Author Topic: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.  (Read 9182 times)

altered

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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #30 on: July 10, 2019, 04:21:47 am »
When it comes to sci-fi media and alien contact, my go-to is Greg Egan. Schild’s Ladder and Diaspora cover it as awesomely as anything. Schild’s Ladder more on the detailed “how to communicate side”, Diaspora more on the “how weird could they be” side. Schild’s Ladder has a particularly good idea for communication, but my memory is bad enough that I’m not up to pretending I remember it right.

Beyond that though, yeah. Just like AI and mass media is all fucking wrong, aliens and mass media is all fucking wrong.
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #31 on: July 10, 2019, 04:49:04 am »
If aliens contact us, it would be an Outside-Context problem for humanity.

"The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests."

Any species sufficiently advanced to communicate with us should be considered carefully. If their technology is obviously more advanced than ours, then that's a significant power disparity. And I would question the reason why such a technologically advanced alien race would contact a lesser one, especially one which is not even united politically. They could be benevolent...but less charitable explanations come to mind.

How would Russia or China respond to an alien contact? Would they try to trade for technological and military advances? Would the US (of course it would). The mere presence of aliens could set off geopolitical tensions and an arms race with weapons we may not even understand the full impact of.

Religions would likely react even worse.

Picking up the phone is a significant risk. It should not be done lightly.

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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #32 on: July 10, 2019, 04:52:45 am »
Nevertheless, if an alien civilization contacts us, why not give it a go?

Seriously, have you not seen any of those movies?!

Yes, and they're almost all universally shite on basic science. You going to believe some capitalist dog from Los Angeles who doesn't understand basic science selling you stupid ideas and probably is just fucking rebooting something from 40 years ago to void actually being creative? Movies are fun to watch, but fuck them for actual real life applications.

Again: aliens who come here are probably committing suicide by horrible, tortuous means. What's the harm in a phone call?

If I come off sounding like I don't take any of this seriously, it's because I don't.

I've actually done the math. Not all of it, of course, but enough to be convinced that species capable of even our level of communications are exceedingly rare in the universe. Further, I believe the odds of an aliens species capable of communicating with us, and living close enough to do so, are incredibly, near infinitesimally small.

The math I've done, again not all of it, on the possibility of actual interstellar travel by living beings is even more discouraging. To to that, I found a significant portion of the possible energy production of an entire planet, if not multiple planets, would be required. So again, I believe there are near infinitesimally small odds of us ever being visited by aliens, or us ever visiting aliens capable of even rudimentary spaceflight.

I do find this to be a very interesting subject(s). But again, I do not take the possibilities/probabilities of interstellar communications with aliens, or interstellar visits from aliens seriously.

Nephew Twiddleton

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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #33 on: July 10, 2019, 07:11:28 am »
Again: aliens who come here are probably committing suicide by horrible, tortuous means. What's the harm in a phone call?

I always thought the conclusion of "War of the Worlds" was nonsense.  How the hell could the aliens be advanced enough to build interplanetary spaceships and beam weaponry, but be ignorant of pathogens?

We barely had the technology to make it to the moon, but we still knew enough to be worried about the unknown, and put the first astronauts in quarantine when they got back.

Astronauts that went to the Moon didn't expect life there and they went in space suits because they were temporarily in an environment that they didn't evolve in.

I also know a thing or two about biology.
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #34 on: July 10, 2019, 07:22:11 am »
Microbiology, specifically, but with a side of evolution
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #35 on: July 10, 2019, 02:15:51 pm »
Astronauts that went to the Moon didn't expect life there and they went in space suits because they were temporarily in an environment that they didn't evolve in.
They didn't expect life, but the crew of Apollo 11 was nevertheless quarantined for 21 days following their return.  When they got back to their Moon-ship and took off their Moon-helmets, they could have been exposed to any Moon-contagions collected on the outside on their Moon-suits.  They stopped quarantining returning astronauts once they had confirmed there was no Moon-risk.

I consider it highly implausible that a civilization which had advanced to the level of interstellar travel would be unaware of and unprepared for differences in gravity, atmosphere, or protein chirality.

Also, everything Cain said.

Quote
I also know a thing or two about biology.
Hmm.
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #36 on: July 10, 2019, 04:00:33 pm »
Cain brings up good points about political consequences.

But re: Moon germs, and the like. We have to wear spacesuits whenever we go somewhere not Earthlike. Hell we have to basically wear the equivalent of spacesuits if we go to certain parts of our planet. We can't really survive somewhere that we're not adapted to live in. Neither can microbes. Microbes have limitations too.

We can't even culture most of the microbial species on Earth, for a variety of reasons, but a nontrivial part of that is that some species only thrive in multispecies consortia. We ourselves get pretty sickly if our microbiomes are out of whack. So among the challenges that an alien invader is going to face: bacteria that they're not evolved to handle, assuming that their environmental parameters match up with any bacteria from Earth, (or if their internal conditions are suitable) and that their offspring are probably not going to have the microbiomes they're supposed to
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #37 on: July 11, 2019, 12:21:57 am »
We can't really survive somewhere that we're not adapted to live in.
Actually, I already survive somewhere that humans are not biologically adapted to.  When I go outside during winter, I could die.  But I overcome this with technology.  When the temperature drops, I wear a coat.

Why is wearing protective gear (space suits, encounter suits, whatever) a showstopper for alien visitors?  For that matter, why couldn't they alter their biology to match the environment?  We are much closer to modifying humans than to visiting the stars (some Chinese researchers are already trying to create HIV-resistant babies.)  Being able to modify one's biology significantly may even be a prerequisite to surviving interstellar travel.

