Saturday, June 14, 2008

History and Honesty

In a First Contact scenario an extraterrestrial civilization may be visiting Earth for the first time or it could be returning after many visits, over hundreds or thousands of years. How they came to know of us, and when, will be central to questions asked at First Contact. Humans will also want to know what type of contact occurred. The answers will have an impact on how an alien race is received here on Earth and how the new relationship will proceed.

We view our human history and evolution as sacred. It is one thing to say that an alien civilization has been studying humans, it is quite another to say it has been manipulating the human race. The honest answers to those questions will be essential in how news of First Contact is received. And how do we judge honesty with extraterrestrials? Are we to accept what they say at face value? An alien civilization could have many reasons to lie to us about previous contact or current intent. The only way to judge honesty is by the breadth and believability of the information presented. There must be evidence. It must be presented to the world.

We know that civilizations change through history. The International policies and standards of the Spain in the 1600’s are very different from policies and standards today. It is unlikely modern Spain will forcibly take control of a far off land. Even if such unexplored places were out there, the nature of Spanish nationalism and respect for other cultures has changed. The same can be said of England, Portugal and the Dutch. So, what if alien civilizations have gone through similar changes? Perhaps 500 years ago it was considered appropriate to genetically manipulate unsophisticated beings on another planet? Then after a cultural shift this practice came into question and a new, more enlightened approach emerged. How would you explain that at First Contact? Would you point to past transgressions as mistakes and admit them up front or would you wait until further into the process to reveal the true history of contact?

Humans value honesty, even if we do not always practice it. We understand that true progress comes from openness and a free exchange. That often means confronting our past and admitting past sins. Think of all the countries currently confronting such issues: Australians and treatment of the Aborigines; The United States and slavery; Germany and the Holocaust; The Japanese and the invasion of China.

It seems important that a visiting Alien civilization be up front and honest from the beginning of First Contact. The history of contact and how that contact was conducted needs to be clearly stated in whatever first address is made to the people of Earth. The worst scenario would be to have the history of previous contact glossed over at first, and then come out later as a more serious matter. There will be huge trust issues between humans and a visiting civilization. Those trust issues will last for many years and perhaps intensify as First Contact begins to have an impact on the world economy and creates social disturbances. At best First Contact will be like a huge storm, creating confusion, change, instability and perhaps chaos. The only way we will emerge from the storm intact is with complete honesty. There may be a movement afoot to block all contact with the alien culture. The only way to stop this type of thinking is for honesty to rule the day. There must be a complete accounting of how we have come to know each other and that accounting needs to come from the very start of First Contact.

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