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Exoplanetary altruism...will it be similar to ours?

Facebook friend Johnathan Vos Post posed a question regarding altruism in humans as compared to what we might find when extraplanetry species are encountered. My answer:

It has to, otherwise the species would self destruct. It would never grow society complex enough to take advantage of the increased brain size of the individuals.

The threshold for competing with one another would prevent civilization from ever forming...so you'd get species like we have here on Earth...which have intelligence but have never emerged complex civilization from the cultural tricks that they've evolved. Many species exhibit clear signs of altruism..it being necessary in fact for parents to even *care* about or for their progeny.

It may be instinctive but that makes no difference...the induced empathy is what leads to the formation of relationships that allow younger generations to become older and move on the gene pool...absent that empathy you've got a self destructive situation for the entire species.

In human evolutionary history keep in mind that despite the fact that we have very large intelligent brains and have possibly the most complex social interactions of all animals...it still took us nearly 200,000 years to emerge civilization.

I say this was so for two reasons:

1) Gathering intelligence collectively over time is hard. Intelligence isn't enough in individuals...some means of copying it across individuals as they grow, age and die must exist. While the environment is trying to kill you this is hard to do consistently. I am sure there were many Einsteins born 150,000 , 90,000 and 45,000 years ago...and they died because of where they happened to be...or their efforts given the paltry culture and tools that existed where they happened to be born only allowed them limited ability to advance things in their area before they were expunged...by some virus, or some disaster or war. This likely happened thousands of times all over the world.

2) The natural tendency to fear "the other" is a powerful motivator of anti-altruistic behavior , especially when "the other" is speaking a different language, wears different clothes and prays to a different god. Rather that be seen as a bonus all that difference is a reason to want to get rid of the "other" as quickly as possible. We see this again over and over...of conflict fomented by just the existence of perceived difference. Where it not for the ability for us to collect intelligence over time and use that to increase survival...and thus produce societies where more smart brains can think beyond survival needs and then postulate the possibility of altruism being applied with the "other" to achieve common goals of survival...we would still be a thousand little bands of warring factions...each surviving but all fearful of the next raid or attack from some near by group.

The answer is really about the math of what maximizes survival of the species in a given competitive environment when both intelligence and social living are present. You can't even get to social living without some level of individual give and take...and that requires altruism...so absent that, you won't even emerge social species complex enough to achieve civilization.


I also expanded a bit on how I felt empathy and altruism were related in the species and in fact all species.

At base:

Empathy (the ability to see through the eyes of another) > Sympathy (using empathy to feel what another feels once seeing what they see) > altruism (giving just to give without expectation of return) > cooperation (giving with hope to get something in exchange..either material or social favor down the line)

It's starting to look like the base (empathy) is hard wired and if a species thus doesn't have it, or has it at different expression levels that species will find it very difficult to ever rise above "the noise of survival" to even get to being altruistic in the social sense that we humans exhibit.

So my conclusion is, in order for exoplanetary species to even get to a point where they are advanced and can probe beyond their home world's the same as we do with signals and robot probes to other bodies in their solar systems they would need to have the built in machinery to exhibit empathy and that would need to be combined with advanced intelligence (simply scale) such that over interaction time separate groups could learn to apply the ability for derived cooperation (which in my view exists once altruism exists) to reduce survival constraints for all groups to the point that cooperation between groups is not only likely but advantageous....the wrong balance in the species leads to it either self destructing at some point of development or of never ever rising  beyond a given point of social complexity.

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