Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

There is no reasonable reason why we should fear aliens. There is absolutely nothing present on earth that is not hyper abundant elsewhere and more conveniently harvested from a shallower gravity well. There is just nothing here that is special, especially special enough to travel many light years to get to. It is also hard to image why a species that have that capability would not be able to synthesize what they want from base materials.

There's a line of thought that annihilation of one species is the only possible outcome from two spacefaring species meeting. This stems from the assumption that both are growth-seeking, which makes sense since they wouldn't be likely to meet without being expansionist.

Seeking growth, they will need more and more resources. Direct competition inevitably ensues, leading to conflict and destruction either via warfare or economic means.

That's all pretty theoretical, but just one example of why aliens might not be benign. I don't think it's reasonable to say we have nothing to fear.

Aliens arriving today must be technologically superior to humans by several orders of magnitude. If they are not they would exploit their local resources first before finding need to expand. So the changes of technologically equivalent aliens arriving today is negligible.

The amount of material present in Jupiter is rather large. If a species arrives that is routinely capable of converting gas giants into habitats and is currently in pressing need for housing then yes, we may be bulldozed into extinction - there might be even some poetic justice in that. But why would the Developers choose Jupiter, why not some other system with many more Gas giants or currently coalescing clouds ?

Resource based arguments don't hold much water for me, not at this scale anyway.

A dyson swarm does not require any new technology to develop, only the constant churning out of satellites. They do not need to be technologically superior to us.

In any case, we would still be ants compared to them.

I dunno, a self-replicating swarm would by definition be technological superior to us, for the next few decades at least.

You don't need a "self-replicating swarm" to build more satellites.

You just need to pump out lot of satellites.

There's nothing special about self-replicating "swarm", either.

Automated self replication is pretty special. We don't have anything like that yet. All of our tech requires human intervention when it breaks down.

kiba above doesn't seem to know exponential growth. Self-replication leads to exponential growth. Creating more satellites here locally only gives you linear growth.

An aggressively expansionist species will always be "in need of housing". They will behave like locusts. It's not a given that most species would be like that, but if they come to us, the odds are pretty good they are aggressively expansionist. If they weren't, why would they bother to go to the trouble of space travel in the first place?

Any civilization that can travel between the stars will be able to build space habs more cheaply. There's no good reason to sit in the bottom of a gravity well when you can build something better yourself.

Unless maybe you are losing a war, being chased relentlessly across the stars and need to make a bomb shelter under a thousand miles of rock. You could offer the natives all sorts of technology, or all the precious metals you find in exchange for a few cubic kilometers deep under ground. Whatever deals you make with them don't matter anyway. They'll all be glassed in a few years when your pursuers figure out where you're hiding and begin bombardment.

Or maybe they need warriors, since their race has already collectively modified itself to delete wasteful things like aggressiveness and anger. Queue the intelligent aggressive naked apes. And throw them at your problems!

Or imagine making peace with the aliens, what will they think of our nearly endless collections of movies, video games and stories wherein we're slaughtering, mutilating and murdering or visitors from the sky? I wonder how _that_ is going to look once they understand what they're seeing.

> Or maybe they need warriors, since their race has already collectively modified itself to delete wasteful things like aggressiveness and anger.

Highly doubtful. Any trait that's collectively exhibited was adaptive and such a spefies would value it to some extent, so they wouldn't breed it out entirely. If some new sub-species found a better way and outcompeted those with this trait, then they are already better adapted by definition, and so wouldn't need this trait.

I think you have to assume some kind deep-rooted psychological idiosyncracies for any expansionist species. A rational species probably wouldn't do much - it's all pointless anyways.

> If they weren't [aggressively expansionist], why would they bother to go to the trouble of space travel in the first place?

To study us. Intelligent life, and maybe even complex animal life, may be incredibly rare in the universe even if life is common. It may even be so rare that even an aggressively expansionist species might choose not to colonize our system because of the value that might be associated with a natural experiment such as ourselves.

IF expansionists chose to spare us, they'd just have to come back later. A species with a requirement of endless growth will never have enough living space or resources. That's not the only kind of species imaginable but we have an example of this kind: mankind at the moment.

So assuming expansionism, the question is, can such a species survive long enough to be a threat to us? If their societt is unstable, they may well destroy themselves before getting very far. Stability seems out of the question here - that would imply they are able to maintain a steady-state society within limits, but still have the need or impulse to hunt for new resources and living space.

So maybe we're not likely to meet such a species as it is likely to be self-destructive. One configuration is worrying, though: An expansionist species sufficiently advanced to reliably spread across space without end, but still bound to eventually exhaust any resources they find. (Inevitable for all species given entropy?)

This species will either die out or monopolize all resources it can find. (And then die out.)If it really requires constant growth, it can do nothing else.

what if creating or displacing planets to habitable zones are possible for an intergalactic species. instead of occupying they might farm new planets.

They would do whatever was most efficient, probably.

