Outer Space and Cyber Space: Meeting ET in the Cloud

When we meet "them" on an exoplanet, will they have bodies like us? Or, will aliens be post-biological? Will we find ourselves talking to intelligence uploaded into extraterrestrial computers? Some of our world's top physicists and astrobiologists think we may meet our new space neighbors in the cloud. Ted Peters speculates in the International Journal of Astrobiology. [http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=10445483&jid=IJA&volumeId=-1&issueId=-1&aid=10445478&fromPage=cupadmin&pdftype=6316268&repository=authInst]

Let's think about this a moment.

What might justify the astrobiologist's search for post-biological or machine-intelligence in outer space? Four assumptions borrowed from transhumanism (H+) seem to be at work here: (1) it is reasonable to speculate that life on Earth will evolve in the direction of post-biological intelligence; (2) if extraterrestrials have evolved longer than we on Earth, then they will be more scientifically and technologically advanced; (3) superintelligence, computer uploads of brains, and dis-embodied mind belong together; and (4) evolutionary progress is guided by the drive toward increased intelligence. Now, are these assumptions credible?

When subjected to critical review, these assumptions prove to be weak. Most importantly, evolutionary biologists do not support the idea that evolution is internally directed toward increased intelligence. Without this assumption, justifying the search for ET more intelligent than earthlings is anemic. Nevertheless, one can still hope that in the near future we will be communicating with new neighbors in the Milky Way. Can sheer hope inspire science?

Even though I am a pastor these days trying to share the gospel in a world that seems deaf to it, my own doctorate in astrobiology keeps my interest alive. I have the hope that someday I can invite new space neighbors to a covered dish dinner in my church basement.

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