For centuries we have asked ourselves the question, what makes us different from animals. Some would say intellect, however any creature can learn. It doesn’t have to be complex mathematical constructs or advanced theoretical concepts. If the ability to have some kind of intelligence is a factor, then anything that can learn how to use what it has to get a decent meal is at the same level as an Astrophysicist. Some said there was no difference, that there was only this reality. That humanity was in fact a beast without the same connection to the universe as the rest of the animal kingdom.
They would point to the theory of evolution, and then instead of asking how to push humanity, or any species forward along a path set by us to be unethical. Genetically engineering out the flaws in species to ensure their survival was wrong. And yet allowing evolution to justify their extinction was also railed against. The concept that only those who can adapt should survive was never seriously considered. And so we did our best to preserve the various forms of life on our world. We didn’t force them to evolve, nor did we simply record their passing as if it was their failure.
With time, we developed a way to leave our home world behind, and turned our view to the stars. And as with the sailing vessels of old naturalists were employed for the flight. We hoped to find so much life out in the greater universe to observe, and preserve. It seemed ingrained in us to find ways for us to adapt to their worlds while not preventing the life we found to function. It was an interesting time. We never found any with the same kind of intellect that we had. Strange we thought, that evolution would not have produced even one species with minds similar to our own.
WE also explored artificial intelligence, artificial sentience, and consciousness uploads into digital systems. We had some success, but without some controlling ideology the AI’s invariably lacked what could be considered personality. The attempts at an Artificial Sentience were met with worse results. Even with all the ethics and morality Humanity had established over centuries, the concepts and religious ideologies of peace and the ideas of God, they would invariably become violent. Cold monsters looking to destroy every intelligence around them, unwilling to co-exist.
However, the attempts to upload human consciousness into a digital universe were the most horrific. Separated from the physical world, locked in an existence of data and information they invariably went mad. The Uploads lost whatever humanity they had, and became bitter, worse than the Artificials. They knew they had lost something, something extremely precious but none could put it into words. The researchers had to live with the screams in their nightmares until the day they died.
Time went on and we continued to explore. We found life in all corners of our galaxy, and did our best to both preserve, and appreciate it. But we never found life that was able to question its own existence as we did. None asked the basic questions we started with. Why are we here? Is this all that we are? Is there something beyond our worlds?
It was then, on a worlds near the galactic core we started to find something strange. We found the ruins of civilization. Worlds scourged of life, nothing more than dust and ash. It was the first sign of civilization similar to our own. We searched these dead worlds trying to find an answer. Was it ecological, military, had these worlds been destroyed by war, pestilence, famine? What had brought death here?
There were plenty of records found, scientific experiments, but no philosophy, no religion. No questions into the meaning of existence. And then we found their experiments into the Artificial and the Uploading of consciousness. In their records they declared no problems however. We even found some still active. They tried to destroy us the moment we were known to them. They were incapable of compassion, of feeling. They didn’t see a need to preserve life, period. They tried to force life’s hand by taking over evolution and in the process had killed their worlds, their species.
Only those who had uploaded their minds remained. Unlike those Humans who had gone mad, these alien minds still functioned perfectly. In a way that made it worse. The war to protect and preserve the worlds they tried to burn went on for decades. WE tried to negotiate peace treaty after peace treaty. They refused. Even said we were failures of evolution because we hadn’t followed through and forced life’s hand.
They wanted to punish us for not making ourselves Gods. WE tried to tell them we already had a God to worship. They screamed that there was no great creator, nothing beyond the realm of the physical. They said souls were nothing.
And so we fought. The war continues even now. WE try and preserve all life, and allow it to flourish as it will. They exterminate anything that doesn’t fit in their narrow view, or try and force life along the path they decide. Unfortunately they destroy most life they touch.
We don’t know if the war will ever be over. IF this is proof that Humanity had been granted something precious in the days we developed thought that no other species had. We simply try and preserve and protect. And we continue asking that simple question of our existence. The most important question, more important than any other. More important than how.