Author Topic: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...  (Read 2545 times)

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Offline daniel1948

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If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« on: December 23, 2016, 07:12:10 PM »
There has been no shortage of speculations, literary, cinematic, philosophic, and scientific on the topic of an alien visitation of Earth. I'd like to add mine. I am inspired by a recent episode of the Science for the People podcast, discussing the environmental interactions of populations, and how certain "keystone" populations have wide-ranging effects on other populations.

Example:

Sea otters eat sea urchins. Urchins eat kelp. Kelp forests are critical for many species of fish and marine invertebrates. When sea otters are removed from a habitat, urchins proliferate, destroy the kelp, and many other species, dependent on the kelp, suffer. Restore the sea urchins, the kelp recovers, and the other species recover as well.

Another example:

Remove apex predators and grazers proliferate and remove all the grass, with disastrous consequences. Restore the predators, they control the grazers, and the grasslands recover.

So let's say a race of benevolent space aliens visit the Earth and want to restore Earth's habitat to healthy balance. We humans, if we are enlightened, try to restore the balance and health to polluted lakes, or coastal waters, or grasslands. We want to re-introduce wolves to North American forests to restore the predator/grazer balance. But although we may recognize that our own numbers are out of control, we fail to see ourselves as a keystone species whose overpopulation is driving a global imbalance. Or if we do see ourselves in this light, our "solution" is to try to make birth control available. Out scientists develop ways to make agriculture more efficient we we can feed our numbers, and invent medicines to control disease.

Although we sometimes see ourselves as apex predators, eating domestic cows and pigs and chickens, we are really grazers consuming everything that grows upon the earth, both animal and vegetable. Our predators are diseases, and we have effectively eliminated most of them. Our numbers have thrown the entire ecosystem out of balance and our indiscriminate use of fossil fuels is threatening catastrophic climate change.

A benevolent race of space aliens would see us as we see other animals: as a species that must be controlled to protect the existence of our species. Just as we introduce wolves to the forest or lions to the savanna to keep the grazers in check and insure the survival of both, these space aliens would most likely introduce diseases to Earth, not to wipe us out (I am positing benevolent aliens, not aggressive ones) but to bring our numbers back to a sustainable level. We would rail against them as cruel, but they'd be no more cruel than we are when we re-introduce wolves to a region to kill some of the deer.

I'm not advocating killing 9/10 of the people on Earth, because that would be inhumane. But it's probably what's needed for the human race to survive. Space aliens aren't coming. (They're too far away, space is too big, travel is too constrained.) Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you're more concerned for the welfare of the people alive today, or more concerned for the long-term survival of the human race. I guess I'm in the former category by dint of being one of the people alive today, myself.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2016, 07:38:22 PM »
You don't need Aliens. There are several sci-fi books/movies about the same subject. These are all unlikely to happen, but much more conceivable than Aliens doing it. Some of the perpetrators do it for what they believe are good intentions. To ensure the future of mankind and/or the environment.

"12 Monkeys" is about 1 man destroying most of humanity with a virus to save the environment. It's been a while since I've seen it, but I think he didn't give a fuck about the humans.

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2016, 07:52:31 PM »
Be patient. We're all waiting for Childhood's End.
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Offline Pusher Robot

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2016, 08:31:35 PM »
A benevolent race of space aliens would see us as we see other animals: as a species that must be controlled to protect the existence of our species.

This is your key assumption and my main point of disagreement: our sentience makes categorically objectively different than all the other animal species.  Since you're positing a moral quality of benevolence for the space aliens, there's no reason to think they wouldn't have other moral qualities, such as a respect for the importance of sentient species self-determination.
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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2016, 08:48:10 PM »
Since you're positing a moral quality of benevolence for the space aliens, there's no reason to think they wouldn't have other moral qualities, such as a respect for the importance of sentient species self-determination.

Like most of human civilisation has respected the importance of sentient "same" species self determination  ;)

We have a bad record, even when it has been done with the best of intentions, which is rarely. Doing it "For their own good"

Offline Pusher Robot

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2016, 11:41:00 PM »
Since you're positing a moral quality of benevolence for the space aliens, there's no reason to think they wouldn't have other moral qualities, such as a respect for the importance of sentient species self-determination.

