Monday, May 14, 2012

Extraterrestrial Contact: Social Justice Aliens

If aliens ever visit planet Earth and say hello (and I don’t think they have yet) the aliens will have a reason for doing so. That agenda will frame our relationship with them. The question is how intrusive that agenda might be. What do they want from us?

I’ve discussed a bunch of ways this scenario could go. The one that seems to worry people the most is an intrusive agenda: the aliens want something and they take action to get it. That intrusive agenda doesn’t necessarily have to be abducting our women or stealing our valuable mineral resources (I’m joking here people). They may want to change our behavior. That would of course still be deeply concerning to us.

Imagine if you will social justice aliens. They arrive on planet Earth to say hello. And then they start to make demands. Why don’t you treat women fairly in your society? Why don’t you treat minorities and other cultural groups with respect? Why does government X not allow people to vote? Why don’t you start treating dolphins as intelligent beings? Why do you eat cows?

The list could go on. Now these are very anthropocentric ideas. Aliens would likely have an entirely different perspective and thus a list of our problems that perhaps we don’t consider problems at all.

The point is members of an alien civilization questioning who we are and how we handle ourselves would be troubling. It’s a matter of human autonomy. Even if you agree with their assessment of our weaknesses, that doesn’t mean we want aliens telling us to fix it. It’s very much akin to the human response when someone from the outside criticizes your family. You may be quick to respond: we can pick on each other because we’re family. You’re an outsider, so butt out.

This is certainly something to consider on the flip side. Perhaps we’ll be the travelers visiting a far-off world for First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. They could do all sorts of things on their planet that we view as unfair or barbaric. We would be wise to keep our mouths shut. Relationships require a certain amount of respect for autonomy, no matter whom or what is involved.

Check out the new Alien First Contact Facebook page with links to interesting First Contact articles. It’s also a forum for you to share your ideas.


purplearcanist said...

This idea needs to be explored more in Sci-Fi. I could see very different varieties of social justice aliens. Also, it will probably be unlikely that there is a completely uniform social justice agenda, similar to how people would view the extraterrestrials. Even if they did not try to do social justice, there is always the possibility of both cultures blending, much like with human history, but it won't be nearly as smooth.

Eric said...

purplearcanist: I think the blending of cultures is an interesting idea. I think it's the more likely scenario, where they don't make demands, but we follow because of interaction. It would be quite important for humans to fight to preserve our culture and our autonomy, especially if we meet a highly advanced civilization.