Monday, December 28, 2009

Hollywood Plot Twist

We have seen the alien enemy and it is us. At least that’s the premise of the latest big budget science fiction film “Avatar”. And as cheesy as that message can be at times in the movie, it is an important idea: we may one day be the marauding space aliens we so fear here on Earth. The “Avatar” world of Pandora is beautiful, complex and beyond comprehension. The humans tear it up for an expensive substance used to make desperately needed energy. In the process they attempt to stage a genocide that appears based in part on Native American and Australian Aborigine history. It’s not a subtle plot line and certainly modern political warfare is a background theme. Whether it is a political statement or morality play, the story in “Avatar” presents issues we need to confront. If we do begin to colonize space what will be our driving force: big business or science? Will we treat the universe like a strip mine and dumping ground?

These questions could be ones asked at a higher level. Alien First Contact researchers would have to decide whether humans are a threat to the rest of the universe. Why make contact, and perhaps provide the humans with technology to travel the stars, if that process might unleash war and environmental damage on other worlds? It might be best just to watch and confront the humans when they become a real threat, capable of practical travel between stars.

The rest of the world views the Hollywood vision of extraterrestrial life with a more political bent. The India Times calls “Avatar” a healthy switch for Hollywood science fiction, which has languished for years under the alien fear factor theme. However, the folks in India take a rather more conspiratorial slant to Hollywood plotlines. They see the fear of alien invasion as promoting U.S. protectionism and military expansion. If aliens are a threat, perhaps we need weapons in space? First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization would certainly bring new life to the debate over the “Star Wars” missile defense program.

All of this gives alien researchers reason to pay us a visit sooner, rather than later. The first rule in any public relations campaign is to be proactive. Don’t wait for the bad messages to begin before you offer your side of the argument. It might be best if an extraterrestrial civilization could take part in the conversation now, before we have practical interstellar travel capabilities and before we put missiles in space.

The big take-away from “Avatar” is something that history has proved again and again: humans can be real morons. That scary notion should be enough to convince any wandering aliens to get involved with the human race now, before we do something really stupid.

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