TL;DR: A recently proposed (7/13/2023) bipartisan amendment to the NDAA for 2024, with senate majority leader Chuck Schumer as its first sponsor and with the aim of declassifying documents related to Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP). It explicitly defines UAPs as pertaining to objects exhibiting "performance characteristics and properties not previously known to be achievable based upon commonly accepted physical principles" such as, among other things, "instantaneous acceleration absent apparent inertia", "transmedium travel" and "positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principles". It takes care to separate these from "temporarily non-attributed objects" with prosaic explanations. The terms "Non-human intelligence" and "Technologies of unknown origin" are explicitly defined and encountered multiple times throughout the text. The amendment also non-dismissively mentions "reverse engineering of technologies of unknown origins" and "examination of biological evidence of living or deceased non-human intelligence". It declares that "Legislation is necessary because credible evidence and testimony indicates that Federal Government unidentified anomalous phenomena records exist that have not been declassified".

 

It is surprising to me that the community has not noticed / discussed the Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Disclosure Act of 2023, given how much discussion was generated by UFO Betting: Put Up or Shut Up (enough for Eliezer to indicate willingness to bet 150k yesterday) and Intelligence Officials Say U.S. Has Retrieved Craft of Non-Human Origin. I think that anyone that is dismissing the topic out of hand should have a good look at this document. While I do not claim that it provides direct proof of phenomena necessitating an "ontological crisis",  I believe that it can be a source of major updates. I also strongly believe that this is the point where a serious discussion must be had about this topic by the community, given the accumulating evidence of  *something* going on, together with the potential ramifications of an "ontologically shocking" outcome. The situation at this point displays parallels with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, in that the topic is not seriously covered by mainstream media yet, despite the available evidence pointing towards some (at least) "interesting" outcomes.  

The Document

The Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Disclosure Act of 2023 is an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024, which was proposed a week ago (7/13/2023) by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, together with the Republican senator Mike Rounds. The other cosponsors are Marco Rubio (Republican), Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat), Todd Young (Republican) and Martin Heinrich (Democrat). Given the bipartisan sponsorship of the bill and the position of Schumer in the Senate, it is relatively safe to assume that the amendment will become law.

The first thing to notice is the change of meaning for the acronym UAP, from Unidentified Aerial Phenomena to Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, a term which is explicitly defined in the document. This is a sign of things to come, as the text takes care to specify that its contents refer exclusively to non-prosaic phenomena. 

At a high level, this amendment aims to declassify and publicly release records related to UAPs. It requires the creation of a collection of UAP records at the National Archives and Records Administration, as well as the public disclosure of all such records that are not deemed potentially harmful to national security by a Review Board appointed by the President with the approval of the Senate. As discussed in a recent Reuters article, the amendment "is modeled after a 1992 U.S. law spelling out the handling of records related to the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy".

Definitions

A good starting point is to note the definition of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena as given in Section 3 (21) of the document:

UNIDENTIFIED ANOMALOUS PHENOMENA

(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘‘unidentified anomalous phenomena’’ means any object operating or judged capable of operating in outer space, the atmosphere, ocean surfaces, or undersea, lacking prosaic attribution due to performance characteristics and properties not previously known to be achievable based upon commonly accepted physical principles. Unidentified anomalous phenomena are differentiated from both attributed and temporarily non-attributed objects by one or more of the following observables:

(i) Instantaneous acceleration absent apparent inertia.
(ii) Hypersonic velocity absent a thermal signature and sonic shockwave.
(iii) Transmedium (such as space-to-ground and air-to-undersea) travel.
(iv) Positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principles.
(v) Multispectral signature control
(vi) Physical or invasive biological effects to close observers and the environment.


(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘‘unidentified anomalous phenomena’’ includes what were previously described as
(i) flying discs;
(ii) flying saucers;
(iii) unidentified aerial phenomena;
(iv) unidentified flying objects (UFOs); and
(v) unidentified submerged objects(USOs)

The authors of the amendment make sure to separate "physics-defying" phenomena from the prosaic "attributed" and "temporarily non-attributed" objects. The definitions for both of these are given in sections 3 (14) and 3 (19):

PROSAIC ATTRIBUTION

The term ‘‘prosaic attribution’’ means having a human (either foreign or domestic) origin and operating according to current, proven, and generally understood scientific and engineering principles and established laws-of-nature and not attributable to non-human intelligence.

(Emphasis mine)

Notice the mention of non-human intelligence. The term is also explicitly defined in the text and we will get back to it shortly.

 TEMPORARILY NON-ATTRIBUTED OBJECTS


(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘‘temporarily non-attributed objects’’ means the class of objects that temporarily resist prosaic attribution by the initial observer as a result of environmental or system limitations associated with the observation process that nevertheless ultimately have an accepted human origin or known physical cause. Although some unidentified anomalous phenomena may at first be interpreted as temporarily non-attributed objects, they are not temporarily non-attributed objects, and the two categories are mutually exclusive

(B) INCLUSION.—The term ‘‘temporarily non-attributed objects’’ includes

(i) natural celestial, meteorological, and undersea weather phenomena;

(ii) mundane human-made airborne objects, clutter, and marine debris;

(iii) Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector aerospace platforms;

(iv) Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector ocean-surface and undersea vehicles;  and

(v) known foreign systems.

In short, the authors of the amendment explicitly separate what they call UAPs from any phenomenon which can be explained away as human technology based on the currently known laws of physics. They also make sure not to include phenomena that remain unexplained due to lack of data. My reading of these definitions is that some phenomenon is characterized as an Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon only when the available data explicitly rules out any other potential explanation involving "current physics". While I am unsure if say a Chinese or Russian drone operating on some kind of unknown antigravity device would be considered a UAP, the fact that the term "non-human intelligence" is encountered multiple times in the text seems to indicate that the authors have a different origin in mind for these unexplained phenomena. 

The separation between UAPs and prosaic phenomena is strengthened by the definition of the term "UAP record"  in section 3 (22):

UNIDENTIFIED ANOMALOUS PHENOMENA RECORD

The term ‘‘unidentified anomalous phenomena record’’ means a record that is related to unidentified anomalous phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, or non-human intelligence (and all equivalent subjects by any other name with the specific and sole exclusion of temporarily non-attributed objects) that was created or made available for use by, obtained by, or otherwise came into the possession of

(A) the Executive Office of the President;
(B) the Department of Defense and its progenitors, the Department of War and the Department of the Navy;

(C) the Department of the Army;
(D) the Department of the Navy;
(E) the Department of the Air Force, specifically the Air Force Office of Special Investigations;
(F) the Department of Energy and its progenitors, the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Energy Research and Development Administration;

(G) the Office of the Director of National Intelligence;

H) the Central Intelligence Agency and its progenitor, the Office of Strategic Services;

(I) the National Reconnaissance Office;

(J) the Defense Intelligence Agency;

(K) the National Security Agency;

(L) the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency;

(M) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: 

(N) the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

(O) the Federal Aviation Administration;
(P) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 

(Q) the Library of Congress;
(R) the National Archives and Records Administration;

(S) any Presidential library;
(T) any Executive agency;
(U) any independent office or agency;
(V) any other department, office, agency, committee, or commission of the Federal Government;

(W) any State or local government department, office, agency, committee, or commission that provided support or assistance or performed work, in connection with a Federal inquiry into unidentified anomalous phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, or non-human intelligence; and
(X) any private sector person or entity formerly or currently under contract or some 

(Emphasis mine)

Again, this definition explicitly excludes "temporarily non-attributed objects" from the records. Additionally, it shows that the amendment refers to records that may have been created as far back as during WW2, given the mentions of the Manhattan Project and the progenitor of the CIA. This is potentially significant, as it may indicate that the sponsors of this amendment believe that records of objects behaving in the "physics-defying" ways described in the UAP definition can be found as far back as the 1940s. This would clash with a potential explanation of UAPs as advanced technological objects from a foreign country.  Finally, the definition also mentions the private sector, the role of which will be discussed soon. 

