Published: Monday, January 3, 2011
A proposal for First Contact by an extraterrestrial civilization and the planet Earth.
The impact of extraterrestrial First Contact on human civilization has often been described
as a being based on the type of First Contact.
The discovery of a signal from an
extraterrestrial civilization many light years away would have a relatively low impact.
Communication would take decades and the amount of information traded would most likely
be limited at first.
Direct First Contact, an extraterrestrial civilization landing on Earth, would
have a much higher impact.
In keeping with this concept, I think there is another relationship to explore: the correlation
between extraterrestrial interaction and the problems created by that interaction.
Even in a
Direct First Contact event the amount of interaction between humans and an extraterrestrial
civilization could vary greatly.
Extraterrestrial visitors might want to share a great deal of
information with us. They also may decide to share very little with us.
The amount of
interaction would be primarily their decision and it would likely be based on their reasons for
Perhaps they are worried about what we would do with advanced technological
Or they may want to protect us from a rapid series of paradigm shifts in our
sciences. They may have a very specific agenda for visiting, one that does not include a
great deal of interaction.
Or they may have a mission based on sharing all of the information
A high degree of interaction would likely produce a greater amount of information. This in
turn increases the likelihood of problems here on Earth.
Even low interaction may cause
massive changes in perspective and could cause radical shifts in human philosophy, religion
and even global politics.
It would certainly provide a new level of security anxiety. We would
go from worrying about each other to worrying about forces from outside our solar system.
Still, with a lack of concrete information the amount of impact would be relatively small when
compared with the alternative.
A great deal of scientific and technological information
exchanging hands could produce a tidal wave of change, creating significant problems for
the world economy, global politics, and perhaps most importantly the stability of our
scientific and research process.
To put it simply: the more information exchanged, the more
potential for problems to develop here on Earth.
Does this mean we should limit interaction with an extraterrestrial civilization, if that day ever
comes? Not necessarily.
If they are willing to share, our human curiosity will probably get
the better of us. The real question is how the process for sharing that information should
Needless to say, if an extraterrestrial civilization were to have access to our Internet
they would already have a great deal of our information available to them. This would make
the interaction actually more of a one-way street.
However, it is a one-way street on which
we should be able control the traffic. An open floodgate of information could prove
disastrous. To prevent problems from growing out of hand, the information flow would need
to be strictly controlled and analyzed at every step.
This would require a level of scientific
and global political cooperation far beyond anything we have managed thus far. It might
even be a task beyond our reaching.
The real issue would be whether an extraterrestrial
civilization was willing to work with us on the distribution of information. If they simply want
to put everything they know out there for us to consider, there is not much we can do.
We need to realize that any type of extraterrestrial First Contact will cause problems.
Managing those problems, and managing the many challenges created by First Contact, will
take a great deal of effort and require us to think about our own civilization in ways we have
never before considered.