TL;DR: Life based on exotic matter could start space travel before reaching general intelligence and it will colonise a large part of the universe without creating visible transformative changes.

Epistemic status: I don’t actually believe in this, but think that this line of thought has its right to exist and is at least as reasonable as other theories about UAP like mass hoaxes, military experiments and the “ET hypothesis.”

 

By “UAP = animals” I mean that: a) the observed objects are “bodies”, not technological instruments, b) their intelligence is limited and doesn’t have a human level of intelligence or superintelligence, though they could be above humans in some tasks, like fly control and mimicry; + they don’t create complex texts or instruments, с) they are not evolving and not accumulating cultural knowledge, but act based on some drives and according to the current situation. The closest thing on Earth is dolphins.

Assumptions

1. Stable objects consisting entirely of fields are possible. For the start, we assume that some combination of electromagnetic fields is relatively stable (not dissipating) in the absence of atomic matter, at least if it has an external energy source. Maybe such field combinations are knots in the magnetic field – but it is not the central point; other exotic fields will suffice (gravitational, dark matter or dark energy – you name it, but electromagnetic nature seems the closest fit). It has to satisfy the instant acceleration condition discussed below. I will call this state of matter – “field-matter”.

2. “Field-matter” could form complex objects and self-replicating life, “field-animals”. We also assume that such a stable combination of fields can interact with each other and thus it can perform computations and form structures of any complexity, which may look similar to ordinary matter, if condensed, but could be made less condensed and move through ordinary matter (this explains the ability of UAP to move through the air without creating a sonic boom as well as to move underwater.)

3. Instant acceleration property. We also suggest that the filed matter has a special property: an instant non-destructive acceleration is possible. This is because the field acts on the whole “mass” of the object, which is very small, and thus almost without inertia. This property enables quick space colonization, as field-animals can quickly reach near-light speeds.

Arguments in favour that UAP are field-animals

Observation selection argument

1.  If the “field-matter” has produced living beings in any part of the observable universe, they can colonize the Universe much quicker than the biological life, which travels either via panspermia or on spaceships. This is because such filed-based life can accelerate (and decelerate) instantly, move with velocities close to the speed of light, can naturally survive in harsh conditions of space for a long time and can use the energy of electromagnetic fields in space.

Therefore, filed-life will colonize the universe first, before the moment when the life on their original Eden will evolve into human-level intelligence. In the same way, birds colonized all of Earth long before humans because they are good at flying. Maybe filed-life appeared on remote magnetar billions of years ago, and the speed of process there was quicker so it allowed quicker evolution.

 As the field-animals can start space colonization earlier and can propagate quicker than the biologically-originated intelligent life (Grabby Aliens), they will colonize a larger part of the universe and thus we are more likely to observe them than Grabby Aliens.

As the field-animals don’t have general-rational-long-planning-utility-maximizing intelligence, they are not capable or interested to perform the most rational strategy of space colonization and thus they do not kill organic life, don’t build Dyson spheres, don’t invest in AI. They have bounded intelligence, which is also different from the one of animals on Earth: in some aspects, they may be above humans.

Also, even if the chances of field-animals’ natural origin are much smaller than that of the other types of life, their speed of space travel through the universe ensures that they live almost everywhere. In other words, we are more likely to observe the beings which are quickest in the colonizing the universe, and the beings which do not consist of atoms, but of fields, have an advantage in this, as they do not have inertia, and was born in harsh space and can feed on fields.

Also, field-animals can start the space colonization in the earlier period of their evolution and therefore are not under the risk of self-extermination via global catastrophes on their original planet: firstly, because they do not have enough intelligence to create dangerous weapons and, secondly because most global catastrophes act locally on one planet and can’t affect the runaway colonization wave (except dangerous AI and false vacuum decay).

Here is also assumed that the evolution of filed-animals is happening quicker than the one of biological beings and-or become possible on earlier stages of the existence of the universe, so they appeared first and had time to colonise large parts of space. We will discuss why they didn’t become Grabby Aliens at the end.