The term "non-human intelligence" is also mentioned once again. Its own definition is given in section 3 (12):

NON-HUMAN INTELLIGENCE.—The term ‘‘non-human intelligence’’ means any sentient intelligent non-human lifeform regardless of nature or ultimate origin that may be presumed responsible for unidentified anomalous phenomena or of which the Federal Government has become aware.

Withholding any comment for now, other definitions that are just as eye-catching include:

TECHNOLOGIES OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN.

The term ‘‘technologies of unknown origin’’ means any materials or meta-materials, ejecta, crash debris, mechanisms, machinery, equipment, assemblies or sub-assemblies, engineering models or processes, damaged or intact aerospace vehicles, and damaged or intact ocean-surface and undersea craft associated with unidentified anomalous phenomena or incorporating science and technology that lacks prosaic attribution or known means of human manufacture.

 

 LEGACY PROGRAM

The term ‘‘legacy program’’ means all Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector endeavors to collect, exploit, or reverse engineer technologies of unknown origin or examine biological evidence of living or deceased non-human intelligence that predates the date of the enactment of this Act.

The inclusion of all these terms, and especially the parts on reverse engineering programs and on the examination of biological evidence of non-human intelligence,  indicates that the authors of the amendment give credence to the claims of whistleblowers such as David Grusch, as mentioned in Intelligence Officials Say U.S. Has Retrieved Craft of Non-Human Origin. This tracks with recent statements by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio which were reported in The Hill, namely that

multiple individuals with “very high clearances and high positions within our government have come forward to share “first-hand” UFO-related claims beyond the realm of what [the Senate Intelligence Committee] has ever dealt with.”

Intriguing Parts and Discussion

The entirety of section 2 is interesting, so I include it here in full. I have emphasized the parts that I consider as most important.


SEC. 02. FINDINGS, DECLARATIONS, AND PURPOSES


(a) FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS.

Congress finds and declares the following:

(1) All Federal Government records related to unidentified anomalous phenomena should be preserved and centralized for historical and Federal Government purposes.

(2) All Federal Government records concerning unidentified anomalous phenomena should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure and all records should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history of the Federal Government’s knowledge and involvement surrounding unidentified anomalous phenomena.

(3) Legislation is necessary to create an enforceable, independent, and accountable process for the public disclosure of such records.

(4) Legislation is necessary because credible evidence and testimony indicates that Federal Government unidentified anomalous phenomena records exist that have not been declassified or subject to mandatory declassification review as set forth in Executive Order 13526 (50 U.S.C. 3161 note; relating to classified national security information) due in part to exemptions under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.), as well as an overbroad interpretation of ‘‘transclassified foreign nuclear information’’, which is also exempt from mandatory declassification, thereby preventing public disclosure under existing provisions of law.

(5) Legislation is necessary because section 552
of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the ‘‘Freedom of Information Act’’), as implemented by the Executive branch of the Federal Government, has proven inadequate in achieving the timely public disclosure of Government unidentified anomalous phenomena records that are subject to mandatory declassification review.

(6) Legislation is necessary to restore proper oversight over unidentified anomalous phenomena records by elected officials in both the executive and legislative branches of the Federal Government that has otherwise been lacking as of the enactment of this Act. 

(7) Legislation is necessary to afford complete and timely access to all knowledge gained by the Federal Government concerning unidentified anomalous phenomena in furtherance of comprehensive open scientific and technological research and development essential to avoiding or mitigating potential technological surprise in furtherance of urgent national security concerns and the public interest.


(b) PURPOSES.

The purposes of this title are:
(1) to provide for the creation of the unidentified anomalous phenomena Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration; and

(2) to require the expeditious public transmission to the Archivist and public disclosure of such records.

Point 4 is arguably the most interesting part of this section, given the previously stated definition of UAPs. According to this part of the text, there is credible evidence and testimony that the US Federal Government has in its possession records showing objects behaving in ways that cannot be explained by "commonly accepted" physical principles. Again, since UAPs do not include "temporarily non-attributed objects", we should expect the existence of classified records which show objects displaying instantaneous acceleration without apparent inertia, transmedium travel, positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principles etc. By definition, these records should be clear / descriptive enough and should provide adequate data to rule out conventional explanations.

Another curious part of section 2 is paragraph (7). What are the urgent national security concerns which necessitate open scientific and technological research and development using knowledge related to UAPs? 

One way to look at it would be again to assume that UAPs are technological objects from the US's foreign adversaries. Seen in this light, this paragraph would essentially call for the open sourcing of information on foreign drones / craft in the hopes that the mainstream scientific community will be able to understand the physical principles on which they operate and thus nullify the advantage. While this sounds at least slightly reasonable at first glance, on second thought it makes way less sense. First, assuming that these objects belong to some adversary of the US (otherwise it wouldn't  make sense to publicize any information about them) we are left with the conclusion that one of the world's major powers has technology which should guarantee absolute air superiority. The question then becomes, why isn't this technology being used today, before the US can catch up? Russia would benefit from using it in Ukraine and China could use it to take over Taiwan. Also, why would the US publicly admit that they do not have such technology? Even if this admission was false with the purpose of furthering some unknown goal, there should be some more subtle and believable way of going about it. 

Another option is to reject the validity of anything said in paragraph (7). The whole document may be part of some elaborate psychological operation with unknown goals and thus we cannot trust anything written in it. This is definitely a valid possibility. However, it still begs the question why would anyone go to such lengths to talk about reverse engineering of exotic and potentially non-human technologies, recovery of biological evidence of non-human intelligence and other extraordinary stuff. Wouldn't it be possible to achieve the same goals using some other, more subtle means, with less potential to destroy faith in the democratic institutions of the US? Providing (fabricated) evidence of a seemingly decades-long coverup of UAPs, perpetrated by some shadowy part of the US government, which supposedly operated practically without oversight for close to half a century would be akin to throwing kerosene on the fire of currently existing conspiracy theories. Given such a precedent, many other conspiracy theories start to become much more believable. If this whole situation is indeed a psy-op, it begs the question of what could be so important so as to be worth such a sacrifice?

The third non-weird explanation for the existence of this document would be that the politicians have been misled, purposefully or not, by the available evidence and by the aforementioned whistleblowers. This is the prosaic explanation that I would consider most likely if I had to choose one. Still, this raises a couple of issues. First, these are high-ranking politicians who are potentially putting their career in jeopardy by giving credence to claims that are highly socially unacceptable and which leave them open to low-effort political attacks. I would expect that they would take extreme care to verify that the evidence they have seen is strong enough such that the probability of being wrong tends to zero. Second, both Schumer and Rubio are in the Gang of Eight, which means that they should be privy to highly sensitive intelligence information.  This fact both adds more weight to their sponsorship of the UAP Disclosure Act and also means that they should have access to enough high quality evidence to check the claims of whistleblowers, or at least parts of them, until they are sufficiently convinced of their veracity. As a counterpoint to this, from a recent opinion piece on The Hill:

According to Rubio, only one of two remarkable outcomes will ultimately explain recent developments, “Either what [the whistleblower] is saying is partially true or entirely true,” he said, “or we have some really smart, educated people with high clearances and very important positions in our government who are crazy and are leading us on a goose chase.”

“Most of these people,” Rubio continued, “have held very high clearances and high positions within our government. So, you ask yourself: What incentive would so many people with that kind of qualification these are serious people — have to come forward and make something up?”

Pressed for details, Rubio stated that individuals with “firsthand knowledge or firsthand claims” are “saying to us what you’ve seen out there in the public record, whether it’s about legacy [UFO] programs or about current events.”

According to Rubio, the whistleblowers’ statements are beyond “the realm of what any of us [on the Senate Intelligence Committee] has ever dealt with.”

