Confused: Aliens would likely be far different from us. They may have an indecipherable language and an agenda that we could not understand. Unless they were willing to teach us, First Contact could be one confusing set of actions after another.
Full of questions: A lack of explanation about their civilization and intentions would dash our hopes for First Contact. When we speak of contact we are really talking about information. We hope that aliens would teach us new things about the universe. If the aliens can’t communicate or choose not to communicate, we could be left with only questions.
Worried: Any extraterrestrial civilization with the ability for significant space travel would be a threat to humanity. Such ability would show a higher level of technology than ours, and that would suggest that they have the skills needed to build weaponry that we might not be able to match. If we don’t know the intentions of the aliens we would be left with only the possibility of threat.
SETI researchers often warn of this disturbing middle ground in part because most things that humans experience are at first confusing and worrisome. We would like life to be black and white, but as we well know, life is seldom so. Our hopes for a warm and fuzzy First Contact experience and our concern about alien invasion each seem rather unlikely. What is much more likely would be a murky mess that may take years of study to unravel. And even then, there may be very few definitive answers.
Can we handle such uncertainty? Would we spend our time and money building space defenses? Would we become a more cynical society out of constant worry? Perhaps the most important step in the maturity of the human race is not some sweeping step into a wider universe, but merely the ability to handle radical ambiguity? It’s not all sad. Such events could leave us even stronger as a civilization in the long run and perhaps better able to handle the next murky moment.
What do you think? Is this cynicism on my part or a strong possibility should First Contact ever occur. Chime in on the Alien FirstContact Facebook page.