Wednesday, 6 May 2015

High Tech Conflict

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

I think that the following arguments are valid to a high degree of probability.

A high technology civilization that has existed for a long time:

must have overcome its internal conflicts, otherwise it would have destroyed itself long ago;

possesses abundant energy, resources and technology, therefore has no need to -

hoard or compete for wealth;
attack, rule or exploit anyone else;
formulate ideas of social or racial superiority because such ideas arise only to legitimize subordination and there is no reason for that to happen.

Poul Anderson imagined a partial exception. "Von Neumann machines" are interstellar robotic explorers programmed to reproduce themselves from asteroid material in each new planetary system. Such machines, their delicate software mutated by stellar or cosmic radiation, might be naturally selected to propagate themselves by attacking and cannibalizing other probes and might even destroy an inhabited planet's space industries with devastating consequences for the planetary population.

The Boat Of A Million Years presents one reason why no von Neumann machines have entered the Solar System. Starfarers presents another such reason. Anderson's "Epilogue" describes Terrestrial robotic evolution that has become conscious.

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