Epistemic status: Big if true/I am clearly an idiot for even posting this.

Some apparently real journalists have been approached by (& approached) several intelligence officials, some tasked specifically with investigating UFOs, who claim that the DoD has had evidence of alien intervention for a while in the form of partial & mostly-whole fragments of alien aircraft. A followup article where the publication outlines how the editors verified this persons' and others' claims and affiliations is here, and a part 2 is expected tomorrow.

For some reason - very possibly because it's complete nonsense, or because they haven't had time to independently verify - the story has only been picked up by NYMag so far. The consensus among the people I've been reviewing this article with, is that it's either a complete hoax (i.e., the entire thing nearly top to bottom is some deliberate deception) or there's a non-negligible (>5%) chance aliens are here. I would love for someone who has a good understanding of the material to give an explanation (including possibly on priors, just thinking clearly about the content of the article) of why my friend group should discount this out of hand.

Thus far I have been unconvinced by most stories of why we should to-the-point-of-not-caring-about-UFO-sightings-expect Aliens have to be big and obvious and tile the universe with fun, as opposed to operating some sort of noninterventionist monitored lightcone.

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Reusing a response I made to a previous UFO story, on a mailing list, lightly edited because the same logic still applies.

There's one core truth that you need to understand, and then all the talk of UFOs, videos, and the reactions to them make sense.

The US military has secret aircraft. Other militaries also have secret aircraft. These are kept in reserve for high-stakes operations. For example, in 2011, a previously-unseen model of stealth helicopter crashed in the middle of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. Rumor is that the Chinese military got to inspect the wreckage; if true, this would be a pretty major fuckup, since it would enable them to plan around its capabilities, to design radars to detect it, and to attribute any operations using it to the United States.

The performance characteristics of secret military aircraft are military secrets. They are highly prototypical military secrets. That means the secrecy radiates a few conceptual steps outward: our own country's aircraft are secret, what we know about other countries' aircraft is secret, what we know that other countries know about our aircraft is secret, and so on. Deliberate disinformation is expec... (read more)


There are a few videos taken from fighter-jet sensor packages floating around

The military released some videos but there's plenty of reporting that it didn't released their best-quality videos precisely for the reasons you listed. Having the best quality videos that are taking by fighter jets would reveal information about the fighter jets that the US military does not want out on the open so those high-quality videos are classified in a way the videos we have aren't. 

The kind of people who are in the know and who are qualified to interpret those videos are military personnel. People like David Charles Grusch.

There's no good reason why someone like David Grusch should falsely tell Congress under oath that the military has intact vehicles “of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures”. 

Lying to congress that way would be a way to confuse the Chinese but it results people in Congress trying to engage with secret military programs in a way that the military doesn't like. While some lies to Congress don't get prosecuted, incorrectly telling Congress that the US military has intact vehicles of exotic origin seems like the kind of lie that Congressmen would want to see punished.  It seems to me like a very strange conspiracy theory that the US military would purposefully mislead congress in this way.

based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures

That only sounds impressive if you don't think too hard about what it means. It's saying that the fragments are made of a fancy alloy that they can't identify. But every military contractor has materials scientists, and being made of fancy new alloys is completely expected for cutting edge military aircraft.

The thing that has to be explained is why serious intelligence professionals speak of likely non-human origin. 

It's either:

(1) The US military/intelligence community is made up of people who are really crazy.

(2) There are actual aliens

(3) It's a strange disinformation campaign that seems to go counter to the core interests of the military/intelligence community. It's damaging to public and congressional trust in the military and invites oversight. 

(4) There are some really strange turf wars going on in the military/intelligence community.

(5) There's some other secret that's even more strange to be covered up like psychic powers being responsible for the observed objects.

None of the explanations passes the smell test. 

I don't recall the source, but I do recall having seen a public source saying: The US air force had a problem with pilots getting buzzed by foreign drones, and not reporting the incidents because of stigma around UFOs. An executive decision was made to solve the problem by removing the stigma.

That seems to be a public justification for why the AATIP was started in 2007. It's worth noting that the US air force didn't want AATIP. Harry Reid forced them to do it because Robert Bigelow encouraged him to do so.  AATIP seems to come up with the term UAP to remove the stigma associated with the term UFO. That does not explain why AATIP reported having found the strange incidents that it found.  It certainly does not explain the reporting of a 90-year coverup of programs to retrieve UFOs. That's not the kind of news you would want to produce if you want to reduce stigma. 
According to the article, the evidence comes not in the form of video or sensor data, but in recovered portions of whole aircraft.
Sure, but suppose you have a flying saucer that you would like to be able to use for some missions. If you release a fragment of the flying saucer and say "it's aliens guys", this maybe means that when other people see a flying saucer later they don't know it's you. [Or the part of your organization that found the flying saucer fragments, which isn't cleared to know about the flying saucer, releases it to the public with "WTF is this?" which the part which is cleared to know about them is barred from responding to, and part A  didn't know about the existence of part B to clear it with them first.]
Press X to doubt. First, the details on flying saucer fragments have not been disclosed (as far as we know), so this strategy was not attempted. Second, though this is not a knockdown argument given that we're dealing with the U.S. government, it would be an incredibly dumb strategy to build a new jet and then claim it's a UFO in order to trick the Chinese government into thinking you're not running missions in their airspace. The Chinese might not know about it, and the chances that the equipment you possess are U.S. made are higher from the Chinese perspective than if you had said nothing. It strikes me as conspiratorial thinking that the intel community would disclose its own equipment to the world, with such a preposterous explanation, as a sort of "feint".
So, I think "conspiratorial thinking" is a weird thing to say here. The existence of a conspiracy is not in doubt, and their willingness to lie to the public shouldn't be either. If you're not willing to engage with conspiratorial thinking when considering a literal conspiracy, how are you going to track reality? That said, is this a tactical or strategic error, and thus unlikely? Sure, that seems like a plausible position to have, but then it's at "mistake" levels of plausibility instead of "impossibile" levels of plausibility.
It just does not seem like something that the U.S. government would be willing to do. When we want to feed an enemy a mix of information and disinformation, we do it by using a double agent, not by publishing genuine classified info about our capabilities in the media with an asterisk that it's alien technology. The intel bureaucracy would not OK something both this stupid and unusual/complicated. A steelman might be that, since they didn't actually publish the tech, this is an elaborate and historically funny scam to make UAF personnel in other countries believe they might be dealing with alien craft instead of NATO craft, whenever they come across something. But then the update would be about how complicated a lie the U.S. is willing to feed its own media, with all the different people apparently involved in confirming this story.
I think an important aspect is also that the last thing that the Intelligence Community wants is Congress trying to investigate what secret programs it has. They don't want congressmen asking "You don't manage to give us a financial audit for the money we give you and it seems you are funding strange programs outside our purview."
2mako yass11mo
I'm wondering whether people within or on the peripheries of these recovery and reverse engineering programs have decided that convincing people that they're UFO recovery programs is beneficial on net. I've seen some people dismiss this possibility, but it seems like they're presuming to know a lot about the strategic landscape that they're not players in.

