The Aliens Are Probably Superintelligent Robots
In the paper “Alien Minds“, written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and IEET Fellow, describes why alien life forms are likely to be superintelligent machines, and how such creatures might think, Motherboard reports.
It’s likely [intelligent aliens] won’t be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way.
In all likelihood, [their] intelligence will be way more sophisticated than anything humans can understand.
She is not alone: Seth Shostak, director of NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick, believe that the dominant intelligences in the cosmos are probably artificial. Royal Astronomer Sir Martin Rees and world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking, among many others, have expressed similar views.
Alien Superintelligences Extremely Smarter Than Us
Their reasoning is simple, and crystal clear: once intelligent aliens start developing advanced technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), it won’t be long before they use their technology to remake themselves and eventually transfer their minds to synthetic hardware much more powerful than organic brains. Therefore, advanced aliens keep their organic nature only for a short time (a few centuries) compared to the lifespan of their civilization (perhaps millions of years). Hence, most advanced alien civilizations out there must be post-biological. Shostak says:
As soon as a civilization invents radio, they’re within fifty years of computers, then, probably, only another fifty to a hundred years from inventing AI. At that point, soft, squishy brains become an outdated model.
In our case, only a little more than a century has passed between the invention of radio and the ability to create artificial cells built from silicon and transfer a primitive worm’s mind to a computer brain in a robotic body. In a recent Vice interview neuroscientist Randal Koene says the the worm mind transfer is the first example of mind uploading – the transfer of a mind from an organic brain to synthetic hardware – and he hopes that the first human upload will be achieved within his lifetime.
In a recent book, Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom predicts that AI research will soon develop superintelligent machines. Other possible paths to superintelligence include mind uploading and the fusion of organic and machine minds. Bostrom defines superintelligence as something far smarter than us, not in the provincial sense that Einstein is smarter than the village idiot, but in the real sense that Einstein (or the village idiot – the difference is utterly irrelevant on this scale) is smarter than a beetle.
Biologically-Inspired Superintelligent Aliens
In Alien Minds, Schneider analyzes Bostrom’s arguments, which she finds persuasive. She summarizes her main points:
I have observed that there seems to be a short window from the development of the technology to access the cosmos and the development of postbiological minds and AI. I then observed that we are galactic babies: extraterrestrial civilizations are likely to be vastly older than us, and thus they would have already reached not just postbiological life, but superintelligence. Finally, I noted that they would likely be SAI [Superintelligent AI], because silicon is a superior medium for superintelligence. From this I conclude that many advanced alien civilizations will be populated by SAI.
In particular, Schneider thinks that a number of alien civilizations develop superintelligence from uploading or other forms of reverse engineering. Biologically-Inspired Superintelligent Aliens (BISAs) – alien superintelligences based on reverse engineering and uploading alien brains – may be the most common form of alien superintelligence out there.
Images from European Southern Observatory and Shutterstock.