Like most of human civilisation has respected the importance of sentient "same" species self determination  ;)

We have a bad record, even when it has been done with the best of intentions, which is rarely. Doing it "For their own good"

It's all relative.  We have, by a huge margin, the best record of all other known Earth species.
A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.
Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: “You cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.”
Knight turned the machine off and on.
The machine worked.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2016, 08:50:23 AM »
Since you're positing a moral quality of benevolence for the space aliens, there's no reason to think they wouldn't have other moral qualities, such as a respect for the importance of sentient species self-determination.

Like most of human civilisation has respected the importance of sentient "same" species self determination  ;)

We have a bad record, even when it has been done with the best of intentions, which is rarely. Doing it "For their own good"

It's all relative.  We have, by a huge margin, the best record of all other known Earth species.

I'd say we have the worst record of all of Earth's species: exterminating other species, killing for pleasure when there is no need, killing our fellow humans in the most grisly manner, wars of genocide, etc.

My hypothetical space aliens are so advanced that they see us as we see monkeys: worth saving in the aggregate, but unimportant as individuals. We think we are unique for being sentient, but they know that there are a gazillion sentient species in the galaxy, and from their perspective, the biggest difference between humans and sheep is that there is an unsustainable humber of humans.

You don't need Aliens. There are several sci-fi books/movies about the same subject. These are all unlikely to happen, but much more conceivable than Aliens doing it. Some of the perpetrators do it for what they believe are good intentions. To ensure the future of mankind and/or the environment.

"12 Monkeys" is about 1 man destroying most of humanity with a virus to save the environment. It's been a while since I've seen it, but I think he didn't give a fuck about the humans.

Fair enough. But my starting point isn't the need for a disease to re-balance the Earth. My starting point is how would advanced aliens see us, and what would they do if they were benevolent towards us? In most fiction, if the space aliens are benevolent, they give us useful technology and teach us not to have wars. I think that if they are benevolent they introduce a "predator" (such as a disease) to kill 90% of us in order to assure the survival of the rest, and of the ecosystem as a whole.

If the space aliens want to eliminate us so they can take over our planet, they give us advanced technology, knowing that we will use it to exterminate ourselves.
Daniel
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2016, 09:19:39 AM »


If the space aliens want to eliminate us so they can take over our planet, they give us advanced technology, knowing that we will use it to exterminate ourselves.
Ah, you've heard of the Manhattan Project/Tube Alloys.
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Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2016, 10:18:21 AM »
I'm not advocating killing 9/10 of the people on Earth, because that would be inhumane.

I was with you up to this point.
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Offline Pusher Robot

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2016, 11:17:02 AM »
I'd say we have the worst record of all of Earth's species: exterminating other species, killing for pleasure when there is no need, killing our fellow humans in the most grisly manner, wars of genocide, etc.

We're also the only species to have developed a morality of sentience.  That should count for something!

Quote
My hypothetical space aliens are so advanced that they see us as we see monkeys: worth saving in the aggregate, but unimportant as individuals. We think we are unique for being sentient, but they know that there are a gazillion sentient species in the galaxy, and from their perspective, the biggest difference between humans and sheep is that there is an unsustainable humber of humans.

Everything is quantitative in your view, but morality demands a qualitative approach.  Since it's your hypothetical you can give the aliens whatever properties you want but what you describe isn't "benevolence," it's immorality of the highest degree, little different to that of the true-believing Nazis.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2016, 02:15:08 AM by Pusher Robot »
A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.
Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: “You cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.”
Knight turned the machine off and on.
The machine worked.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2016, 12:11:34 PM »
I'd say we have the worst record of all of Earth's species: exterminating other species, killing for pleasure when there is no need, killing our fellow humans in the most grisly manner, wars of genocide, etc.

We're also the only species to have developed a morality of sentience.  That should count for something!

What good does it do to develop a morality if you don't live by it? And anyway, our "morality of sentience" is that being sentient ourselves, it's permitted for us to kill everything we regard as not sentient. We kill animals to eat them even when it's not needed for our own survival. We kill animals who kill the animals we want to kill. We kill animals for sport. And we kill animals when they just get in the way of our "progress."