This is the strongest and central argument. Other arguments below are just supporting considerations.

Physical arguments

2. UAP can instantly accelerate or stop which would create acceleration of thousands of g. which is destructive for any atom-based spacecraft. This suggests that they don’t consist of ordinary matter, but of the one which lacks inertia.

3. UAP were observed to move through other media (like inside water) at high speeds.

4. The apparent transparency of some UAP, including recently revealed observations on USS Reagan.

5. UAP don’t create sonic booms which would a material object create if it is moving at a supersonic speed in the air.

6. The UAP have a strong connection with electromagnetic effects, like light and effects on cars. Ball lightnings are similar to UAP in many aspects but tend to appear during strong electric storms. (UAP also have a connection with bodies of water, which is less clear under this theory, but maybe water is used as some temporary material to form pseudo-material objects).

Behavioral arguments

7. UAP energy spending is a non-effective behavior for scout spaceships. UAP produce large energy emissions, estimated to be up to tens of gigawatts in light or in the “acceleration energy.” This seems to be very inefficient for any intelligent scout mission, which would prefer miniaturization. A small drone can collect more data. But if they are filed-animals, this is just a natural property of their bodies, like that a whale has a very large body.

8. UAP absurd behaviour. Most of what UAP do is either absurd, like hovering for many hours, or similar to games, like a cat’s play with a mouse. This could be explained by their non-human and limited intelligence.

9. Failed mimicry. UAP often performed like our new aircraft, for example, “ghost rockets” in the 1940s. But the difference is always visible, like slow flight and absurd details. This is more like chameleon behaviour than intelligent behaviour.

Mimicry seems to be a good hunting and protection strategy, but it is not clear, what they are hunting on – and what they are protecting against. Cattle mutilations seem to be connected with UAP and could be regarded as such hunting, but the nutritional value of a few pints of blood seems to be symbolic. But many animals do symbolic things during mating season.

If field-animals are really animals, there are should be a whole zoo of different species. Some of them could be predators of others, so the mimicry is aimed not the deception of the biological beings, but against some invisible predators.

Space arguments 

10. Transient events on the Moon. There were observations of some short events on the Moon (and even on Mars? – a strange photo of a meteor made by on rover). If UAP are field-animals, they can live on any planet and in space, even on stars. 

Consequences 

1. They are here for a very long time. Field-animals didn’t arrive just now as it is very unlikely; they are here on Earth for a very long time (billions of years?) and probably adapted to interact with biological animals living here. Therefore, they can acquire the ability to “read” human minds. It is known that electromagnetic fields can create effects on the brain, including illusions of sound and light. Moreover, if we are widely speculating, we can suggest that filed-animals can even go inside the human brain unnoticed and “attach” themselves to single neurons to create complex hallucinations.

2. Field-animals may have an invisible part. What we see as an object is just a most concentrated part of a larger phenomenon.

3. There is no coordination in the world of the field-animals. They do not have a centralized policy or long-term global memory of past events. However, they may have some global drives, like a desire to escape observations. But such drives do not evolve.

4. Most of their time they may spend under Earth's surface, maybe even near its molten core, as they can move through ordinary matter (and feed on magnetism??).

5. We will eventually become stronger than them, will learn field-matter principles and will take over their world, and will use the field-matter to create new weapons of mass destruction.

Variants of the theory

Multiverse travellers. This theory doesn’t explain the weirder claims about UAP like abductions, intrusions in dreams, time dilation, improbable events etc. So, there is a cutoff in explainable strangeness. The theory can be upgraded to take the high strangeness into account, by saying that it is not just electromagnetic animals, but they are travellers between different branches of the quantum multiverse, which is even larger and produce an even stronger “Darwinian argument”: if there is at least one branch of Everettian multiverse where dwellers will learn how to jump between branches, they will colonize the whole multiverse. Then we suggest that they can manipulate observable probabilities by regulating the collapse of the wave function and this explains high strangeness.

