Monday, April 11, 2011

That Brutal Little Blue Planet

How would an extraterrestrial civilization view us?

It’s more than just a casual observation. If First Contact ever does occur (and I’m not saying it necessarily will) what they think of us would be a critical element of the new relationship.

Well, let’s put it in a form easier for us to comprehend: how would we view them? The answer is through the lens of our particular perspective. We would view them in comparison to us. Given that, one would imagine that they might view us in comparison to their type of biology, culture and technology. That could be a pretty high standard, depending on their level of development. If they are a much more advanced civilization they could view us as the brutal, scrappy little planet with major environmental problems. You would almost hope that in such a situation there would be many civilizations that our visitors had studied. This, at least, might help them view us with an element of objectivity. Rather than suffering in a direct comparison with them, we would perhaps be seen as part of a continuum of development that occurs with intelligent beings. They might even classify such civilizations:

Class one: intelligent life developing

Class two: early civilization

Class three: mechanized civilization

Class four: computerized civilization

Class five: destroyed their planet and now looking for a new home

Okay, sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Why does all this matter? How they view us goes directly to the heart of the new relationship. If we are the only other civilization they have run into, they might have high expectations for us, expectations that could be judged by their standards. This could have a huge impact for our future. In the wake of a dramatic First Contact scenario, with a high degree of interaction between ourselves and extraterrestrials, human self-determination will be a big issue. Do we decide our own path forward or are we under the influence of a powerful new friend?

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