First Contact: Are We Ready? (continued from "...2050 in space flight")

TMac3000

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If we do find complex, intelligent life, it's extremely likely that it will use carbon as its biochemical base

Fair enough:yes: We can use science to make some assumptions, since like you said, they will not be magical, but limited by the same laws of science we are. For example, they are likely carbon-based; maybe silicon.

But I have to maintain my argument that, beyond what the laws of physics can tell us, we have to understand and accept that we would have no idea what to expect. When we can shed our preconceived notions about extraterrestrial species, we will be better able to approach a first contact with an open mind--although I have no idea exactly what an appropriate contact procedure would look like.

In my opinion, such a large swath of humanity is just not able to do that right now. We would be preparing for little fuzzy teddy bears, only to be greeted by a floating blob of pebbly green flesh that communicates telepathically in a language that doesn't even register in the human brain--or God only knows what else:shifty:
 
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Urwumpe

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In my opinion, such a large swath of humanity is just not able to do that right now. We would be preparing for little fuzzy teddy bears, only to be greeted by a floating blob of pebbly green flesh that communicates telepathically in a language that doesn't even register in the human brain--or God only knows what else:shifty:

Generally, humans like to pretend that everything is fine like it is. Without some amount of optimism and selective ignorance, we would have died as species millions of years ago. If some strange alien spacecraft is hovering over their heads, they might post a picture of it on YahooBook, but quickly pretend that this thing has been floating over their head as long as they can think back. If you try to scare them about the spacecraft, they will require more and more fear and scaremongering to remain scared and not get used to the fear as well.
 

Lmoy

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In my opinion, such a large swath of humanity is just not able to do that right now. We would be preparing for little fuzzy teddy bears, only to be greeted by a floating blob of pebbly green flesh that communicates telepathically in a language that doesn't even register in the human brain

But wouldn't they adapt? It's not like physical contact would be being made. At best, all interactions with aliens would be through automated probes controlled by government agencies. Of course a good number of people would decide that it was a government conspiracy meant to trick the public out of more tax money or something, but among the people who did accept the facts, I'm sure they'd accept and adapt to the concept fairly fast. Much faster than they would if we didn't discover aliens at all, or kept their existence hidden. I think, at best (or worst?), the majority of the public would say something along the lines of "neat, now how is that going to help improve my local economy?" and then they'll whine a bit more about how tax dollars are being put into studying things that aren't going to influence our lives here on Earth. Green pebble-blobs orbiting Barnard's Star can't be mined for flammable hydrocarbons without great uneconomical effort, after all.
 
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TMac3000

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But wouldn't they adapt?
Perhaps. One of humanity's greatest strengths is the ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

It's not like physical contact would be being made.
Interesting that you made this point--I hadn't even considered that the aliens' first impression of us might be from our politicians. Oh God...now I'm really scared:lol::shifty:

I'm sure they'd accept and adapt to the concept fairly fast.
Provided the aliens are friendly, yes. There are some humans who, like I said, are able to put aside their assumptions and try to build an understanding of the aliens on the fly. It would be very delicate. One tiny mistake could have disasterous consequences. This is waaaay beyond Pizzaro and the Incans.

I think, at best (or worst?), the majority of the public would say something along the lines of "neat, now how is that going to help improve my local economy?"
That's humans for you...always worried about the money:lol:
But it would be completely natural for people to worry about how this is going to affect their lives in the immediate term;)

Green pebble-blobs orbiting Barnard's Star can't be mined for flammable hydrocarbons without great uneconomical effort, after all.

That assumes we go there and find them...I don't see humans traveling beyond Saturn before the 22nd century, let alone interstellar flight. If they come and find us, oil will be the last thing on anyone's mind;)
 

richfororbit

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I think with all the problems in this century, I doubt technology will be around even long enough to send a probe to centauri, like in Paul Gilster's 2004 book on ideas of how to, but prove ground would be needed before doing so just to test the technology. 'Centauri dreams'.

As we all know, as with repetition, nobody is sending an old module to moon, like the one at the kennedy space centre. Never mind about sending a probe.

We can only hope that the telescope that will be in orbit soon can may be helps us detect probable life planets out there. I think realistically that is far as we'll ever get.
 

Lmoy

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I think with all the problems in this century, I doubt technology will be around even long enough to send a probe to centauri

I'm not sure what you mean. You think that civilisation is going to collapse before 2100, rendering us incapable of space travel? I highly doubt that. In terms of "problems in this century", the 1900s had it way worse, and we all still made it through semi-unscathed anyway. Or are you saying we'll just get bored of space travel and throw all the tech out?

I'd be surprised if interstellar science isn't vastly more mature by 2100. That's 84 years from now. Plenty of time to throw together an interstellar probe. At the very least, interstellar-capable engines will likely be in an advanced stage of development, and at that point the only limiting factor for a robotic mission to Alpha Centauri will be the autonomy the mission is capable of. An extremely advanced AI would be absolutely necessary for such a mission, as it's no good trying to react to changing circumstances with a 9 year delay. But of course, assuming computing technology continues to advance at the rate it's at right now, that won't be an issue.
 

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Provided the aliens are friendly, yes. ... If they come and find us, oil will be the last thing on anyone's mind;)

I've always felt that it's almost impossibly unlikely that aliens would have any motivation to attempt war with us. War is one of the most expensive things a nation can participate in already; traversing the expanse between stars simply for the sake of war seems insane. Any species with the intelligence and reasoning required to achieve effective interstellar travel should logically also have the intelligence and reasoning to not engage in ridiculous and pointless warfare. They wouldn't have made it that far being that stupid. And while it's definitely impossible to predict the motivations of aliens, it is reasonable to assume they're bound by the same rules of economics as us, and a species driven by religious warfare or bloodlust or insanity would almost definitely remain bound to its homeworld forever.

