First encounter…final contact?
October 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
“Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilizations and indigenous people does not go well.”
This comment was made in an interview with BBC News by David Brin, notable science fiction writer and opponent of a plan proposed at a meeting of the American Association for Advancing Science to seriously pursue contact of extraterrestrial life. The leader of this project and director of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute, Dr. Seth Shostak, believes that there may be life beyond the Milky Way, and that there’s a respectable chance that it’s friendly. If intelligent life had wanted to destroy us, he says, they would have certainly done so by now. While Dr. Shostak is eager to hear from aliens and inform them of our culture, others are quite hesitant and believe the ramifications of such communications might be disastrous. Brin believes that, at the very least, a preliminary risk assessment is necessary; sending messages into space without conducting such an assessment beforehand only displays our “arrogance.”
This made me wonder, would aliens think that humans are arrogant or selfish? If they understood the history of our civilizations, would they consider us to be benevolent at all? We have not been very kind to our own species; many believe we will lead ourselves to our own demises simply by our self- serving nature. This is why I find it difficult to believe that humans would ever be able to happily trade information or technology with an alien species for mutual benefit if any contact was ever to be made. No, it’s not as simple as that. We, as a species, seem to taint most of what we touch—whether it be land, air, animal, or sea. Shostak made it clear that he expects the destruction and violence to come from the extraterrestrials, that it would be their intention to eliminate us first. I disagree; it’s not the aliens we have to worry about. Even if we allow ourselves to believe that our noble purpose is only to learn and discover more about the cosmos, we are an inherently ambitious and power-hungry race. Brin’s comment about “civilizations” versus “indigenous people” demonstrates our self-centered tendencies and our desire to control, colonize, and own. Even though I doubt we would take it to that extreme, this mindset is certainly not a solid basis upon which to form a functioning friendship or partnership. So while Brin definitely has reason to be concerned about the fate of future human generations in the wake of extraterrestrial communication, I think the aliens have just as much to worry about on their end. Though Dr. Shostak thinks ET life that knows of our existence may not want to “obliterate” our planet, we haven’t met them yet to extend the same hospitality.
This is not the first time scientists have attempted to contact alien life; in 1974, the Arecibo Message was sent into deep space in an attempt to relay information about humankind to potential intelligent life. With programs like the one proposed by the SETI institute, we can rest assured that contact attempts will continue to be made. Even though this program may not seem to be addressing an urgent need of mankind, I guess it can’t hurt to be prepared. What remains to be seen, however, is whether our first meeting with space life will be our final encounter intelligence ever simply because of human nature.
Source Article: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31442952