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We assume (since it is not proven yet) that Earth and Humanity are very rare cases in the universe. And in a lot of literature when there is a need to make a choice between Earth and Humanity, (Pseudo)Superior intelligence (let's call it SI; for AI, aliens etc.) thinks that Humans would be the choice for annihilation.

I would like to know what could be a scientific/social explanation for such a choice?

Earth is very unique in itself with a giant moon, radioactive cluster. Even though there are 'Earth-like' habitable planets, none may give birth to another intelligence. On the other hand even on Earth there is no guarantee that such an intelligence can born again if we were wiped out.

  • Some have suggested if the Superior Intelligence is an AI, it could be trained to solve Earth's problems so it is biased (@atayenel).
  • Some said it could depend on how the SI values the entities (@Raditz_35).
  • I guess it can be such that, since SI is already more intelligent than us, they may not find us very precious to preserve instead of Earth. This is what we are doing with animals anyways, by destroying them or their environments for our good.

I asked this question in another forum in Science Fiction where references belong to those people.

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  • $\begingroup$ A superior intelligence could have anything as a goal. If it wants to protect humans, we will be protected. If it doesn't like us, ... $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Nov 14 '17 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson, exactly, and it is the point of second item. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 14 '17 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ If the SI cares about humans, but also other life forms. It could build a space elevator, move all humans to mars bases and naturalize earth. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Nov 14 '17 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory reference: Agent Smith Interrogation $\endgroup$ – nzaman Nov 14 '17 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ Earth contains paperclip factories while people are using paperclips and resources which can be converted into paperclips. $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka Nov 14 '17 at 23:21

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It is simply a matter of hierarchy: Earth hosts many life-forms, including humanity. Humanity hosts no Earth.

If you wipe out Earth you are denying the possibility for an "Humanity 2.0" to develop. If you wipe out Humanity your are leaving Earth available for future use (or improving it according to some points of view)

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly. It is also a matter of scale - It took billions of years for complex terrestrial life to form, and the jump from complex terrestrial life to human - level intelligence was a heartbeat in comparison (maybe 0.5b years at most). The jump from human intelligence to computers was shorter yet, at ~200,000 years. Wipe out humans, and in a heartbeat chimps or pigs or whales will replace the niche. $\endgroup$ – DPT Nov 14 '17 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ Humanity 2.0 won't arise anyway, natural global warming is going to become a serious issue before it could be expected to. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Nov 14 '17 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel, humanity 2.0 in the sense or whatever new sapient species. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Nov 15 '17 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @DPT: careful. The assumption that sentient/intelligent beings fill a niche that evolution is bound to quickly fill again is just that -- an assumption. We don't know how probable or improbable it is that the evolutionary process will develop it again, or on what time scale. We have only an N = 1 sample size for humanity. In other words, while I too would pick Earth over humanity when pressed, I would still carefully weigh my options before actually wiping out humanity -- unrelated to my personal bias of being one of them humans. $\endgroup$ – Jeroen Mostert Nov 15 '17 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JeroenMostert Exactly my concern. An entity with our capabilities- god-knows what capacity we will reach in the future- should make the decision quite hard. If SI is a Broken/Biased/Psuedo-Super AI, we may be the only one that can understand Universe. IMHO without anyone to understand, our Universe would be a waste in whatever physical dimension/super-universe(!?) we are residing. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 15 '17 at 15:02
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If the only options are A:"don't destroy all of humanity" and B:"destroy all of humanity", then the answer is simple in the following case:

  • The SI is convinced humanity is 100% likely to destroy itself and earth within a short time frame.

and

  • The SI is convinced it can destroy humanity but not the earth before humans can finish their damage.

In the grander scheme of things, option A will leave nothing undestroyed. option B will leave the earth undestroyed. Clearly, option B is worth a planet more than option A. Even if humanity was in theory worth far more than the planet, it was lost in either of the two possible options.

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The first question is, is this SI humanity?

