Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Information Imbalance

Extraterrestrial First Contact would create an immediate imbalance. The alien visitors would know much more about us, than we know of them. This could put us in jeopardy in a number of ways:

1. We would have no way to judge their intentions. Their history and interaction with other civilizations would be unknown to us. We would rely on their accounts and hope that they are not making significant omissions.

2. We would have a hard time deciphering their technology. An extraterrestrial greeting party would need to have technology well beyond our capabilities and understanding in order to travel here.

3. The vast ocean of information they possess would be a threat in and of itself. So much information could prove dangerous to our civilization if it is released in an uncontrolled manner.

4. They could have spent years studying our civilization. We would have days to try and interpret theirs.

There is truly no way correct such an information imbalance. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a proactive approach. We must make a series of demands at the outset of alien First Contact. These demands should state that we will be in control of how First Contact proceeds and how information is disseminated. It would be best to keep the information flow as limited as possible until guidelines are developed.

This may not be a problem. Think of the situation: what would you want to know about? We will wonder: who are they, what is their civilization like and are there any other such civilizations in the universe? This is relatively safe information to release, because it doesn’t have an influential bearing on the framework of our society (government, economics, and science) to the degree that information about physics or engineering might. The answers could be enough to keep us busy for quite some time. If the extraterrestrial visitors oblige it could be the start of a carefully controlled dialogue.

The rest of the conversation should be steered by the United Nations, in concert with experts in every field. We will need to decide what questions we want to ask and how the answers will impact our society, our economy, our science, and our religions.

No comments: