ET Machines, Cyborgs Or Humans - Who Can Explore Space Best?

4 November, 2012

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Follow us: - It is impossible for a human being to survive beyond about a minute and a half in space without significant technological assistance. If humans wish to colonize planets, it would require next state of human evolution.

Does this mean that we must become cyborgs or ET machines or is space exploration just a dream of humanity?

According to SETI researcher Seth Shostak we shouldn't expect them to be anything like us - in fact, they might not be biological at all, but instead, extraterrestrial machines.
He says that it might be more successful if we search away from biology and focuses on artificial intelligence - extraterrestrial machines, for example.

The development of true Artificial intelligence (AI) is, by some estimates, just a few decades away.
"The continued exponential growth in computer power implies that even consumer-grade computers will have the processing power of a human brain by the year 2040," he says. If and when we do create true AI, it would surpass us quickly.

An AI would have the power to self-direct its own evolution.

"If we build a machine with the intellectual capability of one human, then within 5 years, its successor is more intelligent than all humanity combined," Shostak says.

"Once any society invents the technology that could put them in touch with the cosmos, they are at most only a few hundred years away from changing their own paradigm of sentience to artificial intelligence," he says.

Because artificial sentience would almost inevitably outlast and outperform its fleshy, needy predecessors, Shostak concludes that any aliens we detect will be machines.

ET machines would be infinitely more intelligent and durable than the biological intelligence that invented them. Intelligent machines would in a sense be immortal, or at least indefinitely repairable, and would not need to exist in the biologically hospitable "Goldilocks Zone" most SETI searches focus on.

Every new instance of an AI would be created with the sum total of its predecessor's knowledge preloaded. The machines would require two primary resources: energy to operate with and materials to maintain or advance their structure.

Does it mean that finally Et machines or sophisticated cyborgs will be exploring space and meeting advanced ETs?

“Machines have different needs,” Seth Shostak explains. “They have no obvious limits to the length of their existence, and consequently could easily dominate the intelligence of the cosmos. In particular, since they can evolve on timescales far, far shorter than biological evolution, it could very well be that the first machines on the scene thoroughly dominate the intelligence in the galaxy. It’s a “winner take all” scenario.”

If not machines, so perhaps cyborgs will be our future space explorers.
Recently theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking declared that mankind faces two options.

Either we colonize space within the next two hundred years and build residential units on other planets or we will face the prospect of long-term extinction.

Professor Hawking believes the greatest dangers to human existence are technological capacity to damage the environment, the exponentially growing population and the strain on the Earth's resources.

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet," Stephen Hawking said.

Historian Roger Launius, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum also envisions humans leaving Earth. But leaving our planet and start colonizing space is easier said than done.
For one thing, human biology must adapt to extreme space environments, which means it must be altered.

"If it's about exploration, we're doing that very effectively with robots. If it's about humans going somewhere, then I think the only purpose for it is to get off this planet and become a multi-planetary species," Roger Launius says.

The idea of using cyborgs for space travel started in 1960 when Manfred Clynes, chief research scientist at Rockland State, in charge of the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory and Nathan Kline, director of research at Rockland State since 1952 and an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University wrote an article titled "Cyborgs and Space".

"Altering man's bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space... Artifact-organism systems which would extend man's unconscious, self-regulatory controls are one possibility," the authors wrote.

Even though it may be both logically and technologically possible, the use of cyborgs quickly becomes a religious and ethical dilemma.

"It does raise profound ethical, moral and perhaps even religious questions that haven't been seriously addressed," Launius said.

"We have a way to go before that happens."

Grant Gillett, a professor of medical ethics at the Otago Bioethics Center of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand points out that one of the dangers we can be facing when dealing with cyborgs is that these beings one day cease to be human. Since we do not understand the nature of a cyborg we could easily create a psychopath.

Currently space agencies do not spend much time and resources on cyborg research, but this might change in the near future.

If our objective is to become space-faring people, it's probably going to force you to reconsider how to reengineer humans, "Launius said.

In other words, we might have no other option than sending cyborgs to space.

If we one day decide to send cyborgs on future space exploration mission, will these machines be treated as future humans, or will there still be a distinction between "us" and "them"? be

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