Rubio also addressed claims that individuals involved with such alleged retrieval and exploitation programs are withholding information from the Pentagon’s new UFO analysis office. If the allegations are true, Rubio stated, “there’s a group of people who believe that they possess something that they don’t need to share with anybody, including elected officials, whom they view as temporary employees of the government.”

These statements seem to indicate that they lack the means to fully check the claims of the whistleblowers, but that the evidence provided is judged to be substantial enough to warrant the creation of the UAP Disclosure Act. Taking these statements together with everything mentioned in section 2, the update-worthy inference would be to go from "seemingly credible whistleblower says incredibly weird things and claims to be taken seriously by congress" to "congress takes whistleblower information seriously enough to propose new law at the weirdness level of the UAP Disclosure Act". The new question that arises is "why now?".

To try to infer an answer to this, let us return to the actual contents of the document. Coming back to section 2 (7), there is another possible way to read this part, which is more in line with the recent claims from whistleblowers. Specifically, Grusch mentioned that both the US and other foreign governments have located and retrieved crashed crafts related to UAPs. According to The Debrief article:

[Grusch] said he reported to Congress on the existence of a decades-long “publicly unknown Cold War for recovered and exploited physical material – a competition with near-peer adversaries over the years to identify UAP crashes/landings and retrieve the material for exploitation/reverse engineering to garner asymmetric national defense advantages.”

If we assume that Congress takes these claims seriously, then this would mean that such reverse engineering programs in the US were unsuccessful. The "avoiding or mitigating potential technological surprise" part could provide a potential justification for why this whole thing is happening now: The US has reason to believe that corresponding programs in one or more countries have made more progress or may be closing in on some breakthrough and it is thus seeking to nullify their advantage. It aims to achieve this by publicizing the topic along with the knowledge related to these technologies with the hope that "mainstream" scientists will manage to publicly reverse engineer said technologies and thus negate any advantage foreign adversaries may have. This theory should have the following observable result: The US should be itching to publicize such information as quickly as possible, with the constraint of not causing public panic. I am not sure if this can actually be said about the current situation.

 Putting this aside for now, some interesting parts also exist in section 4, which discusses what documents to collect along with other administrative stuff:


SEC. 04. UNIDENTIFIED ANOMALOUS PHENOMENA RECORDS COLLECTION AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT
(1) IN GENERAL

(A) Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Archivist shall commence establishment of a collection of records in the National Archives to be known as the ‘‘Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Records Collection’’.

(B) In carrying out subparagraph (A), the Archivist shall ensure the physical integrity and original provenance (or if indeterminate, the earliest historical owner) of all records in the Collection.

(C) The Collection shall consist of record copies of all Government, Government-provided, or Government-funded records relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, and non-human intelligence (or equivalent subjects by any other name with the specific and sole exclusion of temporarily non-attributed objects), which shall be transmitted to the National Archives in accordance with section 2107 of title 44, United States Code.

(This section includes more parts that I have omitted. Emphasis mine)

Again, the targeted records should relate to UAPs, technologies of unknown origin and  non-human intelligence. I think it is safe to assume that this signifies that the sponsors of this amendment have at least some evidence pointing to the existence of such records. 

Section 5 describes the collection and review process. It essentially requires all government offices to look for records of UAPs, to find all records classified or not that fit the description according to some identification aid and to send them to a Review Board (to be defined in a bit) and to the Archivist of the United States. This will lead to the creation of a collection of UAP records with a declassified and a classified part. As mentioned in section 5 (E) in page 27:

(E) Each unidentified anomalous phenomena record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection, not later than the date that is 25 years after the date of the first creation of the record by the originating body, unless the President certifies, as required by this title, that 

(i) continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations; and

(ii) the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Section 6 gives exact definitions for when the release of a UAP record can be postponed. It includes standard reasons such as hurting current intelligence activities or damaging national security in general. I am very curious about what UAP records they will actually be able to release given that Section 6 gives quite broad reasons for retaining the classified status of said records. 

Sections 7 and 8 discuss the Review Board:

IN GENERAL.—The President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint, without regard to political affiliation, 9 citizens of the United States to serve as members of the Review Board to ensure and facilitate the review, transmission to the Archivist, and public disclosure of government records relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena.

The most striking parts of these two sections can be found in the required qualifications for the members of the Board:

(4) QUALIFICATIONS.—Persons nominated to the Review Board

(A) shall be impartial citizens, none of whom shall have had any previous or current involvement with any legacy program or controlling authority relating to the collection, exploitation, or reverse engineering of technologies of unknown origin or the examination of biological evidence of living or deceased non-human intelligence;

(B) shall be distinguished persons of high national professional reputation in their respective fields who are capable of exercising the independent and objective judgment necessary to the fulfillment of their role in ensuring and facilitating the review, transmission to the public, and public disclosure of records related to the government’s understanding of, and activities associated with unidentified anomalous phenomena, technologies of unknown origin, and non-human intelligence and who possess an appreciation of the value of such material to the public, scholars, and government; and

(C) shall include at least

(i) 1 current or former national security official;

(ii) 1 current or former foreign service official;

(iii) 1 scientist or engineer; 

(iv) 1 economist;

(v) 1 professional historian; and

(vi) 1 sociologist.

The document bars from participating in the Review Board any person who may have taken part in legacy programs related to the reverse-engineering of technologies of unknown origin and to the examination of biological evidence of non-human intelligence. This is the first time that the term "Legacy Program" shows up in the main text after being defined in section 3. Again, this rule makes sense given the general gist of the document, but it makes one wonder how much evidence do the sponsors of the amendment have and to what extent does it actually support the existence of such legacy programs. I think it is safe to assume that they have whistleblower testimony, and if we take Rubio at his word, we are talking about multiple whistleblowers with high clearances. The question then becomes whether they have evidence apart from whistleblower testimony, such as video / pictures, materials or documents corroborating what they have heard from the whistleblowers.  Going back to section 2 (4), we have that 

(4) Legislation is necessary because credible evidence and testimony indicates that Federal Government unidentified anomalous phenomena records exist that have not been declassified [...]

This paragraph indicates that they may indeed have evidence, separate from whistleblower testimony, when it comes specifically to the existence of UAP records. I expect that this evidence is quite strong, given previously known facts about UAP sightings. For example, in the 2021 Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Report indicates that

[...] the UAPTF (UAP Task Force) focused on reports that involved UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) largely witnessed firsthand by military aviators and that were collected from systems we considered to be reliable. These reports describe incidents that occurred between 2004 and 2021, with the majority coming in the last two years as the new reporting mechanism became better known to the military aviation community. We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence. In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.

144 reports originated from USG sources. Of these, 80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors.

[...] In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion

Note that the term UAP in the 2021 report is used differently since it relates to aerial phenomena only, and, at that moment in time, it also included "temporarily non-attributed objects". The change in terminology between the two reports is interesting in itself. 

Returning to the question of evidence of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, the 2021 report indicates that a large number of sightings involved multiple sensors, which makes it more likely that the observed object corresponded to some physical thing and not just to malfunction or sensor artifacts. In general, I believe it is highly likely that the credible evidence of UAPs mentioned in section 2 paragraph 4 includes clear footage of objects displaying the "physics-defying" characteristics described in the UAP definition, probably corroborated by data from multiple sensors.

What about evidence for recovered technologies or for recovered remains of non-human intelligence though?

Some indications towards an answer can be found in section 10, provided here in full:

SEC. 10. DISCLOSURE OF RECOVERED TECHNOLOGIES OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN AND BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF NON-HUMAN INTELLIGENCE.

(a) EXERCISE OF EMINENT DOMAIN.—The Federal Government shall exercise eminent domain over any and all recovered technologies of unknown origin and biological evidence of non-human intelligence that may be controlled by private persons or entities in the interests of the public good. 

