I always thought that it was impossible to have highly intelligent and violent species at the same time.
Let’s test this hypothesis:
Imagine that I or you are very, very, very intelligent — super intelligent, in fact — and we need to do something that would include removing less intelligent species from existence.
As for being very smart and intelligent, the first question we need to ask is this: how smart and intelligent that really is?
If we compare ourselves with ants, we can say that we are enormously more intelligent, but, again, that would not stop us from drilling through the ant hill and destroying them all, if we needed oil below their home, for instance. From the ants’ perspective, that would count as a massive act of violence toward them.
Let’s say that we are more intelligent than that, and, again, there is oil underground, and we want to extract it, but now we know how to synthesize oil.
At this point, there are two elements that come into play. First is the efficiency of the synthesizing process, in comparison with digging for oil — and when I say efficiency, I mean full efficiency of production, availability of elements needed for that process, along with the energy. In this case, ants do not have any role; everything depends solely on efficiency, everything that matters is just a number.
The second part of the equation is where humanity comes into play, and that is the idea of caring, or what we account as part of our emotional existence. Even when the efficiency cost is significantly higher for synthetic oil, if we care about the ants, we would be willing to take a more difficult path, in order to protect them. Sometimes, we will even change our desires for the things we love.
And that is the thing! That whole difference between being “human” and “not being the human.”
For a long time, I was under the impression that it would be impossible to have a race that is violent and super intelligent at the same time. For me, I thought that a species capable of bridging the gap between the stars wouldn’t have any reason to be violent. To possess that kind of knowledge, it would be easier to create a planet, instead of waging a war with some alien race, in order to obtain what is theirs. So I thought...
I mistakenly thought that, if you are intelligent enough, you are not threatened by lesser brains, and, therefore, there is no need to exterminate them. Maybe, you would keep them under the microscope, for a while, in order to learn something new, but, if they cannot affect you, why would you bother destroying them? I had the same feeling about General Artificial Intelligence: if intelligent enough, AI would probably be indifferent toward humans and that, probably, AI would be so bored with us that, most of the time, it will do its own stuff — not ours — and, in the end, it will just leave this part of the universe.
But, that was wrong. I forgot a few things in my small mental exercise.
I forgot to exclude “I,” and I forgot the perspective of “violence.”
Violence exists only from the perspective of the object, not subject. For me, cutting a wooden board or eating a tomato is not a violent act, but, from the perspective of the board and tomato, it is an act of ultimate destruction. If the subject is not considering the needs of the object, then, from his perspective (regardless of the way he acts if the object is not powerful enough to resist), that is not an act of violence.
A hunter does not think of killing the shark as an act of violence, but, if he gets attacked, he will think that sharks are violent animals.
This strange relationship can also be recognized as an inability to recognize the needs of another entity. Quite literally, it is either the absence of communication channels or the necessary means to transfer information that would be understandable to both parties. However, even when information exists and is understandable, there is an additional, important question: do parties who interact with each other care about each other and each other’s needs?
That is the “I” I have forgotten; in my case, that “I” means that I would not do any harm to ants, not because I cannot, but because I do not want to — because I care about them.
Word "care" has many synonyms: kindness, goodness, goodwill, benignity, compassion, consideration, thoughtfulness, decency, social conscience, altruism, love, and humanity. Humanity is the quality of being humane; and humane means acting in a manner that causes the least harm to people or animals. Although, I would change “animals” to other sentient beings.
That being said, let’s consider us; let’s consider humans. We are capable of destroying whatever comes in our way, whether that’s a rock, land, or a sentient being. Even when communication channels exist, we will still do it, regardless of the life lost. We will still do it, in order to gain the imaginary object of our illusion. We would go so far as to destroy even the members of our own species, even the ones who look and talk just like us.
Make no mistake: we are a genocidal species. Everything we perceive as a threat, even to a very few members of our species, we are very much capable of going to the extent of killing all the members of this other species. Even when a threat does not exit, we will just use these others as resources, to the point that they will become extinct. It is a terrible strategy for the life of the planet, biodiversity, and it is even bad for us as part of that nature.
So, why we do it?
Often, it is due to ignorance, but, most of the time, it is because we do not care. We simply do not care.
Just imagine being so self-centered that you can put your desires for imaginary objects in front of and above the lives of others. And, even more staggering we all do it on a daily basis.
Obviously, not all humans are humane, and not all aliens will be inhumane. For the AI, it all depends on how we build them and what they learn along the way.
I would like to argue that the Borg (cybernetic alien race) in the Star Trek TV novella were actually humans. Think about it: the Federation is asking everyone to join and live by the rules of Federation. So, in some sense, Humans are Borg. Although they do not have the same assimilation strategy as Borg, they still assimilate or exterminate other species.
Many readers probably do not know what Borg is. Putting that aside, my only point is that going into outer space with this conquest type of mindset, with the hypocritical pretense of spreading democracy and morality while killing thousands — and actually having the end goal to conquer and rule — I am afraid it will simply not work there.
It will not work, because, eventually, someone will see through our intentions, and they will just wipe us all out, like we never existed in the first place. That is, of course, if we do not kill each other a long before that happens.
If I were to judge the future by the past, I would say that where we are going will not take us very far.
As I said, when you love life, you can change your ways.
Although it is far more difficult to create life than destroy it, you will find the way... if you care.