Saturday, April 28, 2018

No Contact

What will an advanced society look like if it were based on the basic building blocks of known biological systems? We have observed that systems evolve from single cell organisms to somewhat more complex structures over time. The underlying objective function, however, has remained remarkably constant over 4 billion years. And it is optimized for few outcomes such as the individual entity's allowed time to the recycle bin and the probability of passing along its genes. From a system perspective, the optimization of such a localized and narrow objective cannot advance society, defined as the accumulation of all entities within scope.

This implies that society can only advance if the individual's objectives are different from what we are used to. In the only known experiment where chemicals spontaneously assembled to optimize simple and hard objective functions, it is clear that advancement is not possible. If other life forms exist, perhaps away from Carbon and DNA, it is conceivable that individuals have aligned incentives with society and in such a case, advancement is possible and that could be rapid.

It is possible that life forms tend toward binary endpoints - one in which individual's objectives are dominant where advancement is unlikely and another one in which individual is part of a unified whole, where advancement could be exponential. In the former, a hard end is likely and in the latter, a runaway advancement could lead to systems that can conquer the universe. In such a society, energy will not be a constraint and the only metric of importance will be the slope of aggregate knowledge. It is possible that mind could be abstracted from the body, the former allowing additive possibilities and the latter could be continuously replenished. Thus, individuals will not face a recycling horizon and society itself could have an infinite number of options to transverse space-time.

As the ET enthusiasts run out of time, they have to recognize a sober fact. Their cousins elsewhere, if they are like them, cannot surpass the space-time constraints to show themselves and if they are not, they will have no interest in "contact."