Throw the word extraterrestrial into a Google search and you get an interesting mix of result entries:
-UFO contact on July 4th?
-Are Russian spies working the UFO spy game?
-New SETI chief
-First Look at Steven Spielberg’s new alien series Falling Skies
Fine, so I’m an extraterrestrial visitor trying to do some research about the odd beings inhabiting planet Earth. What do I take from this particular search?
I would wonder why I should give a crap about American Independence Day, and care enough to plan a visit to celebrate or ruin the holiday (remember I’m an alien here.) If I and my alien friends had never visited Earth it would tell me that there are a lot of very paranoid people on Earth with robust imaginations (and that the Examiner has a lot of them writing articles.) It tells me that humans do have legitimate scientific efforts to contact extraterrestrial intelligence (Dr. David Morrison is the new director of the SETI Carl Sagan Center.) It would also trouble me that once again aliens are being portrayed in the popular media as aggressive, war-like beings bent on taking over Earth (this would upset me as an alien, whether I had good intentions or not.)
Wow, that’s quite the bag full and only page one. Why do we care? Well, if alien researchers were to study the Earth they would probably rely on the Internet. It tells quite a bit about us, but does it really define who we are and how we consider extraterrestrial First Contact? The problem with Internet search is that it doesn’t tell you what the populace thinks of a certain subject, only who has had the gumption to be writing about it lately and posting those thoughts on the Internet. Let’s face it, crazy people love the Internet (hey, stop laughing- I’m not crazy, I just have an odd hobby.)
Researchers would probably put much more stock in our academic sources and polling that uses proper statistical methods. Unfortunately this would narrow things quite considerably, as it is near academic suicide to work in consideration of extraterrestrial intelligence, unless you can occupy the very narrow bit of academic territory claimed by the brave scientific folks in the SETI area. SETI rightfully dominates most of the academic entries in a database search. However, if you’re interested in what social scientists have to say about the impact of First Contact – you won’t find much. Substantive polling also doesn’t really exist- the few polls that have been conducted, for the most part by Roper and Gallup, don’t go very deep. They merely brush at the topic and it’s usually lumped in with beliefs in the paranormal. If there is a substantive poll that delves into what people think about the possibilities of First Contact please e-mail me and let me know. I have been searching for some time.
Where does that leave our extraterrestrial researchers? They know that we consider the idea of extraterrestrial intelligence on a regular basis. We also tend to be pretty narrow in our speculation and harp on the same themes over and over again. They may read our genre science fiction and figure out that we can stretch our imaginations when we decide to do such. They realize that we have built up many fears and worries about First Contact. This would provide them with much work in the public relations area. Most importantly they would figure out pretty quickly that our governments have not considered the issue of First Contact at all. The Earth is completely unprepared for First Contact on the diplomatic and political front.
So, would you still want to say hello? Would you hold off a few years and see how we develop? I guess that would depend on their original reason for considering First Contact. Would our society disintegrate because of First Contact? Certainly not. There would probably be a period of unrest and turmoil, especially in the economic and political arenas, but we humans are a pretty resilient lot and we have all of the necessary tools to cope with First Contact, we just have to put our minds to the task. Would we react negatively and be a threat to the visitors? Perhaps at first, but if First Contact is carefully managed this threat can be mitigated. I don’t think that waiting would provide much benefit. Earth governments don’t seem to be moving in the direction of First Contact preparation. Now may be as good a time as any.