The Intraterrestrial society, living a virtualized existence deep under the ocean, within the Earth’s crust

The Intraterrestrial Hypothesis

Greg Fodor

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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
- Arthur C. Clarke

tl;dr: If special relativity holds, the world is vulnerable, and virtual reality can be made, humanity will not expand but will consolidate and virtualize their society using sensory stimulation hardware. The best non-prosaic explanation for the UFO phenomenon is that a pre-human species virtualized itself already, living in virtual reality, and lives underground.

What is to become of the human race?

Galactic expansion? Self-destructive annihilation? Permanent stagnation?

Is it possible to make good guesses about the future of humanity in the first place, or is Karl Popper correct, and our future is truly unknowable?

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, as the UFO topic (now “UAPs”) somewhat inexplicably has become a de-stigmatized subject of serious inquiry and legislation at the highest levels of government.

Recent Congressional testimony by David Grusch, a former intelligence officer who claims the US government is in possession of “non-human technology”, including “biologics”, ie, dead ‘alien’ pilots, has led many to revisit the question: “are we alone?”

While a good question, it doesn’t offer up a way to make sense of what could be going on, absent additional evidence. But there’s a different question, one we can make some progress on, and one which may also lead to better possible explanations of UFOs: “where are we going?”

The argument here is based on three explicit first principles. These principles, taken independently, are hard to overturn, but taken together point to a small set of possible futures for humanity. This isn’t to say these principles will hold. But if they do, then maybe we can make good predictions about our future.

From there, we’ll see how deep the rabbit hole goes, both metaphorically and possibly even literally, seeing how these conclusions lead to a bizarre but surprisingly coherent explanation for the UAP phenomenon and the puzzling Congressional testimony of Mr. Grusch.

Principle 1: Special relativity is durable

The first principle is that there will be no technological workarounds to the limits imposed by special relativity. First, that there is no technology by which large distances can be traversed without time dilation effects. Second, neither is there any technology which can be made which permits communication latency better than light speed. So, while spacetime may be doomed, and reductionism may be wrong, or boutique physics may prevail in discovering the long-elusive unified theory, Einstein’s annus mirabilis will be a thorn in the side of anyone dreaming of an Interstellar Filesystem or Intergalactic Hyperloop — special relativity is durable.

Principle 2: The world can be assumed to be vulnerable

Nick Bostrom’s “The Vulnerable World Hypothesis” proposes a model for thinking about creative invention: removing balls from an urn of possibilities. In the urn there are white balls: inventions and discoveries which present no threat to civilization. And there are grey balls: those which risk great harm but can be survived with effort and some luck. Nuclear weapons are a good example of a grey ball.

And then there are black balls. These are inventions and discoveries which, once pulled out, assure the eventual destruction of the civilization absent extreme measures to fully coerce all individuals from certain actions. We have yet to pull out a black ball. An example of a black ball would be a way to create nuclear weapons using household materials. If black balls exist, civilizations will eventually be destroyed once the ball is pulled out and its knowledge disseminated, unless the society exerts extraordinary coercion over each and every individual to prevent its application.

The second principle is that advanced civilizations all presume the urn has at least one black ball in it — that the world is vulnerable.

Principle 3: The universe permits virtual reality

In humans, our sense organs drive our perception. Organs like eyes and ears are easily stimulated by hardware which can yield subjective experience very close to physical reality. For example, contemporary VR headsets display stereoscopic images to the eyes. One day, these devices ought to be able to simulate any real world photons. Similar methods can work, in principle, for other organs like the nose and tongue.

Kinesthetic sense, proprioception, and modalities of touch, (eg hand interactions with feedback) are more challenging to imagine perfect stimulation, but the hurdles do not seem due to physics, just engineering and neuroscience. (With many working on it.)

The third principle presumes that virtual reality technology can be made that leads to conscious experiences that will be described as feeling fully present and grounded in a virtual environment, similar to a lucid dream (perhaps after an acclimation period)—an assumption that the universe permits virtual reality.

The three principles the hypothesis is conditioned on: special relativity is durable (light speed cannot be broken), the world is vulnerable, and fully convincing virtual reality can be created.

The robustness of the principles

To violate the first principle of special relativity’s durability would require not just new foundational physics but physics which allows bending those rules to yield phenomenal technologies. Taken together, this principle seems robust. There is already reason to be skeptical that we’ll ever find a deeper unifying theory of physics, but even if we did, it would be surprising if special relativity’s experimental successes were misleadingly local and deceptive in just the right way to have fooled us about light speed’s limitations on our civilization’s possible futures. Indeed, any deeper theory of physics seems far more likely to uphold these limits on our affairs, while refining and illuminating nature’s edge cases and hidden worlds, as is typically the case with any deeper physical theory which overturns prevailing conceptions.

