Considering the complexity of space travel and the current development of increasingly aware AI systems (its no longer Sci Fi) our thinking of the possible should shift when we consider deep space travel. Even considering the near future of Earth which is undergoing rapid warming and destruction of its ecosystems.
Space travel to Mars is already a super risky undertaking. The route is straightforward, and in theory every challenge can be met with sufficient engineering once all the real factors are known, but landing and keeping all the essential materials available for the human crew will still make any tiny colony highly vulnerable.
Moving deeper in space this gets to the point where the ship must provide everything without fail and do so for many years. Speeding up and slowing down the ship will take many years, and the scary part is that if there’s even a small space rock floating in the way on the billion mile journey it will go through the ship like a bullet through a melon.
Where journeys through space make for a narrative which grabs our imagination for the essential love and mutual support among the crew necessary, they are not too realistic if you consider AI systems could do it with much more survivability. An electronic AI system can be shot at any destination and shut down for centuries to wake up at the destination. There it could observe or seek contact with possible life.
AI probes can be lost to accidents, many can be launched to the same destination to ensure some arrive
We could at least say that humanity will -also- shoot AI probes at distant galaxies. If we think about that for a minute, a new Voyager mission but now with AI (Voyager-AI), a bunch of Telsa Optimus descendants with a mission, to sleep through the trip to Alpha Centauri (just to choose a cool star name) and then what? Of course SpaceX/NASA will make it a peace offering, a helping hand from the sky, because what can the AI do? Observe, maybe report (it takes 4,37 years for any signal to get back to Earth), maybe the mission is to scout for habitable planets, then the AIs could start preparing to spread biological awareness. Maybe it gets discovered and then it has to know whether to share the existence of Earth or pretend to come from another direction.
The funny thing is that we on Earth are as likely to be visited by AIs from alien origin. It is also likely that the nature of such AI will be similar to what we would send. The reason is that intelligence is tested against reality, in our case our intelligence was tested against reality competitively for millions of years, and there’s only one reality (per observer). At the same time you could argue there’s many ways to electronics, but when build by an AIs for deep space missions (cause why should you hurt the biobrains with such a challenge if you have AI) the result is likely to be similar. They might also be next level, as our civilization can’t yet fathom the effects of understanding the discoveries of Thad Roberts (who is definitely on to something next level). It might be that we look back on current technology as we do now at bakelite telephones, even though we’re close to building aware walking robots.
So following this reasoning most civilizations will send similar AI probes through space, if they let AI determine the optimal design. If there’s some alpha creature or team to think of the best idea the result may vary. It is at least not unreasonable to expect alien visitors to come in the form of a team of AI agents that will initially try to remain invisible, both to not disturb and to not become targeted or lead us to their home planet.
What do you think?