Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Questions to Ask

We can only use human history to help direct us in how we should respond to contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. Human history shows that greed, domination and selfishness often drive the actions of societies on the advanced side of the technology scale. Of course there are other motivations: discovery, curiosity and kinship. It seems that quite often visiting civilizations were engaged in all of these motivations at the same time. That's what makes it so complicated. So, what should we expect from a visiting extraterrestrial civilization? Should we be distrustful of their intentions?

There would be two basic ways for an advanced civilization to dominate humankind. The first would be an all out physical attack. The second would be an undermining of our society. How would the second occur? It could come from a rapid change in knowledge. A tidal wave of technological innovation could completely undo our society. A massive onslaught of information about the greater universe could cause an earthquake of sorts that would rock the foundations of religion, economy and science.

The all out attack almost seems preferable. At least you know what you are dealing with. Most less advanced civilizations in the human First Contact model were overwhelmed in the second way. You can see the effects today. Native cultures that took thousands of years to develop were hit with a cultural tsunami. Rather than developing naturally they were forced to adapt to new pressures. This might work out favorably if the visitors were of goodwill. Let's face it, most of the time the baser instincts of the visiting civilizations led the way.

A basic level of distrust would be important for humans in a First Contact situation. You would want to keep contact tightly controlled in the beginning and then carefully regulated for some time after. This doesn't mean we have to raise our spears and shields and react in a violent way. It means we need to be careful. You wouldn't want a fleet of alien ships landing at one time. You would probably only want one ship in Earth atmosphere at a time and quite frankly probably only one in our entire Earth orbit at any one time.

And there would have to be some tough questions:

-How did you come to know of us and when?

-Have you visited here before?

-Have you had contact with humans at any point in the past?

-Was there any manipulation of the human population, either through experiments or biological tampering?

-What rules govern your contact with us?

-What do you hope to accomplish by contact with us?

-Why should we not fear you?

-Are you prepared to follow our rules and our guidelines for First Contact?

I know the theme of aliens manipulating humans has been beaten to death in the popular media of movies and fiction. However, those themes come to us because of our understanding of human history. We can be a dangerous and mean-spirited people when at our worst. Are we to expect better of extraterrestrial visitors? It would be best to be cautious and ask many questions. The answers can provide a road map of how to proceed. We need to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It may sound trite, but we have a lot to lose in this equation. We need to learn from our own fractured human history and be firmly in control of First Contact at each and every step.

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