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View Diary: Overnight News Digest 02/14/2014 (37 comments)

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  •  What If We Knew Aliens Existed? (15+ / 0-)


    From io9:

    We have yet to discover any signs of an extraterrestrial civilization — a prospect that could quite literally change overnight. Should that happen, our sense of ourselves and our place in the cosmos would forever be shaken. It could even change the course of human history.

    Or would it?

    Last week, SETI's Seth Shostak made the claim that we'll detect an alien civilization by 2040. Personally, I don't believe this will happen (for reasons I can elucidate in a future post — but the Fermi Paradox is definitely a factor, as is the problem of receiving coherent radio signals across stellar distances). But it got me wondering: What, if anything, would change in the trajectory of a civilization's development if it had definitive proof that intelligent extraterrestrials (ETIs) were real?

    Carl Sagan's Contact deals with some of the societal implications, with most of the main strains that first contact causes being how people either resent how the discovery challenges their anthropomorphic beliefs, or how people will try to use co-opt a message to support their ideology.

    For example, a lot of people seem to believe that the world's religions would have a hard to reconciling their articles of faith with the existence of aliens. However, there is nothing in the catechism of the Catholic church that would conflict with the idea of aliens. And in fact the church has been very open to the idea.

    Depending on the nature of the contact, some people think this kind of thing might be a unifying event for humanity. Instead of seeing ourselves as different "tribes" on one planet, we would be one species contrasting ourselves against aliens out there.

    •  Mixed feelings (12+ / 0-)

      about the Catholic Church's openness.

      The senior Vatican scientist, Brother Guy Consolmagno, said that he would be delighted if we encountered intelligent aliens and would be happy to baptise them.
      .

      Ceiling Cat rules....srsly.

      by side pocket on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:41:08 PM PST

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    •  And yet, first contact might be co-opted by (11+ / 0-)

      money-backed governmental interests and/or representatives of similarly narrow cultures (e.g., military) - i.e., the few in most power.  As opposed to scientists.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:42:23 PM PST

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      •  Who Speaks For Humanity? (10+ / 0-)

        Or more specifically, does any nation or institution have a "right" to speak on behalf of the human race?

        For example, if tomorrow an alien ship appeared in orbit and asked to begin negotiations to open a dialogue between their species and ours, should the UN Secretary General and the Security Council take the lead?

        What if the aliens only wanted to negotiate with the United States, the People's Republic of China, or just the First World nations specifically, and exclude all other countries?

        What if Russia, Australia, Japan, or a small minority of nations objected to negotiations for whatever reason and boycotted the talks, could the United Nations claim to "represent" humanity?

        •  If they seek to speak to see our "leader" (11+ / 0-)

          that might translate from anyone such as a local shaman up to a town mayor, country President/Emporer or even calling the UN and reporting that there's a foreign dignitary that they simply must meet.

          I suspect that far more local contact would be the starting point and it will stay that way unless the non-Earth visitors had interests at a global scale.  Which could always mean we should be ready for the cookbook to come out.

          If such contact eventually made its way up to the UN, any bickering about speaking to such representatives would surely offer signs that:

          (a) We're vulnerable to attack, because we can't coordinate our resources, and

          (b) We're not a species which is ready for interplanetary travel, due to lack of maturity and deep traits of aggression + paranoia (unless the foreigners were looking for food sources and/or slaves, I suppose)

          I think that Mark Millar wasn't too far off when he retold Superman's origin in "Red Son": wherever they land, that first impression and their interactions have a high likelihood of staying local for a long enough period of time that those cultural values would taint their lenses when viewing the rest of the globe.  At least, for a time.

          "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

          by wader on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 10:29:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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