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Extraterrestrial First Contact: Thresholds

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Are humans ready for high information contact with an extraterrestrial civilization? The question can be asked and answered from one of two different perspectives- our perspective and their perspective. There is the question of whether we humans think we are ready for contact with intelligent aliens. Then there is the question of whether intelligent aliens think we are ready for such contact.

I have no evidence that aliens exist anywhere in the universe, let alone in a location near enough to Earth to allow for high information contact. The point of this exercise is to consider humanity from an alien perspective. Since we have no idea how such aliens might think, we have to consider humans- in particular the organization of human society and the state of our science and technology.

Let’s think like an alien researcher that has been examining our solar system and human society. We need to assume that they wish our civilization well. That means they don’t want to harm our human society or our planet. Hostile aliens are, of course, a very reasonable possibility. That scenario provides different questions to be asked, outside of my area of focus.

Let’s start with some basic ground rules to help define our discussion. We will assume that:

-A group of alien researchers has spent time studying humans.

-They understand that contact with humans could lead to problems for us.

-They have been waiting for certain criteria to be met.

-They won’t make contact until those criteria are met.

This isn’t an original idea on my part. Gene Roddenberry thought of it when he wrote the Star Trek series in the 1960s. The Prime Directive, also known as General Order 1, prevented Star Fleet personnel from interfering in the development of alien civilizations on their home planets. The purpose was to prevent disturbance to the alien culture.

So, what if Roddenberry was correct in his overall concept- just not in predicting that humans were the society being protected from outside influence? If there is a threshold of criteria to be met before contact occurs, what might that criteria be?

Human Criteria:

Most Likely to Have Been Met

Reach of instantaneous global communication networks

Public understanding of basic concepts of extraterrestrial intelligence

Governments accepting of possibility of ETI

Close to Meeting

Understanding critical concepts in advanced physics

Development of SETI research

Tools to find extraterrestrial life 

Tools to find extraterrestrial intelligence 

Space exploration

Ability to send spacecraft outside of the solar system

Ability of humans to track incoming spacecraft and surveil solar system

Mechanism for international cooperation between governments

Acceptance of ETI by largest institutional religious sects

Most Questionable in Meeting

Acceptance of ETI by groups with high level of cultural conflict

Acceptance of ETI by groups with high political conflict

Acceptance of ETI by fringe religious groups

Global cooperation between nations

Stable governments for those with nuclear weapons 

Intelligent extraterrestrials could also have criteria for themselves to meet:

Criteria for Aliens to Meet

Preparation of humanity for acceptance of ETI introduction

Need for intervention in human society

That final question is the big one: why would aliens feel the need to introduce themselves? Perhaps they think we are on the brink of discovering them through our scientific research? Or they could decide that we need help in sorting out our many challenges? Or perhaps they have completed their preparation for the introduction, by flying objects through Earth skies for many years?

I could go into many related discussions, such as the Zoo Hypothesis and Fermi Paradox. For more on those concepts, take a look at previous blog entries and check out my new book: “The Extraterrestrial Big Hello: A Guide for What to do When the Aliens Introduce Themselves.” It’s available on Amazon worldwide.


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