Monday, October 19, 2009

The Watchdogs

The premise of this blog is to conceptualize a method of First Contact by an extraterrestrial civilization and discuss some of the implications of such a revelation. I draw on the only source we have available, which is how humans react currently to real situations. Such comparisons though are certainly weak at best. We can try to guess how humans might react to the big hello. We can discuss possible impacts to the world economy, global politics and human society. It’s all a guessing game and certainly an unscientific one. It does raise questions and questions are all we can approach at this point.

The type of extraterrestrials making the greeting, the reason for their visit, how they handle First Contact; all of these variables make it nearly impossible to predict what will happen if an extraterrestrial civilization decides to make Direct First Contact. This is one reason that many scientific minds stay away from this area of thought. There are so many possibilities, where do you start?

Certainly the most likely scenario is that First Contact will not occur in our lifetime and perhaps not for many generations to come. Does that mean we shouldn’t consider the matter? No matter what the variables bring there is no doubt that such a revelation would have a huge impact on our society. The only way we can possibly begin to be prepared for such an event is to talk about it in rational terms.

One solution to the multiple variable problem is to consider the entire question in a much broader scope. What are the foundations that we need to develop to deal with any First Contact scenario? I believe it comes down to two major points:

-Organization of response: We must develop the organizational body that will handle the direct diplomacy with an extraterrestrial civilization. We must then consider the sub organizations needed for human response. The larger body would have to be the United Nations. There is no other body that represents nearly the entire world population. While not perfect, it is simply all we have. There needs to be thought paid to First Contact in the United Nations. I understand there are plenty of more pressing matters. Simply gathering groups of academics, writers and thinkers on the subject would be a start, much in the same way the Contact group discusses the issues during the annual meeting at NASA Ames Research Center.

The sub bodies needed for organization of response would include scientific societies that represent the major scientific fields. No matter what the scenario First Contact will pose a challenge to human science, and not merely the natural sciences, but also the social sciences.

-Watchdogs: Outside of the organizational response there needs to be quick and effective development of academic watchdogs. Their job would be to look for the unexpected implications to First Contact. They would have to represent academic areas across the spectrum: economics, political science, and religion are just a few that come to mind. This academic lead inquiry would need to examine the impact of First Contact and try to determine where it might lead. This could be a new academic field in and of itself: First Contact Impact Studies. For this group the social sciences may prove to be most important. However, the natural sciences would also need to be closely watched.

Certainly the work of watchdogs cannot start now. We can though, begin to contemplate what kinds of watchdogs might be needed and how we might organize a response. It is likely that events will unfold quickly and dramatically in the aftermath of First Contact. Having some form of road map would be helpful.

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