Monday, 27 January 2020

Doublethink #28 Planetary Domains

Pi is pleased to present another bonus episode of
 Youngjin Kang's Doublethink


Keith said...

Very imaginative, Youngjin. I’ll toss a few personal impressions into the hopper, to pick up on the two (big) questions you pose: “How are [the two species] going to react to each other? What impacts are going to be made?” (I assume they’re not just rhetorical.)

On first blush, one might like to hope that the two species would embrace to combine the best of both life forms, in recognition of the cliché ‘the whole being greater than the sum of its parts’. The force multiplication of their merging just knowledge alone might lead to something good, even great. But maybe not . . .

It seems that even though the two humanoid-like species ostensibly possess advanced intelligence, their science and technology — and their curiosity! — didn’t result in the capacity to transmit interpretable signals (electromagnet or otherwise) over the crowns of the ring’s perimeter. One might presume that intelligent life — especially inquisitive intelligent life — would probe whether there’s life on the other side, to stir a possible response.

After all, as cohabitants of the same planet, they’re not species separated by the expanse of light-years, where the laws of physics (such as the upper limit on velocity) would hamper efforts to communicate between stars and galaxies. They seem, instead, to have discovered each other serendipitously, like our startlingly stumbling upon a village in the Amazon.

As for the two species’ possible reactions to one another, one can only speculate, of course. I suspect, however, that the fact that one species is carbon-based and the other silicon-based, they may be tempted to see ‘the other’ as too fundamentally different to dignify as a fellow ‘humanoid’. That dehumanising of ‘the other’ may have all sorts of deleterious consequences: like the urge to colonise or enslave or plunder or cordon off. History is awash with examples.

There’s no mention of whether each life form faces competitors, of their own carbon and silicon biology, within their respective parts of the planet. That may matter as to whether the two species are predisposed to competition and warring — over territory, resources, power, and whatever else puts a glint in their not-unsurprisingly avaricious eye.

Relatedly, here’s a thought: If you’re a ‘carbon’ life form and choose for whatever reason to annihilate all ‘silicon’ life forms, would carbon life view it as having engaged in genocide? (Or more alike killing a virus or bacterium.) Likewise if you’re a ‘silicon’ life form annihilating ‘carbon’ life forms. Might the species’ dissimilarities be seen as so fundamentally differentiating that neither sees a moral conundrum in their actions?

That aside, if the two species happen to marvel at each other’s advanced, sophisticated attributes, their reaction might also be to question — with great discomfort — what each might have taken, as gospel, as its claim to ‘exceptionalism’. Exceptional in design and in purpose — ‘cosmic manifest destiny’, so to speak. If each species had developed, over the course of millennia, self-flattering dogma based on its presumed specialness in the grand scheme of things, that dogma might undergo fractures it simply can’t survive.

Martin Cohen said...

Is there perhaps an analogy to human beings and the life of creatures in the sea? And we know how humans have behaved in this case. Not entirely destructive, but certainly with a certain arrogance.

Keith said...


Carbon-based life form = (Neurons/synapses + other flesh-and-blood bits) = Advanced consciousness, cognition, sentience, identity = Personhood.


Silicon-based life form = (Artificial general intelligence + supercomputing) = Advanced consciousness, cognition, sentience, identity = Personhood.

Is there species moral and existential equivalence, despite differentiation by carbon and silicon?

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