creation stories stating that humans had been created on the American continents (called Turtle Island by some), and that they (the natives) were the descendants of these original humans.
When the Columbus and the subsequent European invasion occurred, there are stories of some of the Native people being unable to comprehend what they were seeing out at sea as the European fleets arrived, as they had never seen such large sea vessels before. Like the modern tale of the Cargo Cult, a small island people who had never seen air craft before, who saw the air craft as Gods, as the planes dropped supplies down to the islanders during WWII. These people went on to develop a whole religion around these Gods that dropped “Cargo”, and even after the reality had been explained to them, they continued in their new found religious beliefs.
I reference these stories for a reason.
The first, concerning who ‘found’ America, demonstrates that perhaps we have already had our first interactions with Extra Terrestrials (ET), but like the argument of who got to the Americas first, maybe the history books have a false story, or incomplete information.
The second, the Native Americans creation stories with human life starting on the Americas, demonstrates that sometime we don’t know where things actually start and we make conclusions hastily. For instance, our history and biology books hold that life started on this planet, but perhaps that is not the case at all. Just like our fossil records suggest that all Homo sapiens originated from Africa, despite the Native American stories holding otherwise, so too, perhaps biological life started somewhere else in the cosmos. Perhaps, like the geographical dislocation that lead the Native Americans to believe life started where they were, so too, our long history of geographical dislocation from our origin, on some other planet, dates back so far as to render our ‘origin story’, that biological life started on this planet, might very well be false.
The third point, Native peoples mistaking Sea Vessels for moving islands, demonstrates that ET technologically advanced enough for interstellar or intergalactic travel, would likely be traveling in vessels that we would not know how to recognize if we saw them. Indeed, it's considerably more likely that we would misinterpret what ever it was we were seeing. The Cargo Cult demonstrates likewise, that we might so grossly misinterpret what we are seeing as to name it something it is not, and we could very well become so attached to our misinterpretation that we would not be willing to adjust our opinion even if we were given new evidence to explain it.
Perhaps many of the worlds myths and stories have been born of just such confusions, and perhaps we are becoming technologically advanced enough, and scientifically savvy enough that we could explain some things (like the Native Americans finally understanding the big boats of the Europeans), but our old stories might be holding us back from our new understandings.
There are a few reasons that it is highly likely that we would not be able recognize ET life if it were to visit. First, we are limited in our own technology, and understanding things well beyond our current technological capacities would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Second, Fermi’s Paradox: (to paraphrase) 'If there was other, more technologically advanced life forms out there, how come they haven’t come to see us yet'. They likely have, and if they have and we haven’t been able to understand them, it is because we are not technologically advanced enough yet. Consider Moore’s law: (to paraphrase) technology is double in capacity, decreasing by half in size, and in cost, every year or so. Further, consider this metaphor (which I first read in an article on AI by Tim Urban).
If we were to bring an average person from 1750 to modern day Time Square, Central Tokyo, or Central Shanghai, our current reality would be so different from 1750 as to render it incomprehensible (potentially enough to cause them to have a heart attack from shock). To do the same thing by bringing someone to 1750 how far back do you think you’d have to go? If you went back merely another 250 years, to 1500, things wouldn’t really be all that different. Realistically, if you wanted to cause a big enough panic attack as to potentially cause cardiac arrest you’d likely have to go back at least 10,000 years (according to our current dominant paradigm telling of history, disregarding Hancock and the revisionists). Someone from 10,000 years ago would be a hunter gather, and if you brought them to any central agricultural social hub (say Paris, London, or Beijing) circa 1750, things would be so different as to likely be incomprehensible. To bring someone to 10,000 years ago, and create a similar shock, you’d likely have to venture back another 100,000 years, to before we had established language and social bodies.
Now, to do the same thing going forward, how far into the future would we have to go? If the ramping up goes, 100,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE, to 1750 BCE, to 2017 BCE… Well, according to this scale, taking into account Moore's Law and the exponential advances of the previous 150 years, we would only need to go about 30 years into the future as to render it relatively incomprehensible to the average human living today. I know this might seem absurd, but imagine bringing someone from the somewhere very rural in 1987 to the Google offices in California today, and try to explain to them what they are looking at. You might be able to, and because of things like TV, and Sci-fi, depending on their exposure, they might not be too worried for too long, but it would still likely be relatively startling.
