Monday, May 19, 2014

Extraterrestrial Contact: A Nudge for Humanity

I have presented many reasons for why an extraterrestrial civilization may not want to contact humans. One of them is an old idea, made popular in TV show Star Trek: the Prime Directive. The concept is simple: don’t use your advanced technology to influence a developing civilization. Any alien civilization capable of traveling to our solar system would have technology far more advanced than ours. If they introduced us to alien science, religion and philosophy, we would not develop in the same way as we would if we made our own scientific discoveries and had our own cultural evolutions. Even worse, with our scientific muscles taken out of action, we would not truly be developing our own science. At some point, without alien assistance, we could be helpless.

Visiting aliens with a concern for such matters would have a few options when coming to our solar system. They could avoid us entirely, or perhaps just watch from afar. If they did decide to make contact with humans they could simply say hello and very little else. They may also be able to share their own history, without giving up scientific principles. There are risks involved for the aliens. If you can’t share much with humans, you could just end up making us mad.

Why would aliens even bother? The best reason to say hello could be to give us a nudge in the right direction. The human civilization is fragile. There are many ways we could falter and die-off. Some of those ways are natural disasters, such as a massive meteorite hitting the Earth or a gigantic volcanic eruption. Global warming is our own doing. Scientists have shown that through fossil fuel emissions we are creating greenhouse gases. Those gases are altering our atmosphere and the effects could be dramatic in coming years. And yet we have done little to act. There is still a great debate. It’s hard to ask people to sacrifice now for a problem that won’t fully impact us for another few decades.

We could really use a nudge.

I know that’s a lot to ask of extraterrestrials. But it could be a unifying moment for humanity. If outsiders viewed our situation as dire, then perhaps we would finally take action. Is that interference that would violate the Prime Directive? Perhaps. The best solution for solving global warming will be our own. But a nudge doesn’t have to give us the solution. It could merely point out the problem. Could we handle such a thing? Would we be incensed to know that critical aliens have the knowledge to solve our problems, but refuse to do so for our own good? Perhaps. But a kick in the pants can sometimes go a long way. I think we would eventually be able to understand the alien reasoning and be at peace with the decision, and hopefully with a better atmospheric outlook to show for it.


Anonymous said...

"give us a nudge in the right direction"

Sounds good, but the actual execution of such a nudge is difficult to predict. Who, how? Increasing intelligence permits ability to see further into the future with further accuracy. Imagine that other species have much more advanced intelligence. Their selection of who and how is beyond mind-blowing. It would be completely incomprehensible to us because we cannot understand their motivations, drives, self-imposed limitations, and ultimate end-goal.

Eric Melcher said...

Agreed anon. Such a push would probably be something that we could not predict...pointing out a problem we never even realized existed. The usual thoughts concerning what we would like out of a relationship with extraterrestrials is a very subjective wish list: a prescription for world peace, environmental warnings, technological solutions etc. And the best route to solving those problems could be our usual messy human march forward...three steps forward, two steps back. Perhaps the only nudge we need is a simple message: the universe is much busier than you know.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know, Sparks. But I guess I'd say if it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space." :)

Anonymous said...

The nudge may actually become a hindrance for some. Once humans know of someone who has the power to easily solve their problems, the human minds can quickly devolve into dependency/frustration/anger when such "simple" assistance is not given. I now appreciate something more than I once did: the struggle is the learning tool. Sometimes, parents want their children to succeed so badly that the parents will undertake the tasks for their children. The children avoid the struggle and have a short-term success (not really, because it was the parents who went through the struggle), but the damage is done because the children miss out on the lesson.

Maybe, sometimes, there could be a knock, knock.

Not sure of the limits, though.

"Headlights On Dark Roads"

Eric Melcher said...

I agree...and it's not just the aliens who would need to be worried about us becoming lazy, we would need to worry about it, even if the aliens want to share all of the information they have about science and technology. You're absolutely correct...the struggle is quite important in human development, both on the personal and the civilization level.

Anonymous said...

Humanity could definitely use a nudge. We have to evolve, not so much physically, but mentally and spiritually. We must evolve our consciousness if we wish to survive. We must learn to be sustainable and walk in balance with Earth. No more war, no more pollution and destruction of nature, no more greed for money and material wealth, no more power tripping politicians and corporations.
Could our cosmic family (aliens) at least show their ships all over the planet at one time? They don't even have to communicate with us, just show up in broad daylight and give us the sign/message of Unity and Peace and Love. Remind us that we are all part of One- God, Spirit, Creator, Higher Power, Universe, Force.

Eric Melcher said...

I would both hope and agree with your sentiments anon, but both of us should also be prepared for negative situations as well. A little caution will go a long way if such First Contact does occur some day.