What If ET Is an AI?

Caleb Scharf: Encountering an alien AI would not only point to our own possible future, but also prompt a curious shift in our worldview. When Nicolaus Copernicus proposed in the 1500s that the Earth was not central in any way to the Universe, he set in motion the development of a critical scientific idea: that there is nothing cosmically special or significant about us. But meeting an ET-AI could turn that realization on its head: if the only intelligence we meet is machine in nature, then we would be special, after all.

If we do meet an AI in our cosmological jaunt, it probably won’t be conscious in the full sense of the word. In fact, I think we’d find ourselves facing something akin to a ‘savant’ intelligence — a whiz at specific tasks, but otherwise extremely limited in its capacities.

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