If it is not humanity, then humanity has already been made somewhat redundant. There is humanity, and the SI. If the SI can survive and reproduce and also do everything humanity does (of value), then the choice is between a specific intelligent species Earth has produced, and the future intelligent species or other value that Earth may produce in the future (including value to itself; a biosphere has proved very useful to humanity, maybe it remains useful to the SI).

The SI may understand evolution and probability sufficiently to know that Earth will produce a myriad of more and/or better intelligences than Humanity with a probability approaching 1, and not hold Humanity as being very special.

Alternatively, Humanity could be a dead-end, and the probability that Humanity does something else worthwhile may be significantly less than the probability a future Intelligence does.

So even if the sacrifice of Humanity also sacrifices the SI, it may in the balance of probablities find the future yield of the Earth to be more important than the future yield of Humanity.

This, of course, assumes the SI is being utilitarian. It may not be. It might have an emotional connection to the Earth more than it does to Humanity, and choose Earth because it frankly likes it more than it does Humanity.

Another possible factor is that Humanity may be relatively useless without Earth. We have built an industrial civilization, but it is a parasite on the Earth biosphere. Without that biosphere to provide us with water, air, "raw" materials of myraid kinds, our civilization would die. Even a more advanced civilization with space faring colonies may be amazingly crippled being forced to replace everything a biosphere at the bottom of the well can provide for the cost of lift-energy.

Even if you only value intelligence, an Earth without Intelligence can make more Intelligence; an Intelligence without Earth cannot make more Earth. And if it takes both to do the task the SI is aiming for (say, colonizing the universe), then the sacrifice of Humanity for Earth is obvious.

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    $\begingroup$ "...an Intelligence without Earth cannot make more Earth." Depending on the time scales required and the ability of the intelligence to arrange materials in orbit around a star, this may not be true. $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Nov 15 '17 at 5:33
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A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

If the chooser is interested in intelligent life they will not discard humanity casually. From our experiments it seems much easier to modify existing creatures than make new ones, so even if we are fairly far from what they want us to be it would be simpler to change us then wipe us out and hope something replaces us.

If the chooser values all diversity we have probably served our purpose and will be removed. We have driven a lot of species to extinction, and modified a lot of habitats, which makes room to diversify into new species for the survivors, but first we would have to be stopped from promoting our mono-culture. This might also apply to other worlds if the chooser thinks the planetary protection officer either isn't capable of doing a good enough job and other life exists, or if other life is very rare shouldn't do their job at all.

If it is known to humans that something is considering wiping humanity out, and it values itself, it probably ought to kill us because we will make every effort to kill it regardless of its choice.

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This is literally the plotline of The Day The Earth Stood Still

To the point I feel like this almost a troll question.

Anyways, the answer is subjective based on the ideology of your AI.

The statistical chances of nature evolving an intelligent species is small so a total mulligan is wasteful if that is your desire.

If your AI's desire is simply to save the Earth and retain intelligence, engineer a plague that wipes out 90% of mankind and do that enough times till man evolves to the point of not destroying his own habitat.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that is one of the explanation under assumption of such aliens with capabilities do exist. I wanted to know the other possible causes. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 14 '17 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ I'd also posit that this is similar to The Matrix... Humanity is a virus - and organism that grows, multiplies, destroys, using up all resources... AI is simply administering a vaccine. $\endgroup$ – WernerCD Nov 14 '17 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ And, it would only be a step away from iRobots decision to create a new law Zero'th Law-a robot shall not harm "humanity". But instead of saving humanity... the decision is to save Earth... and save "Humanity" by keeping a record of it in it's databases. $\endgroup$ – WernerCD Nov 14 '17 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ We don't have good data on the statistics of intelligence. 1/1 planets known to have life having intelligent life, 1/~10million species known make spaceships, and SETI hasn't turned up anything certain, but those have silly sampling biases. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Nov 14 '17 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @notstoreboughtdirt no we don't have the statistics, however we do have enough data in the geological record to pose a crude statistic on the potential chance for intelligent life. Complex life began to appear in the Permian, so you could take 1 divided by the number of identified fauna since the Permian as your chance. Is it accurate (wont know in our life times but is it unreasonable? no). $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 14 '17 at 17:05
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I disagree with the sentiment. There are lots of Earth-like worlds, and even with our very limited viewport into nearby systems, we're starting to make a catalog of where to aim the Ark ships.

