Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who I am and why I write about First Contact

There’s quite a range of people who write about this subject. One side of the spectrum is dominated by those worried about government conspiracy and alien atrocities. The other end rests firmly in science, with those who discuss the practical applications of SETI and discovering new worlds through radio telescopes, like the new Allen Telescope Array operated by the University of California, Berkeley.

I intend to explore only a very narrow slice of the spectrum. I have always been fascinated with what real people do when confronted with extraordinary situations. I’ve spent years wondering how people would react to First Contact from an extraterrestrial civilization. From that question naturally came the speculation of how First Contact might take place. There are many different ways First Contact might occur, some of which humans may have never even considered. I concern myself with only one scenario. It assumes that representatives of an extraterrestrial civilization have been watching us for some time and have been debating when to make contact. My scenario sets forth a number of circumstances that would cause them to want to make contact with humans now. These include, on the positive side: a nearly instantaneous global communication system; a shared network of knowledge accessible to most humans; a form of world government with representatives from most nations; relative world stability; and a host nation with the practical necessities to make First Contact a success. The negative side is the aspect that inspires the most alarm. You could imagine that if we have been under observation for some time, extraterrestrial analysts might be quite concerned about our environment. They also might be wary of our world economy and our reliance on fossil fuels. Is the planet Earth about to be tossed into a new dark age, sending our civilization spiraling and setting our sciences back hundreds of years? It has happened before and there are many warning signs right now.

So, this is what the blog takes into account. It is a narrow sliver. It assumes much.

I believe that the best process of First Contact can be achieved by a swift lifting of the veil. I also think the broadcast news media is an ideal tool to be leveraged in this effort. It provides the opportunity to reach the entire globe in a short amount of time. It side steps contact with individual governments and makes the welcome one for the entire planet. Why is this important? First Contact means that humans must gain a new perspective. We must think of ourselves as one world united by common biology and common needs. Any First Contact with one federal government or another will be met with distrust by the rest of the world. First Contact must be quick, it must be a welcome for the entire world, and it must be seen by the entire world. It is a collective moment that can draw us together and hopefully for many hundreds of years to come.

I come about my media perspective after many years in the broadcast news field. I take these practical skills and apply them to the problem. How do you say hello to everyone in the world? It comes down to the nuts and bolts of the revelation, the greeting and the innumerable small details that must be worked out to pull it off. You must consider how everyone will react: the first police on the scene; the local news media; the national news media; city leaders; state officials; the National Guard; the FBI; the FAA; and the people who live near the First Contact location. Then you must consider how to disprove the hoax: the revelation; the proof; the experts needed to scrutinize the proof; and the process to bring the proof to the experts.
In one respect this is the ultimate Public Relations question. How would you pull it off? Yes, I have a public relations background and yes, I understand that the profession is not often viewed positively. In reality public relations is like anything else: it is what you make of it. If you want to use deception to get your way that is what will characterize your efforts. I personally believe that honesty in public relations is not only possible but necessary. If you approach a problem using honest solutions you wind up with a much better product.

In the end First Contact will be a carefully constructed house of cards. Even worse each card will be shaking and teetering throughout the event. First Contact will call for quick decision making and a high degree of flexibility. You have to analyze every possible angle and then be prepared to have something occur which you have not even considered.

The First Contact scenario described here only takes into account the first few days. It begins with the revelation, moves through the process of disproval of the hoax, and sets up the next step. That step should be the extraterrestrial representatives addressing a joint session of the United Nations. It should be broadcast for the entire world to see and share. This will be the moment that will be crucial to the ensuing years. After First Contact life won’t be easy. The revelation of an extraterrestrial civilization will set forces into motion in our society that will be hard to control. Ultimately I believe we will come out of it stronger, more united, and ready to take our place as citizens of the universe.

This blog is about taking that very first step into a new era.

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