The business of humanity has become entertainment – A new solution to the Fermi Paradox?
Given the supposed rates of progressive evolution an a likely distribution of habitable planets, Enrico Fermi famously asked “Where are they, then?” of the thousands of intelligent alien civilizations that one might expect to see in a galaxy like the ours. Of course, people have suggested that habitable planets might be rarer than we think – but extremophile life on Earth seems to suggest that quite a wide range of environments might be able to sustain life. Others have suggested that intelligent civilizations never quite get to the stage of being intelligent enough to stop themselves apocalyptically nuking their solitary homeworld. Seed Magazine offers a new solution, for the post-Cold War, internet age.
I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.
The fundamental problem is that an evolved mind must pay attention to indirect cues of biological fitness, rather than tracking fitness itself. This was a key insight of evolutionary psychology in the early 1990s; although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness (as measured by numbers of great-grandkids), no brain has capacity enough to do so under every possible circumstance. Evolution simply could never have anticipated the novel environments, such as modern society, that our social primate would come to inhabit. That would be a computationally intractable problem, even for the new IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer that runs 280 trillion operations per second. Even long-term weather prediction is easy when compared to fitness prediction. As a result, brains must evolve short-cuts: fitness-promoting tricks, cons, recipes and heuristics that work, on average, under ancestrally normal conditions.
The result is that we don’t seek reproductive success directly; we seek tasty foods that have tended to promote survival, and luscious mates who have tended to produce bright, healthy babies. The modern result? Fast food and pornography. … The business of humanity has become entertainment, and entertainment is the business of feeding fake fitness cues to our brains.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]The business of humanity has become entertainment – A new solution to the Fermi Paradox?,