Civilization progress has many dimensions, for example technological, moral/ethical, happiness/subjective quality of life, etc. For each such dimension we could state a purpose that reflects it, e.g.
- to obtain high technological advancement,
- to have high (average, minimal?) moral/ethical values of the inhabitants,
- to have high (average, minimal?) happiness.
However, when designing an alien civilization (perhaps a conglomerate of different races/species) what would be the dimensions of the civilization progress and purpose? Certainly technology works and so does morality (even if it is blue and orange one). But what about happiness, is there even such a concept for them?
Certainly, whatever these would be, they would have a huge impact on the civilization progress and where it went and will go as time passes. In other words, it has quite a big impact on designing aliens for your world (esp. if the time-span is huge).
The question: What are the progress/purpose dimensions that we could use for creating an alien civilization?
To give some examples:
- From Peter Watts novel Blindsight:
Energy efficiency: whatever you do, it is not important what it is or what are its implications, but what it does with regard to energy efficiency, e.g. whether you are energy efficient doing it, or whether by doing it you improve your energy efficiency; for example if somebody makes you lose energy (causes you to be less energy efficient), he would be your enemy.
The ultimate aim of that civilization would be to have the highest number of their inhabitants on the largest number of planets/star systems/galaxies possible. You increase it (in the long run): you are a friend, you decrease it: you are an enemy. It could measure the progress of human civilization using the mass of all the humans currently alive.
- Alien-adjective-42-ness (meta example):
We could make the alien race to optimize something which is impossible to translate/express in our language, something which is impossible for us to observe or measure, and the plot won't ever explain what it is.