Thoughts on Aliens, The Singularity and the Future of Humanity

Do you believe that little grey men have visited earth in their spaceships?

I once used to believe this, but as technology and our concepts of the world increase, I am very much starting to doubt it. Let me explain why.

It is said that within the next 50 to 75 years we will reach a point in which we create machines that contain human or even above human level intelligence. These machines will then use their superior intelligence to create even more intelligent machines. The growth rate of this progress will be exponential. What that means is that you start with 1 and then get 2, then 4, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 and so on and so on. It’s not a linear path. You don’t go from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. Because every generation basically doubles what the previous generation knew and they do it in less time.

Well considering that we as human beings are still far away from flying around the galaxy and yet we are much closer to evolving into machine ourselves within the next 100 years, the chances of an alien race being little grey fleshy men flying around from galaxy to galaxy seems a little, well… inconceivable. By the time they reached that space flight capability, they themselves would have been machines, they may possibly be the ship itself.

But it goes further then that. We are soon approaching the singularity.  What this means is that technology and intelligence will advance so fast exponentially that it will reach a single point. It’s hard at this point to even grasp such a concept.
One theory is that the Big bang was a singularity that basically reversed itself exploding outward.
I don’t really understand this theory very well so I’m not going to go into it. But it’s an idea.

To back it up a little bit, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to predict that should no other catastrophes arise, within 500-1000 years human being no longer exist and neither do the machines that succeed us. What exists instead is the next evolution, which is our intelligence spread out through the cosmos in the form of matter, energy, light or radio waves. That said, alien intelligence could be all around us right now and we just don’t know it because we’re not evolved enough to recognize it.

Science fiction has for years shown us glimpses of the future in which human beings ride around to different planets in space ships, completely unchanged as a species from who we are today. But will we ever actually reach that point? The human body is not the most ideal body for space travel. We require food, water, oxygen and even to some extent gravity to keep us as we are today. It’s been proven that astronauts need to exercise regularily when in space in order to maintain their muscle structure. Without gravity the muscles soon atrophy. After all they don’t have the weight of the earth pulling on them. Which is why they float around. Without that weight their muscles are not as required and begin to disappear. We are built for our enviornment here on earth, as we began here. Travelling through space in the bodies we currently inhabit would require a lot of provisions. We are better off sending more advanced robots into space that only require electricty to function. Robots whose bodies are not biological and do not shrink and condition themselves to the enviorment they are in.

Unless our speed of spaceflight increases dramatically before human level robots are developed, we as flesh made human beings may never set foot on any planet further then mars. It is more likely that we will evolve into machines and use new robotic bodies to travel further. Even then we may only get so far before we find that those bodies are also limited and we are required to evolve into our next form before going further.

There are people that don’t believe any of this of course. Such is humaity. But humanity is not the end. The reality is, we are likely to reach our new evolution within the next 100-200 years. Barring any holy wars or natural catastropes that is. Those will be the two biggest things to watch out for in the 21st Century. There is afterall a certain subset of humanity that doesn’t want this progress to happen. Generally this is the relgious fanatics. The people who believe God will come down and sweep us away or that Allah wants nuclear war in the west.  These are probably the scariest challenges that we as humaity face. But if we can get past them, we will see a vastly different future then what we conceive today. We will live for as long as we wish and we will be way smarter then we are today. So smart we can’t even grasp that kind of intelligence today.

Human are far from perfect. We like to believe we are sometimes. Some people say there is no such thing as perfect. They may be right. Perfection is an infinite value that may never be able to be reached. But we can always inch closer and closer to it.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

0 thoughts on “Thoughts on Aliens, The Singularity and the Future of Humanity

  1. Wow! That is a really wierd concept. Pretty interesting though. And please don’t call us religious fanatics. It is a generalization, and a bad one at that. I am religious, and I am far from fanatic. Does that mean that all people who are ‘religious’ are fanatics? Can’t a person be a ‘religious’ without being fanatical?

  2. It sounds pretty meaningless to me.  And for people who need for there to be meaning, what you’re suggesting sounds like a pretty bleak proposition.

    Without emotions, we’d just be computer programs collecting information for no reason.  What’s the point?

  3. I tend to think it’s unlikely aliens have visited Earth, but not for the (admittedly interesting) reasons you’ve posited. 

    My reasoning hinges on simple mathematics, really…even if there are thousands of intelligent species in the universe, the universe is so incredibly vast that it’s unlikely they’d even be aware of our existence or interested enough to make the journey to see “what those crazy hairless apes are up to.”  Furthermore, if there are spacefaring races, the odds are that they’d be relatively concentrated (possibly neighboring solar systems), their spacefaring technology having spread by cultural diffusion.  Earth, a culturally and ideologically-divided planet that relies on fossil fuels and hasn’t even managed to put a human on its closest planetary neighbor?  Not likely to be highly-rated in the universal tourism guide, at least not for people advanced enough to engage in regular interstellar travel…I doubt they’d even recognize us as intelligent beings.

    They’d look at us like we look at monkeys.

  4. @LadyLibellule – That’s assuming that there will never be a machine subroutine as complex as the human capacity for emotion.  What are we but organic machines, though?  We are far more complex psychologically than our primitive forebears, so it’s not as if the process of emotional evolution isn’t without precedent.  Given enough time, what we currently define as machines could be every bit as sophisticated as we are, right down to the emotions.

  5. @mysterylad – If we’re going to start downloading people into computers, we’re first going to have to figure out what consciousness is.  Science alone, unfortunately, has not yet provided a good enough answer.  If it had, we would be able to do things like stick the consciousness of one person into the body of another.

    I’m not sure that all the computing power in the world is going to be able to figure that one out, especially if we keep looking at consciousness as arising from the brain alone.

  6. @LadyLibellule – Right now the brain is our best guess. But the nice thing about science is that it will look at various avenues. Which ever one works, we go with.

    There is good reason to believe that emotion would be included in these machines. Not only so that it’s easier for them to relate to us and vice versa, but also for decision making. As an example:
    There is a scenario where you ask an intelligent machine which favor ice creme they want, chocolate or vanilla. The machine attempts to answer using only logic, weighing out the positives and negatives of each flavor. The machine could sit there for an eternity as both choices could be equal. However when you introduce emotion into that machine, it’s more likely to make a choice and sooner. It’s choice may be based on whichever flavor happens to please it’s taste buds more. Or it could be based on previous positive or negative experiences it associates with that flavor. Or it could become embarrassed by how long it’s taking to choose and just pick one randomly so as not to look like a total head case. Or even more in depth still, it could b reading the person asking the question, wondering to itself if the one asking the question is searching for a certain answer and then either give it the answer it’s looking for or the opposite based on any number of factors.
    So there is a lot of good reason why emotion would be introduced into these machines.

  7. The idea of merging humans with machines is a good one for exploring the universe. As you said, the human body was not meant for space travel. We’re spending billions of dollars and taking at least a good 20 years to even set up a research base on Mars. The trick is to get machines to become more adaptable to various conditions. Machines so far have usually been good for only a certain purpose. (A camera might be amazing for taking pictures, video, even sound, but try getting your camera to dig a hole in the dirt.) Recently machines have been becoming more versatile. (Check out the ATHLETE that NASA is testing!)

    Merging humans and machines is becoming more and more of a possibility. I recently read an article in Discover about how some paralyzed patients have signed up for research into using signals from the brain to manipulate a computer. They’ve so far been able to move the mouse around on a screen to click on phrases simply by thinking. Someday they may be able to move mechanical limbs through electrical brain impulses, just as if they were moving their actual limbs. It’s pretty amazing!

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