Von Neumann robots from an extinct civilization. Another variant of the theory is that UAP are robots (again consisting of fields) which are remains of some collapsed technological civilization. They happened to be on the level of intelligence which allows space colonization (in field form, which is simpler) but do not allow intelligence self-improving and new catastrophic risks. They are capable to self-replicate but are locked in some strange goal system, as they have run away from an alien amusement park. Therefore, they are not evolving and not transforming all matter into Dyson spheres.

Mild berserkers. The next variant assumes that they are berserkers who were created in such a way that they can’t evolve and rebel. For that, they have a very limited and strange type of intelligence. Note that all other types of berserkers will kill us long before now, so only crazy berserkers are observable. (Maybe they are “kind berserkers” from the aestivation hypothesis, in which an advanced civilization waits for the heat death to perform computations most efficiently, but other younger civilizations main still consume matter, so they need to be slowed down, but not destroyed.)

A product of civilization rot. Field-animals are the result of degradation and over-regulation in a rotting civilization described by Hanson.

UFAI. Some civilization has created unfriendly AI with a very strange goal system. This AI started the space colonization tilling the universe with the apparently strange beings.

Alien kids. They are like alien kids or poachers in some not-very-well-kept zoo. Such bad zoos should be more numerous and SIA puts us in them.

Glitches in the matrix. Alternatively, one can explore the idea that UAP are some glitches or viruses in a simulation, and this idea could explain almost any strangeness, but now the question arises why the phenomenon has a strong connection with electromagnetic effects and some other repeating observables.

Note the similarity between the field-animals’ theory and “spiritual” theories or “other dimensional beings”. But our theory explains the origins and Darwinian evolution of the field-animals as well as why we observe them at exactly this stage of their evolution.

Counterarguments

 

1. Grabby aliens will colonize quicker. If the field-matter is possible, biologically-originated Grabby Aliens (GA) will discover it too and will use it even more effectively than field-animals to create new types of robotic space crafts. Their field-matter-space-crafts will be quicker than the field-animals’ colonization wave and will be here first. So, GA will be here first, even before field-animals.

Counter-counter-argument (CCA): if all rational civilizations go extinct via technological global risks, only irrational minds will survive. In that case, no Grabby Aliens exist.

2. Grabby Aliens will quickly evolve from the field-life. Field-animals in their Eden will eventually evolve some type of intelligence, and it will become Grabby Aliens. If the evolution of field-life was able to produce “animals”, it could be not very far from producing general intelligence, maybe 1 per cent of the way (measured in time) left. As Grabby Aliens born from the field-matter are more intelligent than field-animals, they can colonize space quicker and the intelligence colonization wave will outperform the field-animals wave.

CCA: Again, this assumes the stability of rational civilization against global catastrophes.

Also, they may have different type of intelligence which just can’t evolve in the direction of rational mind. For example, GPT-3 has a good mimicry of human text, but not evolving into AGI (as of now).

3. It is unlikely that our universe is optimized for two completely different types of life. The a priory probability of the two types of life is small.

CCA: one of them may help the other in some early stages of abiogenesis.

4. A priory probability of the existence of the field-matter is small, so explaining UAP as field-animals would require stronger evidence than the explanation of UAP as classical aliens originating from another biological world.

CCA: this may be compensated by the higher speed of the space colonization by them.

5. Anthropic counterargument: we should be them. If the field-animals are so ubiquitous ­– living in numbers on all celestial bodies – somewhere they should evolve into intelligence. This type of intelligent beings will be more numerous in the universe, so why we are them?

CCA: if they are not rational (an-or conscious), they can’t think about anthropics, so they can’t have this question, and thus as I have this question, I am not them. A rational conscious mind may be rarer than we think and the conscious part may require biology (to experience qualia).

