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Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis

by on August 18, 2011

E.T.I. - Extraterrestrial Intelligence

While humanity has not yet observed any extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contact with ETI remains possible. Contact could occur through a broad range of scenarios that have varying consequences for humanity. However, many discussions of this question assume that contact will follow a particular scenario that derives from the hopes and fears of the author. In this paper, we analyze a broad range of contact scenarios in terms of whether contact with ETI would benefit or harm humanity. This type of broad analysis can help us prepare for actual contact with ETI even if the details of contact do not fully resemble any specific scenario. Source Cornell University

Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists  Rising greenhouse emissions may tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat, warns a report for Nasa

To bolster humanity’s chances of survival, the researchers call for caution in sending signals into space, and in particular warn against broadcasting information about our biological make-up, which could be used to manufacture weapons that target humans. Instead, any contact with ETs should be limited to mathematical discourse “until we have a better idea of the type of ETI we are dealing with.”

The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

“A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.Source Guardian

Let’s assume they spotted us and let’s assume they tap our communications. What should they think of us? We kill each other, we destroy the very habitat which sustains our and the existence of billion other forms of life. Also consider that habitable planets such as Earth are rare, very rare. Should they watch how we destroy the planet, probably initiating one of the greatest extinction events in earth history. Or should they take actions?
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5 Comments
  1. This has always fascinated me. Alien contact is the crux of sci-fi books and movies. What do you think? The possibilities are almost endless. Would they experiment on us? Would they let us just die out overtime? Would they help us? Would they kill us? Would they educate us about other phenomena of the universe? While I would hope that they would help us out in some way, I have a bad gut feeling that if they had previously observed our actions, they’d either wait until we died out to explore the Earth or just kill us.

    Then again, the problem is trying to guess what goes on inside an alien mind, if it, in fact, exists.

    Great post. Very interesting idea.

    • I think that we hit a planetary boundary with the destruction of ecosystems and greenhouse gas emissions – breaking the life support systems, consider it a huge IQ test. This happens everywhere throughout the universe when species evolve. If we do not learn to co-exists with our habitat, the planet will “boot” and reshuffle the gene pool. So advanced ETI is aware of this fundamental principles which mentor evolving species. But they might be also aware that we are not 100% bad and could decide “to help us”.

      So i thought it would make sense to place huge arks under the pole ice sheets. This is probably a great idea for my next sci-fi movie 🙂 But further considering this, it would be much easier to collect some DNA materials.

      Bottom line is, we face extremely dangerous or abrupt climate change – maybe a runaway climate change scenario. So the only real help at this stage would be to help us stabilize climate targets.

      But why assume that ETI is so advanced, i find it much more intriguing that a small probe or spacecraft with a view entities arrives here to take samples(“Along the lines of District 9”). And imagine a few alien guys trying to make contact with our world. They would either get killed very quickly or hidden in some secret laboratory.

  2. I like your idea of how we treat the planet as a kind of galactic standard for intelligence. That has never occurred to me. So perhaps if/when we overcome our current trends of global warming and overconsumption an alien race might attempt to make contact with us. I cannot wait to see if it happens.

    Do you normally write a lot of sci-fi material?

    • Not yet, but i probably should start with it 🙂 I like the 2001 movie and Asimov’s stories.

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