Here are a couple questions that I have been asked at least once, and that I did not have an answer to. As of today, I am still unsure of my opinion. I would love to hear what other people think about them. I will try to give the pros and cons that I am aware of, in the hopes that some of them can be confirmed or refuted.
- Should we try to communicate with aliens while we still don’t know if they exist?
We have the means to communicate and broadcast messages in space. We have done it before, and while there is no reason to believe anyone can even receive them, let alone understand them, we also don’t know for sure that nobody (or nothing) can. Considering that one of the most likely solutions to the Fermi Paradox is the existence of predator species killing all the others, most people are obviously worried about broadcasting not only our existence, but to some degree our position and technological level. I’ve heard some people compare it to a baby in the jungle screaming as loud as he can, unaware of the numerous animals listening that would love to taste baby meat.
At the same time, if those species are truly looking for us, they can probably find traces of us easily (just think about Voyager 1 and 2), and if they want us dead and have to ability to reach us to attack, they are so far above our level that we won’t be able to do anything about it either way, so maybe we might as well try to figure out if they exist on the off chance that they are benevolent.
The point is obviously moot if there exist no aliens, but in that case there is no downside either.
- Is it morally acceptable to create technologies designed to waste resources?
Technology that is designed to waste resources seems pretty weird, and it usually is closely linked to dystopian stories, like those “instantly throw up” pills in the capitol in the Hunger Games series, which are made to allow people to eat more at parties in a world where the 12 districts are suffering from hunger every day. What you may not know is that there are already such technologies. Nowadays, several products have planned obsolescence features built-in, such as some printers and cellphones. I think pretty much everyone agrees that it sucks, and definitely not morally acceptable.
On the other hand, some technologies could be designed this way for the good of the customer. In the area of food (again), lots of people in first-world countries would be glad to be able to waste it more. An embedded device (like a watch) in your arm running on your personal body energy, designed to waste some of it on purpose as an alternative to physical activities would gather a huge customer base. Obviously, at the moment, just like in the Hunger Games, some people barely have enough food to survive, so wasting more of it just because we’re lazy is definitely a dickish move. But in a post-scarcity civilization, where everyone has plenty to eat and loves it just like we do in America, would it be acceptable to waste resources using similar methods just because we love to eat?
- Should we try to become a multiplanetary specie?
Elon Musk is trying very hard to make humans a multiplanetary specie through spaceX, by colonizing Mars. The basic idea is that we are very likely to be unable to prevent a global extinction event if one showed up, and we have no idea when one will show up. In that case, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in the same basket, so we should aim to colonize at least one other planet.
Some people disagree, saying that we should fix our problems on earth before going anywhere or we’ll just destroy whatever planet we’ll go to the same way. Some people say that it’s ridiculous to try becoming multiplanetary this early, as we’re not even a Type I civilization yet, we should focus our research efforts on our planet first, and move when we’ve reached Type I. Some people say that, just like humans have been mostly a plague on earth as far as other species and nature are concerned, and we really shouldn’t expand this plague to anywhere else in the universe.
- Will computer programming be the last job to be replaced by robots/software, or will it be replaced very early on?
Nowadays, some jobs are already getting replaced by robots. The most repetitive and simple jobs are being replaced as I’m writing this, and there is no reason to think that this won’t eventually reach every single job in society.
The thing is, programmers know what they’re doing. If they’re smart, they won’t replace themselves before the very end, because until everyone is replaced, having a job will keep being a huge economical advantage. On the other hand, programmers are actively working on replacing themselves blindly all the time. We make scripts to automate some of our tasks, we create helpers, tools, software to do part of our job, so that the job becomes easier, to make the repetitive parts less boring. As we are doing this, we reduce our workload significantly. Some bosses will not notice, and then the programmer is literally getting paid for a part of his job that he is no longer doing, which may or may not be acceptable depending on who you ask. Some bosses will actually notice this, and increase the workload. Either this makes the company thrive from the increased productivity, or this reduces the overall workload, ending in maybe firing the programmer or a colleague. I would not be surprised if we literally coded ourselves out of a job pretty quickly by accident. This is not even taking into account Artificial Superintelligence, which would only make things happen a lot faster.
I usually try to find things I haven’t made up my mind about as part of my personal exercises to try to avoid cognitive biases as much as possible. I figured that if I can’t find at least a couple topics that I think are interesting and also don’t have a clear answer to, it means that I probably am deluding myself into believing a biased answer. I am not the smartest person on earth, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to know everything, so I shouldn’t pretend to know everything either. I have no real way to know for sure what topics I am wrong about, thanks to my pesky stubborn brain, so I might as well at least find topics that I am still unsure about. The topics described above are not the only ones, but they’re the ones that I figured out how to describe in a style that matches this blog, and I also think have a chance to be interesting to other people enough so that they may give me their thoughts on the subject.