There is also the possibility that the alien visitors are so alien, that our microbes wouldn't affect them at all.  If they were all robots, for example.

...yeah.  Actually, forget everything I just said, and let's go with that.  The aliens are all robots.
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #38 on: July 11, 2019, 01:38:48 am »
I hate robots.  :crankey:
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #39 on: July 11, 2019, 04:29:42 am »
I hate robots.  :crankey:

Okay so no aliens no robots... No humans kind of goes without saying.

Is there anything that might potentially bear Consciousness that you don't hate? Like would you be cool if we discovered a terrestrial animal other than humans was conscious?
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #40 on: July 11, 2019, 04:55:27 am »
Like would you be cool if we discovered a terrestrial animal other than humans was conscious?

The black bear used to be one of the most commonly seen large animals because in Yosemite and Sequoia national parks they lived off of garbage and tourist handouts.  This bear has learned to open car doors in Yosemite, where damage to automobiles caused by bears runs into the tens of thousands of dollars a year.  Campaigns to bearproof all garbage containers in wild areas have been difficult, because as one biologist put it, "There is a considerable overlap between the intelligence levels of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists."

(Sorry, don't have attribution for that quote).
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #41 on: July 11, 2019, 09:13:01 pm »
We can't really survive somewhere that we're not adapted to live in.
Actually, I already survive somewhere that humans are not biologically adapted to.  When I go outside during winter, I could die.  But I overcome this with technology.  When the temperature drops, I wear a coat.

Why is wearing protective gear (space suits, encounter suits, whatever) a showstopper for alien visitors?  For that matter, why couldn't they alter their biology to match the environment?  We are much closer to modifying humans than to visiting the stars (some Chinese researchers are already trying to create HIV-resistant babies.)  Being able to modify one's biology significantly may even be a prerequisite to surviving interstellar travel.

There is also the possibility that the alien visitors are so alien, that our microbes wouldn't affect them at all.  If they were all robots, for example.

...yeah.  Actually, forget everything I just said, and let's go with that.  The aliens are all robots.

Aliens are all robots is the most feasible.

And yeah, I'm well aware of the Chinese CRISPR babies. Thing is that comes with a lot of ethical problems for a reason. Not the least of which being that straight Mendelian genetics is just scratching the surface and altering one gene could disrupt multiple gene networks. I'm not a computer programmer, but I'm sure a computer programmer can easily spot an analogy here. It of course depends on exactly what's being done in genetic modification, but if you're so heavily modifying a genome to be able to handle alien worlds, those aliens might be aliens to the aliens that point
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #42 on: July 11, 2019, 10:19:26 pm »
I hate robots.  :crankey:

Okay so no aliens no robots... No humans kind of goes without saying.

Is there anything that might potentially bear Consciousness that you don't hate? Like would you be cool if we discovered a terrestrial animal other than humans was conscious?

As per the Wikipedia article on Consciousness, I do not believe the bar is set very high on attaining it.

For instance, as per the above referenced article:

“Another approach applies specifically to the study of self-awareness, that is, the ability to distinguish oneself from others. In the 1970s Gordon Gallup developed an operational test for self-awareness, known as the mirror test. The test examines whether animals are able to differentiate between seeing themselves in a mirror versus seeing other animals. The classic example involves placing a spot of coloring on the skin or fur near the individual's forehead and seeing if they attempt to remove it or at least touch the spot, thus indicating that they recognize that the individual they are seeing in the mirror is themselves. Humans (older than 18 months) and other great apes, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, pigeons, European magpies, and elephants have all been observed to pass this test.”

Here's the link to the article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness

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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #43 on: July 11, 2019, 11:44:04 pm »
We can't really survive somewhere that we're not adapted to live in.
Actually, I already survive somewhere that humans are not biologically adapted to.  When I go outside during winter, I could die.  But I overcome this with technology.  When the temperature drops, I wear a coat.

Why is wearing protective gear (space suits, encounter suits, whatever) a showstopper for alien visitors?  For that matter, why couldn't they alter their biology to match the environment?  We are much closer to modifying humans than to visiting the stars (some Chinese researchers are already trying to create HIV-resistant babies.)  Being able to modify one's biology significantly may even be a prerequisite to surviving interstellar travel.

There is also the possibility that the alien visitors are so alien, that our microbes wouldn't affect them at all.  If they were all robots, for example.

...yeah.  Actually, forget everything I just said, and let's go with that.  The aliens are all robots.

Aliens are all robots is the most feasible.

And yeah, I'm well aware of the Chinese CRISPR babies. Thing is that comes with a lot of ethical problems for a reason. Not the least of which being that straight Mendelian genetics is just scratching the surface and altering one gene could disrupt multiple gene networks. I'm not a computer programmer, but I'm sure a computer programmer can easily spot an analogy here. It of course depends on exactly what's being done in genetic modification, but if you're so heavily modifying a genome to be able to handle alien worlds, those aliens might be aliens to the aliens that point

Please see Greg Egan’s Diaspora. There is a character who does something along these lines just to communicate. It’s fiction, but Egan is about as hard as science fiction can get.
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Re: If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion.
« Reply #44 on: July 12, 2019, 12:42:12 am »
I hate robots.  :crankey:

Okay so no aliens no robots... No humans kind of goes without saying.

Is there anything that might potentially bear Consciousness that you don't hate? Like would you be cool if we discovered a terrestrial animal other than humans was conscious?

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