I am willing to publicly bet you at 99% odds that, within the next 10 years, there will be no conclusive proof that we have been visited by craft of intelligent, nonhuman origin. I am willing to bet according to the Kelly Criterion, which means I am willing to bet a significant fraction of my total net worth.

[Edit: This gets really complicated really fast. I mean that I'm willing to publicly bet at 99% implied odds on my side, after various costs and risks are factored in. The various costs and risks far outweigh my <1% chance of losing the bet for mundane reasons. A counterparty to this bet would need confidence in a UFO existence far lower than 99% for a bet to make sense.]

What do you mean when you say you're "willing to bet according to the Kelly Criterion"? If you're proposing a bet with 99% odds and your actual belief that you'll win the bet is also 99%, then the Kelly Criterion would advise against betting (since the EV of such a bet would be zero, i.e. merely neutral). Perhaps you mean that the other person should come up with the odds, and then you'll determine your bet amount using the Kelly criterion, assuming a 99% probability of winning for yourself.
Most bets I see are on the order of $10-$1000 which, according to the Kelly Criterion, implies negligible confidence. I'm willing to bet substantially more than that. If we had a real prediction market with proper derivatives, low fees, high liquidity, reputable oracles, etcetera, then I'd just use the standard exchange, but we don't. Consequently, market friction vastly outweighs actual probabilities in importance. Bingo. This is exactly what I mean. Thank you for clarifying. It is important to note that "probability of winning" is not the same as "probability of getting paid, and thus profiting". It's the latter that I care about.
Obviously he thinks the chances are lower than 1% that this is true, if he's willing to bet at 99% odds.
But if that's the case, he could simply mention the amount he's willing to bet. The phrasing kinda suggested to me that he doesn't have all the info needed to do the Kelly calculation yet.
Bayesed is correct. There's a whole bunch of factors which affect whether a bet is worthwhile.
If your offer isn't just to lc, then I accept: My 20 usd against your 20*99=1980 usd, both sides adjusted for inflation and the time value of money using US Treasury Bills, paid either at 2033.06.06. or when you admit a conclusive proof was found. Are these terms acceptable?
That is an honorable offer (I appreciate it, really), but it has negative expected value for me due to counterparty risk, friction, variance, etcetera. (See bayesed's comment.) I'd need substantially better odds for the expected profit to exceed the friction.
Thanks and that's fair. I would have liked to bet mostly as a hedge to allow myself to not think about aliens in the next 10 years (I semi-regularly get roped into investigating some claims, but the UFO community's epistemics is the worst I've seen and it is always an awful experience), but the bet wasn't really positive EV for me either, so I don't think I will bet at worse odds, but you can probably find someone on the r/UFOs subreddit if you want, some of them seem to be celebrating the new world order now. 
How much are you willing to bet? I’ll take you up on that up to fairly high stakes. I agree that alien visits are fairly unlikely, but not 99% unlikely.
I'm willing to bet five figures, in theory, but there's a ton of factors that need to be accounted for like capital tie-up, counterparty risk, the value of my time, etc. So if your odds aren't lower than 90%, then it's probably not even worthwhile to bet. Too much friction.
What odds are you willing to give taking friction into account?
My personal confidence of "no aliens" is so high it rounds to 100%. Placing a bet is basically just a loan with a weird "if aliens are real I don't get paid back" tacked on. The real question then is "at what rate am I willing to lend $X0,000 for 10 years to a stranger? If you can guarantee that I'll beat the stock market by 5% (conditional on no aliens) then I'm good to go, but the "guarantee" is very important. It needs to take into account things like bankruptcy on your end. I don't think our spread is wide enough to make that feasible. It'd take a lot of paperwork. This is why we need real, formal, legal prediction markets, with derivatives. They would solve all of these problems.
I would be willing to send you 100$ in advance, on a promise that you'll pay me 100,000 if it turns out definitively that these UFOs are built by nonhumans.

I will accept under the following conditions:

  • Make it $10 (you) vs $10k (me).
  • I get sole discretion to decide what constitutes "definitively". Official statements aren't enough. I want transhuman tech, alien biological material, or something at that level. (Any one of them is sufficient. Not all are required.) Photographs and sworn testimony aren't good enough.
  • The bet is valid for a three-month time horizon, after which the bet resolves in my favor.
  • "Nonhuman" means aliens in the classic sense. Proper space aliens. No weaseling out with something like "human-made-machines" (including AI), "birds", "humans with neanderthal DNA", "funny-looking asteroids", etc. They have to be intelligent beings originating from another planet or or star system. Soviet spacecraft do not count. Elves don't count either, since they'd be Early in origin. A secret Indian space colony doesn't count. Moon Nazis don't count. Etcetera.
  • If you win and I fail to pay up, then you have the right to publicly shame me.

My Offer:

  • I Send you $50 Immediately, You pay out $10,000 if I win
  • I want a 5 year time horizon.
  • I am betting that one of the "very weird" hypotheses turns out true. Bet resolves in my favor if within 5 years its determined that >0 UAP are explained by:
    • Literal aliens
    • Magic/spiritual/paranormal/psychic phenomenon
    • Time travel
    • Leftovers of an ancient civilization / Some other unknown non-human advanced civilization on earth
    • Some other explanation that's of this level of "very weird"
      • Explicitly excluding merely hyper-advanced human tech
      • I forfeit any and all potential "gotcha" cases.
  • Determination of resolution to be up to you.
    • I reserve the right to appeal to the LW community. [I will not abuse this right]

If these terms are acceptable, please provide a means for me to pay you. I would prefer a crypto address, but will make whatever work. Upon payment please post an acknowledgement of payment.

I offer the same terms to anyone else [with a nontrivial post history]. 