(b) AVAILABILITY TO REVIEW BOARD.—Any and all such material, should it exist, shall be made available to the Review Board for personal examination and subsequent disclosure determination at a location suitable to the controlling authority of said material and in a timely manner conducive to the objectives of the Review Board in accordance with the requirements of this title.

(c) ACTIONS OF REVIEW BOARD.—In carrying out subsection (b), the Review Board shall consider and render decisions— 

(1) whether the material examined constitutes technologies of unknown origin or biological evidence of non-human intelligence beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether recovered technologies of unknown origin, biological evidence of non-human intelligence, or a particular subset of material qualifies for postponement of disclosure under this title; and 

(3) what changes, if any, to the current disposition of said material should the Federal Government make to facilitate full disclosure.

(d) REVIEW BOARD ACCESS TO TESTIMONY AND WITNESSES.—The Review Board shall have access to all testimony from unidentified anomalous phenomena witnesses, close observers and legacy program personnel and whistleblowers within the Federal Government’s possession as of and after the date of the enactment of this Act in furtherance of Review Board disclosure determination responsibilities in section ll07(h) and subsection (c) of this section.

(e) SOLICITATION OF ADDITIONAL WITNESSES.—

The Review Board shall solicit additional unidentified anomalous phenomena witness and whistleblower testimony and afford protections under section 1673(b) of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (50 U.S.C. 3373b(b)) if deemed beneficial in fulfilling Review Board responsibilities under this title.

First of all, let me note the sheer weirdness of finding a section with such a title in an official document that is soon to be law. Putting this aside, the first paragraph seems to indicate that the sponsors of the amendment have reason to believe that private entities may hold material related to UAP. This is a staple of UFO lore, as it is argued that outsourcing the examination of such material to private companies will exempt all documents produced during such efforts from Freedom of Information Act declassification requests. However, the second paragraph seems to  indicate that the evidence for the existence of such private efforts is not that strong. I am unsure whether the emphasized sentence only refers to private efforts or to the existence of such material in general.

Nevertheless, I find it puzzling why this amendment would even mention non-human intelligence in the first place. From what I know, before Grusch came out, the issue was mostly focused on UAPs as unexplained aerial phenomena  with the more recent inclusion of transmedium vehicles. The amendment could just as easily be focused only on records of UAPs, without requiring any reference to non-human intelligence or legacy programs or any other of the more weird stuff. The sponsors could have played it safe without seemingly going off the deep end of the more "conspiratorial" parts of this phenomenon. Personally, this is the most important question at the moment: "What kind of evidence have they seen that makes them certain enough to look for legacy programs, technologies of unknown origin and connections to non-human intelligence?" 

Conclusion

Why take the UAP topic seriously at this point:

  • Congress seems to take whistleblower testimony seriously enough to try to pass an amendment with "weird" language on a highly stigmatized topic. 
  • The testimony seems to be coming from multiple witnesses with high security clearances.
  • It appears highly likely that some or all of the sponsors and cosponsors of this amendment have seen at least clear footage of objects displaying the anomalous behaviors outlined in the UAP definition. The footage is likely corroborated by multiple sensors of different types and/or by witness testimony.
    • This would track with the fact that there are already reports of such footage existing, as mentioned for example in the 2021 UAP Report.
    •  Senators / congressmen with high clearances such as Rubio and Schumer should have access to such footage. This would explain why they are taking the subject so seriously.
  • The terms "non-human intelligence", "technologies of unknown origin" and "legacy programs"  show up multiple times in the document, while they could easily be avoided and the amendment would still have a clear reason to exist. This indicates that evidence exists that connects the UAP topic to "ontologically shocking" themes.
    • This evidence should presumably be strong enough to convince high-ranking politicians that the aforementioned terms have clear reasons to be included in the amendment, despite the potential political costs of being associated with a topic that is so heavily stigmatized.

There are also indications that the topic will become more mainstream in the following months / years. There is already a public hearing scheduled for the 26th of July, by the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs, where David Grusch will be testifying, together with Ryan Graves and David Fravor. Additionally, a Senate hearing on the topic seems to also be in the works. And, of course, the declassification of UAP documents sometime next year, after the UAP Disclosure Act becomes law, should also generate some media attention, depending on the contents of the declassified material. 

Putting all of the above together, I strongly believe that the UAP topic should not be discounted without careful consideration. It also seems that the potential for "ontologically shocking" outcomes should now seriously be taken into account. 

I look forward to more discussion on the topic by the community.

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A few unorganised thoughts:

  1. The extraterrestrial hypothesis is unfairly dismissed (among rationalists and skeptics) due to unjustifiably low priors on alien visitation/presence/proximity and excessive confidence in this ontology, preventing appropriate updating around confusing evidence to the contrary and encouraging motivated reasoning around reflexive debunking. Molecular panspermia is well-attested; outright panspermia is possible; both support (in conjunction with @RobinHanson's Grabby Aliens maths) a once-in-a-million-galaxies stellar nursery in the Milky Way that seeded multiple systems with (the precursors for) life.

    Evidence is accumulating in the direction of Mars having once been habitable, and if strong evidence for life on Mars emerged, I would interpret this as strong evidence for the above model. (The probability of lightning striking twice in the same system seems remote. If abiogenesis was that common, we would expect an observable universe visibly—and by visibly I mean galaxies-converted-to-computronium—teeming with life, not our observable universe, in which life seems sufficiently rare that we still aren't sure it's not lifeless aside from us.)

    A growing list of Earth-like exoplanets with probable liquid water, the discovery of complex organic chemistry in interstellar space, and the discovery of invertebrate intelligence make many of the old Great Filter/hard step hypotheses untenable, and Fermi's paradox seems evermore baffling, not less. Credible if highly speculative models such as the astrobiological Copernican limit predict multiple intelligent civilisations in our galaxy. Any intelligent civilisation evolving in our galaxy (probabilistically, millions of years before us) would have already colonised the galaxy with sublight von Neumann probes or conceptually similar technology in cosmologically short (perhaps as little as 500,000 years) timescales. My priors for intelligent (perhaps superintelligent and post-biological) alien presence are relatively high.
  2. Criticisms of the extraterrestrial hypothesis (such as @Eliezer Yudkowsky's Tweet or Neil deGrasse Tyson's commentary) often have the flavour of HPJEV's dismissal of Lord Voldemort. (For those who haven't read HPMOR, HPJEV cannot reconcile ontology-challenging evidence provided by well-informed individuals warning him about an intelligent immortal dark rationalist with the lack of an extinction-level event, displaying a lack of imagination and general epistemic failure in not considering alternative motivations for Voldemort's behaviour.) They attack the narrow ETH of pop culture (biological aliens hopping in large spaceships and flying to Earth to spook us and abduct cattle), ignoring the fact that ufologists have been arguing against this since the 1960s. Jacques Vallee, J. Allen Hynek and John Keel arrived at similar conclusions to Robin Hanson's attempt at steelmanning the ETH (in which Hanson suggested hidden orbital projectors): UAP events are theatrically crafted apparitions designed to manipulate our beliefs while cloaking themselves with the memetic stealth of intentional absurdity, orchestrated by some kind of intelligent control system that has been present on Earth for the duration of our existence. (I do not follow Vallee and Keel into the increasingly vague "interdimensional hypothesis." Deliberate manipulation of belief via staged miracles is most easily explained by sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial technology.)

    If UAP turn out to be ontologically shocking, I doubt anyone will have located the correct hypothesis; possibility space is rather large when it comes to something as complex as intelligence (and conspiratorial intelligence acting in a completely unknown galaxy-level strategic space, at that). Nonetheless, I can think of a few possibilities.