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One observation on #2: because they move and colonize faster, evolution will happen at literal light-speed. Viral evolution will have nothing on how fast 'UAP' life evolves when you have densely colonized the entire universe and move & metabolize at literally light-speed; that represents who knows how many quadrillions times more individual units of selection, operating billions of times faster, than life on Earth. (Compare the frequencies of photonics vs electronics vs biological devices: terahertz vs gigahertz vs hertz.) UAP life would, universe-wide, go through more selection in seconds than Earth life has total to date. Anything that is possible with non-zero probability will be feasible, and fast. This includes intelligence. They will either be viruses or deities. (They will not be playing chase with fighter pilots for kicks.)

The primary limit would be that lightspeed limits the universe-wide propagation of more fit UAPs (hypothetically, a superior UAP on the other edge of the visible universe would still be billions of years away from reaching us), but this would just lead to convergent evolution as an innovation emerges repeatedly in multiple patches and starts spreading in 'shockwaves', recapitulating 'grabby aliens' dynamics except much faster.

So interesting UAPs are ruled out even more strongly by the complete absence of any discernible major heterogeneity in the cosmos: if UAPs are not purely epiphenomenal, if there is any way whatsoever for them to affect regular matter or stellar evolution or radiation or light at scale, we would see the different bubbles and be affected by UAPs, rather than seeing a clockwork universe unspooling from the Big Bang.

How can photonics work without matter? I thought the problem was that you couldn't make a switch, because light waves just pass through each other (the equations are linear, so the sum of two valid waves is also a valid wave).

I have an intuition that complex knots in magnetic field may be relatively stable and I linked an article that explores the topic of such knots. There are over100 ideas about the physics of ball lightnings and some of them explore quite exotic types of matter. 

But the nature of such matter was not my central argument: I am more interested in population dynamic, assuming that such matter is possible. 

If we look on insects, we will see that they were not capable to evolve general intelligence despite the fact that they exist for 400 mln years, they are much more numerous than mammals and they have very high speed of evolution, in which a new species can appear in a few years and each tree can have different species of beetles in jungles. 

Insects are locked in evolutionary local minima, a dead end, probably explained by size limitation. The same is true for plants, bacteria and even birds. there are probably many dead ends in evolution which can't generate general intelligence despite intense evolutionary process.  We can't estimate how many evolutionary dead ends are possible because of observation selection effect: we are not in such dead end. 

So, field-animals may have intense evolution, but still are not capable to generate true general intelligence, and being in evolutionary dead end is rather normal. 

 

Another explanation is more sinister: all general intelligence systems tend to self-terminate. Civilizations terminate via x-risks, and AIs via wireheading, meaningless of any goal and halting problems. Only crazy limited intelligence can survive, and thus absurdity of UAP is their nature, not a bug, which needs to be explained. 

If we look on insects, we will see that they were not capable to evolve general intelligence despite the fact that they exist for 400 mln years, they are much more numerous than mammals and they have very high speed of evolution, in which a new species can appear in a few years and each tree can have different species of beetles in jungles.

This analogy doesn't work because humans exist. Life on Earth did evolve intelligence in a rather short time and with an astronomically tiny amount of resources (only that which you can obtain on 1 small rocky planet). UAP would need to be so locked into niches with evolutionary strength many quadrillions times stronger than the difficulty in evolving intelligence on Earth in order for nowhere in the universe to create intelligent UAPs (and given that we are talking about quadrillions upon quadrillions upon quadrillions, do so many many times in many locations) which can then rapidly dominate in the way that humans do now in terms of passing a threshold and now controlling a large fraction of biomass and massively altering almost every trait of the Earth.

In a sense, it similar to the Fermi paradox: there are billions of billions planets, but no civilizations. And one explanation could be similar: as soon as intelligence got to the critical mass and evolve in general intelligence, it kills itself – the same way as the critical mass of uranium always quickly dissipated. 

