Extraterrestrial First Contact, if it is high information contact, could be like a societal earthquake, shaking the foundation of human institutions. That could create significant geopolitical issues. We are undergoing many changes in international relations. The period of U.S. dominance appears to be ending. Cold War era alliances are breaking down.
Chrystia Freeland wrote about geopolitical challenges in Atlantic Monthly back in 2015. The article is even more relevant today. Freeland’s primary point is that the usual system of international relations is disintegrating. The United States has led the world in the geopolitical realm in the wake of World War Two. The Cold War era further moved the Unites States to the forefront of world powers. The collapse of the USSR left many people considering the United States the only remaining superpower. That didn’t last long. Now we have an increasingly aggressive Russia to contend with. China, which has grown into an economic giant, is trying to assume dominance in the Pacific region. Europe is struggling to find a new identity.
The article quotes political scientist Ian Bremmer. Remember, this is from more than two years ago, before President Trump had even declared candidacy. Bremmer calls this time- “a period of geopolitical creative destruction—the glue that is holding the world together no longer sticks. The last time this happened was the end of World War II. The level of geopolitical risk as a consequence of this transition—which is just starting—is absolutely going to be a big deal.”
Bremmer is concerned about risk in the Trump era as well, seeing the withdrawal from world leadership as damaging to the “American brand.” Much of this attention centers on risk for global corporations. Freeland focuses the 2015 piece on how the business world is responding to such change and the impact that may have on the world economy and globalization. Remember globalization? It was the mantra of the early 2000s. Now globalization is a swear word on the lips of politicians across the world. In many countries it is blamed for creating economic woes for the middle and working classes. Whatever the truth to that assertion, there is no doubt that globalization criticism is a powerful political tool.
And what of the other challenges that have come up since 2015? Consider the American withdrawal from international accords; the Russian intrusion into the elections of other nations; a potential Chinese economic downturn; and the shake-up of the European Union. If anything, the world Freeland describes in 2015 has become much more troubling…disintegrating as fast as the media can keep up. Did we ever think we would hear the Chancellor of Germany declaring that Europe needs to go it alone, implying that means without reliance on Great Britain and the United States?
What does all of this mean for extraterrestrials? If they did decide to make contact now, they would be contacting an increasingly unstable human civilization. That would mean much more turmoil for humans considering what to do in the wake of extraterrestrial direct contact. The old days of the world looking to the American president to greet aliens is gone. Nations would fight for their place at the front of the extraterrestrial communication line.
Does that mean that extraterrestrials should wait if they are considering contact? Possibly. There may be better geopolitical circumstances ten years from now. But quite frankly, that seems unlikely. There is no obvious trend that would point to more stability ahead. The opposite seems to be true.
There is one other thought- perhaps extraterrestrial contact could pull nations together? Perhaps such a remarkable event could help us re-set our global relationships? I know this is a common fantasy among those who consider extraterrestrial contact. And perhaps it is naïve. First Contact would certainly not correct any of the underlying world difficulties. But it would be an unprecedented opportunity for humans to view our world with a new perspective- that of outsiders. That doesn’t mean that we need or want aliens telling us how to fix our problems. But First Contact could provide the impetus for humans to unshackle their minds from the tumultuous present, take a deep breath, and consider what our civilization should be in the future. Only then can we make ourselves fully prepared to become citizens of the universe.