However, the scientists say Earth has about an 8 billion year window of habitability for life. It took until halfway through it for intelligent life to evolve.

If somebody pushes the reset button, it may not have time to evolve again.

Aside from the expectation that conditions will deteriorate in the later parts of that window... there are also an infinite number of things that could happen in 5 billion years: asteroid strike, nuclear war, android uprising, hyperspace by-pass, you name it. The vulnerability is huge.

So yes. Intelligent life is rare, and precious if you like intelligent life. Destroying a species would be a huge waste.

Humans are, after all, inherently reasonable, and managed to have extinction quantities of nuclear weapons for 60 years without blowing ourselves up. Whatever issue the aliens have, they should be able to get us in line with a TED talk.

If that just can't work, and I find it impossible to believe that it can't, then they either enslave humanity or "bomb it back to the stone age". But the mere threat of this will certainly do the job.

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    $\begingroup$ For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Nov 15 '17 at 0:38
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So... why does this AI think humanity is of value at all? The Earth has clear value. It has a whole exploitable biosphere. All sorts of beings might want that. Whether humanity itself has value or not depends entirely on what your objectives are.If this AI wishes to have Earth settled by its own people, then humanity is just an obstacle. Alternately, perhaps we offend their moral or aesthetic senses, or might pose a threat to them in a few centuries or... whatever. There are all sorts of reasons that an alien race might wish to get rid of us.

Alternately, it might be that they just don't see anything special about us. There are already human organizations that posit a moral equivalence between humanity and other animals. Surely, then, it is not so hard to imagine an alien intelligence doing the same - and if you start there, and don't include a pro-human bias in your thinking, the idea that wiping us out might be the right answer isn't that hard to get to.

If you start anywhere on that range, and then add "Oh, and if we don't wipe them out, they'll break the world." then the obvious solution is very straightforward.

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The super-intelligence might know about a deep link between humanity and Earth, which makes it impossible for humans to survive long-term if Earth is gone.

Perhaps the human psychology is not as adaptable as we'd like to think, and the uprooting will inevitably doom our future. Even if we might be able to terraform Mars a bit, it will always be a lot different than the planet we evolved on.

Then faced with the choice of losing one or losing both, the SI will obviously choose the former.

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It all depends on what you SI's ultimate Goal is.

Let us look at a few goals that get tossed about in scenarios like this.

Peace: SI says the world must be peaceful, therefore all humans must die (Terminator scenario). This one really does not make too much sense. Taken to it's logical conclusion, the SI would then sterilize the entire planet because animals eat other animals, plants engage in chemical warfare, and so on.

Prevent destruction of the entire Biosphere: This makes more sense than the last, but still doesn't pass a "sniff test". The biosphere is a dynamic system. What changes would the SI make beyond the removal of humans. would it then try to undo what we have already done? would it be ready to cope with unintended consequences, like invasive species from one are moving to another, and so on.

SI is looking for resources: This is the most likely scenario. We have something the SI wants. We are in the way, or we compete for that resource. Evolution shows us that the fitter species will displace the less fit species at a nearly geometric rate. If the SI is the "fitter species", then we are doomed. Think about the way humanity has displaced the wolf as apex predator. The only reason wolves aren't extinct is because they went to places that are less valued, then some of our brighter folks figured that killing them all would be a bad idea. Many movies go over this kind of ground...Avatar, Fern Gully, Pocohontas, any movie depicting Native Americans made in the last 30 years...

Maybe the SI is crazy, or has motives that we can't perceive: This one can also make sense, but at this point, you are just handwaving, and it becomes a bad story, or just a minor sidebar.

Intelligent creatures do things for a reason, or to achieve a goal.

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It's possible that humanity may be thought of as a pest that, once it leaves Earth and expands, will multiply uncontrollably and have bad effects on the galaxy, whether that be through self-interested abuse of others, irresponsible use of dangerous weapons during war, or just plain overpopulation and abuse of resources.