Your "morality of sentience" is nothing but an excuse to run roughshod over every other living thing. And then, when other people get in our way, we make exceptions to our "morality of sentience" and kill them too, in wars of conquest and colonialism.

There are few thing more immoral than a "morality" whose purpose is to justify cruelty and disregard for everything but yourself.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
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Offline Shibboleth

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2016, 12:24:04 PM »
When I look back at history and I see extinctions due to predators, famine, or disease I don't think, "Those bastard animals should have been stopped!" I think, we ll that is part of evolution. I don't see any reason why aliens wouldn't view humans as anything different. Yes we are putting stress on just about every creature in the world but stress is a fundamental aspect of natural selection. The animals that live well with humans will thrive and evolve and those that do not will will not. Just like with dramatic climate changes you see a dip in the number of species and then a rebound you will see the same with humans.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2016, 02:12:04 PM »
When I look back at history and I see extinctions due to predators, famine, or disease I don't think, "Those bastard animals should have been stopped!" I think, we ll that is part of evolution. I don't see any reason why aliens wouldn't view humans as anything different. Yes we are putting stress on just about every creature in the world but stress is a fundamental aspect of natural selection. The animals that live well with humans will thrive and evolve and those that do not will will not. Just like with dramatic climate changes you see a dip in the number of species and then a rebound you will see the same with humans.

And yet, people are always trying to correct the imbalances we've created. We wipe out the wolves in a forest, then we see that there are too many deer, so we re-introduce wolves to control the deer.

I postulate that intelligent aliens would see that the natural controls on human population have been nearly eradicated, leading to overpopulation of people, and they would re-introduce those natural controls to bring our numbers under control, just as we re-introduce wolves to the forest to bring the deer population back under control.

Humans feel that humans are the most important creature on the Earth, and that we therefore have the right to do whatever we like with and to all the other creatures. No other species would be likely to regard us the way we regard ourselves, and if they had an interest in restoring the Earth to a natural balance, they would naturally want to control our numbers. Not because they see us as "bastard animals" that "should have been stopped," but merely because they see that our numbers have grown too great for the carrying capacity of the planet.

Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2016, 02:18:04 PM »
So basically the bad guys in Deus Ex were the good guys for creating the Gray Death...
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Offline Shibboleth

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Re: If advanced, benevolent space aliens visited Earth...
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2016, 02:31:27 PM »
When I look back at history and I see extinctions due to predators, famine, or disease I don't think, "Those bastard animals should have been stopped!" I think, we ll that is part of evolution. I don't see any reason why aliens wouldn't view humans as anything different. Yes we are putting stress on just about every creature in the world but stress is a fundamental aspect of natural selection. The animals that live well with humans will thrive and evolve and those that do not will will not. Just like with dramatic climate changes you see a dip in the number of species and then a rebound you will see the same with humans.

And yet, people are always trying to correct the imbalances we've created. We wipe out the wolves in a forest, then we see that there are too many deer, so we re-introduce wolves to control the deer.

I postulate that intelligent aliens would see that the natural controls on human population have been nearly eradicated, leading to overpopulation of people, and they would re-introduce those natural controls to bring our numbers under control, just as we re-introduce wolves to the forest to bring the deer population back under control.

Humans feel that humans are the most important creature on the Earth, and that we therefore have the right to do whatever we like with and to all the other creatures. No other species would be likely to regard us the way we regard ourselves, and if they had an interest in restoring the Earth to a natural balance, they would naturally want to control our numbers. Not because they see us as "bastard animals" that "should have been stopped," but merely because they see that our numbers have grown too great for the carrying capacity of the planet.


What makes us unnatural and why is our evolution and effect on species less natural? It seems to me that we are just a very dominate apex predator that is putting a huge amount of stress on the environments in which we live which will ultimately result in accelerated evolution of the creatures we affect. If another species "probably a virus of some sort" evolved on earth and started wiping out humans and a bunch of other animals at an alarmingly quick rate I don't think I would call that unnatural.

Losing species is unfortunate but not unnatural.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

 

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