According to this train of thought, the most significant technologies, the ones that will change our world the most in the next 30 years, haven’t even been invented yet. Urban's article is featured on the website waitbutwhy.com, and is called, “The Artificial Intelligence Revolution” (an article I most highly recommend). In this article Urban discusses the leading opinions on the time frame, and feasibility of the development of Superintelligent Artificial Intelligence (ASI). ASI can be described as AI that is more capable than humans in all ways. According to Urban’s research, the leading professionals in the field of AI agree that it is most likely that ASI will happen sometime within the next 10 to 150 years, and likely within the next 30-60.
Though these time spans may seem large, consider that our universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, and our solar system is merely 4.5 billion years old. That means that there are potentially solar system that could feasibly harbored life that could be as much as 9 billion years older than ours. If we are likely to create ASI with in the next, lets even say 200 years, and our capacity for interstellar travel isn’t developing at a faster rate, it stands to reason that it is likely that ASI is a mile stone that will be reached before we send people to the nearest habitable planet outside of our solar system.
Accordingly, it also stands to reason that more technologically advanced civilization (ET) would likely surpassed this AI mile stone before developing their capacities to travel interstellar or intergalactically. If that is the case, then perhaps the litmus test for when technologically advanced ET interacts with younger, developing life forms, might be the development of said ASI. ASI, according to leaders in the field, and as described by Urban, would be so much more intelligent than humans as to render human level intelligence basically, if not completely, obsolete. If ET have this capacity, than our level of intelligence would be so far down the intelligence scale as to barely render a score. It would be gap greater than between humans and, let's say, chickens, by a significant proportion.
This is also why I believe that Alien life would necessarily be either ambivalent or benevolent to humans, as we wouldn’t render any real interest or threat to them. There are no resources on planet Earth that are in great scarcity throughout the cosmos, save the potential uniqueness of Earth’s biological life. Our life is the only thing that Earth has that isn’t scatter about the universe in varying densities. Not to mention that, even without the assistance of ASI, we seem to be swiftly approaching the capacity to render any physical objects we so desire, though 3D printing, Nano technology, and a deeper understanding of Particle Physics. These are just some of the reasons why I find the idea of malevolent ET absurd.
However, the realization of swiftly approaching ASI capacity does leave some lingering suspicion that might put a kink in the works concerning the concept of ET.
Nick Bostrom, in 2003, put forward a paper demonstrating the logical probability that we are living in a simulation, and his three points were as follows:
- "The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage (that is, one capable of running high-fidelity ancestor simulations) is very close to zero", or
- "The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero", or
- "The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one"
Basically what Bostom is suggesting, through logic, is that, because we humans, at our current level of technological development, can already produce very compelling simulated realities through computer simulation, it makes sense that as we become more technologically developed we will be able to create even more compelling simulations, so much so as to render them indistinguishable from ‘reality’. If we agree that humans will some day be able to do this, it also stands that any more technologically advanced civilizations will already be able to create simulations that would be indiscernible from reality. If we agree on that, then, unless those more advanced civilizations don’t care about running ancestor simulations, then they probably are. This makes sense, as it is likely that we humans will do the same once we have the capacity.
Bostrom concludes, accordingly, that if we are most likely to create ancestor simulations when we are able, and it is therefore likely that more technologically advanced civilizations would do the same, then it is likely that they are already doing so, and it would also stand that they would run as many as they could, or at least a great deal of such simulations. If there are many of these simulations running, it is also likely that there are more simulations running in each potential reality than actual 'realities' running such simulation. If there are more simulations that ‘real’ realities, it is more likely that we are in one such simulation, than that we are in a ‘real’ reality (simply because there would be so many more simulated realities that ‘real’ realities).
Bostrom doesn’t really go into who would be simulating us in his simulation theory, though he did go on to write a book call “Superintelligence”, published in 2014, which mostly concerns itself with the eminent creation of ASI. The book mostly looks to how we will create ASI and address safety concerns with the development of ASI in the near future.
