Xenophobia: Evolution of Perspectives (part 3)

It is the year 3013 and in spite of continuous skeptic predictions Moore’s law held and computation power continued to double every 2 years till year 2100 after which it slowed down, but continued to grow. Our computation power is a million trillion times greater than what it was in year 2012, and this has caused radical changes in our society.

Our capability to simulate real time nuclear processes, weather, the human mind and even genome functionality, allowed us to solve the world’s energy crises, food crises, we restored the world to preindustrial climate conditions and even managed to recreate some of the species that went extinct during the 20 and 21 century technological rush.

It is a hypothetical world, but plausible and in our case necessary to create a different vantage point from where we can better understand an advanced civilization, particularly how they would relate to other species in the universe. We are locked up in a fish tank, a relatively small one, and ironically we are genetically so close, the entire population, that so much as language or skin color represents enormous differences. The greatest differences in fact. No wonder than when we think about something as different as an extraterrestrial, we start exhibiting xenophobic thinking.

An advanced extraterrestrial, would have a completely different definition of different. If we put ourselves into this hypothetical future, and hence closer to their views, we might realize that the way we think they think about us is rooted in misconceptions and that our phobia is completely unfunded.

To support the argument, let us consider a radical migration, one that our species will have to look at sooner or later.

4.1 ∘ Radical Migrations

Our huge society, all 7 billions of us, originate in a handful of people somewhere in Africa a long time ago (The Genographic Project). We left there, because we were forced by circumstances and had we not done so, we might be extinct today.

The same faith awaits us if we don’t manage to leave our home planet and set foot in various corners of the universe. Our home world has an open expiry date, which may be two days or 3 billion years or more but as such, as long as we are here alone, we are a species threatened by extinction. People don’t give this a lot of thought, but such an event is very bad within the context of what it means to be a living thing. If all our descendants disappear some time in the future, doesn’t really matter how long from now, it would be as if we never existed. That’s in sharp contradiction with what we are trying so hard to achieve: live a long life and ensure the existence of the next generation.

4.2 ∘ Terraformation

Whenever people think about moving to other worlds they think about planets with similar atmosphere which can either be found as such, or converted by terraforming, a process which would make the planet suitable for human physiology.

Terraforming is a concept born in science fiction, nevertheless there is a great deal of scientific interest and many studies have been done in this area. The prospect of technologies that allow us to terraform a planet could greatly increase the capabilities of human kind to one day colonize the galaxy.

Although such far reaching implications still remain the domain of science fiction, Mars, has been extensively studied with this scope as it is the closest planet to Earth which does have, at least theoretically, the potential to becoming a human colony, and a candidate for terraforming (Zubrin, McKay, Terraforming Mars).

The technological challenges required for such an undertaking are not the subject of this document but rather what people expect from terraforming, is. When people think of terraforming in general, they imagine a world similar to Earth, one in which people thrive and effortlessly travel to and from. In this perspective, people many thousands of years in the future, have the same familiar face as seen here on Earth on a daily basis. This anthropocentric image of people, societies and worlds is misleading and is partially at least responsible to for the xenophobic reaction of people towards potential aliens.

4.3 ∘ Xenomorphosis

There is only one Earth. Chances for the existence of an identical planet with regards to living conditions are close to none. Of course this doesn’t mean that there could be no other habitable planets out there. It’s just that the parameters that influence physiology and psychology, such as gravitation, atmospheric composition, solar radiation, temperature fluctuations, seasons, year cycle, day/night cycle will vary, some to greater extent than others.

Anthropological studies have shown that humans, like any other living things here on Earth, will rapidly change under environmental pressure. Adaptations like diseases resistance, heat retention, efficient heat disposal, variations in solar radiation, diet, will create within only thousands of years modifications to human physiology (Tyson, 2009).

Environmental changes that bring about these physiological modifications are really quite mild compared to those our species might face during migration to a similar but different planet.

