One: We could use the help. I’m not talking about humans acquiring alien technology or great knowledge. Those things could easily undermine our society. As I have argued in the past, the best work is difficult. Difficult scientific advancement yields all sorts of benefits. By help, in regard to First Contact, I’m simply talking about a change in perspective. Some of us are pretty damn comfortable down here. We’re fine with tootling around in our inefficient and environmentally damaging cars. We don’t mind piling up dangerous waste or contaminating the oceans. We’re okay with having one-eighth of humans living chronically under-nourished. And the people who are the most comfortable are the ones who are making the decisions.
I’m not suggesting that we would want to change our civilization to meet alien expectations. We could simply use the reminder that it’s a big universe out there and we need to take care of home. That means caring for our planet and for other humans. We need to view our civilization from the outside and then decide how we want to proceed. It may sound strange, but I think knowing that an extraterrestrial intelligence is out there would help us better understand ourselves.
Two: We can handle it. There are many scientific studies that show how humans might react to First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. For the most part, people seem to be up to the challenge. Surveys show that people would view such an event with wonder and not much fear. Clearly, that depends on the event being peaceful and well-planned. Our religions have already begun a process of assimilating ideas of extraterrestrial intelligence into their framework.
Three: Our institutions can handle it. Governments work together in ways not imaginable even thirty years ago. Sure, there is still plenty of conflict in the world. But we have linkages now that could help us handle an alien First Contact event. The United Nations is probably the one that comes to mind first. However, scientific associations, world economic groups and even religions are robust and international in our modern world. Individual governments are relatively stable. There are certainly disturbing trouble spots across the world. But the largest nations are working together economically, diplomatically and culturally.
Four: We have the scientific foundation. This is a real leap on my part. Not knowing anything about extraterrestrial intelligence (and that includes whether it even exists) makes it tough to assert that humans could handle interaction with aliens from a scientific standpoint. Still, we have come a long way in recent decades. Theoretical physics and astrophysics have made great achievements in recent years. Our understanding of the biological world grows daily. Most importantly, we have begun to consider extraterrestrial life in a scientific way through astrobiology. Even social scientists have jumped into the fray with studies of human response to extraterrestrial contact.
Five: We have the technology. Communication technology connects the great majority of humanity. A dramatic First Contact event (as I have proposed here) would be able to reach most of humanity in a matter of minutes. The only thing holding back such news would be human editorial gatekeepers. The technology itself is simply the flick of a switch and the push of a button. This would allow all of humanity to be involved in First Contact. It would also allow aliens the ability to frame their own message, without a reliance on individual governments of institutions.
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