Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagScience fiction

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Atoms and their electron clouds , Quantum mechanics and atomic structure

The Aliens Exist—But Evolved Into Virtual Reality at a Nanoscale

That’s the Transcension Hypothesis, the latest in our series on science fiction hypotheses as to why we don’t see extraterrestrials

Readers will recall that we have been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s analysis of the various reasons that we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last week, we looked at the Firstborn Hypothesis: We don’t see aliens because they haven’t evolved yet. And, when they do, we must be careful not to harm their development through colonization. This week is a bit of a deeper dive: The extraterrestrials have evolved so far beyond us that perhaps we could not encounter them. … the Transcension Hypothesis ventures that an advanced civilization will become fundamentally altered by its technology. In short, it theorizes that any ETIs that predate humanity have long-since transformed into something that is not recognizable by…

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Blue hydraulic Clow Crane used for picking up scrap metal at recycling yard

Is It Ethical To Scrap Star Trek’s Commander Data for Research?

A philosopher offers a thoughtful review of the case

In a thought-provoking essay, San José State University philosopher Anand Vaidya asks, should it be okay to dismantle Star Trek‘s robotic crew member Data for research purposes, as proposed in the “The Measure of a Man” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Some of the Trek brass seemed to think so: Vaidya disagrees: As real artificial intelligence technology advances toward Hollywood’s imagined versions, the question of moral standing grows more important. If AIs have moral standing, philosophers like me reason, it could follow that they have a right to life. That means you cannot simply dismantle them, and might also mean that people shouldn’t interfere with their pursuing their goals. Anand Vaidya, “If a robot is conscious, is it…

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Alien Planet - 3D rendered computer artwork

What If We Don’t See Aliens Because They Have Not Evolved Yet?

If so, not only did we emerge during a favorable time in the universe’s history but we could end up suppressing them

Readers will recall that we have been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s analysis of the various reasons offered as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last week, we looked at the Brief Window hypothesis (there is only a comparatively short period of time during which a civilization could make such contact). But there is another, darker possibility: We are ahead of them. And if we are not careful, we could end up suppressing them. That’s the Firstborn hypothesis: The universe has only begun to be hospitable to intelligent life and humans are among the first to benefit from that fact. The current model of the universe shows it radiating from the Big Bang over…

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Twin Moons over Alien Desert City with Pyramids

Is the Brief Window for Finding ET Closing?

According to some scenarios, we could be past our best-before date for contacting aliens

Readers will recall that we have been looking at science writer Matt Williams‘ analysis of the various reasons that we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. We’ve listed (below) the many interesting ideas he has covered but now here’s a new one!: What if there is only a brief window during which a space-faring civilization can even develop? For the sake of the Brief Window Hypothesis, the key parameter is L. In this case, it can be defined as the amount of time a civilization can be expected to exist before succumbing to an extinction-level event. This could take the form of a natural disaster (an asteroid impact) or come in the form of self-destruction (nuclear or biological…

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Distant planet system in space with exoplanets 3D rendering elements of this image furnished by NASA