I respect your offer, but I'd need much better terms from you than from lc. Lc is someone I've interacted with before, and with whom I have established a level of trust. Some thoughts: * $50 to remember something for five years (and to assume a theoretical $10k liability) is too low a price. I value my attention higher than that. * I think your list of hypotheses needs some nitpicking, but it's fine as a rough draft. * If you have the right to appeal to the LW community then determination of the resolution is not up to me. You can't have it both ways, especially if you don't have an established reputation.
Fair enough. What kinds of changes would you suggest for the list? My goal is to find at least one person on LW to make a bet with me, so I welcome feedback
The financial terms aren't good enough to entice me. Besides that… Pretty much all of your weird explanations are too vague. In particular "[s]ome other explanation that's of this level of 'very weird'" is voids the whole thing. It'd be fine for a blog post, but not as a prediction resolution criteria. "I reserve the right to appeal to the LW community. [I will not abuse this right]" is too vague too. The LW community is not a monolithic entity. I think you need to specify exactly how you plan to appeal to the LW community.
I have created a post for my bet https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/t5W87hQF5gKyTofQB/ufo-betting-put-up-or-shut-up
There's a lot of stuff that scares me about that post. Resolution Criteria * Suppose your counterparty bets on 200:1 odds. Suppose the odds of a LW poll getting trolling results are >0.5%. Then your counterparty loses all of their alpha on that alone (because an incorrect result costs them 200× more than it costs you). * "I reserve the right to appeal to the LW community to adjudicate resolution if I believe I am being stiffed." is too vague. If you don't specify exactly how you plan for the LW community to adjudicate resolution, then that's just asking for trouble. Imagine if you said "I reserve the right to the /r/cute community to adjudicate resolution of <such-and-such bet>. (Especially considering that the community is boycotting Reddit right now.) * You didn't mention anything about "nontrivial post history". What happens if you win the bet $100k but your counterparty refuses to pay you? Do you go to court? What if they live in Nigeria? Weird Explanations Some of these seem poorly phrased, from the perspective of a lawyer. * I think "astral projection" might be a legitimate altered state of consciousness, distinct from lucid dreaming. * Personally, I would not consider the discovery of a Kardashev type II or III civilization to be an ontological shock. A shock, certainly, but not an ontological one. * What is "magic"? The term is used by people like Daniel Ingram to describe stuff that seems…well…woo, but not quite insane. Also, anything which happens is a priori not paranormal. * It's unclear whether the discovery of non-human homonids in the Amazon would resolve for or against you. Same goes for the discovery of a random dinosaur (non-bird) species that just happened to survive 70 million years. Neanderthal genes live among us. * There's no central dogma for "standard atheist materialists". For example, there was a time when mainstream scientists didn't believe in lucid dreaming. I think enlightenment is in a similar state right now. It's not
I know I have no post history, and thus these are just words, but I claim to be a reasonable, rational person who (tries) to operates exclusively in good faith. I've been a lurker of LW and LW adjacent people for a few years now. I learned about lesswrong because I stumbled across eilizers work on decision theories and then subsequently got agi-safety-pilled. I considered myself a "standard materialist atheist" my entire adult life and most of my childhood. Most of your concerns seemed to ignore that the explanations have to ultimately trace back to explaining ufo cases or are otherwise very pedantic. Yes ancient civ's have ruins, yes dinosaurs might have been agrarian, but do either of those address uap cases today? I only win the bet if my counterparty thinks so (or LW does). I tried in good faith to try and cut at the seems of the two world models (all prosaic, not all prosaic) as best I could. I gave multiple lexical tests to make clear what kinds of things I have in mind. I have no intention of getting into nasty disagreements over resolution. But I agree it would be good to have the adjudication method be explicit, though I'm not sure how best to do that. In a world in which I win the bet, I figured I would be making a big post anyways laying out a bit more about me and some of this stuff. If prominent voices contest my win then I would stand down from collecting. I expect a world in which I win is also a world in which LW is pretty unanimous that I won. You're right, I forgot to mention the nontrivial post history in my post, an oversight on my part. That said I was only ever going to engage with people with established reputations because obviously. I reserved the right to choose who to bet with.
5the gears to ascension10mo
the resolution criteria of a bet should not rely heavily on reasonableness of participants unless the bet is very small such that both parties can tolerate misresolution. the manifold folks can tell you all about how it goes when you get this wrong, there are many seemingly obvious questions that have been derailed by technicalities, and it was not the author's reasonableness most centrally at play. (edit: in fact, the author's reasonableness is why the author had to say "wait... uh... according to those criteria this pretty clearly went x way, which I didn't expect and so the resolution criteria were wrong")
I will update the post tomorrow and add more detail to address the other concerns
I would much rather have a 12 month time horizon. Evidence could take a while to filter out. Other than that I'd accept.
Thank you for the offer. I think your offer is reasonable. The problem is that $10 is too low a price for "something I have to remember for a year". In theory, this could be fixed by increasing the wager amount, but $100k is above my risk limit for a bet (even something as simple as "the sun will rise tomorrow"). I think we've both established a market spread…which is kind of the point of this exercise. You get skin-in-the-game points for maxing out the market's available liquidity at a 0.1% price point. There's a few other details I though of since my last comment ("mirror life" doesn't count, "shadow biosphere" don't count, and that I can exit the bet pre-resolution by paying repaying your initial payment pro-rated if I experience financial hardship (but not in response to evidence in your favor), and the condition that repayment depends solely on my honor and is not legally-enforcible[1]), but I don't think they're central to the problem of $10 is too high a price for one year of friction, even on a near-certain outcome. ---------------------------------------- 1. The reason for this comes from the asymmetry of $10 vs $10k. It results in bad incentives. This condition would not be necessary if the numbers were closer (say, $3k vs $7k). ↩︎
Serious question: would something originating adjacently from a separate Everett branch count? (sillier-though-hopefully-not-counterproductive question: since your final statement especially would, I think, often seem to go without saying, its "needless" inclusion actually strikes me as probably-not-but-still-hypothetically-maybe worrisome -- surely you're not intending to imply that's the only recourse allowed for being denied one's winning lottery ticket? [or perhaps my own asking is needless since someone deciding to be a jerk and not wanting to pay could simply use such agreed-upon discretion to "fairly" declare themselves the winner anyways, in which case: sorry for the derail!])
Nope. That's a separate bet. I'd happily bet against that (given good enough terms to overcome friction), but that's still originating from Earth. Yes, I am implying that it's the only recourse allowed. Doing otherwise exposes me to asymmetric litigation risk, due to the extreme asymmetry of the bet amounts. I believe reputation is a sufficient motivator, given how much effort I've spend accumulating reputation on this website.
(You might want to exclude advanced/experimental AI models from that, to capture the spirit of the bet better.)
I feel like secret intelligent nonhuman AI models are an interesting source, and indeed were part of my own probability estimate for how nonhuman origin vehicle allegations could possibly be accurate, but I'm not the one betting; deciding one way or another seems worthwhile. (... presumably an AI builder that was itself created by nonhumans definitely counts.) Here's an example case where the AI probably wouldn't count:  (Historical) For a good time there existed a bunch of AI systems that contributed substantially to materials development, then just kind of got shelved for a while as the businesses struggled. (Speculative fiction case) Some scientist took them off the shelves for a bit, ran them for ideas, made some new materials and built toy cars with them, some of which they lost later.  The source was way too obscure and 'obsolete' for it to come up in an assessment of current human technological capabilities, but was in fact human. Unlikely example case where the AI might count:  A shuttered materials-and-vehicle factory starts back up and independently decides to dedicate its production process to creating toy cars for a bunch of escaped lab rats, because rats like driving around in tiny cars, and someone left a newspaper article about that out somewhere a security camera that didn't get shut off could notice it and decide this was a very compelling priority. This counts as nonhuman origin because the agency involved is nonhuman.
2mako yass10mo
Derivatives solve prediction market shorttermism? I didn't realize that. Has that been written up anywhere?
"Predictive market derivatives" is on my list of things I should write about. What, precisely, do you mean by shorttermism? Do you mean how placing long-term bets in prediction markets ties up capital that could otherwise be put to use? (I think I understand you, but I want to be certain first.) Financial derivatives work the same way in prediction markets as they do on existing securities markets. I already wrote a little bit about derivatives in existing securities markets, but am not sure that post fully answers your question.
2mako yass10mo
Yes, so canny traders have an incentive to ignore long-term questions even though that makes the market somewhat useless. There's an adverse selection effect where the more someone has going on the more they'll focus on short closing dates. (But I realize that long-term bets are still worth something to them, this doesn't necessarily prevent them from weighing in at all. If a market consisted solely of very good forecasters, I'd expect the predictions of long-term bets to be more volatile (less liquidity) but still roughly well informed, however, it doesn't consist solely of very good traders, and also, sometimes the skills you need to do well on small timescales are very different from the skills you need on longer timescales, so in some worlds we might not expect prediction markets to work well at all. One of the very anticapitalisms that I've noticed is that expertise doesn't always generalize out of domain, while money can stray into whatever domain it wants to. Reflecting, though, subquestion: If it's not for the expert to decide for themselves (and with the aid of consultants) where their skills generalize to, why should we think we can appoint someone else who's better at making that decision? It seems unlikely that we could.)
Here's the short version: Suppose you think a prediction is mispriced but it's distant in the future. Instead of buying credits that pay out on resolution, you buy futures instead. You don't have to tie up capital, since payment is due on resolution instead of upfront. Your asset equals your liability. There is no beta. Financial derivatives solve the shorttermism problem in traditional securities markets. If you use them in prediction markets, then they will (theoretically) do the exact same thing, by (theoretically) operating the exact same way. In practice, things get causal, and that's before you add leverage and derivatives. Doesn't matter. It just means that prediction markets have to be sufficiently capitalized to work. A hedge fund isn't going to throw its smartest brains at a market with only $100 of total market capitalization.

