A simple question about space aliens
Tyler Cowen asks:
If you thought non-hostile but highly disruptive aliens would arrive within the next ten years, which of your decisions would change? Should change?
Earlier this year I wrote A list of solutions to the Fermi Paradox, so here are some thoughts, bearing in mind I suspect this is a Straussian question as well as a straightforward one.
Let's assume the aliens would be much much better at certain things, like speed, long-range travel, energy generation and conservation etc. Here's a problem we think aliens might face trying to get here:
They are too far away because they live at the extreme edge of the universe. ‘Machine-based civilizations, with their massive supercomputers, will have huge problems managing their heat waste. They’ll have to set up camp where it’s super cool.’
So I would start by betting on discoveries that would feasibly enable them to manage heat waste, no matter how implausible. It may be that the less mainstream physicists would have the best implausible answers to that question.
I would also start reading about long time horizons, and see what I can learn from Long Now. Any efforts in public that I made would be there. To get here, the aliens must have conquered unimaginable distances. If they are non hostile, they might open up those distances to us in some way. That makes thinking about your pension in your twenties look small scale, but most of us can't manage that.
I would immediately start trying to get skills that might be useful in a faster, longer horizon world. Maybe that would involve taking a job with lower pay now but better prospects later. That might involve the military, learning more about physics, or simply trying to become a marketing manager at Tesla.
Politics would have to change to accommodate all of this. Incentives are not set up for any of these principles. The response to COVID has shown us where government is weak and where it is strong. Perhaps I would move to New Zealand, or Slovakia.
If I wanted to be at the epicentre of the alien action would I not go to South East Asia, Singapore perhaps, on the assumption that the aliens will not be fooled into thinking America or China are the most important countries in the world.
At a small margin initially, I would start taking conspiracy theorists seriously and may even push for more transparency from the US government on supposed aliens that are already here. Opening up Area 51 becomes more worth wanting if there definitely are aliens coming soon. That said, we would make a mistake to over rely on any aliens already here as they may or may not resemble the ones on their way.
Perhaps most important is to understand the possible new contexts for thought. The Alchian-Allen Theorem must be relevant here. As the relationship between newspapers and the internet, the movies and Netflix has changed, so we might expect those forces to continue changing. Right now, I'd double down on a much more "virtual" existence as a result of the new visitors.
But I'd also try and work out what the conspiracy theorists are right about at the moment. Given the possibility of going to another galaxy (say it was cheap and easy for everyone to leave earth and return, within a decade), isn't it possible that the internet would start to become less interesting, at the margin, relative to the experience of being in another world. Or perhaps some intergalactic version of the internet would be created.
More personally, I'd think like this. In some senses, the current situation is, for me and my family, "non-hostile but highly disruptive". We are in very low risk brackets and our lives have not been turned upside down. That's partly because I bought gold two years ago, have a fully remote job and because we are well set up to do our own childcare, make our own bread etc. So I might buy more gold and bonds, or just double down on the All Weather Fund strategy and then prepare myself mentally for the fact that I might have to stay at home while the world outside continues to be less and less recognizable.
I might also invest a small amount in silver and other metals important in computer technology.