    One explanation that would account for the entire observation set—even the more fantastical elements—would be something like an artificial general intelligence (designed for first contact scenarios, civilisation uplifting/handling/manipulating, etc) concealed in an oceanic facility, placed here (and all other life-bearing planets in our galaxy) millions of years ago, constructing and releasing von Neumann probes (or similar) to perform various missions that primarily revolve around shaping the future of our civilisation and manipulating our beliefs using superintelligent awareness of our cognitive biases and how to exploit them. The overarching motivation might be something that we would expect instrumental convergence to produce: power and influence over our species by assuming the apex of our status hierarchy. In this model, the same non-human intelligence that produced the flying shields reported by Roman historians, the flying discs and cigars of 19th century almanacs and astronomical journals, the flying saucers and Butane tanks of the 20th century, and the flying Tic-Tacs of the 21st century would be responsible (at least in part) for ancient, apparition-originating religions and modern UFO religions; aliens would be our gods. Biological occupants would be transient bioborgs, holographic illusions, or otherwise fairly unimportant humanoid interfaces with our species tailored for 20th century understanding. Crashed UFOs would be deliberate hand-offs of technology, or further attempts at confusion and manipulation.
  3. Ufology is approximately as niche and extensively developed a field as AI alignment. Those outside the AI alignment niche frequently and frustratingly make confidently incorrect or underinformed statements about alignment. Rationalists make the same mistakes when talking about UAP, indicating few commenters on LessWrong have read even a single book about the subject or engaged with online material to an appreciable extent. Claims that UFOs are an American phenomenon are completely incorrect; UFOs have always been a global phenomenon. Alien psyops are not wild; see Richard Doty and the MJ-12 dissemination, and the Pentacle memo (which convinced Vallee that a secret official UFO investigation was occurring parallel to Blue Book that included suggestions of staging UFO events).

    Scientific thinkers in general frequently make uninformed claims about UAP. Stephen Hawking questioned why UFOs only show themselves to crackpots, when even a cursory examination of Project Blue Book would tell you that the most credible cases involve multiple trained observers, e.g. meteorologists observing atmospheric phenomena with theodolites, and are frequently supported by radar and other data. Even ufologists unknowingly parrot falsehoods, such as the idea that extraordinary or "known unknown" UAP comprise only a "small residue" of UAP cases, when Hynek's own assessment of the Blue Book data was very different, arguing that the inexplicable unknowns comprised around 20% of cases, if not higher considering how many cases were classified as resolved when they clearly weren't (e.g. resolving UAP as the planet Venus when Venus was not visible). I will provide a recommended reading list to address common misconceptions when I get around to finishing my planned post on UAP.
  4. The evidence for UAP (in the sense outlined in the Disclosure Act) is quantitatively and qualitatively comparable or superior to the evidence for rare atmospheric phenomena such as ball lightning and the Hessdalen lights, including thousands of credible eyewitness accounts (including close encounters featuring multiple eyewitnesses, including astronauts and professors and Presidents, including phenomenologically consistent reports long before UFOs saturated popular culture and planes/drones/balloons cluttered our skies), videos, photos, radar data, sonar data, radiation poisoning and other measured radiological effects, trace physical evidence in landing cases, and molten slag with decently-documented chains of custody. Ball lightning provides a useful base rate against which to compare expectations for evidence for UAP; ball lightning is not trying to be stealthy, yet after centuries of eyewitness accounts, it has produced one blurry video and spectrograph to attest its existence. Skeptics that argue UAP conveniently lurk at the threshold of observability must acknowledge that this same argument can be used against many other rare aerial phenomena that are generally accepted as real.
  5. Multiple explanations are probable. A good explanation need not account for every aspect of the alleged phenomenon. Disinformation campaigns and psyops might explain stories of crash retrievals and pilots. Natural atmospheric plasma phenomena might explain most aerial cases. Sleep paralysis and other visionary or psychedelic experiences might explain most alien abduction cases. This does not negate exotic possibilities for other cases, e.g. the 1952 Washington incident or the 2004 Nimitz encounter.

Would love to hear from the people who voted to disagree with you as to why they voted that way/what they specifically disagree with here.

Edit: 2 days later and no one wants to speak up? Seriously? Seems like some evidence for Lord Dreadwar's points #1 and #2 above.

They might be busy updating on Grusch's statements that he knows the names of the crash retrieval SAPs, the individuals involved, the companies involved, the locations involved and the tradecraft of how these programs have been hidden from oversight and is willing to reveal these details in a closed SCIF. (Reciting off memory as I watch the hearing, here; that is my overall impression of his answers and almost certainly the impression he wanted to create, but his exact wording might have been a little different.)

I would be interested to know if that's true and they are updating on that information or if they're going "But Grusch didn't reveal any of that classified information TO ME, John Q. Public. So it's not even worth thinking about at all!"

I don't even know where we go from here, to be honest. Grusch's testimony (that he requested and was denied access to these SAPs) probably rules out overhearing rumours and probably rules out accidentally blowing the whistle on disinformation campaigns. Grusch is either knowingly complicit in a highly sophisticated, convoluted and frighteningly bold disinformation campaign himself, was specifically targeted by a disinformation campaign designed to disseminate this information in approximately this manner, or he's telling the truth as he knows it, crash retrieval SAPs exist, and disinformation campaigns have been used to reinforce the UFO taboo and conceal the programs.

I suppose highly motivated reasoning from a true believer would be another possibility, but the specificity of his answers makes this unlikely. Lying for profit, status or similar motives seems unlikely given his credentials, clearances and career, although I could see him being persuaded by others in that circle to exaggerate to kick up a hornet's nest and progress the issue. Wild.

Well summarized.

My thinking is aligned with what you have written here. It is disappointing to see rationalists put up a straw man to confidently tear it down and consider the case closed. No matter what is going on it's clear that the best way to control a narrative is to manufacture a cultural taboo surrounding what would otherwise be a subject open to scientific inquiry.

I hesitated to use the term strawman, but yes, that's exactly it. I don't think skeptics are intentionally attacking a strawman; they just aren't remotely familiar with the subject, so are attacking what they think UFO proponents actually think without realising that there are good reasons why sober and serious thinkers (Hanson, Hynek, Vallee) who overcome the stigma to actually examine the evidence end up tanking complexity penalties to generate pretty out-there-sounding hypotheses to explain the bafflingly compelling (relative to ghosts, Bigfoot etc) data.

Evidence is accumulating in the direction of Mars having once been habitable, and if strong evidence for life on Mars emerged, I would interpret this as strong evidence for the above model.

I'm not familiar with the evidence you're referring to, but on general principles... if we get evidence that Mars used to be habitable, but we don't get evidence that it used to be actually inhabited, isn't that evidence against your scenario?

Evidence for your scenario would be either evidence that Mars used to be inhabited, like you say; or that it was never habitable, giving another explanation for the lack of evidence that it was inhabited.

Yes, I didn't structure that part very well. My general point was that evidence is accumulating in the direction of Mars having had life during the Noachian period. Not a strong signal (as the evidence isn't there yet), but a weak signal in favour of the stellar nursery model alongside strong evidence for molecular panspermia. You are quite right that a habitable but uninhabited Mars would be weak evidence against panspermia.

Wow this really pulls together a lot of disparate ideas I've had at various times about the topic but wouldn't have summarised nearly as well. A note on the psyops point: if UAP are Non Human Intelligence, then we should still expect (a lot of) disinformation on the topic. Not just as a matter of natural overlap, but as a matter of incentive, it is reasonable to assume that muddying the waters with disinfo and making everyone out to be a 'crackpot' that Stephen Hawking can dismiss, would be a viable strategy to covering up the reality. Real issues are used for psyops all the time, it does not mean they do not exist. Russian troll farms capitalise on race issues in America or culture war topics, it doesn't mean the issues themselves are entirely fabricated. 

Thanks! Very much agreed re. psyops, particularly given the context of the Cold War. (American IC actors were initially concerned that UFOs were Soviet psyops or secret technology, while Soviet IC actors were initially concerned that UFOs were American psyops or secret technology.)