It's worth noting that most of the major news orgs passed on this story despite being offered the opportunity to cover it. We don't know why they did it yet, but given that various orgs have covered the Snowden documents and other whistleblowers that the government very much didn't like, my guess is they did it for reasons related to the quality of the story rather than any conversations with government officials who encouraged them not to cover it.

My priors against us having discovered alien tech are very high, though not literally infinite.

But I still don't have a clear story for exactly what's going on. Most of the videos of UFOs look pretty similar: silvery orbs flying around at very high speed. I haven't yet heard an explanation of how this could be explained by camera artefacts, weather phenomena, or anything else.

Other videos like this one released by the Navy show non-spherical objects that even rotate while moving. I struggle to think of what could be causing this.

I'm too lazy to look into it right now, but at the very least there's a scientific mystery here. Whether or not the explanation turns out to be interesting remains to be seen. There seems to be a big stigma again... (read more)

The rotating one seems well enough explained as the rotation of a lens artifact to me?

Wow. Ok, I guess my odds that this is actually an alien spacecraft went up a little bit. It's interesting that at the end they quote a NASA official who stated that they haven't found any evidence of extraterrestrial life yet, directly contradicting the whistleblower. That means either the evidence the whistleblower has isn't sufficient to convince the scientists at NASA or the DOD isn't sharing it with them.
A civilian NASA official would definitely not know about this. It's being treated as a very important military secret.
Exactly. The entire thrust behind Grusch's allegations is that this is being hidden from basically any and all oversight through very, very tight compartmentalization.
Yep, we can easily have multiple hypotheses of the form "something we don't (yet) understand has caused this". My odds are more on "weather/camera/light/experimental aircraft we don't understand" than "aliens we don't understand".
How do you know that? The Snowden documents were before the anti-disinformation push of the Trump era that increased the ability to fight stories that the establishment doesn't like.  However, this does not look like the military trying to censor this story. It seemed to cleared the prepublication review. The New York Times not printing this story might just be "we don't think it's good for our brand to publish stories that look wacky to part of our audience". 
FWIW Blumenthal says they went to WaPo first and that WaPo didn't pass, but was taking too long to publish the story and that he and Kean felt "pressure" to publish faster. "The Post needed more time and we couldn't wait."
The main reason WaPo would have delayed is if they wanted additional confirmation/due diligence and didn't have it.

Pieces of vehicles given general stealthy attitude imply capped technology. With sufficiently robust alien psychology, this could mean a Dune regime, in which case aliens would need to go out of hiding or less deniably start derailing human AGI projects. Alternatively, there is a non-corrigible anti-foom alien pivotal process AGI watchdog that keeps the tech below some level, which could itself be superintelligent but specialized for this bounded task instead of doing world optimization. In this case the pieces of vehicles are from the aliens in its care, not indicative of its tech level but indicative of its tech-capping influence, and its interventions against human AGI projects could be much more subtle.

Given that all data on this so far is nonsense, and there is almost certainly nothing we can usefully do about it if true, the pragmatic stance is to ignore until the data improves much further.

Anthropics arguments seem to support this: we can observe only those parts of the universe where we a) first - or b) grabby aliens are not destroying everything. 

I think we need to just scrap everything we think we "know" about anthropics and grabby aliens and lightcone-tiling AGI if this is true. The Aristotelian epistemology that has led us to those "conclusions" are obviously garbage, if it turns out that no, high-tech aliens with seemingly capped technology are here and they're not doing anything to us. Confirmed UFO craft would be an absurd, catastrophic indictment of the standard LessWrong worldview and our overconfidence in these sorts of arguments.

Yeah, I really strongly agree with this. If high-tech aliens have been in contact with Earth for some significant time, the general public weren't aware, and we aren't all dead? "Halt and Catch Fire" moment for sure (wanted to make that a link to where I learned that phrase in The Sequences but I couldn't find it by search. Did I confabulate??)
("Halt, Melt, and Catch Fire" is in a few posts in the Coming of Age sequence)

I register my (easy) prediction that this is a complete nonsense and there would be nothing that is a central example of an "alien" or an "alien tech". My very charitable odds are 1000:1 against. I do not think it is a complete hoax, the whistleblower probably believes what he says.


