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Space Exploration Needs Extraterrestrial Ethics 162

An anonymous reader writes "Professor Andy Miah notes there's already international government policies taking hold on outer space — and a need for new ethical guidelines. 'For instance, what obligations do we owe to the various life forms we send there, or those we might discover? Can we develop a more considerate approach to colonizing outer space than we were able to achieve for various sectors of Earth?' And what rights do astronauts have? 'Could our inevitable public surveillance of their behavior become too much of an infringement on their personal privacy?' But more importantly, professor Miah notes that 'the goods of space exploration far exceed the symbolic value,' pointing out that 'A vast amount of research and development derives from space exploration ... For example, the United Kingdom's 2007 Space Policy inquiry indicated that the creation of space products contributes two to three times their value in GDP.'"


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Space Exploration Needs Extraterrestrial Ethics

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  • Re:Ethics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Whatshisface ( 1203604 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:00PM (#31275808)

    Except that most of Asimov's robot stories were actually about the fact that the 3 Laws were simplistic and impractical, and that sufficiently developed robots would look to bend or break the laws eventually.

    The Prime Directive had its own problems as well.

    The point is that it is not easy to define a universal set of rules that would apply in all situations.

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:01PM (#31275822) Homepage

    You only need "ethics" to guide your behavior when you're dealing with entities that exist.

    When we actually locate an actual life form from outside of Earth that's a little more interesting than a fossilized bacteria, we can begin to consider this problem in light of the specifics of our plans and capabilities.

  • First things first (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:05PM (#31275874) Journal
    Let the ethicists at the first university in the asteroid belt work on these questions.
    It's irrelevant until we get out there, and we're not out there.
  • by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:25PM (#31276154)

    I think you overestimate the diversity of life on Earth when compared to a hypothetical alien life.

  • I for one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:26PM (#31276178)

    Welcome our benign alien overlords.

    On the other hand if the first aliens we meet are like the Borg or G'ould rather than Vulcans, then its irrelevent what our ethics are, we will be assimilated/conquered and or eaten.

  • by Grimbleton ( 1034446 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:35PM (#31276312)

    Yeah, why plan ahead when you can come up with reactionary policy after the shit hits the fan.

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:04PM (#31276746) Homepage

    I believe the whole point is to think about these things before we need to use them, rather than *after* we fuck up a first contact.

    That said, I can totally picture humanity going through all the trouble of coming up with a "foolproof" plan to open a dialogue, only to discover that our^wthe alien version of a handshake is grabbing an ambassador in its mouth and thrashing him violently about.

    -Shamu The Conq^w^w^wDoug

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:22PM (#31277050) Homepage

    The More You Know: It's not illegal to be a Communist.

  • Seems obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:54PM (#31277492) Homepage
    It all seems rather obvious:

    If they're more advance then it's their ethics that will dictate what happens.
    If they're essentially equal (e.g. better than us in physics, worse in chemistry) then economics will dominate.
    If they're less advance then we'll observe and debate until we figure out the best course of action.

    In any case, the threat of biological contamination would necessitate nearly absolute isolation. A single invasive species (e.g. a microorganism) from either world would have the potential to devastate the other. So we wouldn't be landing and shaking hands, or crossbreeding or anything. (BTW, crossbreeding? We can't do that between species within a genus, let alone between organisms more distantly related than prokaryotes and eukaryotes.) The economics and logistics of space travel would dictate how much interaction would be practical and I see little reason as to why we wouldn't maximize that.
  • by saider ( 177166 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:34PM (#31278020)

    This is more like coming up with a building's evacuation plan before the architects have started on the blueprints. Any formal discussion and policy decisions are too early and will be outdated, ignored or forgotten by the time we have people roaming the among the planets.

    That is why this is pointless.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.