@andeslodes, congratulations on a very good first post. You clearly explained your point of view, and went through the text of the proposed Act and the background of the relevant Senators in enough detail to understand why this is important new information. I was already taking the prospect of aliens somewhat-seriously, but I updated higher after this post. 

I notice that Metaculus is at a just 1.1% probability confirmed alien tech by 2030, which seems low.

Thank you for the kind words. I do think that the probability is too low, especially given the new revelations, but I believe that this is also due to the choice of wording. The "alien technology has visited our solar system" part smuggles in a few assumptions which "uncorrelate" the question a bit from the recent evidence. To clarify:

The "alien technology" part makes this refer to extraterrestrials and the "solar system" part seems to indicate that said extraterrestrials originate from outside our solar system.  So the question alludes to the  category of cases where "aliens advanced enough to cross interstellar distances come all the way here only to crash on our planet and to fail at observing us without being noticed" which, as Eliezer notes, does have strong arguments against it. So, I do think it should be higher, but imo the (hypothetical) question that would warrant the largest jump in probability after the publication of the UAP disclosure act, would be something along the lines of "Will this current UAP situation turn out to have an ontologically-shocking explanation?". 

I've been following this story and it's interesting but the more dramatic claims seem to track back to the Skinwalker Ranch crowd - a bunch of people who think werewolves and poltergeists and such are haunting a ranch, which has a goofy TV show about it. That includes Grusch (who's been photographed hanging out with Lue Elizondo et al) and Schumer (Schumer dedicated this legislation to the late Harry Reid, who had directed public funds to Skinwalker Ranch.) So that casts a lot of doubt on things.

Edit: see this NY Post article for more details: https://nypost.com/2023/03/21/ufo-believing-pentagon-bosses-missed-spy-craft-for-years/

That includes Grusch (who's been photographed hanging out with Lue Elizondo et al) and Schumer (Schumer dedicated this legislation to the late Harry Reid, who had directed public funds to Skinwalker Ranch.)

 

I am all for investigating the narrative you put forth as it is relevant to issue and fair to bring up. To that end, could you provide evidence to back up your claims about Grusch specifically, as there's no mention of him the NY Post article.

What we do have is this tweet https://twitter.com/MiddleOfMayhem/status/1675534520035217409 exactly from the author Steven Greenstreet of said NY Post article, which indeed shows Grusch and SRW people. It's from 2022. We also have Elizondo https://twitter.com/LueElizondo/status/1665721919067258880 acknowledging working with Grusch.

Now, I find it fully consistent, and even understandable, that an individual, who has come to believe in UFOs and is shunned by military, for that exact reason, would seek out UFO enthusiasts. Who else could he discuss this massive (to him) revelation with?

Note that Grusch' first filing, to DoDIG, takes place in 2021, so the SCU 2022 photo does not imply his story is tainted that way. Moreover, Greenstreet's career is debunking (including UAPs), so he's obviously not an objective journalist in this matter.

This video goes into it some more, starting from around the 18 minute mark: Congress UFO Hearing - It's even crazier than you think - YouTube

 

TL;DW: Jay Strattan, a Skinwalker Ranch guy, was Grusch's boss when he was investigating UAP in the DoD.

That includes Grusch (who's been photographed hanging out with Lue Elizondo et al)

What's the chronology of this. If he hung out with them after seeing his own evidence and assembling his case, that's meaningless and innocuous. Why wouldn't he meet with them. If he hung out with them before, okay, but like, so what? What can we conclude from that?

Skinwalker Rancher Jay Strattan was Grusch's boss in the military: see Congress UFO Hearing - It's even crazier than you think - YouTube from about 18 minutes.

My sense is that discussion of this incredibly stigmatized topic will not proliferate on LW until there is some "real evidence" (whatever that ends up being) released to discuss. Which is kind of a shame, since I totally agree with you that there is seemingly far too much official activity swirling around this topic for there to be no "there" there, regardless of what "there" is.

Maybe I'm naïve, but this lack of engagement has been extremely disappointing. I expected that an official document,  which is sponsored by such high-profile politicians and which explicitly and non-dismissively refers to "non-human intelligence", crash retrievals / reverse engineering  programs and "biological evidence of living or deceased non-human intelligence", would at least generate lively discussion.

It now seems to me that the community is so certain in its ontology that it literally ignores any evidence that goes against the rationalist conception of the world, at least with regard to this topic. My model of what is happening is that people may see the title, think that there is nothing surprising that could possibly be included in the post and they do not even bother reading the (admittedly long) TL;DR. In hindsight maybe I should have made the title and the first few lines of the TL;DR more "flashy".

At least personally, I do see this as evidence of aliens (with strength between my intuitive feeling of 'weak' vs 'strong' at ~4.8 db). But my prior for Actually Aliens is very very low (I basically agree with the points in Eliezer's recent tweet on the subject), and so this evidence is just not enough for me to start taking it seriously.

See here for an interactive illustration with some very very rough numbers

Certainly, the presence of aliens would be one reason a politician might sponsor a serious UAP disclosure act (though I still find it strange as a response to actual aliens, hence the low-ish likelihood I assign it). I don't have a great model of what causes politicians to sponsor new laws, but I don't find it particularly strange that Something Else could motivate this particular act. Some examples that come to mind include: credibility cascade (increasingly high status people start taking UAPs seriously increasing its credibility without substantiated evidence), sensor illusions (including optical illusions, or hallucinations), prosaic secret human tech (military or otherwise), causing confusion + noise (perhaps to distract an enemy or the public).

Similar points apply to other possible anomalies, such as new physics tech.

What you are saying about your prior for  "Actually non-human intelligence (NHI)" being tiny closely agrees with what I said about the community being too certain in its ontology. You have to keep in mind that your choice of prior by default assumes that your ontology is not wrong.  While I agree at surface level with Eliezer's statements, I think this kind of reasoning is used to reject otherwise strong evidence before even thinking about it enough to realize it is strong evidence. 

Having a look at your link, I see you give 3% to the probability that serious politicians would propose the UAP disclosure act if NHI did actually exist. I'm really puzzled by this. Could you explain why, in a world where NHI exists, you wouldn't expect politicians to pass a law disclosing information about it at some point? Do you expect that they would keep it a secret indefinitely or is it something else?

The examples you give sound to me like curiosity-stoppers and I don't find them convincing. Not to say that the reason politicians sponsor this amendment is definitely NHI and not something else, but it seems to me that you are handwaving away a strong signal of something going on. For example:

  • Can you give a gears level example of how a credibility cascade could reasonably lead to this situation we are observing? This term sounds reasonable initially but with a bit more thinking it doesn't seem to explain much.
  • You mention sensor illusions. Does this mean that you disagree with what I say in the main text that it is highly probable that they have clear footage from multiple sensors? Additionally, the amendment goes to great lengths to separate the definition of UAPs from "temporarily non-attributed objects". If you look at these definitions it seems quite clear that UAP means positive evidence that the object is there and it is behaving weirdly and that it is not a sensor illusion.
  • Prosaic human tech is explicitly ruled out in the definition of "temporarily non-attributed objects". As I mention in the text, I don't know if this extends to "physics-defying" human tech, but again the definitions go to great lengths to rule out standard human tech.  If you are referring to unconventional human tech that can explain the five observables such as instantaneous acceleration, transmedium travel etc etc, why wouldn't the US's adversaries use these technologies? Arguably both Russia and China have pressing geopolitical goals that could be much easier to achieve with such technologies.
  • Again the causing confusion and noise point is also covered in the post.

 

Your comment is an example of what I said initially, that because your prior is ultra-low, you don't  notice confusion and you handwave away the evidence. Again, this is not to say that aliens are here, but at least that this topic warrants more serious discussion.

Having a look at your link, I see you give 3% to the probability that serious politicians would propose the UAP disclosure act if NHI did actually exist. I'm really puzzled by this. Could you explain why, in a world where NHI exists, you wouldn't expect politicians to pass a law disclosing information about it at some point? Do you expect that they would keep it a secret indefinitely or is it something else?