Space Aliens Could in Fact Be Watching Us

Using the methods we use to spot exoplanets. But if they are technologically advanced, wouldn’t they be here by now?
Last week, we looked at the ominous “Great Filter” hypothesis about why the space aliens never show up: Something dreadful almost always happens to prevent a civilization from reaching the point of easy space-faring. Probably something to do with mutually self-destructive warfare. But this week, let’s start with something different first. Let’s look at the possibility that the extraterrestrial intelligences could be alive and watching us right now, using the very same methods we use to spot exoplanets. A recent open-access astronomy paper tried to calculate which aliens could actually spot us by whether Earth dims the Sun when passing it: These sudden drops in luminosity are very slight, but detectable nonetheless. These dimming events can yield other important data as well, allowing astronomers to determine the length of an exoplanet’s year, its temperature, and its chemical properties, the latter of which can be used to discern rocky planets from gas giants. Other detection techniques exist, such as the Doppler method, but the transit method continues to be the most reliable and straightforward. The number of stars that we can observe through our telescopes seems almost endless, but the transit method means we’re caught in a rather glaring observational selection effect. With the transit technique, we can only spot exoplanets that pass in front of their host stars from our line of sight. George Dvorsky, “Aliens From These Worlds Could Be Watching Us Right Now” at Gizmodo Of course, a life-bearing planet might be out of our line of sight but, as Dvorsky points out, astronomers have already spotted thousands of exoplanets, which enables some sort of analysis. And, he says, observers there might be able to detect whether an industrial civilization exists on Earth (composition of gases, for example). The projected James Webb telescope could do that for their planets too. But now, on the other side, let’s look at the Hart-Tipler Conjecture: “Extraterrestrial intelligent beings do not exist” (1980). If they did, within 300 million years, they would have developed advanced technology and be here by now.” Or maybe by 650,000 years. Either way, they have had enough time. Here are some of the actual constraints of space exploration: As we may guess, a conjecture that the aliens must have reached or contacted us if they really existed is not popular among searchers of the skies. Consider a 2015 discussion at Universe Today by Toronto researcher and science writer Paul Patton of the Hart-Tipler conjecture. As Patton notes, that hypothesis originated nearly a half century ago in a paper by astronomer Michael H. Hart. The paper doesn’t seem to be open access but an astronomy letter responding to it may be found here. And how did eclectic Tulane physicist Frank Tipler become involved? Patton tells us that Tipler extended the argument in 1980, pointing out that even if they couldn’t visit Earth themselves, intelligent aliens could certainly have developed intelligent robots that could. Curiously, Tipler made that point long before artificial intelligence (AI) triumphed in many strategic games like Go, chess, and StarCraft II. So if we want to say that Tipler is wrong, we need something more compelling than “We don’t like his idea.” As it happens, those who persist in the search for extraterrestrial intelligences often become impatient with such skeptics. Patton, for example, cites alternative authorities like Carl Sagan (1934–1996): Besides assuming that interstellar travel is feasible, Hart’s argument is based on very specific and highly speculative ideas about how extraterrestrials must behave. He assumed that they would pursue a policy of unlimited expansion, that they would expand quickly, and that once their colonies were established, they would last for millions or even billions of years. If any of his speculations about how extraterrestrials will act aren’t right, then his argument that they don’t exist fails… Paul Patton, “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” II: Questioning the Hart-Tipler Conjecture” at Universe Today As might be expected, Carl Sagan and William Newman responded in 1981, offering a more hopeful analysis, based on the spread of animal populations: For Newman and Sagan, the absence of extraterrestrials on Earth doesn’t mean that they don’t exist elsewhere in the galaxy, or that they never launch starships. It just means that they don’t behave in the way Hart expected. They conclude that “except possibly in the very early history of the Galaxy, there are no very old galactic civilizations with a consistent policy of conquest of inhabited worlds; there is no Galactic Empire”. Paul Patton, “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” II: Questioning the Hart-Tipler Conjecture” at Universe Today Well, we don’t really have a good reason for being sorry about the absence of a Galactic Empire, do we? Maybe the aliens view the current turmoil here on Earth as a kind of distant soap opera. Maybe they’re just a studio audience and the show sells advertising in a distant galaxy. The audience can never get here, in the same way that we can’t intervene in a historical drama to save the heroine from the stake. Can we prove that’s not true? Anyway, next Sci-Fi Saturday, we will look at another account of why we don’t see the aliens! You may also enjoy these accounts of why we do not see the aliens: 1.Are the Aliens We Never Find Obeying Star Trek’s Prime Directive? The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions. Assuming the aliens exist, perhaps it’s just as well, on the whole, if they do want to leave us alone. They could want to “fix” us instead… 2.How can we be sure we are not just an ET’s simulation? A number of books and films are based on the idea. Should we believe it? We make a faith-based decision that logic and evidence together are reasonable guides to what is true. Logical possibility alone does not make an idea true. 3.Did the smart machines destroy the aliens who invented them? That’s the Berserker hypothesis. A smart deadly weapon could well decide to do without its… Read More ›
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the ultimate destruction of the planet in a great cosmic catastrophe 3d illustration

Does Science Fiction Hint That We Are Actually Doomed?

