Sunday, June 15, 2008

Figuring it out for ourselves

Dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, a dangerously unbalanced world food system, overpopulation and global warming. These are certainly a few reasons that an alien civilization might want to intervene in our world. New technology could provide solutions to many of the most pressing global issues we face today.

And on the other hand, would they want to give us a quick fix? Rising gas prices have lead to an emphasis on developing new energy sources. Our unbalanced food production system is leading some to reconsider the way we produce food and even how we eat. Worries of global warming have put environmentalism back into the forefront of world discussion.

Humans change under force or pressure. There must be a reason to develop water desalinization or hydrogen fuel. Shortages of water and shortages of oil make both of the previously mentioned technologies not only more important, but economical. Rising gas prices may be the best thing for environmentalists, just as a spike in food cost may be good for those who want to reform how we produce and consume food.

So what if the magic answer is dropped on us from above? The natural system of technological evolution is suddenly cut off. Sure, we may get an easy fix for the energy crisis, but at what cost? Would we develop the infrastructure needed to support a new radical technology? What would such an introduction do to the thousands of companies and millions of people employed in current fields like oil and coal production?

In short, it may be best for an alien civilization to simply say hello, and that’s it. They may want us to develop our own solutions. They may even have a hands-off policy currently and may merely be watching and waiting to see what happens next. It’s hard to think of a reason for an alien culture to say hello if that is a concern. What would be the point? You’d be saying hello and oh, by the way, we can’t tell you anything about all of the cool things we know.

Or perhaps we are at the brink of a global crisis that threatens to spin out of control. Maybe global warming is a bigger issue than we know?

What they are willing to tell us and how we handle that information will be the most important outcome of First Contact. One might imagine that if they are much more advanced both technologically and evolutionarily then perhaps we are not the first planet to which they have introduced themselves. Maybe they are watching and waiting to see what happens on many planets across the universe? And of course, maybe there is no one out there at all, and we have to figure all of this out for ourselves.

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