In his 2019 book, FALTER, Bill McKibben writes:
“Scientists have even theorized that AIs following their own impulses might explain why we haven’t found other civilizations out in space. Forget asteroids and supervolcanoes, says Bostrom - “even if they destroyed a significant number of civilizations we would expect some to get lucky and escape disaster.” But what if there is some technology “that (a) virtually all sufficiently advanced civilizations eventually discover and (b) its discovery leads almost universally to existential disaster”? That is to say, perhaps the reason we don’t hear from other civilizations is because interstellar space is dotted not with sentient life but with orbiting piles of paper clips.”
(On a previous page McKibben had been writing about AIs that could quickly learn how to prevent themselves from being turned off. What if one had been programmed to make paper clips?)
Remember the Norwegian fairy tale about why the sea is salt? Here is the last paragraph of that bedtime story:
“When he had gone a little way out to sea he took the mill on deck. “Grind salt, and grind both quickly and well,” said the skipper. So the mill began to grind salt, till it spouted out like water, and when the skipper had got the ship filled he wanted to stop the mill, but whichsoever way he turned it, and how much soever he tried, it went on grinding, and the heap of salt grew higher and higher, until at last the ship sank. There lies the mill at the bottom of the sea, and still, day by day, it grinds on; and that is why the sea is salt.”
I think the main reason we haven’t found ET is because space is sooooooo big. E.g. If you printed out a huge map of the Milky Way and then drew a circle depicting how far our earliest radio waves have traveled, you’ll see we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of scratching the surface of delivering signals. And while I haven’t done the math, it seems to me that the signals we use to communicate with each other are very, very weak when considered on a galactic scale. So if ET wants to communicate across the galaxy, they got to figure out how to make star sized transmitters.
As for the paper-clip making AIs, it gets me to thinking about how short-sighted humans tend to be. Perhaps our short-sightedness is a product of evolving in an environment that’s close to, but not quite hostile enough to kill us? So perhaps if ET evolves in a friendlier environment, they would be more far-sighted, and they’d constrain the skills and mobility of AIs in the first place. But given our nature, I think we can already see how AIs are going to put some hurt on us.
paperclip a.i. is utter bullshit.
But a civilization transferring itself into A.I. would never leave its solar system, because of the time-lag in interstellar transmissions.