Gravity for instance, is an extreme factor that can bring radical modifications to muscle volume, bone density, blood circulation, body shape possibly much quicker than changes in temperature or strength of sunlight. Some of these changes could be so extreme that the people that undergo them might look disproportional even unattractive to us. Mars, for instance, has only 38% of the gravity of Earth. Whether the human body can accommodate to this constraint is uncertain, but if it could, is likely to induce radical and fast changes in the following generations or even those that stay on Mars for a long period of time. Human that live for long enough on Mars are likely to loose a lot of their muscles, some of their bone density, and it is not likely that they would even be able to stand up upon return on Earth (they would weigh three times as much as on Mars). The radically lower gravity conditions affects walking, which in turn may affect leg shape or other physical characteristics within a few thousand years.

Culture would change even faster. Extreme local conditions, diet, will push people and society to adapt psychologically to better cope with them. There is no telling where these societies will go but major social restructuring is expectable.

Whether people expect it or not, the human body will xenomorph (transform into an alien shape) to adapt to these new alien conditions. Within a relatively short period of time, colonies on remote planets might be so different that even if reproductive compatibility would exist the desire to do so might not, stopping interbreeding and facilitating the rise of a new race. Self perception will change and a sense of racial and social identity will inevitable evolve. These will bring radical new perspectives on the concept of races.

Members of these new races will truly be alien to Earth Humans in many ways and the only bond that might exist at that point between the societies will hinge on the fact that both originated on Earth, from common ancestors.

Hopefully, at that point in the future, humans will be intellectually evolved enough to see this objectively and not emotionally. Hopefully these races will continue to see their societies as one, especially in the light of the fact that Earth will inevitable become uninhabitable one day and at that point in the far future, all that will be left of homo sapiens will be the many different races settled into the may different parts of the cosmos.

4.4 ∘ Xenoformation

Taking into consideration the inevitable and profound changes that are brought about to the species by migration to a different planet it does make sens to weigh the true cost of terraformation and the subsequent xenomorphosis.

Terraformation is a process that may take hundreds of years, extreme costs and efforts and, in some cases, it could even be impossible. Even if it is possible and the atmosphere can be brought close to that of Earth, people that move there will undergo extreme difficulties and hardship generations after generations. Hardship that go beyond physical work or bad weather conditions. The lack of adaptation to these local conditions could result in physical deteriorations of the body perhaps even early deaths, an extremely high price that could be paid by such colonists.

It would make a lot of sense at that point in the future to genetically prepare a complete new generation that is 100% adapted to the living conditions on the planet. As part of the hypothetical future, humans have complete control over genes and know exactly what the outcome of various genetic modifications are. With such modifications, the new generation will not have to go through the pain of adaptation. Genetic modifications are inevitable, true within many generations, so the outcome would be the same only a lot less suffering for the settlers and their descendants, and as such, acceptability of the concept might be reasonable at that time.

If human society would be opened to such radical approaches in this future, colonization capabilities would be greatly broadened. Future humans no longer need to be so selective about the planet they pick, because they simply create the necessary modifications out of the box. This does not mean that any planet is a possible destination but there would be many more possible solutions and in some cases even terraformation can be skipped. In this process, it is not the planet that is changed to be suitable to the body, it is the body that is changed to suit local conditions, hence the hypothetical term xenoformation (transforming the body to suit alien conditions).

The possibility of this latter solution would be infinitely more ethical in case primitive life already existed on the destination planet. The newcomers, could simply settle in, without any modifications to the environment and follow the strict non-invasive environmentally conscious conduit as on Earth, at that point in the future.

Under these circumstances, how would these people be different from homo sapiens and what would their relationship be? Following the same logic as above, they would end up being a different race, probably in some case even a different species, depending on how radical the changes need to be, but it is reasonable to assume that societies would keep in touch and would continue to consider themselves as one, regardless of the physiological differences, just as in the previous case.

4.5 ∘ Hybridization

But how much change is change? What does change mean, and why would it matter that descendants are no longer genetically compatible as long as they are coming from the same origin, just underwent different modifications. Would these modifications be reason for conflict? Racial hate? Xenophobia?

