It’s a simple question: What if Direct First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization occurred today? Here are some possible reactions:
-A Scramble to Respond:
We’re not prepared for First Contact of any sort. Direct First Contact would raise immediate concerns and needs. Who should be in charge of the diplomacy effort? Should there be a military response? How do we want to proceed in the long-term? Is First Contact even something we want to move forward with?
-A Global Political Battle:
After an initial period of shock and awe there would be a fight for position and control by many countries. The type of conflict this creates would depend on the nature of the First Contact scenario. Was First Contact made to one particular government? How will other countries be engaged in the process? Who will control First Contact diplomacy?
-The U.N. Under Fire:
One would imagine that the United Nations would seek to establish itself as the primary diplomatic agency for First Contact. This would inevitably lead to a political battle, especially in the United States and other countries where United Nations power has been hotly disputed.
-Scientists versus Politicians:
Scientists, at least a small community of scientists, have considered First Contact much more than politicians. And yet in the wake of First Contact science will need to take a back seat to diplomacy. This tension would likely lead to conflict between scientists and governments.
The world economy experiences hiccups weekly, if not daily. If the Spanish financial rating can cause the markets to lurch, one could imagine what First Contact might do. After the initial period of confusion investors will realize that there could be great opportunity in First Contact. The search for those opportunities could lead to wild market swings as the trading community considers the possibilities and the potential dangers.
-A Calm Public:
Most surveys conducted in regards to human response to extraterrestrial First Contact show that people would most likely remain calm and level-headed during a First Contact event. After the initial shock and awe period, though, splinter groups will begin to form and those groups could have much stronger reactions than the general public.
-A Crazed Media:
If the O-J Simpson case can provoke a media frenzy one could only imagine the nuttiness produced by a First Contact event. With any luck the media would go into a protector mode, much as the American media did during 9-11. That mode puts a responsible weight on the shoulders of journalists. There was very little hype during 9-11 coverage. In situations of an extreme nature the media tends to act as protectors and not instigators.
-Bad Information and Rumors:
After the shock and awe period it seems likely that rumors and bad information would start to come to the surface. At this point the media could leave protector mode and begin to chase the rumors. This could be a dangerous period for human reaction.
-A Debate over Reaction:
In the weeks after First Contact a fierce debate will well-up over the response. This may include two opposite poles: those who want robust contact with aliens and those who want the aliens to leave us alone. In the middle will be a world public grappling with the long-term questions of diplomacy.
Are we ready? Of course not. Will it matter? Probably not. There may not be any aliens out there at all, and if there are, they are probably far, far away. Still, these questions are worth asking, especially if you consider the incredible impact a First Contact event would have on our human civilization.
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