During an epoch of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa. Several leading scientists are asking: Is the human species entering a new evolutionary, post-biological inflection point?
Paul Davies, a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative at Arizona State University, says in his new book The Eerie Silence that any aliens exploring the universe will be AI-empowered machines. Not only are machines better able to endure extended exposure to the conditions of space, but they have the potential to develop intelligence far beyond the capacity of the human brain.
„I think it very likely – in fact inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon, a fleeting phase in the evolution of the universe,“ Davies writes. „If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature.“
In the current search for advanced extraterrestrial life SETI experts say the odds favor detecting alien AI rather than biological life because the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence would be brief.
“If we build a machine with the intellectual capability of one human, then within 5 years, its successor is more intelligent than all humanity combined,” says Seth Shostak, SETI chief astronomer. “Once any society invents the technology that could put them in touch with the cosmos, they are at most only a few hundred years away from changing their own paradigm of sentience to artificial intelligence,” he says.
ET machines would be infinitely more intelligent and durable than the biological intelligence that created them. Intelligent machines would be immortal, and would not need to exist in the carbon-friendly “Goldilocks Zones” current SETI searches focus on. An AI could self-direct its own evolution, each „upgrade“ would be created with the sum total of its predecessor’s knowledge preloaded.