Every Homo Sapiens, who choses to stay on Earth will cease to exist at some point in the future, together will all their descendants who chose to do the same thing. However, there will be a Homo Xenosapiens who will carry on, all or part of the knowledge and culture that their ancestors on Earth accumulated and perhaps will even continue to honor their heritage by reaching ever higher realms of knowledge and understanding. They will be the only descendants, no matter how different they may be.

But just to take this line of thought to its extreme, let us explore the possibility where the target planet is so different that xenoformation is no longer an option. Possibly, the human physiology will require such extreme modifications that changes are not feasible. Let’s further suppose that the planet has non intelligent life on it and that the ethical consequences have been discussed and decided upon by the humans of that time who agreed that it would be beneficial to select one species and infuse it with human traits. As direct gene transfer would be impossible due to the enormous differences, these highly evolved humans would analyze the genetic makeup (or whatever the blueprint may be) of the selected specimen and work out the modifications necessary to give the species human capabilities, not necessarily exact external appearance but rather the same physical and metal capabilities as humans have.

Of course being human is a lot more than dexterity and intelligence. It is also passion, curiosity, open mindedness, discipline, compassion, empathy, selflessness, the desire to do the right thing, ethical conduit, desire to evolve, to be better and many more that describe what ideally would mean to be human. Some of them are not necessarily genetic but rather cultural, nevertheless if humans would manage to infuse those creatures part genetically part through education with these traits, how different would they be from humans?

Although, genetically couldn’t be farther away (fish on Earth would be genetically closer) they would still be an extension of human society. Could our two species species be as one in spite of these radical physiological differences? Continuing the line of thinking from the previous chapters the answer should be “yes”, they would have human origin, achieved not necessarily by reproduction and natural evolution but by some sort of synthetic evolution. This synthetic evolution may seem far fetched even unacceptable as evolution by today’s standards, but a few hundred years in the future may become the norm. Genetically modified crops could be followed by genetically modified farm stock, genetic screening for humans in the beginning, then genetic enhancements, reaching gradually to synthetically created species that are no less acceptable than today are thornless blackberry bushes.

4.6 ∘ Alien?

If all these physiological differences don’t matter when humans are responsible, at least partially, for the formation of a species, then why would they matter if they are not directly responsible? What if a totally different species found those values on it’s own. Would these values alone be sufficient to create a bond between two species?

Societies that have been space faring for tens of thousands of years or more are likely to realize that on universal scale, shape, make or origin is unimportant. In the dynamics of a species all these elements are transitory lasting only fractions of a species lifetime. The only criteria that remains is behavior, and if true, a newly rising species will most probably be judged according to this.

If we project ourselves just a few inventions into the future, with technologies that are already on their way in human society we can imagine that the values we hold dear today disappear entirely. Natural resources, energy, food, diseases, even death may be a things of the past. The vast majority of human art and literature picture a future world with trade and commerce with advanced aliens. Commerce, however, implies that a shortage exists, a need that can be filled in by a party but for societies in steady state having energy and resources bordering the infinity, with technologies that can auto replicate to create anything, what is there to trade? All an advanced alien might need from an other advanced alien are enlightening opinions, good conversations and perhaps a laugh.

As species diverge in the universe under the relentless force of evolution driven by the inevitable changes between environmental conditions, criteria for differentiation must converge towards an emphasis on behavior and attitude. Being an act of free will, it is the only thing that can stay independent of the forces of nature and as such remain constant, something on which, lasting relations can be build.

Conclusion

If the only constant in the universe is behavior and if the behavior of species inevitably converge towards peacefulness the only possible outcome is a single universal super-species the DNA of which is not made of chemicals but rather thought patterns. As opposed to Darwinian evolution, once species develop intelligence, they don’t diverge but rather converge towards this gigantic species regardless where they originate from. As such, it would be unreasonable to think that an alien species would invade and exterminate human kind for they would be destroying an emergent branch of this super-species, their own species so to speak. This would be as unreasonable as us killing our teenagers for having reckless, impulsive and immature behavior.

 

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