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Space Science

Look For AI, Not Aliens 452

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'd-rather-a-good-reuben dept.
krou writes "Writing in Acta Astronautica, Seti astronomer Seth Shostak argues that we should be looking for 'sentient machines' rather than biological life. In an interview with the BBC, he said, 'If you look at the timescales for the development of technology, at some point you invent radio and then you go on the air and then we have a chance of finding you. But within a few hundred years of inventing radio — at least if we're any example — you invent thinking machines; we're probably going to do that in this century. So you've invented your successors and only for a few hundred years are you... a "biological" intelligence.' As a result, he says 'we could spend at least a few percent of our time... looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out.'"
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Look For AI, Not Aliens

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  • by ciantic (626550) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:49AM (#33341238)

    From the article,

    "Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies."

    So they should be looking at places usually hostile for biological life.

  • Re:Oh great (Score:1, Informative)

    by Mystiq (101361) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:13AM (#33341644)

    Terminator is old news. It's all about the Mass Effect references.

    As long as we find Legion and not followers of Sovereign, I'm good with this.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:15AM (#33341676) Homepage
    Vinge would be the first to admit that the idea of Zones of Thought is pure fantasy, an element thrown in to liven up the plot but which has absolutely no basis in real physics. (Also note that in his Zones universe, the zones in the Milky Way are not some natural process, but were set up by some ancient civilization which had Transcended in order to regulate the galaxy for some reason).
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:50AM (#33342362) Journal
    Actually, no. It is close to impossible. A neuron is nothing near the kind of machinery you need to make a quantum effect have macroscopic result. Cascade reactions from a single particle event do not happen in neuron cells, do not get amplified. For a neural impulse to be transmitted, you need thousands (very low estimate) of molecules to travel through a gap and this huge number is enough to iron out any quantum oddity.

    I know many philosophers and social science types love this hypotheses, and love the fact that you can't completely prove it wrong until we implemented a sentient machine (just as you can't be definitely sure that humans can travel to Jupiter without becoming crazy) but they propose absolutely no theories about how this translate into what we know about neurons. There are no such theories in the neurobiology field and no phenomenon seems to require a "quantum magic" hypothesis to be explained.

    Make no mistake about it : people who talk about unspeakable quantum phenomenon to explain thoughts are just people who are uncomfortable about the idea that we don't need any soul-thingie to explain sentience and consciousness.
  • Re:Oh great (Score:5, Informative)

    by julesh (229690) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:01PM (#33343504)

    Phillip Dick wrote Second Variety ten years before that third-rate knock-off. If anyone deserves credit for being ripped off, it's him.

    Except that Berserker is a much closer match to the article's idea. Second Variety describes robots we created waging war on humanity (i.e. it prefigures Terminator). Berserker at least comes close to the theme of TFA: alien AIs that we make first contact with. And then they start trying to kill us. Much more relevant.

    Of course, Berserker itself had earlier antecedants, and perhaps A for Andromeda [wikipedia.org] is an even closer match to what the article is talking about, particularly as it discusses the result of a SETI-like program. I believe it may be in the sequel, Andromeda Breakthrough, that it is revealed the intelligence that originated the messages is an AI.

    So, well done Shostak: you're only coming at this idea 50 years behind the SF writers. ;)

  • Re:Makes sense... (Score:2, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:16PM (#33343788) Journal

    Non-radioactive radiation, like visible light, infrared radiation, microwaves, ...

  • Sentient? (Score:3, Informative)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:31AM (#33355930)

    Sentient machines are fairly unimpressive. They are all around us.

    Sapient machines... now THAT would be something.

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