Monday, June 9, 2008

Post-biological Intelligence

by Gary Woodill on June 9, 2008

An article by Stephen J. Dick, NASA’s chief historian, (New Scientist, May 31, 2008) on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) suggests that we view intelligence as the “smart” actions other biological creatures like us would carry out. He contends that our searches for extraterrestrial intelligence ignore the likelihood that intelligence in the universe has evolved “beyond biology”, towards what we currently call artificial intelligence (AI). If this has happened on other worlds, the process of cultural evolution has probably taken these societies in very different directions than ours. We may be dealing with cosmic snobs! Dick writes, “the intelligence principle renders it unlikely that post-biologicals would wish to communicate with embryonic biologicals such as humans, so we might be reduced to intercepting their communications.” Of course our current ideas of artificial intelligence may also be too primitive as a metaphor for post-biological intelligence, and “the differences between our minds and players may be so great that communication is impossible.” Dick expands on these themes in two books, The Biological Universe (Cambridge University Press, 1996), and The Living Universe (Rutgers University Press, 2004).