To violate the second principle there would need to be a path towards one day concluding there are no black balls in the urn: full confidence there is no knowledge that, once discovered, will end civilization absent extraordinary means of coercion. This level of confidence seems nearly impossible—for example, as technology confers greater and greater leverage over the world to individuals (technologies like Artificial General Intelligence) the belief of black balls being in the urn will go up over time, not down, regardless of if they are in there or not.

The third principle regarding virtual reality can be violated if it turns out there are physical limits to creating virtual reality systems for the major human senses. Of the three principles, this one seems likely to be fully proven by example soon. Virtual reality technology at the time of this writing is on the cusp of delivering visual and auditory experiences that are indistinguishable from those of physical reality, and various companies in industry are closing in on the other senses. Physics places no obvious limits on stimulating the body into preceiving, from a sensory perspective, a simulation as though it is physical reality, particularly when you take into account brain elasticity compensating for any small stimulation gaps. If anything, it’s reasonable to guess virtual reality systems this decade will deliver on this potential. You don’t need neural implants nor a working theory of consciousness to get there — just very good sensory stimulation hardware. So this principle also seems robust.

It’s certainly possible any one of these principles will turn out wrong, but they seem robust enough to build an argument around. If they are violated, the remainder of this argument about the future of humanity does not hold, but from here on we will condition on them. I leave it to the reader to decide how confident they are in this conditioning when considering their implications.

The implications of the principles

Implication 1: we will not expand

The first major implication of these principles taken together is that any plans to expand civilization beyond the inner solar system will be abandoned. First, due to a forthcoming species-wide aversion to communication latency. Second, due to universally agreed upon existential risk. Third, due to the fact such expansion would yield no clear benefit to any human endeavors such as scientific exploration or curiosity, personal autonomy, or the search for meaning, while imposing many immense downsides to those same endeavors.

Let’s cover each in turn.

We will not expand because we will come to abhor latency.

Sufficiently good virtual reality allows individuals to experience full social presence with one another on par with face-to-face, regardless of if they are physically co-present or not. In other words, virtual and augmented reality allows any individuals to feel like they are together at any time, provided they have sufficiently low communication latency to one another.

As VR and AR technology becomes fully capable of delivering social presence, this decoupling between physical co-location and social presence will eat through more and more kinds of relationships. Before this transition, the physical distance between two people plays a large role in determining how connected they can become in their lives. By the end of this transition, it plays no meaningful role at all.

However, relocating a group of humans to somewhere far away from Earth (say, to Jupiter’s moons) adds prohibitive communication latency to delivering this kind of perfected social presence remotely, even with compensation methods like simulated AI avatars.

Because of this, a post-VR society will think about communication latency entirely differently than how we do today. Today, adding an hour, day, or even a month of latency in communication between Earth and a far-off colony is not a terrifying concept, because we don’t think of remote communication as the same thing as being together with one another. But this is no longer the case in a post-VR society. There, “remote communication” is no longer a distinct concept from being together at all — if you are able to establish a connection, you can remotely communicate in the ways we do today, but you can also get together. They are not separated capabilities.

In that society, one where any human can be with any other at any time, anyone proposing to add latency between their group and everyone else on Earth is proposing to sever their ability to be socially present with the rest of the entire species, splitting us into two cohorts. Each group can be together with one another within their own group, but across the groups no two people can ever be together in this way. [1]

So, in a post-VR society, latency in general will probably be regarded by most humans as abhorrent given it signifies a kind of abandonment or profound separation from the rest of the species.

For any cohort of humans to add latency, they’d need to all be willing to tolerate the re-introduction of an inability to be with any other human at any time, and leave behind the entire Earth network and all the benefits that come from being connected to it in this way. (Somehow managing to overcome a species-wide network subject to Metcalfe’s Law.) Additionally, a sufficient number of humans on Earth would need to be willing to accept the creation of this schism, and not see it as a threat or moral failing large enough to try to prevent it.

This dynamic seems to greatly undermine physical expansion of the human footprint beyond the closest planets where the latency is not prohibitive towards feeling socially present with one another, even after applying latency compensation tricks like AI simulation of remote humans. One can imagine expanding to the nearest planets, which only add minutes of latency, but not much beyond that without running up against major taboos and even the risk of war.

Once AR/VR is ubiquitous in society, latency will be abhored by society.