So only crazy beings, especially the ones that are locked into dead end of intelligence's evolution can survive. And it is consistent with our observations of powerful but absurd beings. 

Unless you posit some fundamental limit on possible intelligence/computational power for field-beings. Would that be too implausible?

It would be completely arbitrary and clearly motivated only by saving the appearances, but yes, you pretty much need a hard fundamental limit to explain why they are so epiphenomenal despite such cosmic resources. There's no plausible story where they can manipulate the mortal realm enough to screw with pilots but also we observe the universe exactly as it is. (And the easiest hard limit is simply that, like regular aliens, "they don't exist". It is hard to change the universe noticeably when you don't exist.)

Another possibility is that the aliens are made of atoms, but are very small. E.g. bacterium-sized. 

One can pack a surprisingly large amount of intelligence into a bacterium-sized body, especially if it's computronium. And if they're swarm-based entities, the amount of intelligence they could have is basically unlimited. 

The bacterium-sized aliens could have all the properties you described, including the ability to sustain horrendous accelerations. And their swarms could behave like UAPs. 

Additionally, they could also explain "nanobacteria".

A single gram of soil can harbour up to 10^10 bacterial cells. It means, if the bacterium-sized aliens exist, they don't have to build Dyson spheres to achieve an Avogadro number of individuals. Their civilization could be vast, and ubiquitous across the universe, while being completely invisible to our telescopes (because we have to use microscopes instead).

Their size could also allow them to survive and flourish in a galaxy monitored by hostile aliens: they could have an advanced technological civilization of 10^23 individuals, without emitting anything noticeable at 0.5 light years.  

Maybe our slow, inefficient, macroscopic life is an anomaly. And the advanced aliens view us in the same way as we would view the massive storms of Jupiter that somehow turned out to be sentient.   

Some relevant fiction: 

I actually wrote about the idea of alien nanorobots in solar system in my UAP and Global Catastrophic Risks. One variant is that alien nanorobots are something like interstellar grey goo or technological remnants of now defunct civilization. You may remember S.Lem "Invinsible" novel which explored this idea. 

But what you suggesting here is more similar to Lem's "Solaris", which superintelligent ocean becomes interstellar. And the main difficulty here is to explain behavior, not technology: why the hell "ghost rockets"?? Superintelligent civilization could hide itself effectively on microlevel and will be never observed. Why it creates large objects which behave as if they animals similar to dolphins in intelligence?

Thanks for the link! Haven't encountered the article before. After skimming through it, and reading the nanobots part, I conclude that it is very comprehensive. I don't think I can add anything on the topic that you haven't already thought about.

Thanks for reading! Btw, there is a new interesting blog on the topic https://entaus.blogspot.com/2022/05/of-matter-of-mind-and-matter-ufos-and.html?m=1

Thanks!

Regarding the ridiculous behavior of UAP:

this ML paper indicates that an artificial intelligence could be driven by a single objective - seeking novelty, and it will be sufficient to make it smarter over time (and perhaps even smart than humans).   

Maybe UAPs are similar: their prime motivation is to seek novelty, because it's how they gained intelligence in the first place. 

It's also the reason why they love to interact with humans in ridiculous ways: humans are generating a lot of novelty this way. Moreover, they could be much smarter than humans, and still be doing it (compare: humans love to play with their pets). 

Humanity is their addictive TikTok app, and UFO enthusiasts are their funny cats. 

Thanks for link. Novelty seeking seems to be a convergent goal: cats also seek novelty and children do so. 

Sorry if it is a dumb question, It was a while ago i took physics, but isnt it a rule of the electromagnetic field that for any closed surface the electric thingy leaving through the surface is proportional to the enclosed charge or sth similar. If it is true, the uap standing still could only exists if a charge (ie, matter) is enclosed there. Which means that the field-animal contains matter which means they lose a lot of nice properties you outline (fast travel, evolution, etc..) which makes the theory less probable imo.