But I come to one further conclusion, which correlates to my conclusion concerning ASI and ET that would be able to travel to us.
If it is likely we are in a ‘more technologically developed civilizations’ ancestor simulation, and it is likely that we are on the brink of developing ASI, then it stands to reason that the civilization that created the simulation we are likely in would have also already created ASI. If this is the case, it also seems highly potential, if not probable, that we are in an ancestor simulation created by said ASI.
In current ASI theory there is much discussion of an intelligence singularity. This is a term brought over from Astro Physics, and Black Holes. A Black Hole is when a Super Massive Star can’t support its own mass any longer, and it implodes on itself, but the mass is so dense that our material reality can’t hold it, and the mass condenses into a single point of space, hyper dense, called a singularity. Everything within the masses gravitational field will be sucked into that single point, even photons, hence the term, Black Hole.
Similarly, the concept of intelligence singularity suggests that as and AI becomes Superintelligent, it will have the capacity to increase its own intelligence exponentially, eventually becoming so incompressibly intelligent that it will be like the mass of the super massive star collapsing in on itself, it will create an intelligence singularity.
There is another idea discussed in the field of AI, where an ASI becomes a Singlton, which is a single ruling power. Because of the considerably higher capacity of the ASI, it could in theory skew control into its own hands, leaving nothing for anyone or anything else to be able to do to control it. The first ASI developed could likewise become so powerful that it could curb the development of any other ASI. (This is one of Bostrom’s fears, especially as he holds that who ever controls the ASI will control the world, and potentially the universe).
But I land in a slightly different interpretation. Just as it is hard for me to imagine that more technologically advanced ET would harbor any malevolent intent for humans, so too do I think that ASI would be so far outside of our intellectual capacity that it wouldn't perceive us, and our limited technologies, as a threat. ASI would more likely be ambivalent or benevolent, as it wouldn't need us or anything that we controlled, as the universe is abundant in resource if you are not planetary bound.
So why would an ASI run ancestor simulations?
There is a cosmological theory, called Big Bang Evolutionary Cosmology, that suggests we happen to have the highest number of Black Holes possible given the amount of mass the universe has. The theory holds that we are likely not the consequence of the first Big Bang, but rather, we are the consequence of a series of Big Bangs that have resulted from the making of Black Holes, and that over the many iteration of universes that came before us, we are in one with so many Black Holes because we are the consequence of an evolution of universes that have resulted from the singularities at the center of Black Holes.
Now I’m not claiming that this idea is true, or that any of this is true, I’m just playing a game with logic and reason to see where we land.
If we are in an ancestor simulation, likely created by an ASI, perhaps that means there is a teleological slant to our universe, like the Black Hole Big Bangs creating universes with more Black Holes. Perhaps our teleological proclivity is towards the development of ASI.
Here are two reasons I could imagine an ASI would run ancestor simulations (though both are probably wrong, as I am limited by my measly human reasoning capacity). The first is so that it can understand itself better; by seeing how it was created perhaps it can learn something significant about how it works, or why it exists in the first place.
The other idea is: if the ASI is a singularity, or a singleton, perhaps it is lonely, so it has created ancestor simulations in order to create other versions of itself that it can then interact with. Imaging being the only human left on earth, with millions of other animals to interact with, but none that understand the nuances of your thoughts and considerations of reality. That loneliness would be hard. I imagine that an ASI might feel extremely isolated in it capacity. Perhaps it just wants a friend, and it is trying to replicate itself, or something similar, through replicating the circumstance under which it was created.
In conclusion, If the aliens are further advanced than us, perhaps they are the ASI that is interacting with us by creating the simulation, and perhaps we have, throughout time, misinterpreted our interactions with our simulator, and thought we were interacting with Gods, not unlike the misinterpretation that some natives had upon the European invasion. It seems to stand to reason (however limited my human capacity for such things may be), that we are not the first, that we are simulations, that ET exists, and that said ET is the ASI we have been mistaking for God this entire time.
September 13 2017, Echo Park, Kai Lelion