Since a "UAP disclosure act" type law is pretty specific. Each detail I'd include in what that means would make it less likely in both worlds, which is why it's pretty low in both (probably not low enough tbh). Most of these details "cancel out" due to being equally unlikely in both worlds. The relevant details are things I expect to correlate with each other (mostly can be packed into a "politicians are taking UAPs seriously" bit, which I do take the act to be strong evidence of).

I do think you were right about me handwaving the evidence to some extent, and after a bit more thinking I think it'd be more fair to conceptualize the evidence here as "politicians are taking UAPs seriously", and came up with these very very rough numbers for that. Note that while this evidence is stronger, my prior for "Aliens with visible UAPs" is much lower because I find that a priori pretty implausible for aliens with interstellar tech (and again, the numbers here are meant to be suggestive, and are not refined to the point where they accurately depict my intuitions).

[And I'd strongly encourage you to share a bayescalc.io link suggestive of your own priors and likelihoods, and including all the things you consider as significant evidence! Making discussions like this more concrete was one of my major motivations in designing the site.]

The examples you give sound to me like curiosity-stoppers and I don't find them convincing.

They're meant to gesture at the breadth of Something Else (and I was aware that you had addressed many of these, it doesn't change that this is the competing hypothesis). I'll be curious to see what sort of stuff does come out due to this law! But I strongly expect it to be pretty uncompelling. If I'm wrong about that, I'll update more of course (though probably only to the point of keeping this possibility "in the back of my mind" with this level of evidence).

Thank you for taking the time to clarify! With this new info I think I can now give a stronger outline of my argument.  

First, let me say that I do agree to a high degree with what Eliezer is saying in his tweet. Based on this, I can see why your prior for specifically "Aliens with visible craft" is so low. However, I strongly believe that his argument is focusing too much on a specific case, namely of "extraterrestrials with advanced technology coming from far far away", which is why I also think he is overconfident in his bet. My point is similar to what you are saying about the breadth of Something Else but this time applied to your priors. Notice that I have been trying to refer to non-human intelligence and not aliens, exactly because I believe we have to be careful with our assumptions. For example, I could argue that what we are observing are malfunctioning Von Neumann probes from a long-extinct civilization, or glitches in the simulation, or aliens that are not actually super advanced, they just happened to invent warp drives early in their development and are now clumsily trying to observe other civilizations. I could even go as far as to suggest that our reality is created by our collective consciousness and UAPs are observed because some of us believe in them. I am not saying all this because I believe one such option is true, I am just trying to illustrate that in such topics, our priors should be selected carefully because there are many options that we could argue as likely using rhetorical arguments. Now my reading of what Eliezer is doing is that he is taking the most probable "incredible" explanation, namely "aliens with visible craft" and then he is giving strong counterarguments. However, the unspoken assumption is that this "most probable" explanation stems from our current ontology. If this ontology is wrong, for example, if consciousness is the fundamental substrate of our reality, then all these assumptions go out the window. What I am trying to say with all this is that, when we are trying to reason about events that would challenge our ontology if they were true and especially when there is credible evidence for such events, it is a bit of a shaky move to choose priors based on our current ontology and to hold on to them too strongly. 

Another way to say this is that if you notice some evidence A,B, C and P(A|non-human intelligence (NHI)) is high, P(B|NHI) is high, P(C|NHI) is high but in the end you get that the probability of NHI given A,B and C is really low because your prior for P(NHI) is absurdly low, then maybe your choice of prior should be reconsidered. This is the crux of my disagreement. Because it seems to me that the community is doing the opposite, in that a low prior is used to subconsciously dismiss evidence which I believe to be strong and which, if considered carefully by itself, would indicate that maybe said priors should be reconsidered.

I would argue that two pieces of strong evidence exist in the current situation:

  • The stronger one is the (imo highly) probable existence of high quality evidence of objects displaying the behaviours given in the definition of UAP, namely "instantaneous acceleration without apparent inertia","transmedium travel", "hypersonic velocity without sonic booms" etc. I am quite confident that this evidence would take the form of recordings on various types of sensors, say radar, optical / infrared video and possibly human testimony. I am fairly certain that such footage exists because:
    • The existence of multisensor data is confirmed for approximately 60% of unidentified aerial phenomena as mentioned in the 2021 UAP report. While this is not about objects with confirmed anomalous behaviour, I think this indicates that the US has the capabilities to track unknown objects with multiple sensors and this should extend to anomalous objects.
    • The wording of the definitions in the UAP disclosure act is extremely specific and care is taken to define UAPs as positively anomalous as opposed to "temporarily non-attributed"
    • Section 2 (4) of the same document  explicitly says that credible evidence exists for the existence of UAP records (with the explicitly anomalous definition) .
    • Rubio and Schumer are in the Gang of Eight. The fact that they are sponsoring a document with such strong language makes me believe that they have seen clear footage, as this would make them confident enough to move forward with the UAP disclosure act.
    • Obama says so (To be fair, we should also take into account the previous statement about not having aliens in labs)
    • The Nimitz encounter (This is a video by Lemmino describing the whole incident. The summary version is that the encounter(s), if the witnesses are to be believed, have been captured in radar, infrared and directly seen by the pilots. The Nimitz encounter was described as unresolved during the  2022 UAP Hearing (see page 48))
    • Cases where UAPs exhibit exactly such behaviour exist in the unresolved incidents from Project Blue Book (see Lemmino link in main text)
    • Of the above, I think the first four are the strongest arguments for the existence of such data. Now, if such clear, multisensor data showing clearly anomalous behaviour does exist, then I think this is a strong indication that either a foreign government has made a technology breakthrough or that something even weirder is going on. 
      • Again, the focus of the UAP disclosure act is clearly not on foreign countries. Also, if foreign governments had such technologies, I would expect they would be using it already.
  • The second one is the existence of the UAP Disclosure Act and the extraordinary wording encountered therein. The document is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of high ranking politicians. Additionally, Rubio alludes to there being multiple witnesses with high clearances. I admit that the whistleblower parts are shaky evidence for me too. But the existence of the amendment is imo a strong signal of something going on.

You left out, 'People naively thinking they can put this discussion to bed by legally requiring disclosure,' though politicians would likely know they can't stop conspiracy theorists just by proving there's no conspiracy.

I was not trying to be comprehensive, but yes that is a plausible possibility.

Finally some really detailed analysis on this recent subject.
I'm surprised how little this has been discussed and represents a really interesting subject to bet on.
I find a lot of similarities to the AGI topic, even if we do need to keep some skepticism.

Yes I know of that one, I was referring to the 'Disclosure Act' that really sets a precedent of mentioning recovered space craft and bodies. This is new territory that people should really pay more attention, regardless of the outcome.

I thought it was worth taking the time to dig deep into this document as I haven't seen it mentioned here at all, despite it being one-week old at this point. No matter your beliefs on UAPs, I think the contents of this document should be an important part of the equation.

This is a good summary. I've been thinking about doing a comprehensive assessment of the evidence with respect to three major categories of theories explaining this legislation, recent events, and the history of thousands of sightings, images, video, etc:

  1. There is at least one non-human intelligence (NHI) present on Earth
  2. There has been one or more decades long international disinformation campaigns to fake evidence for NHI on Earth
  3. Other explanations (sensor glitches, psychological/cultural phenomena, wishful thinking, etc.)

Most evidence I look at reduces my probability of 3 while remaining consistent with both 1 and 2. At this stage either 1 or 2 is pretty wild and I'd like to know which one it is.

It is a bizarre situation, but I think I disagree with you about the most likely prosaic explanation. Increasingly, especially with the latest events, the psyop explanation seems a relatively better explanation than the 'politicians are just fools' one. The reason being that politicians with higher clearances (and so more data) than us are making stronger and stronger commitments publicly taking UAP=ET seriously. That suggests to me there is a credible combination of evidence and people that had led them there. Further, the claims being made are so extreme it seems impossible to kind of stumble your way into them by accident. It seems more likely that someone, somewhere, likely within the military industrial complex would have to be pushing these claims as the origin point. 

