Give Tyler His Due

In this post I complained that three pundits took UFOs “seriously” mainly by talking “only about the fact that other people seem to be taking UFOs as aliens seriously.” Tyler Cowen pointed out to me, correctly, that I haven’t given him sufficient credit, as I just quoted from his Bloomberg column, but not from this blog post:

My best bet is this.  The vehicles would be “unmanned” drone probes … highly generalized software instructions …  “Seek out major power sources, … send information back … if approached or confronted, run away fast.”   

The drone probes do not destroy us, because of Star Trek-like reasons: highly destructive species already have blown themselves up, leaving the relatively peaceful ones to send drones around.  The drones probably are everywhere, in the galactic sense that is. …

So the relevant theory is one of how advanced civilizations allocate their surplus when there is a lot of discretion and not much in the way of within-lifetime costs and benefits to determine a very particular set of plans and goals.  Not even for the grandkids.

In this hypothesis, of course, you have to be short immortality.  And short usable wormholes.

… photos of the drone probes make them look a bit like cheap crap?  … consistent with the view of them being a discretionary resource allocation stemming from projects with fairly fuzzy goals.

  If aliens are afoot, why should it be only one group of them?  That would seem strange, as in most things there are multitudes, …

Robin’s hypothesis, that they are relatively local panspermiacs, who feel some stake in us, appeals to me.  … chance of us having resulted from panspermia is pretty high; there are lots of baby civilizations for each parent, so why deny you are probably a baby?

Perhaps our visitors are exercising some “mood affiliation” in wishing to visit and record us!  They could be the parents, or perhaps another baby civilization.

Of course … these UFO sightings probably are not of alien creations, so all of this is pure fantasy anyway.

So let me respect this in the intellectuals’ way, by critiquing it.

  1. As aliens are likely millions of years more advanced than us, they are fully artificial; they are robots. Any probe capable of getting here could at a small extra cost hold an entire artificial mind, or even millions of them. No point in sending a smaller mind. If anything from aliens is here, some aliens are here.
  2. It is crazy to think of entire civilizations as stuck forever at the same one-bit setting of war or peace. Even animals are capable of a wide range of intermediate and contingent aggression strategies, to fight and to what degree as the situation demands. Humans and their societies have even subtler contingent strategies. So advanced alien aggression strategies should be very well adapted to circumstances. If they don’t kill us, it is for a reason, not just because time generically selects for peacefulness.
  3. Yes it is possible that alien behaviors toward us are random because we hardly matter to them. Though even then we’d want a theory of where all that “slack” comes from. But surely we should also consider other possibilities. Their actual behaviors seem like they will induce us to respect and emulate them, which doesn’t seem a crazy goal.
  4. I don’t understand what here Tyler thinks argues against alien immortality.
  5. Aliens could make themselves very visible, or hide completely. Suggesting that what we see is what they want us to see; they show us impressive abilities, but not crazy extreme abilities.
  6. Tyler says they are everywhere, and come from multiple alien origins, but doesn’t address why if so they haven’t made a big visible mark on the universe. That fact features centrally in my analysis.
  7. I proposed aliens are panspermia siblings, not parents. A directed panspermia scenario seems crazy to me, as there should be far easier ways to induce life elsewhere than sending out random primitive cells.
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