That’s the implication of an influential theory as to why we never see extraterrestrials

Recently science and science fiction writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why the extraterrestrial intelligences that many believe must exist in our universe never show up. Last week, we looked at the hypothesis that planets that can host life are rare so there are not many aliens out there to find. This week we look at a more ominous hypothesis. In “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” III: What is the Great Filter?” (July 23, 2020), Williams asks us to consider: “there is something in the Universe that prevents life from reaching the point where we would be able to hear from it.” What could that “something” be? The term “the Great Filter” was coined to describe…

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The region 30 Doradus lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.

Maybe There Are Just Very Few Aliens Out There…

The Rare Earth hypothesis offers science-based reasons that life in the universe is rare

Recently, science and science fiction writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why extraterrestrial intelligences never make contact with us. Last week, we looked at the hypothesis that, to avoid the heat destruction of their advanced technology, the aliens have put themselves into a digital slumber until the universe cools down. This week, let’s look at a quite different approach, which Williams outlines in “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” IV: What is the Rare Earth Hypothesis?” (July 29, 2020): That is “the possibility that life-bearing planets like Earth are just very rare.” We don’t see aliens because they are very uncommon: This is what is popularly known as the “Rare Earth Hypothesis,” which argues that the emergence…

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Dragon sleeps in a cave

Researchers: The aliens exist but they are sleeping…

And we wake them at our peril

Recently, science (and science fiction) writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why the extraterrestrial intelligences that many believe must exist in our universe never show up. Last week, we looked at the hypothesis that the aliens’ advanced technology ended up destroying them all and… the machines may be coming for us because destroying is all they know how to do. This week, let’s look at a quite different idea that Williams outlines in “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” V: What is the Aestivation Hypothesis?” (August 7, 2020). Aestivation is the summer version of hibernation in winter. The aliens, in this scenario are not dead; they are merely sleeping. Just as many life forms on Earth go…

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Artificial Intelligence self aware android robots patrolling a destroyed city. 3d rendering

Did the Smart Machines Destroy the Aliens Who Invented Them?

A smart deadly weapon could well decide to do without its inventor and, lacking moral guidance, destroy everything in sight
The Beserker hypothesis suggests that we haven’t heard from alien civilizations because they’ve been wiped out by their own killer robots. Well, if robotics ran amok… Read More ›
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Stunning jar with piece of forest, save the earth concept

How Can We Be Sure We Are Not Just An ET’s Simulation?

A number of books and films are based on the Planetarium Hypothesis. Should we believe it?

Science and science fiction writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why the extraterrestrial intelligences that many believe must exist in our universe never show up. Last week, we looked at the Prime Directive hypothesis (The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions.”) This week, let’s look at the Planetarium hypothesis, the sixth in his series: “humanity is in a simulation, and the aliens are the ones running it! In order to ensure that human beings do not become aware of this fact, they ensure that the simulation presents us with a “Great Silence” whenever we look out and listen to the depths of space.” (August…

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Astronaut and robot or artificial intelligence handshake on alien planet.

Should Robots, Instead of Humans, Go Into Space?

They might be better at life in space than humans. But could they be counselors too?

Are we here to re-create ourselves as robotic humanoids? In a recent podcast, Robert J. Marks discusses what robots can do for us with retired internist and author Geoffrey Simmons. In his most recent book, Are We Here to Re-Create Ourselves?: The Convergence of Designs (2019), Simmons argues that in creating artificially intelligent robots, we are trying to recreate the human being. But can we really recreate everything about ourselves? For example, they discussed, can robots be counselors? Should robots go into space instead of humans? As a writer, Simmons has found audiences for both fiction and non-fiction. For example, he wrote Z-papers (1976), a medically based crime thriller in which “In a Chicago hospital, the U.S. Vice Presidential candidate…

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robot make a relationships with human, it use for match and make satisfaction for love buddy by pair the personality data with algorithms technology combine deep, machine learning, digital twin

Are We Here to Re-Create Ourselves?

What are the capacities of human-like robots? Will they ever replace humans? Dr. Geoffrey Simmons and Dr. Robert J. Marks discuss artificial intelligence, outer space, consciousness, and Dr. Simmons’ book Are We Here to Re-Create Ourselves?: The Convergence of Designs. Show Notes 00:24 | Introducing Dr. Geoffrey Simmons 02:07 | Are we here to re-create ourselves? 04:11 | A purpose…

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nave espacial

Are the Aliens We Never See Obeying Star Trek’s Prime Directive?

