Aliens and why I am not putting my money on SETI or Kurzweil

SETI is scanning the sky for radio waves. – ASSUMING aliens use radio waves to communicate.
And that is the reason I am not putting my money on SETI.

This post is triggered by one Geoffrey Miller wrote in 2006: “Why we haven’t met any Aliens” and a discussion today on Twitter.

the assumptions Miller and SETI and Kurtzweil make are like the rocket-ships SF used in the 1930’s – resembling trains and ships powered by steam engines, only called “Rockets” and flying through space instead of moving through water of over iron tracks. It is like assuming Alien system-to-system travel is done in big containers containing deep-frozen bodies and traveling under the speed of light.

I started to read a German series called “Perry Rhodan” when I was 12. If you do not know it: compare it to Star Trek: a lot of traveling, aliens, planets, civilizations and battles but smarter, more varied, more sophisticated and on a much larger scale. Each new story-line introduced new technologies, new enemies and new challenges.

There was hyperspace, subspace, the slipstream to travel with, hyperradio, subradio and whatever they could come up with. To be short: for large distances both travel and communication happened on a different plane of existence. I also read Harrison and Niven where via portals you could travel from “A” to “B” without loss of time, regardless the distance.

The main reason why SciFi is rarely going beyond “warping what we know now to something slightly different” is twofold I think:

  1. It is really hard work to imagine technology and Aliens far beyond who we are and beyond what we are currently achieving
  2. Even if you succeed, can you make it work in a story?

That – I believe – is the main reason why Aliens in SF are so much like us in many ways. It is easier.

Also, many Alien civilizations self-destructed by Nuclear war in stories from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. To get passed that was “reaching the next stage of that civilization”. A very nice story, but mainly a reflection of the fears people had at that time.

Coming back to SETI

  1. Why would Aliens use radio waves to communicate?
  2. Even IF they done at some time: for how long would they have used that before finding something better?
  3. Why would they even be based on the same principle as we (having a body, living in 3D space)?
  4. Who says those species are still alive and not disappeared ages ago?

I would bet some money on Quantum Entanglement
From WikiPedia:
Quantum entanglement, also called the quantum non-local connection, is a property of a quantum mechanical state of a system of two or more objects in which the quantum states of the constituting objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart—even if the individual objects are spatially separated.

Theoretically you can use this as a “wire” to talk from “A” to “B” and back over large distances. If you could make this technology work, with maximum bandwidth, and as many Quantum lines as you wish, would you still use radio or physical wires to communicate?

The quantum-entanglement is an one to one or one to many connection. It is not broadcasting any signal. And this is what we can create in a laboratory today. Who knows what we will discover and build wit that and other discoveries to come in the next 50 years.

I would put some money on Spectrum Analysis
Instead of listening to radio waves I would focus on Spectrum Analysis instead: mapping the planets which could possible inhabit human life. Even then it is hard to tell whether you will find civilizations. One possible direction is where a civilization leaves enormous footprints behind in the shape of artifacts. Another equally possible is where they leave nothing behind.

Why I do not put my money on Ray Kurzweil
In his book “The singularity is near” Kurzweil describes how we will one day use all of the universe’s resources to build a gigantic cosmic supercomputer.

What gets me the most is that he describes this as the most logical way of development of society. Since this might be a logical development for humans – according to the book of Kurtzweil – it is also for other societies. And “since we found that the universe is not a super computer yet, there must be no alien life”. It is a circular reasoning. For all we know, the universe at large IS a supercomputer if you know how to use it.

In an earlier post, almost a year ago, I tried to imagine an Alien type of life as a counter-reaction to the “Halo” novel by Eric Nylund. Short: it was a disappointment to me. Trying to imagine a alien type of life, based on the developments we see happening in this age – and moving them forward – I came to some unsatisfying results. Each possibility counted out the other. To stand a chance your enemy has to have some weakness.

  1. Each individual having the same computing capabilities of all the stuff we are running now: also recording anything this individual encounters
  2. Immortality based on these recordings and implantable on any new body: like re-installing a backup.
  3. Item #2 but to an unlimited scale – so you can exists in as many copies of you as you like. At the same time
  4. You being able to hack the world around you to expand your computing-capacity
  5. You being connected to countless other people via quantum entanglement, having super high broadband access to countless other super computers
  6. You being able to hack reality in such a way that distance is not an issue. Either by creating another copy of you somewhere else or by bending some loophole in the space/time continuum
  7. You being able to hack reality in such a way that you can materialize anything by assembling molecules to your liking.

And this is hard-coding atoms. Maybe even faster and more easy is hacking biology: where self-replicating machines in the shape of cells are the core enablers of our existence.
If you like this kind of shit, read Battle angel Alita: Last order by Kishiro starting at issue 11 and later or Blame! and Biomega by Nihei. Especially Nihei will blow your mind.

Other (quantum) realities
Stretching it further: what about the possibility that each decision this universe makes is spawning off yet another version of itself? Or on a lower resolution: a multiverse of reflections of reflections, each as large as the other but slightly different. Neil Stephensons most recent novel “Anathem” deals with data-leaks from parallel universa, allowing people to operate as super-computers or explore alternative paths of cause and effect: like simulations. So add to the list above:
8: You being able to tap into the computing power of parallel universa.

Post humans versus Aliens
Post humanism will very likely combine two directions of human evolution: hacking our biology and hacking hardware. I think one of the possible directions (described by Kurtzweil and others) might be that we will embed intelligent systems within our bodies. How and why are dependent on the scenario you choose when telling the story. In my case: natural evolution of human-computer interaction.

Hacking our biology is a different story. Stepping out of the box, upgrading our systems might lead to prolonged life, better healing capacities, less errors in replicating cells but also maybe using the computing-power of our biologic cells as well. So that we might run four types of computing:

  1. Our brain
  2. Linear computers embedded in our bodies
  3. Quantum computers embedded in our bodies
  4. Our augmented wetware / cells

Communicating to other devices and people via

  1. Radio (maybe, but likely not)
  2. Light / other frequencies available
  3. Entangled quantum pairs

And this is only the scope of maybe 100 years between now and then (taken we do not hold back on development), not taken into account the world we will envelop ourselves with:

  1. Smart objects
  2. Smart spaces
  3. A smart / sentient globe

Now how do you envision aliens? If this is the scope of our possible human development in 100 years, where will we be 1000 years from now? What will define our humanness?

John Varley (find and read “Ophiuchi hotline“) and Charles Stross (”Accellerando“) as one of few take this a step further: where we live in memory banks and simulated worlds many times the speed of the current world.

Reading ”Accellerando“ you can see Stross stuttering on the post-singularity vision. Beating around the bush of what he wants to tell you. Rudy Rucker solves the problem of it all in Hylozoic by escaping into a past and introducing sub-intelligent species of birds as an enemy. Stross describes them as stranded entities living off others in the virtual places opened after the singularity. Varley takes N-dimensional creatures without physical form.

Asimov did not introduce any aliens at all in the ”Foundation“ series, to avoid the issue as a whole.

To assume that aliens will reflect our current state of technology like SETI assumes or will follow a one tracked path like Kurtzweil describes is too limited compared to the enormous scope of options we have and will possibly have in the future.


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