We will not expand because it would risk our own destruction

Recall that we are conditioning on an assumption that we can never rule out black balls. If that is the case, then, as per Bostrom, for civilization to survive, it must abandon the “semi-anarchic default condition” by the time any such ball comes out of the urn. In other words, the potential black ball, if it’s in there, would force civilizations to either be destroyed or come up with extraordinary measures to prevent individuals from having the autonomy to act on the ball’s implications when it is pulled out.

If a black ball exists and human society expands to colonies far beyond Earth, the communication latencies involved make such colonies external societies from the perspective of Earth — ones that represent new existential risk. Even if Earth hypothetically had a strong command and control system remotely managing such a colony, the colony has the ability, due to special relativity, to briefly act autonomously during the light speed latency window, at a minimum.

So, due to physics, colonies external to Earth will always impart new black ball risk to Earth since the communciation latency window provides an opportunity for them to act without the ability for Earth to react.

Of course, a common counterargument is that not expanding has its own risks. But consider a scenario where human society has become interplanetary and has colonies stretching, say, from the orbits of Venus to Mars, and has embedded itself under thick physical shielding (perhaps even within the planets themselves.) In this scenario, we have hedged against most astronomical risks we think of today as significant like asteriod impacts or solar flares. The eventual expansion of the sun, a very far off event, is often also cited but it too can be mitigated by simply relocating ourselves to deep space, not expanding into it. Certainly, there is risk from unknown unknowns and more esoteric cosmic phenomena, but these need to be offset from an increasingly clear black ball risk. It seems unlikely such a risk analysis will ever tilt in favor of expanding out of fear of these cosmological unknown unknowns.

So, if Earth society determines it can never rule out black balls, and that special relativity holds, it would logically reject attempts at expansion since it would guarantee this risk could never be mitigated. (Whereas staying local keeps the door open to eventual solutions.) Regardless of when this determination happens, Earth society would rein in any distant colonies by force and consolidate itself within a low latency bubble — this would be the only way to ensure fully covering deployment of any eventual coercion over individuals needed to mitigate the black ball risk.

Special relativity, sadly enough, eliminates the possibility of safety from any black balls that may exist for any civilizations that choose to expand.

We will not expand because there is no motive

Once sufficient virtual reality technology has been created, in conjunction with light speed limitations, most of the motives one typically imagines as a reason to venture out with our physical bodies evaporate.

The first motive for human expansion often raised is our thirst for knowledge. The propagation of knowledge is constrained, however, by light speed. For example, if humanity expanded to ten star systems, humans on each star system would only have low latency access to locally discovered knowledge within their system. Any new knowledge discovered in the other nine won’t reach them faster than light speed. As such, in terms of knowledge, venturing out yourself boils down to choosing what local knowledge sources you wish to have access to with low latency. But, knowledge discovered elsewhere reaching you only has a 2x latency penalty anyway, since it can be transmitted or sent via spacecraft. Given our solar system is the only one we know of where new knowledge is being generated at all, anyone leaving it will be choosing to leave behind any new knowledge discovered here after they’ve left, favoring access to future knowledge discovered on the worlds they are headed to. With knowledge, there is no free lunch that comes with expansion, and, absent the discovery of non-human civilizations, humans leaving behind the solar system are all but guaranteed to come in contact with less new knowledge over the long haul than those who decide to stay.

But what about the thrill and joy of exploration itself? Many think that surely some would wish to travel to other star systems just to say they have done so, or to see things nobody else has seen. But in a world of perfect virtual reality, what are the motives to physically relocate your body to a far off world as opposed to experiencing an indistinguishable-from-real replication of one, based on data from probes? To whatever degree Earthlings wish to experience the feeling of seeing and experiencing things nobody else has, they need to merely pay a latency tax compared to anyone who hypothetically decided to physically go there instead (and, by the way, to whom there are no other systems available to them in this way, just their own home.) Unless these far off worlds have surprising levels of low entropy, such as other intelligent life, they are probably highly compressable for simulation which conveys the essence of what is there for all purposes of experiencing them.

Of course, an obvious objection is that such simulations are not real, as you wouldn’t actually be there. But what remains in that margin? The thrills and risk of chance? Social status and accolades? The physical suffering? Death? These too could be incorporated into a simulation, using psuedorandom and even natural sources of entropy from the same remote worlds, streamed back from probes. Summed together, virtual reality can put a person in a position to truly explore parts of reconstructed physical reality not yet seen by anyone, in simulation, including the same risks, up to and including death.

Beyond that, any aspiring interstellar explorers cannot return to the Earth they left in any meaningful sense due to time dilation costing them decades or more, so any societal status games around being heroic explorers can only be won by interstellar explorers who do so in-simulation.