When you say "there would be nothing that is a central example of an "alien" or an "alien tech"", do you mean, "no such evidence probably exists", or "you wouldn't be able to identify tech too advanced to be made by present humans?" I agree with the former but not the latter.

I definitely mean the latter. I think "advanced tech" is an extremely anthropomorphic concept. Real life is not Star Trek. Best I can imagine there would be some substance that is not familiar to whoever found/investigated it, either as "natural" or human-made. Any kind of a leap into "alien" or "tech" would be very much reaching.
If there's technology that can move around like what we seen on the videos, I think calling it "advanced tech" can be reasonable. Especially, if you look at the thing after it crashed somewhere and it seems to show those capabilities under observation in the lab. The article speaks about them having intact vehicles. If those fly around in ways we don't understand "advanced tech" is a good description.
Yes, if that is indeed what they found, it would be a good description. I bet 1000:1 against anything like that, unless it is a hoax.
Willing to bet on this at 200:1? My Offer: * I Send you $X Immediately, You pay out $200*X if I win * I want a 5 year time horizon. * I am betting that one of the "very weird" hypotheses turns out true. Bet resolves in my favor if within 5 years its determined that >0 UAP are explained by: * Literal aliens * Magic/spiritual/paranormal/psychic phenomenon * Time travel * Leftovers of an ancient civilization / Some other unknown non-human advanced civilization on earth * Some other explanation that's of this level of "very weird" * Explicitly excluding merely hyper-advanced human tech * I forfeit any and all potential "gotcha" cases. * Determination of resolution to be up to you. * I reserve the right to appeal to the LW community. [I will not abuse this right] Please let me know what your maximum payout you swear to be good for would be, and Ill send you 1/200th that today, up to a maximum of 5K. If these terms are acceptable, please provide a means for me to pay you. I would prefer a crypto address, but will make whatever work. Upon payment please post an acknowledgement of payment. I offer the same terms to anyone else [with a nontrivial post history]. 
This made me think! I assume you mean the central example, some indisputably organic entities arriving from another star system on something indisputably like a "spacecraft" Hmm, I don't even know how to identify something like that. Yeah, I'd bet against that one, no problem. If time travel turns out to be a real thing, the last 100 years of physics are a lie. That is less unlikely than the rest, actually. It does not violate my priors against recognizable life forms unrelated to Earth's. Yeah, that makes sense for a bet. definitely quite reasonable. while sensible, it does make me think that even for $10 I'd be (very unlikely but potentially) out $2000 if I lose. I guess my reptile brain shouts nooo! That's too much. Or, well, rather hisses than shouts.
Extraterrestrial in origin, biological or otherwise (their autonomous probes, for instance). Example of what resolution in my favor might look like: In 5 years time we are looking back and saying "Damn, I cant believe some ufos were actually demons this whole time. Wild" In general, what I'm trying to bet on is the world and rationalist community experiencing some significant ontological shock. If the community stops, melts, and catches fire, I win the bet.  
Oh yeah, that would be fantastic! And it might happen, just probably not in the area of physics foundations. I looked over my posts and comments over the last 12 years or so, and there hasn't been anything remotely close to what you are describing, as far as I can tell.
What is the largest amount that you're willing to bet?
I have created a post here https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/t5W87hQF5gKyTofQB/ufo-betting-put-up-or-shut-up
I have created a post for this bet https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/t5W87hQF5gKyTofQB/ufo-betting-put-up-or-shut-up

Independent reporting seems to put the number of captures vehicles to at least 12.

Call me gullible, but this article is flabbergasting. I do not understand how to update on its contents, because nothing I can think of let's this information fit into my world model, no matter what hypothesis I try to come up with about the behavior of the sources/etc.
8Thane Ruthenis10mo
Perhaps this is genuine whistleblowing, but not on what they make it sound like? Suppose there's something being covered up that Grusch et al. want to expose, but describing what it is plainly is inconvenient for one reason or another. So they coordinate around the wacky UFO story, with the goal being to point people in the rough direction of what they want looked at. My priors are still for all of this being bullshit; some psyop or a psychotic break that snowballed or none of these articles corresponding to reality at all. But if there really is a large number of intelligence officials earnestly coming forward with this, "UFOs are aliens" still seems overwhelmingly unlikely to be what it's about.
4mako yass10mo
My guess was that some people involved in foreign craft recovery and reverse engineering programs (we know that these exist) want their programs to be exposed to more oversight, because they're currently too closed off to be cost-effective or useful, or because they're being badly mismanaged in some other way. So they're telling congress, and maybe Grusch, that it's an alien craft recovery and reverse engineering program, because in the current climate that's going to get it done quicker. I think there might be some new legal protection for UAP reports too. It's possible that there is no other legal avenue to get this looked at. I was considering posting about this, but didn't see the point. What do you want to do, prevent them from getting more oversight?
2Thane Ruthenis10mo
Preventing people who don't know enough to generate this alternate hypothesis from invalidly updating towards "aliens are real", maybe? Might have a significant formative effect on e. g. people who'd only started buying into the whole "rationality" thing, and don't have priors against aliens strong enough to keep dismissing the hypothesis even in light of what may look like overwhelming evidence.
4mako yass10mo
I don't see rationality as being generally undermined by the UFO subject. My impression has always been that the most prominent figures in the dialog are skeptics. The subject ends up being a fun study of how ordinary people can be wrong and how authors sometimes lie. Among woo theories, I think it's the one that is most compatible with science. I don't think a person can be a rationalist if they've never had an encounter with delusion and seen that it's escapable. Until having that experience, it's hard to really have faith in dialog or investigation.
2Evan R. Murphy10mo
Yea, according to Michael Shellenberger's reporting on this, multiple "high-ranking intelligence officials, former intelligence officials, or individuals who we could verify were involved in U.S. government UAP efforts for three or more decades each" have come forward to vouch for Grusch's core claims. Interesting theory. Definitely a possibility.
On the plus side, the allegations seem to be specific enough to push Congress into actually dealing with them and investigating. 
1Dumbledore's Army10mo
I can come up with a hypothesis about the behaviour of the sources: the drones you send to observe and explore a planet might be disposable. (Eg we’ve left rovers behind on Mars because it’s not worth the effort to retrieve them from the gravity well.) Although if the even-wilder rumours about bio-alien corpses are true, that one fails too.  But the broader picture: that there are high-tech aliens out there who we haven’t observed doing things like building Dyson spheres or tiling the universe with computronium? They’re millions of years ahead of us and somehow didn’t either progress to building mega-tech or to AI apocalypse? They’re not millions of years ahead of us and there’s some insane coincidence where two intelligent species emerged on different planets at the same time but also there are no older civs that already grabbed their lightcone? I’m as boggled as you. I’m kind of hoping this whole thing is a hoax or deliberate disinformation operation or something because I have absolutely no idea what to think about the alternative. But after the amount of leaks about UAPs over the last few years, I’m at at least 10% that there are literal alien spacecraft visiting our planet.
2Evan R. Murphy10mo
I don't know much about astronomy. But is it possible a more advanced alien civ has colonized much of the galaxy, but we haven't seen them because they anticipated the tech we would be using to make astronomical observations and know how to cloak from it?
3Dumbledore's Army10mo
Possible yes, but if all advanced civs are highly prioritising stealth, that implies some version of the Dark Forest theory, which is terrifying.
1O O10mo
I feel like it’s very easy to miss signals from advanced civilizations because there is so much noise in the universe. There are also a lot of practical concerns with colonizing large swathes of space. A Von Neumann probe is very risky because it can “get cancer” and replicate out of control.
If high-tech aliens did visit us, it would not seem inconceivable that the drones they would send might contain (or are able to produce prior to landing) robotic exploration units based on some form of nanotechnology that we might mistake for biology and more specifically, for pilots. A very advanced robot need not look like a robot. I also do not find it too worrisome that we do not see Dyson spheres or a universe converted into computronium. It is possible that the engineering obstacles towards either goal are more formidable than the back-of-the-envelope assessments that originated these concepts suggest and that even the grabbiest of aliens do not execute such programs. Maybe even very advanced civilizations convert only a small part of their local system's mass into civilized matter, just like our biosphere has only converted a small part of Earth, despite billions of years of trying to reproduce as much as possible. These are things where people probably overestimate the amount of information we can wring out of the Fermi paradox. However, a sizable number of recovered craft would suggest that there is a population of craft in the solar system suffering from some rate of attrition. If so, where would they be coming from? A steady supply line maintained over at least several light years? Or a factory somewhere in the system? I'll be intrigued if evidence at least the verifiability of the Snowden files comes along, not before.

