Tuesday, March 26, 2013

METI: Here We Are! Come Eat Us! Our Children Are Especially Tasty!

...the fetish to narrowly define the (SETI, Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) has resulted in a view of alien life that is as constricted and ironic as it is unsupportable.-- David Brin, Ph.D. [1]
Forget about freedom, the economy, terrorism, disease, obesity, the state of public schools and bad taste. If those who practice METI (sending Messages to ExtraTerrestrial Civilizations -- a subfield of SETI,) have made a bad bet, then none of our trivial local concerns will mean much. (Imagine the movie, Independence Day [2], with an unhappy ending.)

David Brin comments about the METI advocates (METI’s, for short) :
Serenely confident in a “we know best” attitude, they are embarking upon this path in blithe confidence, unwilling to even discuss their plans in an open forum. A path that might have serious consequences to humanity.
(In other contexts, we might say that METI’s exercise Moral Hazard ).)

If this planet’s unhappy history provides any example, all we can expect from the arrival of technologically advanced, interstellar newcomers is conquest and extinction. Why would anyone on this planet want to take the risk?

Here are some possibilities:
A. METI researchers believe that advanced civilization most likely indicates advanced “morality,” -- read here “altruism;”

B. METI’s are exercising their “inviolable right” of free speech.

C. METI’s hope that by inviting ET’s they will ingratiate themselves with the invaders enough to be spared the general harvesting of our bodies and resources;

D. As first “discoverers,” METI’s will enjoy fame and its blandishments if even only for a short period in the likely not much longer history of the human race.

Let’s return to the issue of altruism (-- most likely a case of pathological altruism). Can we bank on the altruism of a technologically superior civilization? Does the development of refined intellectuality and rational, technological skills naturally produce refined, rational moral development that considers the needs and is tolerant of those weaker and different from the stronger?

Consider the last 100 years of this history of this planet. Consider just exactly who it was that inflicted needless death and destruction upon millions of non-combatant inhabitants around the world. Were those inflictors lacking in refined intellectuality or rational, technological skill?

Clearly, neither physical, intellectual or technological development is any guarantee of “moral development.” Status competition, i.e. honor and one-upmanship, alone -- don't even mention resource scarcity -- produces conflicts, which intellect and science are likely brought in to support. That is unless a happy development in technology generates more wealth, of which it is not cost-effective for oligarchies to try to curtail the sharing.

For a longer article with references examining the relationship of cognitive development to moral development, see Moral Education: Indoctrination vs. Cognitive Development?



[1] Brin, David (2008) SHOUTING AT THE COSMOS
…Or How SETI has Taken a Worrisome Turn Into Dangerous Territory by Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member David Brin, Ph.D. A very important article.

[2] See Independence Day