So, virtual reality allows much of this joy of exploration we imagine drives expansion to be had in the realest sense, but with the minor detail of not having one’s body leave the solar system.

A final common argument in favor of physical human expansionism is that humans necessarily need to escape environments of oppression and coercion. While this is true, it’s unclear that physical distance will provide any meaningful firewall from such regimes. Light speed latencies provide some defensive advantages but not durable ones: if force projection is downstream of knowledge production (due to the superior technologies that can be developed), then fleeing the solar system would lead to inevitable technological inferiority. While a remote colony, as mentioned, could threaten the home world by pulling a black ball and transmitting the knowledge, they too would fall to the black ball. Beyond that scenario, any colony would soon be at a large technological disadvantage to the Earth-centered cohort due to the relative margins in knowledge production. Ultimately, the methodology to escape authoritarianism and oppression in the future will need to be one where technological parity is maintained by staying local and absorbing all available frontier knowledge but staying hidden from potential oppressors within that envelope of capabilities.

So, the first major implication of the three principles is humanity will not spread our population physically beyond the nearest planets. The reasons are because we will abhor latency, know doing so assures black ball ex-risk, and because there is no substantial motive to do so.

Implication 2: we will virtualize

The second implication of the three principles is that human society will virtualize itself. What does it mean to virtualize our society? We‘ll understand that by walking through why it will happen.

As mentioned, the presence of a black ball in conjunction with special relativity undermines expansion. In Bostrom’s essay, he lands on a “solution” to this problem in the form of an AI-powered panopticon and global governance. This is rightly imagined as an illiberal hell, under which human freedoms are tightly bound and global surveilance is used to pre-empt risk at all times. This is undesirable, to say the least, as it would be the end of free society as we know it.

However, in a scenario where we presume black balls exist, we are forced to solve the problem anyway. There seems to be an essential conflict between giving individuals freedom and ensuring the safety of the species, once one decides a black ball may exist and we will never be able to know it doesn’t. We need to solve what appears to be an impossible problem — a way to preserve freedom, while durably constraining it in very deep ways at the same time.

Virtual reality provides a path through this seemingly impossible conflict: it decouples subjective experience from atoms. To mitigate the risk from the black ball, one must entirely block specific arrangements of atoms from being made by individuals. This requirement, fortunately, does not limit the subjective experiences the members of a civilization can have, since sufficiently good virtual reality can deliver arbitrary experiences without strictly having to alter anything in physical reality at all besides the virtual reality system itself.

More concretely, creating an autonomous system which has a monopoly on violence to physically constrain all members of a species to be plugged into virtual reality would entirely mitigate the black ball risk. Such a system would have veto power over all individuals’ ability to manipulate atoms, but, crucially, could mitigate this risk without imposing meaningful limits on what those individuals could experience, up to and including much of the experience of being in the physical world itself.

In an extreme case, one could imagine embodying a physical robot which to allow maximal personal autonomy and minimal surveilance right up to the exact moment where the black ball becomes plausible to exploit. For example, one could be entirely free, experiencing the world through this robot, with minimal surveilance, and yet, when trying to press the button on your doomsday device, you simply cannot do it due to software interrupts kicking in at just the right time.

And, of course, robotic avatars aside, the more common case would be living in simulations with no ability to alter physical reality, such as purely ‘metaverse’ simulations or ones which merely consume data from physical reality to generate simulations with no way to interact with it in the other direction. In these scenarios, you could have full unsurveiled autonomy and access to essentially unbounded experiences without adding any black ball existential risk to the species.

This scenario of mutually agreed upon coercive VR by an autonomous singleton (perhaps an AI system) which permits maximal experiental autonomy and minimal surveilance within those bounds is what is meant by virtualization of a society. It maintains liberalism and destroys it at the same time, but this new synthesis is tolerable to all involved given the alternative is living in a risk regime where extinction is presumed to be inevitable otherwise.

From this we can make a reasonable conjecture, also conditioned on our principles, which is strikingly consistent with the Fermi Paradox: all societies either virtualize or are destroyed by a black ball. It’s certainly possible that we are in fact alone, and all prior societies have been destroyed due to a failure to virtualize in time, but given the leverage afforded by technology such as AGI systems to individuals and small groups, it seems likely that some civilizations would manage to successfully virtualize when a cohort of sufficiently powerful individuals concludes among themselves the world is vulnerable, and then imposes virtualization through force or simply persuades enough of the population to virtualize.

But society wouldn’t just need to virtualize due to the black ball — many societies like ours apparently want to virtualize anyway, regardless of if the black ball is there or not.

