Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


25.3.3  Trees and Humans:  The 0/10 Contact

The 0/10 Contact is an encounter between alien races having equal levels of energy consumption but whose members differ in Sentience Quotient by a factor of 10. (That is, the individuals of one species processes information ten orders of magnitude more efficiently than the other.) Such meetings may occur between pairs of Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type IV civilizations. On the sentience scale, contact may be achieved between reactivity creatures and beings which are conscious, or between conscious ETs and communal entities, and so forth.* All told, there are 20 distinct contact scenarios within the 0/10 Contact classification.

How can we understand the implications of a contact between races differing in sentience by ten orders of magnitude? Most of the animal life on Earth has an SQ ranging from 7-14 (with humans near the top), and so are virtually indistinguishable when measured against the comprehensive universal standard. To a galactic or universal sentient, all Earthly animal life would appear roughly equivalent in mental potential. Brains built from neurons, in other words, carry the potential for conscious awareness.

A good analogy for an encounter between beings having a Sentience Quotient differential of 10 may be gained by comparing a meeting between a member of the plant kingdom and a member of the animal kingdom on Earth.** For instance, one example of a 0/10 Contact might involve an encounter between a human (a conscious entity) and a tree (a reactive entity). Both use about 102 watts to power their internal processes, but a man can process data at least ten orders of magnitude faster than the tree because of his complex nervous system. These two beings represent qualitatively vastly different orders of sentience. One can read a book each month; the other is hypothesized to "read" one "word" each 8000 years (at the conscious level).

What are the ethical duties of the being with the higher sentient emergent in such a contact scenario? We must refer to the Corollary of Negentropy Equality, which part: "The more negentropic an entity, the greater are its rights and the deeper are its responsibilities." Conscious beings with SQ = 10 (e.g., humans) belong to a qualitatively higher negentropic order than mere reactivity creatures of SQ = 0 (e.g., trees). Hence, thermoethics grants a limited right of exploitation to the higher-order being in the encounter, because this entity has access to a qualitatively superior process of data analysis and thus is presumed best qualified to decide how universal negentropy may be maximized by the contact.

However, with greater rights come deeper responsibilities as well. The right of exploitation of creatures possessing lesser sentient emergents than one’s self is not absolute. The superior minds (e.g., humans) in each case must assume the role of trustee, carefully preserving the lesser race’s negentropy except to the extent that its exploitation will enable the superior race to increase total order in the living universe. The duty of the inferior race (e.g., a forest of trees) in such a case is to voluntarily submit to the exploitation deemed necessary by the higher race, because this serves to further the mission of ordered life in the cosmos.

Note that sentient emergent, not Sentience Quotient, is the critical test in each circumstance. A certain SQ is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of its associated sentient emergent. Ten million years ago on Earth, before human consciousness had emerged, creatures existed with SQs around 10 but having only neural reactivity. Conscious ETs arriving at that time would have been ethically justified in converting our planet to their own use, subject to the aforestated restrictions. But once human consciousness emerged, that justification evaporated. Today it is humanity which must exploit the resources and bear the responsibilities of trusteeship over the total neural reactive biological community on Earth.


* Note that encounters may occur between a high technology, low sentience race and a species having a higher sentience but a lesser technology.3490

** The level of reactivity is emergent in the plant kingdom, as for example in the Venus Flytrap (SQ ~ 1) and other carnivorous plants3434 and in the "plant behavior" reactivity exhibited by aroid vines in tropical rain forests.3416


Last updated on 6 December 2008