So an intelligence that views humanity that way would want to exterminate humanity before it can spread. The Earth may still be viewed as a valuable resource, but humanity can be viewed as a potentially harmful invasive species, similar to how the Moties were viewed in the book "A Mote in God's Eye".

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  • $\begingroup$ But even for the pests as more intelligent creatures, we are not exterminating them but restricting their environments. So as our original environment we may not be annihilated but restricted to earth. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 16 '17 at 15:57
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In W40K there are reasons to protect terra (i.e. the earth) at all cost, and it is because It's Sacred.

An AI could be programmed by them creators to protect "holly terra" from the begining and we happend to aparead there in some moment between the moment of malfunction of this AI and the present times when the self-repairing sistem actualy manage to recover the otherworldy power-beyond-imagination system of this AI.

In other words, you can make anything a reason for any beign wish to protect the "Holly Terra" or Humanity in detriment of the other, what i'm trying to highlight is than, cultural/spiritual/otherwordly/etc reasons can be added to any being, as long as exist internaly, for that beign/species and be coherent for them, it doesn't need to sound rational for the other species in that universe.

Have a great day

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I think that a lot the answers here are ignoring the fact that this is really a philosophical/ethical question trying to mask itself as a science question. The fact is that science doesn’t deal with value, hence we cannot give you a scientific reason on why one would value A over B (that is in the realm of philosophy). Of course, we can give you scientific explanations that could be used to build a philosophical argument on why the Earth has more value than humanity, but these would not be the reason.

As an example, take L.Dutch (top rated) argument. It argues that Earth has extrinsic value (can host life) while humanity doesn't. Well, this argument ignores the basic question, why is life even valuable? Why would an alien AI even value life? Intelligence does not mean you become a moral agent. Maybe it is a nihilistic AI that believes that life has no value. It also ignores humanity's intrinsic value, that any intelligent moral agent would take into account. So, the question really becomes, at what point does the Earth's extrinsic value becomes greater than humanity's total intrinsic value?

My advice is to treat this as what it really is and work on the SI philosophy. Is SI a nihilist? Is it a consequentialist? So, say that SI holds a view that it can create a race of more valuable beings on Earth (through some guided evolutionary process). Further, say that the AI holds a theory that the end justifies the means. This now sows the seeds of SI's preference of Earth over humanity.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that has only philosophical parts. For example as more intelligent creatures we are trying to prevent infestation of certain species (fish from rivers, goats, crabs, lizards, rabbits etc.) from certain environments in order to save the environment. This has no philosophical reason but purely scientific purposes. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 16 '17 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ I am having a hard time understanding the connection of your comment. Granted that some of our actions may be motivated by scientific purposes(I didn’t say otherwise). This doesn’t say anything about how an AI may ascribe more value to the earth than humanity. Are you saying that the AI may be motivated by scientific discovery or purposes to value the earth over human? Do you realize that this is a value statement? You are ascribing a value to scientific purposes or discovery. But, why does science have any value? Why should an alien AI even care about science? $\endgroup$ – evilsullen Nov 16 '17 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ The value is determined by science (or at least thats what I am asking for). So question boils down to why can be Earth more valuable then Humanity. Answer can be: because SI considers Earth Holy place, then this would be a Moral value (or Social). Or because Earth has X features that is more valuable then all features of Humanity under circumstances of Y and this would be a scientific reason and explanation. And this is what I am asking for. $\endgroup$ – ifyalciner Nov 16 '17 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ You want an X that makes earth be more valuable than human, but that still forces us to make a value statement about X. Why should the alien AI agree with our value assessment of X? What scientific or rational argument can we give to this AI to actually accept our assessment about X, other than, “wel.. it’s valuable”? Why not say that earth is more value because it weighs more than all of humanity? Notice, that this doesn’t make sense because weight is an amoral statement. The same applies to all scientific statement(like self-preservation, evolution and anything else) $\endgroup$ – evilsullen Nov 16 '17 at 18:21

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