Monday, August 28, 2017

Love and Aliens

My esteem for Christ, Gandhi, and King just keeps increasing. What a spectacular hack it was to confront hatred with love; to deliberately choose - in defiance of all human impulse - to react to extremism with something other than reciprocal extremism.

It's nothing new, of course; this move has been out there, however unpopular, for millennia. And there are always a few ordinary people (the genuinely spiritual, rather than the more common affectedly spiritual) who instinctively go to it. But among those ambitious and competitive enough to rise to a level of prominence where their voices are widely heard, this has been applied consistently by only a tiny handful in the past two thousand years. It's as rare as comets.

But how, you might ask, does this apply to the likelihood of intelligent alien life in the universe?

Evolution prizes ruthlessness, aggression, and competition. It's essentially an arms race as everyone vies for limited resources, and only the selfish go-getters win - i.e. live long enough to pass on their genes.

That's why it seems obvious to me that any advanced society will eventually blow itself up. Only a planet's top species - the most relentlessly brutal fighting dogs - attains high technology, and while some individuals (or even many) might be calmed into an uneasy competitive truce (e.g. the social compact, game theory alliances, vanity-feeding piety, or the aforementioned rare genuine spirituality), any annihilation button will eventually be pressed by someone. I think this is the most obvious factor in the Drake Equation which tries to calculate the odds of alien intelligent civilization (and accounts for why we're not hearing from anyone).

Only apex predators win. But politics (in the broad sense of making oneself known and influential) requires the competitiveness to rise above one's peers. Such people are particularly unlikely to personify the antithesis of all that, i.e. selflessness and love. With precious few exceptions, we can't look to our leaders and influencers for this strategy.

But while there there aren't many Christs, Gandhis, or Kings, there's potential in the general population. As I wrote here:
"If reasonable Israelis and reasonable Palestinians, reasonable Democrats and reasonable Republicans, reasonable Pakistanis and reasonable Indians, all of whom are brothers and sisters by virtue of the unity of their peaceful aspirations and the tenor of their temperaments, are ever to conspire to break the demented cycle of provocation, it will be via direct and personal contact rather than via the proxy of their respective authorities."
Here's something no Chruchill, Macron, or Merkel would ever do (though, to his credit, George W Bush did visit a mosque on September 17, 2001, where he gave a terrific speech):

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