Just as much as physical and technological limits in some areas greatly disincentivizes expansion, their lack of limits in others greatly incentivizes virtualization.

Virtualization allows one to experience arbitrary things but with optionality on physical harm or death. Virtualization is the most realistic path to physical longevity, since it permits sustained, durable medical maintenance of the entire body and tight regulation of its surrounding environment. [2] If that isn’t convincing from an incentives perspective, just look around you today: our society is already virtualizing even before we have these transformative capabilities, as we transition from the home computer, to the mobile Internet, to the emerging passthrough AR era. The reason we are doing so is our thirst to experience more and to do more, and soon it will be something we do to live longer.

But the final reason we ought to expect society to virtualize is simply because, as mentioned, we won’t expand physically. If human civilization won’t expand physically, it must still find a way to expand intellectually, technologically, and culturally.

Virtualization solves this seemingly impossible contradiction too by eliminating many of the constraints of physical reality upon our own growth as a sentient species. The solar system is large enough to house an essentially unbounded number of humans, whose minds will be able to experience an essentially unbounded number of things and, to the degree permissable by physics, would still let individuals explore interstellar space in every way we imagine we would want to today.

The Great Schism

Current trends seem to imply humanity will progress on its own towards virtualization as technologies permit better and better virtual reality and people adopt them. However, given the black ball risks, eventually human society will need to go through a more intentional phase shift I’m calling The Great Schism.

Of course, not all humans at this critical junction will want to go into virtual reality. Many won’t even be mentally capable of such a transition. For example, consider uncontacted tribes like the Sentinelese or traditional cultures which decided to hold off on adopting modern technologies. At the time a large and powerful enough cohort of society decides we must virtualize to survive, some humans will not be able or willing to do so.

This period, likely transitory, will split the species in two. The first group will live on the technological frontier, producing and consuming all new knowledge, and of which all members will need to virtualize and emobdy robotic avatars and live in simulation to be permitted participate, for the safety of the species. The second cohort would be left behind at a lower level of technological capability and would be monitored for technological breakouts or attempts at physical expansion. Absent any such things being detected, they would be presenting no black ball risk to the virtualized members of society and so would be left alone. Beyond that, they would be prevented by force from expanding and any of those left behind who cross early thresholds of risky knowledge would have to either abandon this pursuit (if possible) or would be forced to join the virtualized society where such knowledge is de-risked.

The transition to virtualization, of course, may also just fail, and humanity destroys itself instead of schisming, or, ends up surviving due to mispredicting the eventual appearance of a black ball (and thus refuting the principle that the world can be assumed to be vulnerable.) Regardless, its clear that this transition will be a delicate one, and one best done incrementally and from the standpoint of minimizing harm while also ensuring black ball existential risk remains near zero.

So, to answer our original question on the fate of humanity, the three principles paint a fairly clear picture of our future:

Human society will consolidate physically, centered on Earth, and virtualize. From there we will go on to produce an unbounded stream of new knowledge, new discoveries, and new experiences, with the physical volume containing us tightly bounded by an extremely low tolerance for light speed imposed latencies.

Were have we been?

If our three principles hold, they dictate the eventual virtualization of human society, which leads to a disturbing question:

Would we be the first civilization on Earth to virtualize?

If not, the UFO phenomenon, if conditioned on the assumption of a non-human origin, becomes best explainable under the hypothesis: a pre-human hominid civilization has already virtualized itself, and lives somewhere underground.

The three principles imply this society is down there to be found, if humanity is not the first technological civilization to develop on Earth.

I refer to this society of VR-bound subterraneans The Intraterrestrials.

Many explanations have been put forward for the UFO phenomenon: advanced military activity, mass psychosis or cultural delusion, intelligence psyops or, more non-prosaically, extraterrestrial, cryptoterrestrial, or “interdimensional” visitors. But, if we are to take the explosive claims of David Grusch that the US government, going back decades, is in possession of crashed “spacecraft” and “non-human biologics”, the hypothesis that we share the planet with a near-human sibling species which has already virtualized its society strikingly aligns with many bizarrely consistent claims regarding the phenomenon, going back many decades.

Where are they?

When a society virtualizes, the choice of location is a high stakes decision. Relocating the society, once virtualized, should be presumed to be hard or impossible: there is no guarantee members of the society will retain the ability to organize and survive transit to a new location in physical reality.

As such, a location must be chosen which can be safe and stable for the long haul. It must be presumed to be a one-time choice, particularly if the society is going to aggressively limit its physical expansion even beyond what would be necessary by the principles, as one would have needed to on Earth. It also must be suitable for a large population to be located together to maintain low communication latencies between one another.