Depends what the resource is. Maybe there's something rare here that we don't understand yet.

See Dark Forest theory (spoiler warning for Dark Forest by Cixin Liu - second book after Three Body Problem):




which is basically what you said - every civilization's prime directive is to survive, resources in the universe are limited, and what they call "chains of suspicion"

Resources limited in universe: think about how fast we have used many of the resources on earth. The universe has a finite amount of resources.

He also talks about how fast technology progresses. In just the past 100 years we've made airplane travel common, gone to the moon, launched a probe that is on the edge/outside the solar system, have self driving cars, computers, etc. Who's to say that this is fast or slow? By the time new communcation from an alien race arrives, they/we might have had that technological progress.

Without FTL travel, the notion of a species expanding far into sp ce becomes a little silly IMO. You'd need an enormously stable society, otherwise the best case scenario for viable colonies is that you never hear from them again. If you do hear from them, it's likely to be thousands of years since you sent them out, and they're now your competitors. Perhaps they've even speciated.

There's another line of thought that annihilation of one species is most likely by accident, like for example the demolition of a planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Either way there is reason for fear.

For a more practical example, when a Type 2 suffers an industrial accident like a reactor meltdown, it would be indistinguishable from a supernova. If it happens within 1000 light years of us, we'd be just as dead.

We can only take comfort that such an event would wipe out their own civilization, and they have adequate safeties in place as a result.

Oh, and hopefully there isn't a galactic wide cold-war-esque standoff on the possession and use of supernova-creating bombs.

"This stems from the assumption that both are growth-seeking"

I'm really not sure how anyone can be so certain about the motives of beings that might be radically different from any life we know of.

They could exterminate humans as an experiment, out of curiosity, for enjoyment, because some other species or their god wants them to, randomly, for no reason at all, or for many other reasons we can't even conceive of, because they may not think in any way relatable to us or what we know. There are an infinity of possibilities.

In that sense the hostility of cosmic space is a feature rather than a bug. If resources were plentiful and space travel was easy, we would constantly find ourselves in intergalactic wars and life would have been wiped out over and over again by resource seeking paperclippers and crystalline entities.

On the other hand, since we are confined to earth, we are fighting these wars among the species and even ourselves here :(

war seems to be part of an evolutionary algorithm to select the best species or feature set and prune the legacy code, and then diversify again and prune again at a higher level.

The individuals being selected are only the "best" if you value killing over everything else. If you, for example, value preservation of genetic material then war selects some of the worst people.

What about tacticians, logistical support personal, medical staff, etc?

I think there's a lot of jobs that war would select for that don't involve killing. Early man interested in treating wounds would study the human body and try to repair it, as one example. These valuable and intelligent humans would be promoted just like today's .mil and be more likely to procreate.

I think it's more that aggression and the instinct to protect ourselves are part of all DNA. We only have to look at ants being invaded by a foreign species to see that.

Also, since everything is based on the bell curve, out of 7 billion people, there will be people who are born with the perfect storm of personality traits to start a war, and with the right (or wrong, more accurately) life experiences will start that war. Hitler was a perfect example. Statistically it has to happen.

And we are only aggressive because, socially, we are barely out of the trees. We have the ability to blow the world up many times over, yet are consumed by petty intolerance. Our social intelligence lags our technical intelligence considerably. This is the most dangerous time in any civilisations time.

It's funny how few people want to talk about that.

Well, that's the game, though one can argue if you move beyond it you've won by definition. Just because we came from that system doesn't mean it needs to continue.

The losing end of the great filter no one sees coming: peace.

Are you listening cstross? It is time to write a novel about the evils of peace among the spacefaring. Service guarantees citizenship!

The exact same argument applies to different human cultures. Clashes happened, but we're all still here. Annihilation is not inevitable.

Do you think if humans became space faring and we found other species we'd kill them? I seriously doubt that. We'll definitely study them and try to learn from them. Knowledge will be much more important than physical resources.

Similarly, different races and nations on earth kind of decided that we're not actually going to kill each other and take each other's resources. We gain a lot more by cooperating.

Of course we'd kill other species. Look at our own past, just 400 years ago FFS. What happened to the Native Americans? Then look at the species of animals that we're driving to extinction right now.

"There is no reasonable reason why we should fear aliens."

If you'll allow me to strawman you a bit, I've always found such arguments facile at best. They seem to reason from something akin to this "As mankind has become more advanced, he has grown from being tribalistic and violent to understanding that fear itself is more dangerous than actual external threats"

Yes, but we've never actually reached such nirvana except in our imaginations. Instead, history has shown us all sort of intelligent and evolved populations both being the perpetrators and victims of indiscriminate violence. In addition, looking at how humans develop and what we know of species in general on the planet, there's never any reason to be afraid of anything -- until there is. That's the problem with induction and not knowing enough about the greater universe. Things are always fine and dandy for the turkey until Thanksgiving comes.

