With UFOs in the news this year, we have been forced to ponder the mysteries of the universe, including the possibility of extraterrestrial life. But there was a new spin on the idea of aliens: What if aliens were AIs? ARE ALIENS AI THAT GOT OUT OF CONTROL?
What if, instead of thinking of aliens as little green men, we considered the prospect they might be a form of advanced artificial intelligence that outlived their little green men creators? It’s possible, according to Lord Martin Rees.
First of all, Lord Rees could say whatever he wanted about aliens and people will listen. He’s a British cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the fifteenth Astronomer Royal.
An astronomer royal is a senior post in the Royal Households of the UK, who advises the monarch on astronomical matters. (The post was created in 1675, by King Charles II. The astronomer royal today receives a payment of £100 per year (AU$192.20) and is a member of the royal household.)
Lord Rees recently said while human evolution may be reaching its peak, the evolution of artificially intelligent minds was just beginning. In a few centuries, we might find ourselves surpassed by inorganic intelligence that we created. Are we living in a brief interlude in Earth’s history before machines take over?
Our biology is against us
This leads us to a question being kicked around scientific circles: Were aliens more likely to be creatures of flesh and blood like us or something more artificial? If they were AIs, how could we detect them? And, how could we protect ourselves against them?
Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb also expressed ideas along the same lines as Lord Rees. He said that aliens would “most likely be robotic and guided by AI — so we’ll need our own AI to figure them out.”
Avi Loeb is the author of Interstellar, and he explained while this novel’s plot has humans indulging in interstellar travel, our biology was against us when it came to this. We just don’t live long enough to travel these distances.
In an essay for Scientific American, Loeb said, “If we ever encounter traces of aliens, therefore, it will likely be in the form of technology, not biology. Technological debris could have accumulated in interstellar space over the past billions of years, just as plastic bottles have accumulated on the surface of the ocean.”
As for the aliens discussed in the Pentagon report to Congress, Loeb said they were likely to act autonomously. But, he asked, “How could we tell whether an autonomous extraterrestrial AI system is a friend or a foe?”
Alien AI: Is anyone out there?
Maybe human intelligence is not the pinnacle of intelligent life. Maybe AI is. This could explain why the cosmos seemed so void of life like ours. And if aliens were indeed just AIs, then would our human telescopes find them? Looking for radio signals might miss the drama. Do we need to start scoping for “technosignatures”?
Lord Rees suggested in an article for the BBC the motives of these alien AIs might be beyond our pea-brained human understanding. Unlike humans, driven by survival pressures, these entities might not be aggressive but rather contemplative, thinking deep thoughts far beyond our capabilities.
Is the “great silence” in the cosmos not us being alone in the universe, but instead, because the alien AIs prefer a more introspective existence?
Lord Rees warned humanity has only a 50 percent chance of surviving until the year 2100, unless we take action to mitigate the threats posed by things like biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and nuclear weapons.
Loeb said the only way to overcome threats from alien AIs was to build AIs that were superior in intelligence. “Here’s hoping that in the galactic race, our AI systems will outsmart the aliens. Just as in the gunfights of the Wild West, the survivor might be the one who is first to draw a weapon without hesitation.”