If a civilization on Earth had to virtualize, the first question is if they would choose to go off-planet or stay on-planet. The choice to go off-planet boils down to what black ball risk, if any, they expect Earth could eventually present to their off-world home.

Given human society is here today, any pre-human society which virtualized was in a situation where the Earth had the potential to see at least one more post-Enlightenment civilization emerge. If the society accurately ascertained this to be the case, then leaving Earth behind inevitably would lead to black ball risk that could not be mitigated without returning, due to the latencies between them and whatever emerged here.

This would still retain the possibility of going off-world, but limit it to locations nearby. However, monitoring Earth for emerging civilizations would be of paramount importance. This presents a challenge: any such emerging civilization would eventually be space faring, and would be able to detect any surveilance probes entering or exiting Earth’s orbit. Beyond that, the inevitable detection of such probes could lead to a rapid campaign to explore nearby planets to attempt to determine the origin, which could lead to expansion, and hence more risk.

Taken together, this would imply that if a society from Earth virtualized itself in the past, the virtualized society is likely located at Earth as well. This is the only way to avoid future black ball risk, retain an ability to avoid detection even once the surface species becomes space faring, and retain the capacity to monitor and rapidly intervene in anything involving future civilizations emerging at Earth.

Given they would be at Earth, we ought to expect the location involved to be a small physical area with low signature, extremely safe from both natural dangers and risks from human affairs, and unlikely for humanity to discover in our expected scientific and expansionary endeavors. This location also would need to be one where the civilization could remain indefinitely, even after it has made contact with human civilization.

A high-effort build-out that ends with a final fixed physical profile would be strategically valuable. Once construction is finished, resource acquisition could taper to sustenance levels and detection becomes far less likely. Given a fixed physical profile, so too would there need to be a fixed population size. The volume of space involved could be quite small for a relatively large number of individuals. For reference, a single cubic mile could fit all of today’s humans stacked on top of each other with a reasonable amount of spacing and with 20% of the space leftover for everything else the society needs to survive.

Consider a virtualized society of 10-100 million individuals in a single physical volume embedded inside of the Earth’s crust. This volume could be columnar, ensuring a very small cross section with the surface, further reducing the risk of detection. Geothermal heat can be used for energy. If embedded under the ground under the ocean, access to deep water would be possible with minimal detection, which would help with cooling, possible fusion power plants, and life support. Such a location would also be well shielded from a wide variety of cosmological threats over the long haul, such as solar flares, asteroids, or even nearby supernovas. And of course, a well-chosen location could be well outside of the reach of all but the most advanced civilizations on the surface, and even then once they develop far enough, outside of their interests of exploration. If placed well, a virtualized civilization could situate itself where the surface species wouldn’t merely need to be extremely advanced but also have determined it needed to actively search for such a virtualized civilization underground to have hopes of finding it. If the surface species were to never imagine such a subterranean society existed, they’d never dedicate enough resources to find it.

Thus if a society on Earth virtualized before the human society, the most likely place to look would be deep in the crust, under the ocean, in a relatively small void that can access the ocean but whose primary volume is located far deeper than human civilization would ever choose to look to extract resources or explore scientifically. Under this hypothesis, it would be no surprise to find that UAPs are not coming in from space but up out of the oceans.

What are they doing?

If an intraterrestrial civilization exists on Earth, they have two ongoing concerns: maintaining their own civilization and de-risking ours. Given their society is virtualized, their day-to-day activities would largely take place within simulated environments, and their culture would have already been shaped by avatarism.

However, given the risk humans present to them as we expand our technological capabilities, the intraterrestrials would need a sizable physical presence on the surface to monitor us and prevent our expansion. They would likely employ remote surveilance probes and scientific expeditions to keep track of our technological progress and social development. Such probes are an obvious explanation for UAPs. This monitoring would be crucial for assessing the potential emergence of black balls and other risks.

The propulsion systems of UAPs may provide further evidence of their terrestrial origins. Many reports of UAP sightings describe craft that appear to ionize the surrounding atmosphere, creating a distinctive blue glow. This phenomenon could potentially be explained by the use of electrohydrodynamic propulsion, a technology that relies on the magnetic manipulation of ionized air to create thrust. Such a propulsion system would be useless in the vacuum of space, and would suggest that the intraterrestrials’ craft are designed for operation on our planet, not space.

The allegations of crashes and recovery of humanoid bodies from craft such as those by Mr. Grusch would also be consistent with a sibling species here on Earth, working through the engineering failures of their propulsion technology not yet fully hardened against novel technologies deployed by humans such as nuclear weapons tests.

