Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marine Census Leaves Us High and Dry

The 10 year marine census revealed thousands of new species, but no signs of advanced technology...
Is this an unfair expectation since critical steps in our technical evolution such as fire and electricity seem impossible underwater?

No one seriously expected to find advanced intelligence, but the study with all its odd discoveries makes me wonder if advanced technologies could ever crawl out of the sea. The 1989 James Cameron film The Abyss depicts a vastly more advanced civilization living under our oceans, but how would they ever develop that technology?

One things for sure; electricity and water do not mix. Now we made it pretty far ourselves without electricity, but it is the electric computer which has bridged us to the 3 overlapping revolutions; genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics with AI (GNR). Is it possible to skip the revolution of electricity? There could be ways to circumnavigate it.

Charles Babbage was the first to invent the computer, long before the invention of electricity. His early model the Difference Engine No. 2 was an interesting counting machine but whether it was a computer or not is debatable. He later envisioned and designed a more advanced computer called the Analytic Engine. While these Engines would be hard to create underwater I believe a determined enough inventor would create it. All the inventor would need is an opposable thumb of sorts.

The octopus has many opposable thumbs and an amazing way to communicate ideas by changing color, patterns and shape. In this film you can watch the octopus is capable of crude technology as it uses a coconut shell. So there is a surprisingly high level of intelligence in this animal. It has amazingly opposable limbs. We just need come back in a couple 100 thousand years and see if they are on the edge of a technological singularity.

But lets argue that Babbage’s engine could only advance so far. That a paradigm shift to electric computing would have to happen or that civilization would stagnate. As a singularitarian I think stagnation is not an option. I believe these beings would either leave their aquatic environment in suits of some sort, explore and conduct experiments on dry ground, or perhaps create experiments in bubbles or vacuums created under water. All life continues to evolve, and the animal kingdom called Technology is probably the most common kingdom throughout the galaxy.

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