I'm actually really glad you posted this here, because I think it's worth trying to hash out some of the specifics, and there are a couple things that make this stand out to me:

  1. Grusch spent a long time going through proper channels first, including the ICIG and congress. The ICIG deemed his report credible and urgent (same as for Alex Vindman's back in 2019). He testified to congress under oath, providing hundreds of pages worth of transcribed classified information.
  2. The reporters on the story are not some cranked out whack jobs. Both of them were the reporters on the initial 2017 NYT article that got the ball rolling on all the latest UFO/UAP disclosures over the past 5-6 years.
  3. At least one senior ex-official (Christopher Mellon) is all but corroborating his claims.

I agree that the priors against this all being true are very high. 

That said, the priors against this all being untrue seem at least a little bit lower considering the above.

Would love to hear others thoughts on these standout bits though. Especially #1. To my knowledge no prior claims of this sort have ever been scrutinized like that (let alone been called credible and urgent or been given hours before congressional intelligence committees). I think that does count for something, no?

2Charlie Steiner11mo
Lots of claims have been scrutinized fairly intensely by governments. Was it the chilean military that spent a couple years investigating a UFO sighting and eventually went public saying it was unexplainable? Sadly, this effort provides little increase in reliability. The investigators are often doing this for the first time and lack key skills for analyzing the data. This is exacerbated by the fact that governments are large enough to allow for selection effects, where people spending effort investigating UFOs are self-selected for thinking they're really important, i.e. aliens.
He testified under oath to the House and Senate intelligence committees, purportedly giving them hundreds of pages of documentation including specific names of programs and people to follow up on. All I'm saying is, AFAIK, no UFO claims have been under that level of scrutiny (in the US) before. And to say that either the ICIG or the members of the House and Senate intelligence committees are either "first timers" w/r/t vetting claims like this or that they fall prey to selection effects for "people spending effort investigating UFOs" rings false to me.
Do you have a source for that?
  From The Debrief article. Oh, and if you mean for the Alex Vindman claim, here's a direct link to the ICIG report from 2019. Edit: The Independent is now also reporting on this. As is The Guardian.
Do we know precisely what "credible and urgent" actually means here? E.g., I can well imagine that "complaint comes from a high-ranking officer" is enough to qualify as "credible" and "complaint is of behaviour that would be extremely bad if true" is enough to qualify as "urgent". The point is that these may well be terms of art that don't carry any implication very close to "it is likely that the most incendiary bits of what's alleged are true".
See here for more information on what the process actually involves. You need provide information ("the right information to the right people") that backs up what you're saying. You can't just make a claim and then they go "oh cool, we'll check that out." No, it's much more like getting an indictment from a grand jury, you have to provide enough compelling evidence that you should be protected by this process and these statutes. Additionally, the ICIG is allowed to see any and all classified information. The ICIG actually saw the classified stuff that David Grusch has and used that to determine their findings of "credible and urgent." This is literally just like when Alex Vindman came forward back in 2019. He didn't just come out and say "yeah, they did some bad stuff, I think, yeah, I heard about it or something." No, he was actually on the phone call.
So no source independent of the TheDebrief article? In this case, I would not use "according to the TheDebrief according to Grusch the ICIG..." article and "the ICIG..." the same way.  If we are doubtful of Grusch story, the fact that according to Grusch the ICIG found his claims “credible and urgent” provides us with little data.  Hopefully, congressman and journalists will ask the ICIG so we have independent evidence of that.
I don't think it's Grusch merely claiming that he went to the ICIG. I think it's the reporters stating it.  And they did do a bunch of fact-checking (part 2) on the things they put out in the article. The fact-checking was done by The Debrief in addition to (and separately from) the fact-checking the reporters did themselves. I don't see why that part of the article should not be taken at face value. It would be incredibly stupid for any reasonable journalist or publication to print something like that that would be so easily disproved later down the line. From part 2 linked above: The Independent is also reporting on this, if you want another source that now claims this unequivocally.
The paragraph you quoted contain "according to Grusch". Generally, it's unclear to me how easily the ICIG's view can be accessed by journalists. Yes, the source from The Independent/Guardian is good.
0mako yass11mo
I don't think you know what "prior" means. Prior to what update? "the priors against this all being untrue seem at least a little bit lower considering the above" Priors don't change.
Sorry, definitely not the most proficient with the lingo. I believe I should have said: "That said, considering the above, I would suspect updating your priors in the direction of this all being true, at least a little bit, seems reasonable." I think? Is that closer?
-1mako yass11mo
That phrasing makes it clear what is meant, but I think the phrase "updating your priors" is still carrying the confused terminology and we need to stop using it, again, priors don't change in response to observations (though in physically constrained/embedded cognition [that is, the profane/imperfect/physically possible version of bayesian reasoning that physical human beings can do] there has to be some sense in which a prior can change in response to arguments/reasoning/reflection, which complicates the issue a lot). The updated probability, P(Prior|Observation), is called the posterior. There would be less confusion carried by the phrasing "updating on your priors", but I feel like it'd just collapse back to where it was.
Misusing the term prior is long-held LessWrong tradition
2mako yass11mo
I'm going to put an end to it. I'm not sure anyone else has the notice when a word has implicit parameters ("prior" practically always does btw) and notice when the binding is ambiguous method yet so I feel it's my responsibility.

