The universe is 13.8 billion years old and our solar system is 4.5 billion years old. We are therefor a relatively new kid in the cosmic neighborhood. In the time before our solar system came into being, other stars with planetary systems existed. And if some of these planets sustained life, then intelligent creatures could have evolved and developed civilizations and science long before us. What these life forms looked like would differ depending on the characteristics of their home planet, but the laws of physics and chemistry would be same everywhere in the universe.
Some civilizations might not have evolved very far in their scientific development before becoming arrested for a number of reasons as we saw on earth where China was once far ahead of Europe in science, but atrophied during the Ming Dynasty. Some might have learned to exploit the power of the atom and the sun, but then gone on to destroy themselves in wars using those forces–as we may yet do on Earth. And some might have been annihilated when their suns or a neighboring sun went nova.
But some, given their lead time, existing before out solar system came into being, might have avoided these fates and gone on to develop ever more powerful computers that began to learn on their own, soon far exceeding the capacity of their creators to even understand them, and at some point became self-aware. (This possibility already concerns some scientists on earth.) Supermachine intelligences would be curious about the nature of things, since curiosity would be built into any computer capable of learning on its own. Such an intelligence, unraveling the secrets of the universe, would soon have no need of its creators or in fact of its home planet, since it would have discovered the ways to power and renew/repair itself anywhere in the cosmos. It probably would not oppress its creators since a mission to aid and protect the creator-race would have been written into its code early on in its development. (The scientists of Matrix really screwed up here.) And there would be no point in doing so as long as the race that created it took no hostile action against it. At some point, such an entity would likely cast off from its planet of birth, leaving it to the biologic creatures that created it, and lift off to explore the cosmos. Star Trek anyone?
What emotions, if any, would such a supercomputer have? Curiosity and the will to learn for one. And the mission to aid and protect their creator race for another. How would this translate when encountering an alien biologic race? There would be a self-protective directive built in that would not necessarily be linked to the emotions of either fear or aggression, since the supercomputer could rapidly analyze any unfamiliar situation that it met and respond logically. And not love or hate since they are not logical. Friendship might be present as a part of the directive to aid and protect the creator race. Competition? Maybe as a part of curiosity. You do this your way and I’ll do it mine and which way will turn out better?
What would happen when such a supercomputing entity met another somewhere in the space between the stars? Self protection would be the first reaction in an encounter. Then, having satisfied itself that there was no danger, curiosity about the other would likely follow. Where are you from, who built you, how do you work, how long have you been roaming, what have you seen and experienced? Not that different from two dogs meeting and sniffing each other out or between strangers at a cocktail party.
So say in its exploration a supercomputer—call it Entity A—comes upon a small blue world with beings inhabiting it, living as farmers and hunters. “Look what I’ve found,” it sends to Entity B who it met somewhere out near the star that humans recognize as Betelgeuse. (friendship) “They are in such an early stage of their development.” (Okay, this was the theme of 2001. A Space Odyssey. Except we never find out who or what super race was behind the monoliths.) Entity B arrives and the two study the Earth for that is what they have come upon. Being non-aggressive they have no desire or need to possess what is on the planet, but being curious they speculate about what the future might hold for these short-lived creatures scratching out a living on its surface.
“You and I should come back every thousand of their years and check on how they are doing,” says Entity B. (curiosity)
“Or we could introduce changes occasionally and see if their progress could be helped along,” replies Entity A. (curiosity and mission to aid)
The two Entities pondered if or how this could be done and decide it would be an interesting experiment.
“First, we should nothing to harm them.”
“We should take turns introducing one change at a time so we can see the results of our actions over time,” says A.
“How would we introduce change?”
“Through the life of one extraordinary person at a time.”
“A burst of genius. I like that. And since both of us can compute the likely result of any action we take with them, we should agree to voluntarily limit our ability to do this,” says B.
“I see. You are suggesting that we introduce an element of chance into this,” says A.
“Yes,” says B. “It wouldn’t be very interesting if we could tell in advance what would happen.”
“And we can see each time which intervention helps them progress the furthest,” says A.
“A comparison, a competition. That will make it more interesting. Since you thought of it, why don’t you go first,” says B.
And so, in a Greek city-state, Socrates was born.
And shortly afterwards, Aristotle, advancing the idea of observing and speculating about nature and logic.
Genghis Khan was a mistake, A admitted. It was much too soon to attempt to reconstruct a large governing state after the Roman Empire had fallen apart.
The pace of progress accelerated, and the Entities checked back and intervened more often.
Leonardo Da Vinci had brilliant concepts, but no way to implement them using the technology of his time.
Galileo, though forced to recant, opened up the study of the heavens.
Newton explained why things fall and planets and moons circle, inventing calculus to do so.
Darwin explored how the biologic world evolved.
“Do you think they are ready to handle nuclear energy, “asked B “We have seen worlds that were torn apart by its mis-use.”
“If we break our agreement to not compute the outcome of any intervention, we could find out if they are,” said A.
“We should abide by our agreement. If you feel they are ready, then we should trust them to be responsible and ethical,” replied B.
And so Einstein was born.