U.N. Ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Alpha Centauri-stan
posted at 5:49 pm on September 27, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
This story from the U.K. Telegraph sends chills down my spine; its subhead reads:
A space ambassador could be appointed by the United Nations to act as the first point of contact for aliens trying to communicate with Earth.
I’m not frightened, I hasten to add, by the prospect of us discovering alien civilizations, or even by the prospect of alien civilizations discovering us. I’m absolutely convinced that there is no even vaguely plausible reason why extraterrestrials would care one way or the other about us, unless we somehow gave them cause for anxiety:
- We couldn’t possibly pose a serious threat to any civilization that could cross such vast distances: A single lightyear is 5,874,589,924,200 miles, or about 25 million times the average distance from Earth to the Moon; and the distance between civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy would likely be measured in the thousands or tens of thousands of lightyears. What are we going to shoot at them — an ICBM? We’d have better luck with a pea-shooter.
- All conceivable natural resources are widely distributed throughout the galaxy; and even if they weren’t, a civilization that could even attempt interplanetary travel, especially at hyperluminous speeds (so they’re not spending millenia on every trip), would necessarily have such advanced science and technology that it would be easier to create any needed elements, materials, and structures than to journey hundreds or thousands of lightyears to take them away from somebody else. Forget about the V scenario!
- The distances are simply too great to bother crossing them except on very important missions involving either trade or some other equally vital cultural imperative. I doubt comparatively primitive humans qualify… except perhaps for anthropological survey missions, probably conducted by alien graduate students. (Say, maybe that explains all the UFO sightings: The kids doing the field research are not yet experienced enough to avoid detection!)
- If there is any intelligent life at all in the galaxy apart from here, then there are likely tens of thousands of alien civilizations — not just one or two. We would probably get a minor inscription (“mostly harmless”) in a database, and that’s all.
So what am I worried about? It’s contained in that phrase I used above: ETs wouldn’t care a whit about us unless we give them cause for anxiety. And the easiest way I can think of offhand would be… if the very first point of contact for an alien survey vessel was the United Nations!
I can picture the spacefarers recoiling in horror and vowing to stamp out the contagion of socialism, pandering to radical religious imperialism, and hive-mindedness; and that is what scares the bejesus out of me.
Please, Secretary General Nanki-poo, don’t do us any more cosmic favors.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…