It's extremely problematic to speculate about alien beings. I note, however, that we tend to think in terms of aliens having some sort of policy towards humans: they want to eat us, they want to conquer us, and so on.

Assuming we are just a few rungs up the evolutionary ladder from pond scum, it's much more likely that we're not important at all -- and that if there were some terrible interaction with aliens, it would probably be akin to a man accidentally kicking over an anthill on his way to work than some sort of dramatic invasion or intervention. The scariest thing about potential technologically superior alien beings isn't that they are hostile. It's that they're completely apathetic and have better things to do. Which takes care of Fermi's Paradox quite nicely.

It seems plausible, i.e. not impossible with our current understanding of physics, that humans that could accelerate small quantities of mass to significant fractions of the speed of light (0.01-0.4c) thereby building relativistic missiles which could be launched at known planetary bodies in other star systems.

The potential that humans may create and use relativistic missiles combined with the philosophy of safety first suggests that humans might be treated more like fire ants or brown recluse spiders:

1. if you see them you call pest control so they don't sting you when you aren't paying attention,

2. to get rid of the ones you can't find you leave some poison traps out,

3. and you make sure to vacuum regularly ("do you want ants this is how we get ants").

> "As mankind has become more advanced, he has grown from being tribalistic and violent to understanding that fear itself is more dangerous than actual external threats"

Not to mention it's totally debatable that we are any less violent than we used to be, which seems to be the core premise of this 'friendly alien' argument.

> That's the problem with induction and not knowing enough about the greater universe. Things are always fine and dandy for the turkey until Thanksgiving comes.

This is why the spectre of dead civilizations like Rome haunt us to this day.

Imagine that you are an alien. Relativity is strange thing, today you see small tribe with toy nuclear weapons, but then you turn your engines on, and tomorrow it is powerful intergalactic race. It is reasonable to take a cure before a disease makes it hard.

I've had exactly this experience in Civilization 2. Playing at the higher difficulties, the computer cheats and swaps any knowledge it learns to all other computer players. The computer players are all hostile 100% of the time (a feature of the version that I play), so will never help you in that or any other way.

It was quite a surprise after wiping out the most advanced and powerful civilzation other than me (they had 19th century riflemen, I was several tiers ahead of them so had tanks, battleships, and modern artillery) to have the other civilizations "trade up" to the same level of technology as me and have nukes flying at my cities.

The best way to stop computer civilizations from becoming a threat is to capture or raze all of their cities except for a single one, which you will keep as a pet. After all, you're not a monster.

There is something special here, which is the unique combination of biospheres and natural processes that enable life as we know it. Maybe aliens also have the same life form as us, and they are looking for similar habitats? Our search for such habitats so far has not been very successful, which shows that we are a indeed one of a kind in the known universe.

The aliens who can visit us, however, are likely to possess technologies to terraform unsuitable planets. But maybe their technological development was not well rounded and space exploration was pursued way more than other form of technologies. Remember that we went to moon before we had smartphones. Just a simple analogy, but who knows?

Yea, reminds me of "The Road not taken" https://eyeofmidas.com/scifi/Turtledove_RoadNotTaken.pdf

"Have you heard the good news about our lord and savior K'Xthkapatykak?"

Good Dobbs, who hasn't? You can't turn on the TV without seeing K'Xthkapatykak sitting in some comfortably-furnished studio begging/shaming me to call in with my credit card number to set up a recurring donation. And then there are its minions forever banging on my door (often with a sweet- but miserable-looking tadpole in tow) seeking to waste five minutes of my time reading the Tgprglna tablets with them and of course soliciting me to attend, credit card in hand, their next coven. They've got time travel, intergalactic hyperloops, immortality, FRB franchises across the universe, monthly credit-flow in the 8 digits (at least), and who does the IRS think should be tax-exempt, them or me?

> There is just nothing here that is special

Except Us.

How do you know so much about alien psychology?

Trying reason about what motivates aliens, their desires, or how they think, is an error in anthropomorphization.

well, unless aliens are looking for trainable slaves

He, beings capable of interstellar travel would have very little need for "slaves", I mean, even on mean old earth slaves only made sense until 1 coal joule was cheaper than 1 man joule.

If you can travel over light years a joule is going to be extraordinarily cheap, or time is not relevant. Either way, very hard for me to see how human slaves would be of any use to them.

correct on all account but still you're applying a earthling stick to measure usefulness.

maybe they need a creativity core for their warship ai.

Or snu snu

Or pets! ^_^

genetic diversity may be not so common elsewhere and worth mining

Wouldn't that be an argument that an alien race wouldn't annihilate us, rather than they would? I mean, what good is a dead planet for genetic diversity (and, I suspect that if enslavement were the goal, humans would resort to extreme lengths to try to prevent it, up to and including destruction of large swaths of our own planet)?

But, I don't think enslavement or a human zoo is a very likely motivation for a species advanced enough to travel light years to get here.

Which would involve a few abductions and/or some probing...

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact