Thursday, August 18, 2011

Annoying First Contact

Okay, here’s the thought for the day: how would we react if visiting extraterrestrials simply said hello and then refused to tell us anything about themselves or the universe? I like to call this scenario annoying First Contact, because our human curiosity would drive us just about crazy with questions. It’s a different scenario then stumbling on an engineered signal. With the discovery of an engineered signal there would be no actual communication initially and thus the origin and nature of the signal would be a scientific puzzle that we could work on solving. It actually fits well into the current human process of knowledge building. Annoying First Contact does not fit well into our thought process. It would be the excitement and promise of a wealth of new information and then the dismay of having the door to that knowledge slammed in our faces.

Hopefully, in such a case they would tell us why they decided not to reveal anything. They may even say they are doing it in our own best interest. We could develop into a stronger civilization if we are forced to grasp and claw for every scientific achievement. Perhaps they tell us about their history and biology and then refuse to tell us about their science and technology? How would we react? It seems likely that we would feel inferior in comparison to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Being purposely kept from information that would be easy for them to share would be insulting and a further blow to the collective human ego.

If we ever do meet extraterrestrial visitors it seems likely that they would keep some information from us, whether it is fear of what we might do with that knowledge or as a form of protection. It could be information we would not know how to process. Astrophysicists posit that an extraterrestrial civilization could be many thousands if not millions of years in advance of us in development. How could we expect to understand the science and technology of such a civilization? Their conception of the cosmos could be beyond our comprehension. Maybe they would feed us bits of information over the years, slowly catching us up to their level of understanding?

No matter what, humans had better be prepared for some frustrating elements of First Contact. It seems unlikely it would occur in our dream scenario of beneficent aliens bestowing to us the secrets of the universe in one fell swoop. First Contact will likely be just like everything else in our world: complex, challenging and often annoying.

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