That is my takeaway so far, is that the most prosaic explanation is weakening relatively, but interestingly I haven't seen anything from the debunking/skeptic community that reflects this.

I think you're misrepresenting the extent to which this has been discussed on lesswrong already. I participated in most of that discussion and nothing in your post is news at all (that overstates it a little) surprising, or a strategic update, for me. Use the search function.

You are right in saying that the UAP topic has been discussed on Lesswrong. I acknowledge this in the introduction of my post. Could you indicate which post you want me to find by "using the search function"?

I also think it is unfair to say that nothing in my post is worth updating over. Has there been any other document where serious politicians so strongly signal towards a connection of UAPs and non-human intelligence?

I also think it is unfair to say that nothing in my post is worth updating over

Yes, I said "for me".

I feel like I can explain a lot of this in a mundane way, by combining two old hypotheses from ufology, "ball lightning that causes hallucination" and "disinformation campaign run by a clique of spies". 

The first idea I associate with Michael Robert Persinger, who had the idea that tectonic stress creates transient plasmas which also somehow cause hallucination. This was meant to explain both the geographic location of UFO reports and the dreamlike close encounters that people sometimes reported. The second idea I associate with Jacques Vallee, who is known for supposing that some of the cultural phenomena surrounding UFOs might be orchestrated by an unknown conspiracy. 

For me, the "ball lightning" hypothesis is meant to explain some of those aerial phenomena that showed up on multiple sensors. The ball of plasma, moving around in spectacularly irregular ways, like a drop of boiling oil on a saucepan, is what shows up in photos; and its associated electromagnetic fields (which in Persinger's theory cause hallucinations) trigger the other kinds of sensors. (A new commenter says a British investigation arrived at a similar theory in the 1990s.)

As for the "disinformation conspiracy", this is meant to explain someone like David Grusch, with his lurid anecdotes of crashed saucers and their dead pilots, still held in secret labs. The idea is simply that these are tall tales deliberately manufactured from somewhere within the military and/or intelligence communities, and Grusch is one of those who fell for it. 

I sat through the recent hearing, read more about the reported observations, and my interest has basically gone back to zero. For me, the default explanation for such observations remains balloons, drones, natural atmospheric events, sensor artefacts, etc.; and whatever's going on with Grusch, is to be explained in terms of human belief and human deception, e.g. aerospace companies seeking new contracts, other agencies refusing to discuss rumors with him, or whatever. 

In other words, I remain firmly in favor of mundane explanations. Specific mundane hypotheses (like the ones in my previous comment) may have their merits and demerits, but regarding the bigger issue, "ontological crisis" feels less likely than it did, before the hearing. Of course I can imagine all kinds of non-mundane scenarios; but mundane physical nature and human nature seem quite capable of producing what we're seeing, all by themselves. 

Could you explain what made you change your mind and update back to zero? It's nice to write down your beliefs but it would be much more helpful for the rest of us if you could share what information actually helped you update. 

A number of deflationary thoughts or realizations added up to the thought, "I'm not seeing, hearing, or reading anything here, that is beyond mundane explanation". For example, realizing that an object "the size of a football field" might be an object in a sensor reading that is inferred to be the size of a football field, rather than something bulky and massive that was seen with the naked eye... But these precursor thoughts were not individually decisive. It's not that I definitely knew what actually happened in any particular case. It was just the vivid realization that, wow, there really could be nothing at all behind all this hype. 

Your post implies/states that would be a kind of straightforward explanation but I'm not sure it would be. For one, the idea that ball lightning is not only much more common than previously thought, which it would need to be to also explain UFOs, but also has a hallucination component would both be quite startling if true. 

Secondly, there are aspects ball lightning cannot explain. What are we to make of the recent addition of "USO's" for instance? Unidentified Submerged Objects have consistently been part of this recent narrative, sometimes having been UFO's beforehand. Further, it only kind of unsatisfactorily explains people seeing actual 'craft'. Why would it consistently produce a hallucination where people see saucer shaped UFOs? Why not mundane craft? Why not something even more unbelievable?

Thirdly, stacking an additionally wild psyop on top of it only makes it less mundane. It would be a big story if it were to be confirmed aspects of the intelligence community were deliberately running alien psyops on their own military. 

The suggestion isn't exactly ball lightning, but similar classes of phenomenon (including things like the well-attested Hessdalen lights), possibly triggered by seismological activity and meteorite activity. The hallucination aspect is based on modulated magnetic fields allegedly producing abduction-like psychedelic experiences in Canadian medical studies.

I agree this explanation doesn't account for USOs (including the infamous Nimitz UAP, which was allegedly recorded travelling underwater at implausible speeds via sonar), physical trace evidence of alleged UAP landings (e.g. the Zamora case), and other aspects, and seems like an attempt at rationalising away awkward evidence for exotic (read: extraterrestrial) UAP. Nonetheless, natural atmospheric plasma phenomena do represent a plausible explanation for many UAP, particularly atmospheric lights performing instantaneous accelerations and other erratic maneuvers. Metallic appearances can't be ruled out, either; there are reports of metallic and opaque/black ball lightning.

This is very, very poor reasoning. If your position is that an unexplained phenomena + conspiracy are too wild, why would you use a different, far-less-supported unexplained phenomena + conspiracy to dismiss it?

Great analysis. I think your rationale will stand the test of time, but it's curious how silent major news outlets have been.

To ignore what's happening is to assume top politicians (on both sides of the aisle) in Congress are idiots. Which is idiotic.

I think the silence from major news outlets could be explained for the same reason that there has been silence from the vast majority of the LessWrong community: stigmatization and the fear of looking like crackpots.

these are high-ranking politicians who are potentially putting their career in jeopardy by giving credence to claims that are highly socially unacceptable and which leave them open to low-effort political attacks

They aren't likely to face any difficulties with that, now that UFOs are topical their decision will be popular.

This isn't independent evidence, it's obviously a response to what's happened before, and updating much on it would be a mistake.

My general view has NOT been that aliens are so super unlikely that I'm just not convinced by all the amazing evidence. Rather, it's that the evidence quality so far has been low and filtered, and people updating a lot on it is a mistake. Analogy with psy: you can produce as big a stack of results with as low p-values as you want, but if evidence going the other way is filtered out and there's room for randomness+mistakes, it all adds up to very little.

Full disclosure - I am one of the anti-UAP bettors.

P.S. I am much more interested in potential hard evidence, such as the alleged interstellar meteor residues Avi Loeb dredged up. Though, the filtered evidence issue remains - if you look long and hard enough for things "anomalous" you are likely to find them, even without alien origin, because the model you are using to determine what is "anomalous" is incomplete and because of possible evidence errors/misinterpretration which you will eventually make for some find. And if you are specifically looking for anomalies that seem to plausibly have an alien explanation, that's what gets through the filter, even without aliens.

If this whole situation is indeed a psy-op, it begs the question of what could be so important so as to be worth such a sacrifice?

 

Nearly a trillion dollars in AI R&D. Why do you think they keep repeating non 'human intelligence' an absurd amount of times?  The defensive fears and discussion centered around Non-Human Intelligence will pivot to AI. Senate is hearing the doomsayers in another set of hearings as this goes on. It's only a matter of time before some start to say "well speaking of non-human intelligence, we've got our own home grown NHI that can or will pose these same risks in a short amount of time!'

They are upset that NYT didn't run the article and instead ran an op ed asking why the govt is asking us to believe in aliens. NASA backed out of the hearing. This is progress, but it's being diverted to generate sentiment. 

I even heard one of the politicians pushing this talking about how polling numbers for belief alien life is higher than belief in congress. That the numbers are on his mind should say something..