Wednesday, October 18, 2006

UFOs... Organic Beings, or AI?

There's a debate going on over at UFO Updates right now about whether alien visitors to Earth are organic, flesh and blood beings like us, or some form of artificial intelligence (assuming there are such visitors, an assumption I don't make, but I'll go with it for the sake of argument).

The "organic, flesh and blood" types seem to be having trouble wrapping their minds around the concept of AI - indeed, the probability that, if aliens are here, they would be some form of AI (they have clearly not read Kurzweil lately, or seen an episode of Battlestar Galactica). The adherence of some folks to the idea that alien visitors would be flesh and blood, organic beings is almost... quaint. In many respects, it reminds me of how some evangelical Christians have for years portrayed Jesus as a blond-haired, blue-eyed northern European, or how for centuries people tried to fit "God" into their own conception of what "God" should be, and look like, i.e. them, only much more powerful.

When talking about potential alien explorers, it's time to jettison that comfortable conceit - or at the very least expand your horizons to include the possibility (or, as I would say, probability) that they would be some form of AI, because that is precisely what aliens who encounter us in space in 100 years are likely going to run into.

Things are changing fast in the world of "computers" (a word that just doesn't cover it), and that includes AI. Think about where we are now, and how far we've come in such a relatively short span of time.

I can think of no-one better to illustrate that point than Captain James T. Kirk himself, William Shatner.

That was 1982, folks, when Gorf was the "wonder arcade game".

Again, take a moment to think of how far we've come in such a short time, and then tell me there's nothing to AI as a theory for what alien explorers might look like.

The folks at Updates who "get" AI and the implications and possibilities it presents are playing an interactive game on the X-Box 360; everyone else is still playing Gorf on the Vic-20.

Paul Kimball


Mac said...

Way too many of the "nuts and bolts" guys are still thinking in terms of spacecraft with flesh-and-blood astronauts inside. But don't worry -- I'll wise 'em up!

William said...

I'm firmly in the A.I. camp with Mac. As I've said before, I welcome our new A.I. overlords!

A few interesting articles on the implications of Second-Life we talked about at the symposium:

Harvard Business Review:

Business Week

Second-Life Itself


Mac said...


I forgot: Do you have a Second-Life identity? After re-reading your Rational Geek post on mind-uploading, I'm considering it.

Paul Kimball said...


I think having you talk about "Second Life" at the 2007 NFS, and the implications of it in the long-term, might be a good idea.



William said...


Not a bad idea! If not I, then perhaps Giulio Prisco would be a potential speaker at NFS2007? See from my blog for more info.


Jani Myriam is my second-life alter ego. I haven't logged on in quite a while but it is a fascinating place to visit and worth keeping up with I think.

The WTA has a SIM in SL as well. I blogged about the symposium they held in SL at this url:

The WTA also did a simulcast of their WTA's last conference in SL. For more info on the WTA in SL visit:

Let me know your avatar's name in SL and I'll look you up and give you nickel tour. Wired has a good tour guide here to get you started.


NullSpin said...

Well I was considering the second life persona a few months ago but I couldn't pull the trigger. But I am now happy to announce the creation of my alter ego:

Mycroft Excelsior or me for short.

Now to recreate The Diogenes Club or build a casino?