Someone recently tweeted the question of if aliens would be more or less benevolent than us. My first reaction was “how could we possibly know how we differ from aliens?” But on reflection, that was hasty, and it seems that we could productively think about how we may differ from aliens.
I mean that far mode predicts what we'd think, not what is true.
But doesn't their sheer size make that unlikely? On your model, it doesn't take long before one front of expansion literally leaves the lightcone of the opposite front.
I'm also exploring this idea that expansion might be something might be a kind of emigration - that if you're happy with your society's qualities, you want to stay physically close to them. Only the unsatisfied or eager to experiment with new social models will head for the frontier. That seems to me to generate a profoundly divergent and diverse patchwork that puts Earth's diversity to shame.
I should have said ‘cultural traits’
There are (rather long) lists of allegedly universal human traits. These might be a useful input to a starter list of dimensions to consider in your analysis
I don't see any need to assume a normal distribution.
To formalize: identify a variable with a single axis. If humans are widely perceived to fall at the extreme end of that axis, then presume that we are outliers and that aliens would fall more towards the midpoint. Evaluate differences accordingly.
Flaws to this line of thinking: this assumes that the axes identified are intrinsically bounded and not arbitrarily bounded (as an example, apex predators are not necessarily the endpoint of the predator-prey relationship), and assumes that aliens will be normally distributed along the axis. I think both assumptions are sufficiently conjecture-based that there's not significant benefit to entertaining them.
We would think of them as having less variation due to the very cognitive biases from construal level you've written about. That doesn't mean there would actually be less variation.
For contrast, here's someone from the 17th century imagining what aliens might be like:
I hadn't heard of Galdikas before. Orangutans again the odd men (of the forest) out.
Aliens being seen in far mode predicts that we'd see less internal variation among them than among us.
Humanity has a millennia-long history of treating infinite torture as a just punishment and a tool for cultural control. Religions like Christianity and Islam have used the concept in their definition of morality an a large historical scope. Whether or not you agree that infinite torture can be deserved, it is clearly maximally malevolent. So unless we assume that such widespread cultural acceptance of maximum malevolence is universal, it would be mathematically very hard for aliens to be significantly more malevolent than humanity has already proven to be.
Perhaps the more interesting question is whether they are more or less benevolent to each other. I have no reason to doubt that the answer would be "Yes". Writing this, I see that I am recapitulating @lump1's view. I guess great minds think alike... and so do ours!
It's important that our models don't assume that an alien civilization will be less diverse in their beliefs and attitudes than humans are. (Basically all scifi assumes humans are outliers in our diversity, while Romulans all basically believe x.) If UFOs have aliens, they may be very atypical members of their societies. After all, human scientists who first decided to “go native” to deeply observe apes were very atypical humans: all three were young females with very specific and unusual qualities. So what if, by the standards of their own civilization, the aliens that buzz over naval bases in tic-tac UFOs are actually the alien counterparts of Fossey/Galdikas/Goodall? Or like them, except even more atypical? Aliens who spread out would quite probably diversify more, and humans might seem monolithic and groupthinkish in comparison. Maybe only the true statistical deviants among them would do something as silly as visiting Earth...
One interesting protocol of the ape-researching “trimates” was to visibly but unthreateningly insert themselves into the environment of the primates - gently enough to not excessively disturb their natural behavior, but visibly enough for the primates to gradually become accustomed to their presence. Robin thought something similar might be the purpose behind UFO behavior, and now that makes a bit more sense to me, when I think about how Dian Fossey might have seemed to a group of gorillas.
Of course, I still think it's crazy that UAPs would be aliens, but I'm kinda amused by the thought of some alien Jane Goodall inside one, dodging fighter jets and furiously taking notes about her confusing interactions with humans, while sending out increasingly desperate pleas to secure more grant money for continued research.