Spiders from Space!

Doesn’t quite have the cache of “Pigs in Space” but an interesting idea. Baen has an article up on what it sort of starfaring species social spiders might turn into. Interesting stuff:

Think Like Spiders with Starships

…First they have to find us. Or at least they have to find suitable sites to establish new nests, presumably rich, wet worlds like our own Earth. The drive for spiders to expand territory results in exploratory threads sent out at random. If strands stick, spiders investigate.

Imagine a technology that mimics what spiders know from biology. Von Neumann probes scattered to space might carry explorers who evaluate new nodes, new planets. Each planetfall expands a web work across space of increasing complexity and shifting connectivity. Communication vibrates along the connection points like a hum across the galaxy, with the spiders focusing on attractive worlds. The fact is, with expansion following their ancient ethological roots, they might eventually visit every world in the Milky Way.

…When they arrive here, they will not care about individuals. They will seem pitiless in the way they advance. There will be no opportunity for prisoner exchange. No quarter given or expected, indeed no conception of such a thing. We will likely not understand them and they can’t even try to understand us. We will see a campaign of conquest, but should realize the intellectual emptiness of evolution’s moral compass.

As a hierarchical species capable of independent thought at different levels, our advantage on the battlefield will play greatly to our advantage. While initially we may be awed and cowed by the technology they wield, the uncanny way they coordinate their ground troops, or their pitiless methods of advance, human instincts should launch our own problem solving abilities to defend our world and defeat the menace. We, who killed mastodon with fire-hardened sticks. We, who took the dens of cave bears as our own. We, who crossed mountains with nothing but furs wrapped about our bodies. We, who must now repel the seemingly implacable alien menace from our midst.

The tactics and strategy of the spiders following ancient biological algorithms would manifest in rapid adaptations on a battle field. Fluid with emergent properties, spider troops react almost instantaneously to our positions and movements with their own age old mechanisms honed over almost a half billion years longer as a social species. But their thinking is not heuristic, it is only reactionary. And this is their weakness. Our individuality will outwit programming.

Reminds me a bit of two of my favorite sf novels – Blindsight by Peter Watts, and Killing Star by Zebrowski and Pellegrino. (You should read both instantly.)