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Preparing for alien life

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Author Topic: Preparing for alien life  (Read 34 times)
Stacy Dohm
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« on: February 01, 2015, 08:25:59 pm »

And of course we can pursue the kind of SETI work pioneered by Frank Drake, and keep listening for radio signals among the stars.

Finding life in our Solar System, which likely would be microbial, might not have as great an impact as hearing from an intelligent civilization far away. We'd have to worry about issues like contamination. We might also discover some alternative biochemistry, perhaps uncovering new insights about the nature of life. But that kind of discovery wouldn't affect us as much as the prospect of communicating with intelligent life.

Then again it'd take hundreds, if not thousands of years for a signal to travel back and forth, Shostak pointed out. So that third scenario would only teach us a very few things right away, such as their location or what kind of star they orbit.

However, picking a signal might have other tantalizing implications about the nature of alien intelligence.

Alien Minds & Artificial Intelligence

Several researchers, including Shostak, put forward the following premise: "That once a society creates the technology that could put them in touch with the cosmos, they are only a few hundred years away from changing their paradigm from biology to artificial intelligence."

The idea is based on the so-called "time scale argument" or "short window observation." Many researchers predict we'll have developed a strong artificial intelligence by 2050 here on Earth—about a hundred years after the invention of computers, or a hundred and fifty years after the invention of radio communication.

"The point is that, going from inventing radios to inventing thinking machines is very short—a few centuries at most," Shostak said. "The dominant intelligence in the cosmos may well be non-biological."

In a talk titled "Alien Minds," Susan Schneider, a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut, explored that idea further. The concept of "whole brain emulation" is becoming increasingly popular among certain researchers, she explained. So are other far-fetched sounding ideas like "mind uploading" and "immortally." So, to her, a civilization capable of radio communication would likely be "super-intelligent" by the time we hear from them.

She also argued that alien super-intelligence would be conscious in principle, since the neural code is akin to a computational code, and thoughts could well be embedded in a silicon-based substrate. A silicon-based intelligence would also have tremendous implications for long distance space travel.
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