Now if we go to the aliens, it's fully possible that they will be aggressive and violent, but in that case, the worst that will happen is they'll break our probe and/or say some hurtful things. But even that would be a pretty awesome thing to witness, in my opinion, and would be worth sending the probe and waiting 50-100 years or whatever for it to return information.
 

jedidia

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Are we ready for first contact? Hell no. We ain't even ready for first contact with a couple of Syrians, it would seem... :shifty:
 

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Should anything like this happen I bet almost everyone will be excited about it for a short time and then forget about it, in typical newscycle fashion.
 

richfororbit

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Are we ready for first contact? Hell no. We ain't even ready for first contact with a couple of Syrians, it would seem... :shifty:

The society there is religious awashed and fractured in tribal groups. Sad really, especially on their own ignorance of the arena above their own heads. In the end, that is everywhere. Just more serious so there.

As for the problems, there are a lot, and many events could take place long before the end of the century and if not will continue beyond.

So going anywhere beyond the Moon, and may be Mars One's or government led mission to the planet is probably as far as it may get.
 

Thunder Chicken

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An extremely advanced AI would be absolutely necessary for such a mission, as it's no good trying to react to changing circumstances with a 9 year delay. But of course, assuming computing technology continues to advance at the rate it's at right now, that won't be an issue.

Yeah, should probably give some thought to an elegant encounter. Don't want the Centaurians to look though their telescopes and see this as their first greeting from Earth:

life_sorry.png
 

MaverickSawyer

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Are we ready for a first contact scenario? Not by a longshot. We're probably more likely to go to war with an alien culture than make friends with it.
 

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Why do I have this feeling first contact will end up like the one in the mirror universe of ST...

I mean... are we that violent?
 

TMac3000

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I've always felt that it's almost impossibly unlikely that aliens would have any motivation to attempt war with us.

Forgive me--I realize the part of my post before the ellipsis made it sound like I was talking about war. I was not.

I was just saying that this would be the single most important event in human history. Nobody could be shallow enough to blow that off. Even Kim Kardashian would drop everything she was doing:lol:

Any species with the intelligence and reasoning required to achieve effective interstellar travel should logically also have the intelligence and reasoning to not engage in ridiculous and pointless warfare.
Teller and Oppenheimer help build the bomb;)

Now if we go to the aliens, it's fully possible that they will be aggressive and violent, but in that case, the worst that will happen is they'll break our probe and/or say some hurtful things. But even that would be a pretty awesome thing to witness, in my opinion, and would be worth sending the probe and waiting 50-100 years or whatever for it to return information.
On this we are agreed:)

---------- Post added at 07:57 AM ---------- Previous post was at 07:45 AM ----------

Are we ready for a first contact scenario? Not by a longshot. We're probably more likely to go to war with an alien culture than make friends with it.

If we do, it would probably be based on a tragic misunderstanding. For example, if the English "Hi, how are you?" sounds a lot like the Xandaluvian phrase for "Drop your weapons and surrender." Or if their culture requires someone to walk up to you with their arms (tentacles? anything?) outstretched to show peaceful intentions and welcome. And when they don't see humans doing that...

They may be just as unable to put their preconceptions aside as we are. That's the problem I fear the most.
 

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Are we ready for a first contact scenario? Not by a longshot. We're probably more likely to go to war with an alien culture than make friends with it.

Why? There's no economic benefit to conquering an exoplanet, and there's plenty that aren't inhabited by aliens if there were. And how? Probes can only do so much, waging war is not one of the things they can do.
 

Urwumpe

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Or if their culture requires someone to walk up to you with their arms (tentacles? anything?) outstretched to show peaceful intentions and welcome. And when they don't see humans doing that...

Reminds me on the Babylon 5 backstory... where the Earth-Minbari war was caused by such a misunderstanding.

(Which is rather amusing because the Minbari tradition was similar to what humans used to do during the age of sail.)
 

TMac3000

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Reminds me on the Babylon 5 backstory... where the Earth-Minbari war was caused by such a misunderstanding.

I actually thought of that as I was posting:)

But this begs the next question: what would first contact look like if we were ready?

We could try doing nothing and wait for them to make the first move, but as I said, that could also be seen (or otherwise sensed) as hostile.

Probably the most fortuitous situation would be to encounter them at a distance through our probes. That way we could examine each other machines and get a better idea of how to deal with each other before a face-to-whatever meeting. But we can't control that of course.

Barring that, I really have no idea. I can only repeat my premise that when and if they appear, we must start clean, try to play things by ear, and pray we don't get it wrong.
 

Urwumpe

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But this begs the next question: what would first contact look like if we were ready?

I would say, a typical first contact will be like the first contact between two possibly hostile human fleets. On one hand, you will try to deescalate gradually, on the other hand, you will stay alert for hostilities, but stay defensive. You will maneuver in a way to not be pushed into a corner, and at the same time try to prevent pushing the other side into a corner.

You are not knowing the intents of the other side and they don't know it as well. And you both want to know it.

If you have established that they are desiring at least neutral contact with you, the question is how to proceed from there. Its doubtful you would just board a small craft and meet in the middle between the fleets. Maybe you would just exchange some small inanimate token of respect between the fleets, maybe with some information on how to communicate better next time. Like a golden disk or so.

It would be complicated.... but if you can't make any assumptions on intents and communication, you have to start with small steps.

Waiting should never be considered hostile, unless you are waiting in a tactically favorable position with ready weapons. Its hard to retreat in space, after all.
 
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