What will happen after contact with an alien civilization
What if we are not alone in the universe, despite the Fermi paradox? What if “guests” from distant worlds fly to us? Such an event will be tantamount to the birth of a new world religion – all others will lose some of their power.
We are not alone. We will have to live with this fact. What will be the consequences of a successful Contact with extraterrestrial life?
If you’ve watched the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, you’ll remember the scene when the flying saucer lands in Washington DC and the alien Klaatu emerges from it.
In his hand he has something resembling an earthly weapon. After a soldier shoots at Klaatu, a robot comes out of the UFO, easily deals with the soldiers and turns the tank into scrap metal. The wounded Klaatu rises to show that he had a miniature telescope in his hand, capable of seeing farther into space than Earth’s observatories.
“It was a gift. For your president. (Looks sadly at the broken object.) With it, he could observe life on other planets”, alien said.
Okay, it’s just a movie. The paradox is that the scene could very well be real if we made contact with aliens, who are likely to be far more advanced than we are. We are afraid of aliens, rightly believing that they can conquer us or completely destroy us, and to a lesser extent, we believe that they are friendly and just want to share their knowledge with us.
Many scientists, however, believe that it makes no sense for super-evolved aliens to conquer us. A civilization of this type is unlikely to want to visit or conquer us, as in the movie “Independence Day”, where such a civilization spreads through the galaxy like locusts, taking over planets one after another and draining their resources to dryness.
In fact, there are countless dead planets in space with the richest reserves of mineral resources, and they can be freely collected without messing with the stubborn local population.
The attitude of a civilization of this type towards us could be compared with our attitude towards ants and an anthill. After all, we will not bend over an anthill and offer beads and other trinkets to its inhabitants; rather, we simply ignore them.
“For ants, the main danger is not that people suddenly want to invade the anthill or destroy the ant family. The main danger is that the anthill will interfere with people, and they will simply demolish it in passing,” Michio Kaku wrote in Physics of the Impossible.
Contact with Friendly Aliens
If the aliens are more advanced than us and if they are interested in helping us, they will open many opportunities for our civilization. They could teach us math and other sciences, provide solutions to unsolvable issues like hunger, poverty, disease, and so on.
Although it may seem that this option is rather wishful thinking, it fits well with one of the explanations for the Fermi paradox. That is, if technologically advanced aliens exist, then where are they, why haven’t they colonized the Earth yet?
One of the explanations implies that if exponential development lies in the nature of all intelligent beings, it can also destroy species as a result, for example, during man-made disasters. The converse is that if sentient beings existed long enough to outlive us, they would surely understand something about resilient ecosystems.
They are unlikely to colonize our planet for resources, as this could lead to the extinction of our species. If people were a little smarter, they would also turn their sights on nature, which perishes and suffocates.
But we have not yet reached this level of development, although we are approaching it. Aliens of this level can visit us, if only out of curiosity, but not for destruction. And if they don’t want to set up their colonies here or drive us off the planet, most likely they will have to help us.
There are several areas of our development that can significantly progress as a result of contact with an extraterrestrial civilization:
1. Traveling great distances. It is assumed that the aliens who visit our planet will arrive from nowhere, overcoming a huge distance. The nearest potentially habitable planet is at least 13 light-years away.
It can be assumed that the aliens will use technologies similar to the warp drive that Miguel Alcubierre predicted and which is being developed in the NASA laboratory, or something else that lies beyond the human imagination. Aliens may also have anti-gravity technology, if you believe that flying saucers can perform impossible aerobatics (well, let’s not forget that their existence is not proven). Of course, alien guests will gladly share new technologies with us.
2. Improving our biology. People are gradually starting to get used to the ideas of transhumanism – they are developing exoskeletons and electronic devices like implantable microchips that improve vision. But if a sentient extraterrestrial species outlasts us by even a few thousand years, they could very well become completely postbiological beings whose brains represent a fusion of natural and artificial intelligence.
They may not even need bodies – they live in machines of their own design (let’s hope they don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “terminator” – that would be too weird). This was stated in 2006 by the same NASA scientist Stephen Dick. We could make a qualitative transition to the future with the help of transhumanist aliens. Or enter into a symbiosis with them.
3. Healing the environment. It is likely that aliens with a much more advanced civilization have mastered planetary engineering – the ability to make important and special changes to the environment. They could help us patch holes in our atmosphere and reverse the devastating process of climate change.
The nearest intelligent life to us may be thousands of light-years away, but aliens with a structure similar to ours, most likely, at one time went through the same stages of development as we do. And it’s safe to assume that they transitioned to a low-carbon economy before their biosphere fell apart.
Astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan believe that when it comes to the crises of the 21st century – global warming, ocean acidification, the sixth mass extinction – the answer to these questions may well be in space. Most likely, it has already happened there more than once. We may not be the first sentient species to balance stability and self-destruction.
4. Conflict resolution. International conflicts kill far fewer people than in the past – every year until 2010, about 55,000 people died from wars. That’s a third of accidental deaths in the 1980s.
But people still want to kill each other: according to various estimates and according to the UN, in 2011 there were 468,000 murders worldwide. If a sentient extraterrestrial species lives longer than us, they must have created deadly technology at least as powerful as ours, or built a Death Star that earthlings don’t have enough money for.
However, the further development of civilization should have led to the settlement of conflicts without the use of violence. We could ask them to share this method with us, or make us stop killing our own kind.
Remarkably, many theorists of extraterrestrial life agree on one thing: if there is a coalition of intelligent aliens of different races in space, this coalition, for its harmonious existence, accepts civilizations that have reached a certain level of technical development, understanding of the world and, most importantly, that have stopped internecine wars. What we do not shine in the near future.
Contact with malicious aliens
Clearly, the chances that the intelligent life we manage to contact will turn out to be cute and fluffy are slim. Many scientists – including Stephen Hawking – believe that trying to shout to an unknown person on the other side of the galaxy is like luring danger to yourself.
Indeed, how can one try naively to believe that aliens will find a common language with such a useless species as we, who have not solved the problems of wars, diseases, aging, killing each other and animals, concerned only with their own skin and money. Selfishness may well be a phenomenon of universal proportions. But let’s say we were unlucky and got through to the disgusting and vile zerg who want to wipe our species from the face of the earth.
The following development options are:
1. Aliens are trying to colonize or destroy us, but we successfully fight back
This option is perhaps the most popular. Of all the books, films, comics that have depicted this “war of the worlds”, we have always emerged victorious, thanks to our flexible mind or a fluke.
Aliens may not be ready for microbial life, which is present everywhere on Earth (and it is not known who the real owner of the Earth is us or microbes), lives with us in symbiosis and can fight back. In that case, we will win mostly a moral victory. Although, if there is anything left of their warlike technology, we may well benefit by unscrewing and carefully studying their tools of death.
2 They Will Kill Us With An Extraterrestrial Virus
Although we most often think of aliens who deliberately want to destroy humanity, there is a chance that they will harm us completely by accident, bringing unknown diseases to our planet, which our immunity has nothing to counter.
Similarly, they can destroy our ecosystem by bringing with them aggressive species of various sizes, sometimes invisible, or destabilize our society by giving us advanced technologies that we are simply not ready for.
3. Aliens like us, only worse
It is possible that at some point in the evolution of species they become more moral and less selfish. But if this happens, we don’t know about it yet. It is likely that selfishness is inherent in all rational beings. Geographer Jared Diamond believes that the optimistic scenario of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations is unlikely:
“Astronomers and others are hoping that aliens, fascinated by our intelligence, will strike up small talk with us. Perhaps the astronomers are right and that would be the best scenario.
“But it will be much worse if the aliens behave in the same way as any intelligent species does, discovering a previously unknown form of life on earth, from a stranger to a chimpanzee or a gorilla.
“What are we doing? That’s right, just like us, aliens may try to kill us, infect, divide, conquer, drive us out, enslave us, stuff us into museums, and marinate our skulls for their medical research. My opinion is that those astronomers who are going to send radio signals to aliens are acting naively and dangerously.
Some astronomers admit that aliens can be friendly, but the chances of us being eaten, sent to a space circus, forced to fight among ourselves, are much higher. Is it worth the risk?
4. They will destroy us by accident
This scenario assumes that ETs will have a universalistic ethic or certain principles that have intrinsic value in themselves and are independent of whether they are beneficial to particular species or not (humans usually do not fall into this category).
We associate universalism with free peaceful beings, since they simply have no reason to hurt us simply because we are “different”. Nevertheless, the danger and intentions of aliens will be entirely determined by their value system. You may be familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which aliens tried to destroy Earth simply because it was on a hyperspace transition path.
5 They Will Destroy Us Because They Think We Are Terrible
Whether they think we threaten their species or not, an extraterrestrial intelligence with a universalist mindset could destroy us because we could be a danger to other civilizations. We tend to step on any civilization that is less technologically advanced than ours, and this tendency can lead to disruption of the universal ecosystem.
Until we learn to behave, we have nothing to do in the galactic community. The best option, in my opinion, would be to sit quietly and listen to the silence of space in the hope of hearing or seeing traces of other animated worlds. And, of course, you need to solve problems at home.