Hawaii, outside Hilo, August 2014
One of the easiest ways to evaluate someone Value Memes (v-Memes) is to ask them the old ‘what would aliens be like’ question. We tend to think that the best people to ask that question to and get a real answer are scientists. Which, on the surface, seems like a good idea — at least if you don’t understand our Theory of Empathetic Evolution. If you’ll recall, you’ll remember, though, that scientists are mostly organized down in the lower v-Memes, and most are algorithmic processors with mediocre metacognition — that ability to know what they don’t know. Exobiology, the study of what life might be on other planets, is in its profoundly nascent beginnings. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised (I’ll be long dead, of course) that when we finally get off this planet, we’ll find that the physical processes for creating life are largely captured here on Earth, give or take a few molecules. The emergence of life is a low-probability event, and we DO have a canonical set of planets right here that we can investigate. Barring discoveries of rudimentary life on Mars, or the moons of Saturn (think Titan) it’s just hard to get the scaled fractal structures life seems to need, with the physics present on most of the planets in the universe. Things are just too energetically violent.
That doesn’t mean that extraterrestrial life doesn’t exist. Billions of galaxies, and potentially billions of universes, mean that E.T. probably is out there to Phone Home. And I still maintain that the laws of information creation ARE constant across at least our home universe. Which means that everything I wrote in this post is likely true.
Then there’s the movie problem with all our understanding of extraterrestrial life. I’ve already ranted about the aliens-gonna-eat-us crowd. But even when we stray from that, we don’t do so well. Take the latest cinema offerings. The biggest thing that gets me about recent movies like Arrival is that the aliens, upon crossing some major interstellar void, when they show up, they haven’t done their homework on how to talk to us. And it’s us with flashcards that have to school our dum-dum E.T. pals on “me-man, you-woman” in order to teach them how to talk with us. As if they didn’t have anything better to ponder while experiencing the effects of relativity hurling across the universe.
Well, now there’s a new book out, compiled by a quantum theory specialist, about what scientists think about aliens eating us. (Spoiler alert — they won’t, because we’re not made from constructive amino acids. Is that the only constraining force on us? If so, your neighbor better watch out or he’ll end up on the grill!) It’s all in good fun, and I don’t want to be too hard on the editors, but it really shows our static view toward social evolution. The reasons are all like this — no animate life, because robots will live forever (people espousing these kinds of positions have never worked with robots!) , no theft of raw materials makes sense, and so on.
How do we get social evolution on the mental radar screens of folks, and the implications of Conway’s Law on technological development? There are days I just scratch my head. Maybe it’s time for a little Back to the Future? Arthur C. Clarke, where are you when we need you? With maybe just a little less control in your make-up?