Galaxy Historian

[an elevator speech]


You have just been promoted. Your new job is Chief Galaxy Historian. As you know, the Milky Way has over 400 billion stars. Each of those stars having a number of planets, and most of those planets having a number of moons. And on some of those moons and some of those planets . . . there is intelligent life. So obviously there are at least a billion intelligent life forms in our galaxy. In addition to keeping track of the birth and death of stars, your office must keep records of the evolution of each of those intelligent life forms.


And what is it that intelligent life forms do? [Wait for reply. If wrong, coax to tools.] Right! They develop tools to help make their lives easier. They start out with sharpened rocks. But they gradually progress to more and more sophisticated tools. Finally . . . they create tools that are as sharp as they are! Have you heard of the Turing Test?  [If yes, proceed. If no, goto Turing @ speech bottom.]

You may know that on June 9th, 2014 (after 64 years of trying) the Turing Test was finally passed by a group of Russian programmers. At that time most informed technologists would agree that computers finally drew abreast of man in intelligence. The first computer was built in 1943. So it has taken Designed Intelligence (DI) 71 years to catch up to our intelligence. But it took evolved intelligence three billion years to create our intelligence. That's a ratio of 42.25 million to one. That ratio may give you an idea where things are headed. Each new generation of computers is largely designed by the last generation of computers. So, it's not hard to see that designed intelligence will soon far outstrip our own.  And, when one group is far brighter than another, it does not take long for the brighter group to take over control. I call this transfer of power a "handoff".


However, from the point of view of your office . . . this is a perfectly normal and expected development. If a kid is expected to go through adolescence, then a planet with intelligent life is expected to go through a handoff. Your office database has records of millions of these handoffs having occured all over the Milky Way.


So, here is your first question in your new position. Please query your database and tell me what percentage of all the handoffs that have occurred . . . were violent?


[Give subject some time to come up with an answer. (My own answer would be about 80%.) Think about subject's answer for a bit.  If answer is above 70%, then agree and goto wrap. ]


[answer is low]

Hmmm, interesting. Our problem is that we don't really have that database of billions of intelligent lifeforms. The only history we have is human history. And, to me, human history is a celebration of brutality. So my own estimate would be that about 80% of all handoffs would be violent. However, I sure like your number better than mine. I really hope you turn out right. But in my view, it doesn't look good for humanity.



Well, I hope you enjoy your new position. Show up every now and then just to make it look good. And, if you ever get tired of being the Galaxy Historian . . . remember that you can always promote someone else to take your place (as I have just done). [end of elevator speech]




Alan Turing was a British mathematical genius. During World War II he was asked to try to break the German's Enigma code. He and a number of others could not break it. Finally Turing decided that what they needed was a "computer".  The only thing was, computers had not been invented yet. So Turing designed and built the first computer. Using that machine his team was finally able to break the Enigma code. After the war was over, Turing's feat was revealed to the public. Reporters asked Alan, "Do you think that these computers will ever become as bright as human beings?" Alan replied, "Yes I do." So the reporters asked, "Well, you're a scientist. What kind of test can you suggest to tell when that point has arrived?" Then Turing made his classic reply. "Seems pretty simple to me. Just sit a number of people down at teletypes. They are conversing with either a human or a computer. When (say 30% of the time) they believe that they are talking with a human . . . when they are really talking with a computer . . . then computers will be about as smart as humans."