In a previous post this week, titled “Parfit + Singer + Aliens = ?” OP makes the important point that if alien life is likely to come into existence in our lightcone, extinction-risk reduction has reduced value.
Relevant snippet - “Holding future and alien life to be morally valuable means that, on the discovery of alien life, humanity’s future becomes a vanishingly small part of the morally valuable universe. In this situation, Longtermism ceases to be action relevant. It might be true that certain paths into far future contain the vast majority of moral value but if there are lots of morally valuable aliens out there, the universe is just as likely to end up one of these paths whether humans are around or not so Longtermism doesn’t help us decide what to do. We must either impartially hope that humans get to be the ones tiling the universe or go back to considering the nearer term effects of our actions as more important.”
The point of this post is to add that it also matters what the mean values/quality of these potential civilizations are in expectation. OP implicitly assumes that these aliens will convert resources in the universe into utility as efficiently as our society would. Currently, I agree with the author on this because I think we don’t have any good evidence to the contrary and I think we should take the prior that our society will have mean grabby civ values. However, I think it would be possible to deduce that on expectation the potential GC’s that may come into existence have different expected conversion of control of resources into utility than our own society.
To go about this, we could leverage economic history, evolutionary biology, etc. to run models of civilization formation and try to see if our society is “Weird” in any way. We also can continue to search for other civilizations as OP said and update on their characteristics vs our own.
I believe that currently running models is pretty intractable because the relevant fields just aren’t that developed, and this seems like a really hard and complicated problem, but it could be a line of thinking to go down as computational power and the quality of these fields increases.