Given the inevitability of the human species coming across evidence of intraterrestrial activity, the intraterrestrials would also seek to engage in a large scale disinformation campaign to minimize the risk that human civilization would accurately determine their true nature and seek out their location underground. Given their inability to relocate, premature discovery of where they reside would be catastrophic.

The best possible disinformation campaign would be one which persuades humans that their origins are not down under the ground at all but the exact opposite: that they are extraterrestrials from outer space.

If such a disinformation campaign were underway, a critical part of it would be to give individual humans undeniable experiences of extraterrestrial visitation. By doing so, the mythology of an extraterrestrial origin would take root in human society for all intraterrestrial activity, deterring theorizing which could motivate a search underground.

Using AR and VR technology to fool the senses, it would be relatively easy to convince physically drugged and abducted humans that they are on vast spaceships with a variety of bizarre alien species (such as large ‘mantids’ and ‘reptilians’) among which they can experience telepathy. Many abduction stories include the detail that the abductee never experiences boarding the ship, but are in bed and then ‘wake up’ inside the ship. This would be consistent with being drugged and put into a VR simulation.

DALL-E rendition of a hypothetical coercive VR projection system that could be used in abductions to fool the victim into believing they met extraterrestrials

One would also not be surprised to find that in any scenario of direct, frank contact with intraterrestrials themselves, they would express an interest in learning how far we have explored in the deep ocean and underground, while claiming to be from far away ‘gibberish’ star systems.

The Intraterrestrial civilization, if it exists, would be engaged in a complex balancing act, maintaining their own virtualized society while closely monitoring, influencing, and fooling human civilization on the surface about their origin.

What would they look like?

The physical appearance of the intraterrestrial species would be shaped by a combination of evolutionary adaptations to their subterranean environment and deliberate genetic modifications to optimize their biology for living in sensory stimulation. Given their origins as a near-human sibling species, the intraterrestrials would share many basic anatomical features with modern humans. However, their appearance would diverge in several key respects.

Due to the lack of exposure to sunlight in their subterranean habitat, as well as reduced oxygenated respiration, the intraterrestrials would likely have over time developed pale translucent or grey skin. Their eyes would be optimized for low-light conditions and for interfacing with virtual reality systems, with larger pupils and more rod and cone cells in their larger retinas. Similarly, their ears would likely be adapted for plug-in auditory stimulators, with minimized external ear structures and more sensitive inner ear organs, to allow direct stimulation of the auditory and vestibular nerves. When traveling to the surface, depending on their eye sensitivity, it would be expected for them to wear dark coverings over their eyes to be able to see in direct sunlight.

The intraterrestrials’ bones and muscles would likely be optimized for their low-gravity, confined environment, with more gracile skeletons and reduced muscle mass and size. To further minimize their physical footprint and simplify their life support requirements, the intraterrestrials might have engineered modifications to their digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems. They may have more efficient digestive processes with easily managed waste, such as fully liquid absorption and waste secretion which can be entirely managed by their stimulation enclosures.

While the exact appearance of the intraterrestrials would depend on the specific evolutionary pressures and technological adaptations they have undergone, the general picture that emerges is of a species that is highly consistent with the described characteristics of the widely reported prototypical “grey” alien.

This sketch of the allegations of the “Roswell alien” is clearly non-human, but yet not so alien after all.

How would we know?

Detecting the presence of an intraterrestrial civilization would be challenging, given they would have had millenia to prepare countermeasures and would be actively trying to undermine any ongoing efforts to do so by utilizing their technological superiority.

Seismic activity could be one angle of attack. The maintenance of the intraterrestrials’ subterranean habitat may generate seismic waves that could be detected by surface-based monitoring stations. While these signals might be subtle and difficult to distinguish from natural seismic activity, machine learning techniques could potentially identify anomalies that suggest artificial origins.

Another potential indicator could be geothermal anomalies. The intraterrestrials’ underground infrastructure would likely generate significant amounts of waste heat, which could create detectable temperature anomalies in the surrounding rock. Detailed geothermal mapping of the Earth’s crust, combined with models of natural heat flow patterns, could reveal unexplained hot spots that might indicate their presence.

Gravitational anomalies could be another potential line of evidence. The presence of large underground structures and concentrations of mass associated with the intraterrestrials’ habitat could create subtle gravitational anomalies that might be detectable by surface-based or orbital gravity surveys.

A gravity hole in the Indian Ocean — anamolies to cross check with the hypothesis as origin candidates

Archeological evidence could be another potential indicator of the intraterrestrials’ past existence on the surface before they virtualized. The discovery of unusual materials, technologies, or biological specimens that cannot be explained by known human cultures could support the hypothesis.

