ᴀʟɪᴇɴ ᴀɪ ‘ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ʙɪʟʟɪᴏɴs ᴏғ ʏᴇᴀʀs ᴏʟᴅ’
A NASA philosopher maintains that an A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ e̳x̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ artificial intelligence might already exist.
When we think of the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe, we tend to imagine c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ not unlike our own made up of humanoid biological beings like something out of Star Trek.
But what if the dominant form of intelligence in the universe is artificial, rather than biological ?
Philosopher Susan Schneider – who holds the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology – believes that such an AI might have already been around for billions of years.
“I do not believe that most advanced a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ will be biological,” she said. “The most sophisticated c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ will be postbiological, forms of artificial intelligence or a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ superintelligence.”
For a recent study at NASA, Schneider attempted to answer the question of how an a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ intelligence would think and whether they would have conscious experiences similar to our own.
She concluded that once a c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳ reaches the point at which it can venture out into space, it will take only a few centuries for them to transition to artificial intelligence.
This makes it highly likely, she argues, that any a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳s we do encounter will not be biological.
That said, it’s important to note that her definition of ‘artificial intelligence’ extends to entities who have enhanced their minds and consciousness with technology – so this doesn’t necessarily mean that an e̳x̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ AI would be purely robotic in nature.
Perhaps a better analogy would be something like the Borg in Star Trek – a fusion of biological entity and machine designed to enhance both way beyond what could be achieved with evolution alone.
Whether we are ever likely to encounter such beings (or to even become them ourselves), however, remains to be seen.