Sunday, June 14, 2009


We live on a simple sand beach with gentle lapping waves and calm seas for as far as the eye can see. First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization would change that immediately. We would be faced with a massive tidal wave of information and knowledge, the accumulation of thousands and thousands of years of science and technology built up by extraterrestrial visitors. If unleashed in a torrent our civilization would surely drown, the moorings of our society washed away.

You would hope that the aliens might understand this and be protective of how much they reveal. We can’t count on that. We must be prepared. The best solution: Establish a Firewall.

Computer Firewalls are the great safety measure of our time, designed to keep hackers out of networks and even individual computers. The idea is that you let what information you want in and all unwanted information is kept out. You’re prompted for downloads. Access can be denied and if necessary the entire system can be shut off from the outside world.

We need a First Contact Firewall. It should be established as soon as contact is made with an extraterrestrial civilization. We can explain that we are concerned about a massive overload of information and wish to carefully control what happens after First Contact. This notion would have to be put forth by a world body, such as the United Nations.

A Firewall will have many detractors. People will want to know as much about the alien visitors as possible and this is understandable. Realistically though, you could find out quite a bit about an extraterrestrial civilization without having to delve into particular areas of science and technology. First Contact would have to come with a basic level of information: who they are, where they come from, what their home planet is like, whether there are more extraterrestrial civilizations, how they found us, what their intentions are and how do they perceive this relationship proceeding. It’s enough at first to know that they have the technology to reach us; that technology doesn’t have to be explained in detail. Those facts should wait until scientists in all fields have been able to gather and discuss implications and how it would be best to proceed.

After First Contact there would be two types of knowledge:

-Earned Knowledge: the type that we have acquired through hundreds of years of study, experimentation and peer review. Each scientific accomplishment is built on a foundation of many other scientific accomplishments. Even the ground breaking idea of one person is not accepted until proven in peer review. Every great discovery comes on the backs of hundreds of other researchers, carefully toiling behind the scenes. Knowledge of this type takes hard work and has depth. The roots are strong. We understand not only the principle at hand, but how we arrived at that principle.

-Lazy Knowledge: imagine that someone gives you a boat. It may be a better boat than you could ever dream of building and yet you still only have a boat. You have not done any of the work needed to truly understand how to build that boat. Scientists would want to take it apart and study it from every angle. Perhaps with time and hard work scientists could acquire the deeper knowledge that comes from truly understanding how the boat was built. In the meantime though corporations would be fighting to copy, build and sell more boats. Lazy knowledge would win out because of economic reasons. Why would someone waste time learning the principles of boat building when the boat is right there in front of us to copy?

The Firewall allows humans to determine what kind of information is provided to us and in what circumstances. The threat isn’t just information, though. Interference through contact could be just as dangerous. A Firewall would establish the idea that our extraterrestrial visitors must get our permission before embarking on any contact with any humans. This will be another sore point. Millions will want to openly converse with our new neighbors. Countries will invite them to visit. The world will be enthralled. Keeping a short leash on what occurs after First Contact will take a strength that quite frankly the United Nations does not have. It will be up to the more powerful nations to help set the agenda through the United Nations Security Council. This will seem undemocratic at first. It is necessary though to establish a sense of order where currently there is none. We are not prepared for First Contact. A coalition of governments will need to prop up a weak United Nations in the initial days after First Contact. Those leaders must also have the wisdom to build the United Nations into a more powerful body with a democratic underpinning. United Nations representatives need to be democratically elected by each nation. Every country should be fairly represented. The current system of voting is also unrealistic: should China get the same vote as Belize? It seems population would need to help determine representation in the United Nations.

The Firewall can provide us the time to make these decisions. It gives us a cushion in which we can grow a world voice and world representation. Without the infrastructure needed to handle life after First Contact, we will be in extreme jeopardy. The Firewall can give us a little time to think.

First Contact Extraterrestrial Alien Proposal Idea Hello Introduction Space Visitors

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