Monday, April 2, 2012

Extraterrestrial Contact: Localism, Individualism and a Global Society

Extraterrestrial First Contact would most certainly change our human perspective. It would take our thinking to a universal level. It may also hasten the formation of a true global society for humans: one people, on one planet, in a galactic sea of life. This will worry many. They will fear the global society becoming Big Brother as imagined by George Orwell: a crushing bureaucracy of intrusive government. It’s a reasonable concern. Does the rise of a global society mean massive world government? Even more so, does it signal the decline of the local community and the shrinking importance of culture? It does not seem as if we are headed in that direction, perhaps in part due to the power of Orwell’s words and the voices of so many pro-individual thinkers. Orwell didn’t live long enough to see our technology grow. Humans have entered a golden age of sorts when it comes to the individual connection to technology. The power of a Smartphone connected to the Internet is a remarkable thing. The power of a Smartphone connected to Twitter can be a revolutionary thing. It provides each user with the ability to reach the world. It’s no small matter. That ability was previously controlled by giant media interests and the government. One human can now place an idea in the virtual world and inspire an entire nation to action.

Localism is on the rise. We have reached the point in many nations where people are pushing back against the growth of mass market food, drink and culture. We are demanding choice, quality and even more importantly, local individualism. We want things made by neighbors, not people 3000 miles away. We enjoy supporting craft and we are willing to pay more for it. Sure, it’s a small, elite movement right now. Only those of us with the time and money to spend can truly reap the benefits of localism. That’s changing. There are those with a great vision who are trying to bring localism to everyone, no matter their income or social standing. It doesn’t mean a rejection of the global society, just the support and nurturing of localism in conjunction with a global society.

I think in the wake of First Contact that such nurturing of the human culture will be extremely important. Our neighbors, our community groups, our local businesses and our churches will be needed and valued more than ever. They will be the touchstones that help us reconnect to humanity, when the universe seems to be growing beyond our comprehension.

We cannot fear the global society. It will be critical for humans to come together to face the universe as one race and speak with one voice. That doesn’t mean we’ll need one massive institution. A number of closely connected institutions could be quite effective. New technology is forcing institutions to be open and honest in a way not previously seen. Either institutions will respond to those individual needs or they will be toppled. We may be entering a new era in human development, with or without First Contact. The power of the individual grows daily. We will decide how we organize our lives and how we choose to collaborate. Technology may be pulling us together, making geographical distance less of a factor in our day to day lives. However, technology also gives us the power to share the richness of culture and celebrate the things we hold dear as individuals. We can be one and we can be many. We can be a woven rug of many distinctive strands, beautiful in our difference and strong in our connection. That may sound like new age-speak now, but if high-information First Contact ever does occur, keeping that woven rug healthy and vital will become a serious challenge.

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