The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope, astronomers recently scoured a part of the sky known to contain at least 10 million star systems for evidence of alien technology (“techno signatures”). And the result? “With this dataset, we found no technosignatures — no sign of intelligent life.” Professor Tingay said even though this was the broadest search yet, he was not shocked by the result. “As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is big, really big’.” International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, “Australian telescope finds no signs of alien technology in 10 million star systems” at ScienceDaily The paper is open access. Various sources offer explanations for the absent aliens; the most popular is that…

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Futuristic Science Fiction Bedroom Interior with Planet Earth View in Space Station, 3D Rendering

When Science Fiction Comes to Life…

Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it sometimes grows out of it

A senior editor at Wired told us a while back that science fiction writer H. G. Wells’s 1914 tale, The World Set Free, formed part of the inspiration for the atomic bomb, exploded over Hiroshima in 1945. … in the novel Wells imagines a new kind of bomb, based on a nuclear chain reaction. In this science fiction story Wells imagines that atomic energy would be discovered in 1933 (20 years in his future), and that the bomb would first explode in 1956. Wikipedia notes, “As fate or coincidence would have it, in reality the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book in 1932, conceived of the idea of nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and filed for patents on it in…

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The runway of a rural small airfield against a blue sky

Third Kind Is a Unique Kind of Sci-Fi Film

Director Yorgos Zois helps us to interpret others’ real-life experiences through the sci-fi genre

This week I’ve got another Sci-Fi Saturday short for you. Although not much is currently going on in the big world of sci-fi (though there is always something going on), there never seems to be a dull drum when it comes to short films. Although not a brand new release, Third Kind (2018, 32 min) by Yorgos Zois is interesting, unique, and thought-provoking in several ways. First, let’s talk about interesting. While I would gladly say that most short films I watch are interesting, the slow burn of Third Kind makes it more interesting than most. As three archeologists visit a long since abandoned earth (we’re not really told what time the archeologists are from), they search for a mysterious…

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Gemstones collection jewelry set.

Two More Hidden Gems Among the Sci-Fi Shorts

I spotted both of these gems on Short of the Week and was instantly intrigued

Back in the old days, I used to endlessly browse YouTube for short films; hoping I would find a hidden gem. Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for any aspiring filmmaker but short films can be very difficult to pull off. It could certainly be said that each film deserves respect in one way or another. Every now and then, however, I would find something brilliant hidden in the corners of YouTube. Nowadays, though, Short of the Week has pretty much taken the burden of searching off my hands. First up, we have This Time Away (2019): Nigel is an elderly man living as a recluse, haunted by his past and memory of the family he once had, until…

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abstract circle fractal background

Hulu’s Devs Series: Where They Get Determinism Wrong

Devs disposes of a key limitation of computers that can supposedly predict the future with psychobabble

Call me a nitpicker: As a computer engineer, I must say, computers cannot predict the future.

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ufo flying over the desert

Close Encounters, Fifth Kind, Just Missed Contact

Worth a watch but Stephen Greer and I part company when he makes clear that he believes everything is conscious

In his documentary on UFOs, Stephen Greer certainly gets one thing right: Consciousness doesn’t fit into conventional science inquiry.

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Circuit board with CPU.  Motherboard system chip with glowing processor. Computer´s technology and internet concept.

Devs Both Grips and Challenges Hulu Viewers

I had fully expected Devs to be yet another series about sentient AI but it is something fresher

Alex Garland departs from conventional sci-fi themes to create a thought-provoking film, packed with action and based on a challenging underlying philosophy.

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Curved video wall

My Five Top Picks in Short Sci-Fi from DUST at YouTube

I'm glad I decided to revisit DUST, a wonderful community of short, free sci-fi films

They’ll sure take your mind off lockdown. Both “Hum” and “Alientology” feature a simple storyline that works in a short film. “EI: Emotional Intelligence,” an animated short, compares well with live action shorts. “Exit Strategy” is one of the few really successful sci-fi films on the topic of time. And I would love to see “The Secret Number” made into a feature film. 

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