The Sequence of Contact

The world of science fiction loves to speculate about human civilization making first contact with aliens. Too often, those aliens are remarkably like us; not just in the way their bodies resemble ours, but also in their stage of developmental growth. We understand the difficulties involved in imagining an intelligent civilization unlike ourselves and then trying to sell that image to an audience. But let’s take a look at how that first contact is most likely to actually occur.

Statistically, it’s almost impossible for two civilizations to stumble upon each other across the huge gulf of empty space at nearly the same moment in the progress of growth of each group. It is far more likely that the gulf between the two groups in their age and growth will equal the vast chasm of empty space between them. On a cosmic scale, the ten thousand years that encompass the history of our civilization, is a short time.

Assume that it’s a given that two civilizations making first contact will exhibit a huge gap in their growth status. One will seem to be extremely advanced and the other will appear primitive in comparison. Since we are not very close to discovering protozoan life forms on a distant alien planet capable of sustaining life, let’s further assume that we are likely to be the civilization that seems primitive in comparison to the other.

A civilization advanced enough to make us seem primitive will be difficult to comprehend in many ways. Until recently, we stored most of our information by carving marks into various forms of matter and are just now learning to use energy instead. An Advanced Alien Civilization (AAC) will use information and communication technology that appears like telepathy to us. In order to have found us, the AAC will need the ability to reach across great spans of space without that being a barrier. We have made some strides forward in understanding matter and are just now beginning to learn to use energy effectively. We know next to nothing about the nature of space and time. The AAC will have a level of mastery over energy that requires knowledge of how the fabric of space operates and that is likely to open doors of understanding in the areas of both matter and energy that we have not yet imagined. To us, their technology will be sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic. (credit to Arthur C. Clarke)

The AAC will approach us silently at first, studying us and learning how we think and how we evaluate and respect other forms of life. They will need to assess how dangerous we are, but not how dangerous to them, rather how dangerous to ourselves. A primary issue will the decision of how to interfere with our learning progress, in order to save us, or to stand back and allow our natural course to proceed. Allowing us to destroy ourselves would be a form of genocide by neglect and since their level of ethical analysis should be highly advanced beyond our own, it is unlikely that they could reach such a decision. An appropriate level of interference would be needed.

As humans, we cultivate and protect other species out of the self-interest of learning and a desire to expand our sense of connection and spiritual expansion. In these efforts, we try to respect the natural course and needs of the species we protect. We often replicate their natural environment and attempt to improve it, making it safer and more sustaining for them. An AAC making first contact with us would have an advanced concept of our needs for nurturing and sustainment and how to best supply them, without disturbing our natural development.

It is likely that this invisible first contact with an AAC has already occurred and we are simply not aware of it. We are not yet capable of detecting advanced technology operating in our midst, but we may be able to detect the ripple effects of their decisions to interfere. This “ripple analysis” is a form of ethical analysis, and in order to yield any valid results, will need some improvement over our current ability.

The AAC might decide at some future point to reveal their presence here, but they also might wait for us to gain the ability to detect them, as a kind of graduation test.

SEE ALSO:
A Quarantine of Intelligence
Synthesizing Intelligence
Post Biological Intelligence
Through a Wormhole of Intelligence
Old Intelligence is Already Here
Search for Old Intelligence
Ethics is the Best Measure of Civilization
The Length of a Civilization

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