Extraterrestrial Robots: Part One
When you think of extraterrestrials, you probably think of ET, Mr. Spock, Klaatu, Yoda, Klingons and Romulans, the Blob, Martians with heat rays, Alien vs. Predator, the Sontarans, or perhaps the” Greys” of UFO lore.
However, if you really had an extraterrestrial close encounter of the up-close-and-personal kind, I’d wager the odds are far greater that you’d be shaking “hands” with something more akin to Robby the Robot.
When it comes to UFO entities, ancient astronauts, and aliens in general as depicted in sci-fi films and television, even short stories and novels, for the most part they presented as normal squishy flesh-and-blood organisms, even if they have green blood, pointed ears, antenna, or are living rocks, like Star Trek’s Horta. Even Doctor Who’s Daleks are partly squishy; ditto the Cybermen also of Doctor Who fame.
However, I suggest that for the normal picture of all things extraterrestrial substitute flesh-and-blood (natural CHON – Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen – or related) for artificial constructions made from silicon and steel. Call them robots or androids or just plain artificial intelligence; call them Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation) or HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey) or VeGer (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) or Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still – and by the by, in the original short story, it was the robot that was the master and in charge, not the flesh-and-blood alien Klaatu). And who can forget R2-D2 or 3CPO (Star Wars). So, IMHO, if you have an up close and personal encounter with an ET, it’s not going to be with biological intelligence but with technological or artificial intelligence.
Extraterrestrial or terrestrial, our sci-fi films are full of intelligent machines or robots, from I, Robot to Futureworld and Westworld (where nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong) to Cherry 2000 to The Stepford Wives to Saturn 3 to the Bicentennial Man to the entire Transformers series. Today it’s sci-fi; tomorrow it’s science-fact.
Several reasons suggest why.
THE RISE AND RISE OF THE MACHINE
Any scientifically advanced alien society will sooner or later invent the computer or equivalent. Once invented, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Machines are gaining the upper hand here at Terra Firma and have been ever since humans came up with the idea of a tool. If you doubt this, ask any typical teen/young adult to do without their mobile/smart-phone and/or tablet; ask a housewife to forgo the programmable microwave oven, her vacuum cleaner or programmable dishwasher; ask a househusband to hand over the remote or the keys to his new red sports car with state of the art GPS and other computer programmable accessories (necessary therapy for those suffering from male menopause). And where would NASA be without all those robotic space probes to the Moon and planets (some of which have to have a rudimentary degree of intelligence since radio commands from Earth can take quite some considerable time to reach the planetary rover)? Even if one excludes non-programmable dumb machines and machine technologies like clothes dryers, coffee makers, lawn mowers, and radar, the number of smart machines – super computers, PCs, tablets, smart-phones, etc. is getting damn close right now to the human population. One can even buy today robotic toys, “pets” and even companions for the very sick, elderly, outcasts or lonely. Can sex with robotic partners be far behind?
Computing crunch power increases by order of magnitudes faster than biological wetware crunch power (Moore’s Law). Human intellectual capacity hasn’t increased very much, if at all, over the past 50,000 years or so – our IQ has flat-lined. Machine intelligence, though off to a slow start all those 50,000 years ago, is however increasing at an exponential rate. The lines have to cross eventually; sometime. The crossover point is tipped for the not too distant future and probably within the lifetime of most viewers reading this. Computer programs can already beat you every time at chess and a host of other games besides.
Unlike humans, computers can link up to form a super-computer (recall the film Colossus: The Forbin Project?) otherwise known today as the Internet. Or, in other words, eventually an artificial intelligence can merge with another artificial intelligence to create a mega artificial intelligence, which in turn could merge with another mega artificial intelligence, and so on.
As noted above, there will come a time when machine intelligence, artificial intelligence, surpasses biological or wetware intelligence. That will become a point where computers will become intelligent and self-aware enough to pass the Turing Test – that’s where someone cannot tell the difference between a human or a computer answering questions in an interview type of scenario.
Once wetware becomes dependent on software, intelligent self-aware machines call the shots and they are in control. Whether this human-machine relationship remains a symbiotic one or not is not that relevant since the relationship will not be 50-50. Recall the Terminator films!
The increase in artificial intelligence will ever increase faster and faster, especially when intelligent machines can themselves design their own next generation and the generation after that all in a matter of days, hours, and minutes. And reproduction is not an issue. Asexual robotic reproduction is a given – one machine builds a copy, or more likely as not, a better version of itself, and as many as deemed necessary, especially if they are sent out into the cosmos to “boldly go” where probably lots of other robotics probes from other civilizations have gone before. See below.
In the timeline of any technologically advanced alien society, odds are great that the bulk of that timeline will be represented by artificial intelligence relative to wetware or biological intelligence.
Most alien societies will be not just dozens, hundreds, thousands of years in advance of human society, but hundreds of thousands to millions of years more advanced. That is to say, most alien societies will be artificially intelligent societies; robotic societies if you will.
When it comes from getting from somewhere out there (wherever that is) to here (Planet Earth), robotic life forms have all the advantages.
They have, for all practical purposes, robots or intelligent computers or artificial intelligence (for lack of a better word or phrase) would have a lifespan measured in such time-frames as to make any interstellar travel equivalent to humans taking a leisurely stroll around their local park. There’s no need for energy intensive interstellar velocities even remotely approaching the speed of light. The galaxy has been around long enough to allow for exploration (and colonization) hundreds of times over at even expansion rates one percent light speed.
They (robots again) have no need for all of the cumbersome and weight enhancing luxuries of what humans or biological entities would require for interstellar journeys: life-support basically in the form of artificial gravity, an atmosphere, heating, food and water, waste recycling technologies, privacy requirements, sex, entertainment, etc. Any saving in weight is a saving in energy. Robotic life forms could cross the galaxy (or just go from star A to star B) in what for all practical purposes one could describe as shutdown or sleep mode.
Why would artificial intelligences (AI) boldly go in any event? Any intelligences designing AI must exhibit a mastery of science and technology. In order to achieve that they must exhibit that trait we call curiosity. That trait, instilled into AI, or intelligent wetware downloaded into silicon chips, would exhibit curiosity. What’s over that hill translated into a cosmic setting is what’s beyond that star and the one beyond that, etc.
One flaw in advocating a pure form of robotic intelligence boldly going is that one could argue instead that it’s the original biological entities who need to boldly go, but that’s easily accomplished if their wetware in an organic housing (i.e. – their skull) could be downloaded as software in a metallic housing. That humans could download their mind into a computer has been suggested and advocated by many as a technologically feasible way to achieve virtual immortality. By the by, that human wetware downloaded as robotic software, that feasibility has been suggested as being possible within this century, not millennia down the track.
We’ve made a start already!
To be continued in Extraterrestrial Robots: Part Two .
Source: GoArticles by Author John Prytz .
(Image Credit – Bing Images )
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