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Paper: Cultural Evolution and SETI
Volume: 420, Bioastronomy 2007: Molecules, Microbes and Extraterrestrial Life
Page: 409
Authors: Dick, S. J.
Abstract: The Drake Equation for the number of radio communicative technological civilizations in the Galaxy encompasses three components of cosmic evolution: astronomical, biological and cultural. Of these three, cultural evolution totally dominates in terms of the rapidity of its effects. Yet, SETI scientists do not take cultural evolution into account, perhaps for understandable reasons, since cultural evolution is not well-understood even on Earth and is unpredictable in its outcome. But the one certainty for technical civilizations billions, millions, or even thousands of years older than ours is that they will have undergone cultural evolution. Cultural evolution potentially takes place in many directions, but this paper argues that its central driving force is the maintenance, improvement and perpetuation of knowledge and intelligence, and that to the extent intelligence can be improved, it will be improved. Applying this principle to life in the universe, extraterrestrials will have sought the best way to improve their intelligence. One possibility is that they may have long ago advanced beyond flesh-and-blood to artificial intelligence, constituting a postbiological universe. Although this subject has been broached, it has not been given the attention it is due from its foundation in cultural evolution. Nor has the idea of a postbiological universe been carried to its logical conclusion, including a careful analysis of the implications for SETI. SETI scientists, social scientists, and experts in AI should consider the strengths and weaknesses of this new paradigm.
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