RE: "Web-mediated SETI": Robert Bradbury Replies

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 2 Nov 1999 10:04:56 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 2 Nov 1999, Billy Brown (responding to Damien) wrote:

> The trouble I have with the idea is that it is incoherent. On the one hand
> they implicitly assume that all aliens follow a very extreme Prime
> Directive-type rule against doing anything that would even be detectible by
> primitive civilizations, let alone intervening.

No, when I look at this problem I'm not looking for "enforced" solutions (for the reasons you point out). I'm looking for logical solutions dictated by the environment. I think there is a process of convergent evolution that takes place. Insects fly and birds fly and bats fly but they didn't get there by the same route. Fish swim and whales and porposes swim and even some snakes swim. They didn't get there by the same route either. The characteristics of these species has been determined by their environment.

The problem with the SETI/UFO folks is they suffer from a lack of imagination. They tend to diverge little from our characteristics and apply our motivations to any extraterrestrials. But what we ought to start with is: (a) the "space" environment; (b) the laws of physics (as we know them); and (c) rational thought and/or "conscious" evolution. Then see if you end up with different entitites based on directed evolution in space towards known limits.

Anders has a revised version of his Jupiter Brain paper coming out in which he has 4 types of entitites. It will be interesting to see whether they fit into different ecological niches in the galaxy. When you design "thought" architectures you have a number available but what I can do with a quantum qubit computer is different from what I can do with a cellular automata is different from what I can do with a planetary mass of magtape and a 4004 microprocessor attached to a read-write head. The really hard question is
"What to advanced individuals/civilizations/SIs really want?"

If you can answer that, you could begin to discover what their motivations are, what kinds of computers they would build and where they might be.

I don't assume there is an "enforced" Prime-Directive. I do assume

  (a) there really is nobody out there; or
  (b) the prime directive "followers" are our care-takers/observers; or
  (c) the non-prime directive "followers" haven't reached us (yet); or
  (d) there is virtually no point for a prime directive because we
      aren't of any interest or importantace to the ETs (i.e. convergent
      evolution creates a disinterest in non-space environment occupying
      creatures by space occupying creatures).

> On the other hand, they seem to think that these same aliens will
> happily suspend there rule as soon as someone says hello to them.

If (b) is true, my personal opinion is that they will suspend the rules when we are "interesting" to talk to. If one of those rules is that they be "invited to the party" (IR), then we should do that. If one of the rules is "they never go to parties to which they are invited" (!IR) then we are not doing the right thing. But it seems more logical that rational beings would follow IR than !IR.

> That doesn't make sense. If they don't respond to a concentration
> camp inmate praying for deliverance, I don't see any reason to think
> they will respond to a casual electronic greeting either.

Part of allowing evolution to occur "naturally" is to allow the brutality of [human] "nature" to takes its course. If they were around 65 million years ago and didn't off the dinosaurs they certainly didn't stop it either. It isn't easy to come up with a set of rules for when you can violate the prime directive. Numerous Star Trek episodes about that one.

You are probably right. But there is a small chance that they want an invitation. Since we have effectively given them that, either you are right or there are other conditions that haven't been met. Maybe one of those is getting rid of all the people who disbelieve they would respond to an invitation.... :-)