A dramatic First Contact event will require strong leadership at many levels of government, in the sciences, and in public life. The revelation of an extraterrestrial intelligence will create a number of challenges. The public will be shocked and confused at first. They will look for leadership. The media will cover the big story and soon turn to how people are reacting here on Earth. If they find in-fighting among competing science academies and political brawls developing in government ranks, they will seize on this weakness. It is essential that we have strong leadership and quickly develop plans to manage the relationship with our new neighbors.
Part of the problem is a lack of serious thought about Direct First Contact. Even the SETI and Contact organizations struggle for legitimacy, while discussing the search for intelligent life. After First Contact we will be grappling with issues most of us have never even considered. For this reason it is essential that the well organized SETI and Contact science-based organizations band together to lead the discussion. This will need to include immediate needs and long-term issues:
-What immediate statements do we need to make to our new neighbors?
-What rules and guidelines do we need to establish for further contact?
-What military precautions do we need to take?
-What surveillance measures do we need to take?
-What agencies and bodies will lead this new relationship?
-How should the United Nations respond?
-Should the United Nations reorganize?
-Does the United Nations need democratic-style representation?
-How can science and government collaborate on a response?
-What framework can help protect our sciences?
-What do we need to protect our culture and independence?
-How do we protect the world economy from a chaotic reaction to First Contact?
-What information do we allow into our world and how will it be filtered?
-Who will protect us from an informational tidal wave?
There will be much to do and there will be little time in which to do it. Strong leadership will reassure the world population. Weak leadership will lead to chaos. The world will be watching. How will our leaders respond?
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