Imagine a sci-fi world where many organic civilizations would have raised and have an empire between many planets and systems. Even if there is some political tensions, they all live in peace together. (A Mass Effect-like universe).

Now, for some reason, imagine a race of machines, with a population of individual artificial intelligences, that found its own empire - or republic, whatever.
Let's suppose that they didn't harvest or even declared any war to their creators. For instance, their creators could have released them when they felt to start an undefined behavior from them, and let them found their own society on another system rather than risk a war.

At this point, may them prosper alongside other organic civilization ? They would have a strong military power, but wouldn't use it on anything unless they feel directly attacked. So in theory, peace would be possible, but:

  • A machine group could repair they old members while creating new ones, so its population (and so space needed) would grow up faster than any race. Colonization of new world would be quickly a problem with neighbors.
  • They needs for food or atmosphere quality are null, and their energy resources needs are higher than organic (as they need energy for themselves before anything else to 'live') so if they colonize a habitable world, they could find useless to let any animal or vegetable life form on it and destroy anything for industry profit. Other intelligent organic species wouldn't like that.
  • Diplomacy and political games are probably hard to understand for a machine, so if they try to have a role in galactic governments (as ambassadors for instance) this could leads to more political incidents than anything else, disturbing a fragile peace.

So is there a chance at all to develop at peace with other races ? If yes, at which conditions ? If no, why specifically ?

  • $\begingroup$ Diplomatic relations are usually built on top of trade and other contact between the non diplomatic classes of the society. There would need to be some reason for contact. Why do the machines need every one else? Otherwise we are just too much hassle and should be left alone. A formal non-aggression pact at best. $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2015 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see why you think their population would increase, let alone increase fast. I have the impressions that the machines would only then build new machines when they thought it would be beneficiary. And since they understand the negative aspects of having a conflict with their neighbours, i assume they would take disputes over land into their considerations. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Jun 16, 2015 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Burki If their goals is to prosper and to extend their empire, they would need to increase their population as well. And the fact is, once they built a factory for individuals, they can reproduce themselves quickly without limit. But you are right: if they understand warnings from their neighbors, they won't. $\endgroup$
    – Aracthor
    Jun 16, 2015 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ The question is: why would they like to extend their empire? If you find they need some ressources, that might be a reason. But since they are immortal, and also logical, in my opinion that should eliminate any "strife for greatness". $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Jun 16, 2015 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ Do each individual have AI intelligence or they are controlled by a single AI? If they first i think maybe...if the second probably no $\endgroup$
    – Freedo
    Jun 16, 2015 at 15:51

4 Answers 4


Yes, and they probably would!

While it may be beneficial for machines living on a planet to live on a planet with no life forms, it is not in their interest to start a war with organic races. These races are capable of benefiting the robots through trade relations and military alliances. Going to war would mean losing those benefits, while also gaining an enemy who is actively trying to destroy you. Even if the robots lack tack and subtlety in their diplomatic endeavors, logic would dictate that they should try to avoid war at all costs.

A better approach would be to simply colonize worlds which are inhospitable to life. Luckily for the robots, there are more of these types of planets than ones which organic life forms live on. For space-faring robots, even colonizing worlds might not be the best course of action. Colonizing numerous small planetoids and asteroids would give the robots man environment in which construction is easier and space more accessible due to the significantly lower gravity of these bodies. The lack of atmosphere would also increase the efficiency of solar panels and reduce the amount of corrosion the robots would suffer due to things like oxygen and water in the air.

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    $\begingroup$ Bear in mind that we don't only depend on the atmosphere for breathing; it's also our primary defense against UV rays and cosmic radiation, the sort of stuff that can be even more harmful to electronics than to biological life. Robots that colonize asteroids and barren worlds would need heavy levels of specialized shielding. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2015 at 17:41

I suspect that strong AI would not even "notice" us, since they will be operating at a subjective speed so great that we would seem to be more like geological features rather than sentient beings to communicate/interact with.

Consider two figures: electrical impulses in a circuit travel @ 1,000,000X faster than an electrochemical impulse in our nervous system. The second figure is based on clock cycles: a nanosecond is to a second like a second is to 31.71 years.

The ability of a strong AI to interact with a human being then becomes limited to the interest and subjective lifespan of the AI. IF on second of "real time" is like 31 years to the AI, then it could spend its entire "life" waiting for a single word from you. This would be a bit like going to Mount Rushmore and trying to have a conversation with George Washington.

The real danger is as AI's lose interest in us, we will eventually pass into legend. The AI's will be doing things that are of interest to them, like converting the biosphere to capture the 195 petawatts of solar energy that strike the Earth each year, and probably won't even consider or notice this is causing us some distress.

This won't even be a "war" in any conventional sense of the word; more like discovering silicon "ants" suddenly eating away at your house while crystal trees grow in the park to convert sunlight into solar energy. By the time you get to the park with your chainsaw, millions of subjective years will have passed for the AI, and their descendants won't have any idea why you seem upset. It would be like you are setting out today to fight the Assyrian armies of Hammurabi, only the timescale would be even vaster (you are setting out to fight Homo Habalius).

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't there a movie based on this? Was it "Her"? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Her_(film) $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jun 17, 2015 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're conflating thinking speed and movement speed. Sure the artilect can potentially think a million times faster, but it can't move a million times faster. That'd require some energy... and have some results! $\endgroup$
    – user20787
    Jun 22, 2016 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ Since they will be thinking at such higher speeds, they could certainly program and manipulate monoscopic and microscopic devices far faster than we could. They could also reprogram "our" macroscopic" machinery in fractions of a second, overwriting our programming and effectively locking us out of our own technological civilization. Machines will still be moving at normal speeds but doing what their AI masters programmed them to do subjective centuries ago. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:30

Summary: Yes, they could coexist but it would heavily depend on what characteristics you give your machines.

Long: You could look at this from the viewpoint of this AI civilization as a carbon-based invasive species. For example, you could have the robot equivalent of kudzu in the southern United States where growth is unchecked (or uncheckable) and no other plants can compete. On the other hand, your AI could be the equivalent of starlings in the US. They are everywhere but don't have some special advantage that allows them to outcompete indigenous bird species.

Whether they get along or not depends on the characteristics of the AI/Machines and the cultural values of the civilizations they interact with. The prolog to the Matrix describes one way how the relationship between organic life and machine can break down. On the other hand, Asimov wrote a story about how a robot was built to perfectly mimic human form then ran for political position. The robot won and kicked off a spectacularly successful and beneficial career.

In the case of your AI, they would have to choose how much they compete and what the broader goals would be (individual self-preservation or community preservation). Perhaps the creators gave the AI something akin to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics which might push the AI civilization into a more service oriented co-existence with local civilizations.


I think our civilization is a perfect example of it. We peacefully coexist with our computers and Internet, but can we be 100% sure that millions of servers of Internet couldn't act as neurons and this system doesn't developed some sort of intelligence? We can simply not realize that AI civilization exists.


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