There's an interview with David Grusch on NewsNation

In the interview, David Grusch says that:

  • He hasn't seen the objects
  • He hasn't seen photos of the objects
  • He received testimony of people who have seen photos of the objects

So, I don't think this is nearly enough proof. We only have a person who used to work for the UAP taskforce claiming that alien spaceships exist, because he was told so by some other people.

David Grusch also had a lot of documents as evidence that he gave the ICIG and Congress. Grusch himself has seen more than just oral evidence.  He also doesn't seem to be the only one who talked to the ICIG. Christopher Mellon wrote: Ross Coulthart who interviewed Grusch and from whose interview the existing NewsNation segment is speaks in another podcast about how he has other sources multiple sources who also tell him about the secret program (going back three years). The difference with Grusch is that he's willing to speak publically. 
1Thomas Sepulchre10mo
Just to be clear, I think two questions are very different: (1) Has anyone recovered alien spaceships/bodies/anything else? (2) Is there a secret military program tasked with recovering such things? If (2) is true, this may or may not be some democratic issue, or some institutional issue, something like this. Nonetheless, David Grusch is claiming both (1) and (2). The quotes you provide seem to point toward (2): there would be a secret program trying to recover alien stuff. They don't say anything about whether the program has acquired anything.
2Evan R. Murphy10mo
Wow that's awfully indirect. I'm surprised his speaking out is much of a story given this.
2Evan R. Murphy10mo
I guess the fact that this journalist says multiple other intelligence officials are anonymously vouching for Grusch's claims makes it interesting again: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/bhH2BqF3fLTCwgjSs/michael-shellenberger-us-has-12-or-more-alien-spacecraft-say#comments
It's particularly interesting from 5:30: if I'm not misunderstanding him, he implies that they found extra-terrestrial bodies inside the landed/crashed vehicles, which makes me think this is deliberate misinformation. Why would an advanced entity, capable of traveling between stars, separate their body from their spacecraft? Not impossible, but encountering this evidence is much more likely imo if they are crafting a story from common memes about aliens rather than reporting something actually real.
He gave an extremely roundabout answer to that question, and the reporter did not follow up on it, which makes me think it was either a misleading cut or he was caught up in the interview. He doesn't mention this would-be much stronger evidence in the original article either. Obviously the idea that the government has alien bodies is ridiculous and if he doesn't walk that back later it's definitely a hoax.
It looks like it's a cut. They likely interviewed him for 1-2 hours and cut out the bits they found most interesting.  Hopefully, some long-form podcaster like Joe Rogan will interview him soon and we have him explaining himself in more detail. 
Ross Coulthart interviewed him for something like 7 hours. He talks about it here. I believe the entire interview will be coming out sometime soon?
I'm looking forward to the 7 hours.
It could be an advanced entity that evolved here on Earth and isn't capable of traveling between stars, perhaps a member of an ancient civilization that predates humanity.  Remember, "alien" and "extraterrestrial" are not necessarily synonymous.

The story has been picked up by The Guardian now. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/06/whistleblower-ufo-alien-tech-spacecraft

I have not read this post, and I have not looked into whatever the report is, but I'm willing to take a 100:1 bet that there is no such non-human originating craft (by which I mean anything actively designed by a technological species — I do not mean that no simple biological matter of any kind could not have arrived on this planet via some natural process like an asteroid), operationalized to there being no Metaculus community forecast (or Manifold market with a sensible operationalization and reasonable number of players) that assigns over 50% probabilit... (read more)

Willing to bet on this at 200:1? (This is what I have been offering others) My Offer: * I Send you $X Immediately, You pay out $200*X if I win * I want a 5 year time horizon. * I am betting that one of the "very weird" hypotheses turns out true. Bet resolves in my favor if within 5 years its determined that >0 UAP are explained by: * Literal aliens * Magic/spiritual/paranormal/psychic phenomenon * Time travel * Leftovers of an ancient civilization / Some other unknown non-human advanced civilization on earth * Some other explanation that's of this level of "very weird" * Explicitly excluding merely hyper-advanced human tech * I forfeit any and all potential "gotcha" cases. * Determination of resolution to be up to you. * I reserve the right to appeal to the LW community. [I will not abuse this right] Please let me know what your maximum payout you swear to be good for would be, and Ill send you 1/200th that today, up to a maximum of 5K. If these terms are acceptable, please provide a means for me to pay you. I would prefer a crypto address, but will make whatever work. Upon payment please post an acknowledgement of payment. I offer the same terms to anyone else [with a nontrivial post history]. 
2Ben Pace10mo
Thanks! This is fairly tempting. I'm a bit concerned by  To be clear, if it were just the 4 hypotheses you mention, then I feel pretty good about this, and I'd just want to reflect over 200:1 versus 100:1.  * For instance, if some form of undiscovered bat or sea creature is actually good at flying and that explains the images, does that count as "very weird"? That is, it's not an animal that can design technologies, but it is the cause of a bunch of the UFO reportings. * Also "psychic phenomenon" seems kind of ill-defined. Derren Brown can do hypnosis and seances that have strong effects on people, there's a lot of suggestibility in people, if a bunch of UFO sighting were due to someone doing similar things but even better and naturally, does that count as psychic phenomena? * For the laws of physics, if we discover a new theory of physics, and the UFOs were directly responsible for figuring it out, then I'm happy to credit that as responsible. Time travel would certainly count. Regarding the hypotheses, I'd probably want to determine now some set of LW posters to resolve it if we disagree. My first guess is that Oliver Habryka, Alyssa Vance, and Vaniver could be good, where if any of them think the bet resolves in your favor then it does.
I have created a post for this bet https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/t5W87hQF5gKyTofQB/ufo-betting-put-up-or-shut-up
If a skeptic/debunker would feel smug and vindicated about any given explanation, then that explanation would NOT resolve in my favor. Weird animal (As mentioned, barring that they aren't secretly on par with humans), is prosaic and would NOT resolve in my favor.   Merely advanced "mentalist" type stuff would NOT count. This class is more pointing at "true" psychic phenomena. ie, something more like ESP, remote viewing, astral projection, etc.   I lurk, but not closely enough to know what handles would be good for this bet. Ill accept this list, and also throw in Scott Alexander and Eliezer.
I bet 1 quadrillion galactic credits that this story leads nowhere.  edit: Apparently if I lose the bet, it won't be all bad
Better than 90% of amateur fiction posted. 
2mako yass11mo
A more specific one, also with an unreasonably soon closing date.  
It doesn't seem very specific to me. In particular, it doesn't seem to think about how the likely future progress of this will go. If the claim that he gave evidence to Congress is true, the thing that might reasonably happen this year is another congressional inquiry. In it, the authorities might say "Grusch's claim that the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force has gathered physical evidence under program XYZ that we didn't tell Congress about before is true. The evidence is highly classified and we didn't think it matched what you asked for when you asked for our monitoring of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena because we think program XYZ is not within the sphere of what you asked for. We can give you a few classified documents about that physical evidence but it's important that you don't share anything more specific because of the necessity to keep national secrets." I would expect that there's some substance to Grusch's claims but that what will be revealed about that in this year won't be very convincing on the larger question of whether non-human tech really exist.