What is their plan?

The intraterrestrials’ long-term plan would likely be focused on managing risk. Their primary objective would be to ensure the long-term survival and stability of their own civilization by maintaining internal stability and monitoring human progress.

If they did not choose to eradicate the surface humans, most likely their long term plans include revealing their existence and establishing formal contact, given unbounded technological human development on the surface is unsustainable. This plan might involve gradually acclimating humans to the idea of an advanced subterranean species through controlled leaks, anonymous communications, or staged events. They might also identify and cultivate relationships with key individuals or institutions that could serve as intermediaries or advocates for the intraterrestrials’ agenda.

The intraterrestrials’ plan would likely be complex and dynamic, subject to adaptation as circumstances change. If the hypothesis is correct, it shouldn’t surprise us that our ability to observe UAPs and gather potential evidence of their presence diminishes in response to our own technological capabilities. For example, the widespread adoption of cellphone cameras not leading to a surge of UAP reports could merely be a function of a tactical shift to avoid this kind of detection.

Facilitating unification would need to be the ultimate goal of the intraterrestrials’ plan, so human society could be brought into the fold and the risks it presents neutralized. Ultimately, such unification may not be something which will lead to desirable outcomes for humanity, given it will be full of compromises with a species we share a planet with. Ultimately, such a transformative and unsettling event being on the horizon would more than warrant an extensive cover-up by the government to defer the public’s awareness of the situation as late as possible.

Where’s the evidence?

Evidence for the presence of a subterranean virtualized society is inconclusive, but there are many signals that can motivate action towards a more dedicated search.

First, there is the UFO phenomenon itself, which spans back centuries and aligns well with the hypothesis for all the reasons mentioned above.

Second, there are varying bodies of archeological evidence which suggest prior mass migrations and calamaties befalling ancient hominid societies, some of which we know now were capable of building underground cities and had technologies such as primitive writing going back more than 100,000 years.

Third, many religious myths and histories tell stories of flooding events and fallen advanced civilizations, such as the story of Atlantis. The hypothesis would imply there is a thread of truth to these stories.

Of course, the evidence of a past industrialized society by non-sapiens is weak at best, but the intraterrestrial hypothesis implies such a civilization would have spent a long period, perhaps thousands of years, removing any trace of their technological advancement from the surface, helped along by time and decay.

While none of these bits of evidence are conclusive, the intraterrestrial hypothesis puts forward a much more constrained explanation of what fire may be behind all the smoke with UFOs. There’s arguably a sufficient body of evidence to warrant a dedicated, focused scientific endeavor to search for an underground virtualized society we share the planet with.

Where from here?

The Intraterrestrial Hypothesis puts forward the question: what if we are not the first technological species on our planet? Conditional on the three principles, if that is the case, we ought to expect a sibling society of ours to have already virtualized itself deep underground, here on Earth.

Such a species, if they share a recent ancestor with us, would likely appear exactly the way “grey” aliens appear. Many who encounter them would interpret these species to be “humans from the future” because they would in fact be genetic cousins of ours who are simply ahead of us on knowledge and technology. Such a species would also likely be running a disinformation campaign convincing us they are extraterrestrial. They would be observing us with probes which can travel in our atmosphere and would be having direct encounters to seed the disinformation campaign and monitor our development. They’d be intervening with our nuclear arsenals to prevent planetary disaster, denying us from expanding far beyond Earth’s surface, and would be slowly ratcheting things towards some kind of reunification and normalization of sharing the planet with them. Such an ontologically shocking scenario would be expected to be rationally covered up by anyone who knew the full truth.

In summary, much of our own future looks just like what the so-called “alien” phenomenon seems to be today. Maybe we’re just not first.

The most entertaining outcome would be believing this whole time we might be the only intelligent life in the galaxy when we weren’t even the only intelligent life on our own planet.

They might be down there, we just need to start looking.

[1] Many people who I’ve pointed this out to imagine it’s comparable to the European expansion into the New World, but it’s a misleading comparison. In that scenario, the pre-expansion society was not one where all members of it could always be with each other at any time and had diffused this into their norms and culture, and nor was it the case the entire species was unified in this way and would then be objectively splitting itself into two cohorts on the other side.

[2] Many people imagine virtual reality pods to be things which inexorably involve physiological atrophy and a sedentary lifestyle, but this need not be the case. For example, physical endurance and exercise can absolutely be a part of this to the degree it is necessary to live a healthy life through the use of haptics.

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Greg Fodor

Creator of @web_spaces. Formerly: @MozillaHubs, @AltspaceVR. @Etsy. Tweets are my own.