Here is another interview with the two journalists where they go into more details about their process, sources, and why they felt pressured to publish sooner than later.

Haven't whistleblowers talking about how the government has alien spaceships always been a thing?

This is a whistleblower from a government group that was tasked by Congress to investigate whether alien spaceships are a thing. 
This isn't a "whistleblower" in the prosaic sense of "someone coming out and saying something." This is a "whistleblower" as in the formal definition outlined by the ICIG.
2mako yass10mo
It's a story that's been around for a while, but previous tellings of it, Bob Lazar, Majestic 12, or Steven Greer's stories, had major blemishes. Bob Lazar seems to have lied about his educational background and the extent of his contract with LANSCE, Majestic 12 was apparently a clear hoax, and I've heard Steven Greer sells very cringey phony CE5 meditation tours and engages in a lot of clear wishful thinking. While this one is a very qualified staffmember who seems to represent and have the endorsement of many even more qualified staffmembers.

If crafts are real, it would be an argument for inter-dimensional travel rather interstellar, because it could be cheaper and require less time and energy. 

Maybe there is a way to relatively cheaply move between Everettian branches and hobbyists in the 22 century and routinely doing this as often as we use recreational small airplanes.  

Presumably humanoid bodies inside the crafts is argument for inter-Everettian travel, as some branches can split from our branch like 100K years ago and are very similar to our, except having develop technologies earlier. 

But the question is why we are not colonized by inter-dimensional paperclipper AI?

3Gesild Muka11mo
We're not colonized because of the number of branches, wouldn't there be a small overall chance of ending up in our branch?
But many UFOs are ending here, so each branch is getting many visitors - so why one of them is not eating all our atoms? This again could be explained by the existence some overwhelming control force, like super-intelligence which only prevents creation of other super-intelligences. 
1Gesild Muka11mo
My assumption is that most branches don’t get extradimensional dictators so it’s unlikely we will. (I suppose it’s not impossible that some individual or civilization could have created a super intelligence to police the universe, I’d have to think about it). My first question to Grusch would be is he basing his claims of exotic material discovery off a physical analysis? Or is he basing it off of his interpretation of a physical analysis? Then, is that analysis available for public scrutiny?

This being actual aliens is highly unlikely for the usual reasons. The best modeling suggests aliens are at least hundreds of millions of light-years away, since otherwise there would be sufficiently many of them in the sky that some of them would choose not to hide. Moreover if any did visit Earth with the intention of hiding, they would probably have more advanced technology than this, and would be better at hiding.


The best modeling suggests aliens are at least hundreds of millions of light-years away...

As Robin Hanson himself notes: "That's assuming independent origins. Things that have a common origin would find themselves closer in space and time." See also: https://www.overcomingbias.com/p/ufos-what-the-hellhtml

5Daniel Kokotajlo11mo
I do like Hanson's story you link. :) Yes, panspermia possibility does make it non-crazy that there could be aliens close to us despite an empty sky. Unlikely, but non-crazy. Then there's still the question of why they are so bad at hiding & why their technology is so shitty, and why they are hiding in the first place. It's not completely impossible but it seems like a lot of implausible assumptions stacked on top of each other. So, I think it's still true that "the best modelling suggests aliens are at least hundreds of millions of light-years away."

We are more likely to be born in a world with panspermia as it has higher concentration of habitable planets.

5Daniel Kokotajlo11mo
Good point. I'll message Tristan, see if he can incorporate that into the model.
Had a post about that. 

Given that I basically never hear about the government of any other country meddling with aliens, at this point I am inclined to consider UFO sighthings a culture-bound illness of the US (I can't find the source now, but I'm pretty sure that according to a poll from several years ago, something like 5% of Americans claimed to have personally seen UFOs at least once in their lifetime).

I mean, the priors on sci-fi aliens visiting us is low enough. The priors on aliens visiting just the US should be ridiculously low.

There are similar claims in Russia as well, for what it's worth.

Around 1% of the US population has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I would guess that there are 5 million+ people currently or formerly employed by the US military or intelligence services. Of those, maybe 1% are highly ranked enough that they could testify in Congress about the government hiding UFOs.

All it takes is one of those 50 people getting delusions about UFOs to generate a headline like this. It would actually be weird if something like this doesn't happen every few decades.

Coworkers of people with schizophrenia usually pick up on it. The reporters did interview a bunch of people that David Grusch knew and they all spoke highly of him. When schizophrenics make reports the official institutions usually don't see their reports as "urgent and credible".
Schizophrenia would render you unable to keep your job in the vast majority of the armed forces, and so might explain single individuals in very rare cases, but not entire groups of people around that one person confirming their stories.
2mako yass10mo
Does the incidence rate of schizophrenia actually tell you anything about the incidence rate of the much higher functioning delusion disorders that might be involved here?

So Grusch is another one of these Pentagon UAP investigatory program guys, which means he is claiming people have come to him from the compartmentalised Special Access Programs claiming they have recovered craft. That is important because unless he is saying somewhere he personally witnessed these craft, it is perfectly possible he fully believes his claim and is telling the truth in that yes, someone has come to him with these claims. Unfortunately I suspect whoever these first hand sources are will be shrouded entirely in classified red tape. I agree at ... (read more)