Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Space Sci-Fi

Study: Earthlings Not Ready For Alien Encounters, Yet 453

astroengine (1577233) writes "The people of planet Earth would be wise to raise their cosmic consciousness prior to contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, a new study shows. 'The scientific community now accepts to some degree that this contact may occur in the next 50 to 100 years,' said Gabriel De la Torre, a clinical neuropsychologist and human factors specialist at the University of Cádiz in Spain. 'Consequently, we are becoming more concerned about this possibility and its aftermath Certainly the topic of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations raises a number of questions that are not easy to answer. We estimate that this type of event will have not only a social effect, but also on both consciousness and biology as well.' Although we may not have the necessary social skill set to deal with an encounter of the third kind, scientists or astronauts might make the best candidates for the first alien conversation."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Study: Earthlings Not Ready For Alien Encounters, Yet

Comments Filter:
  • It doesn't matter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:12PM (#46954997)
    If we can't find an airliner somewhere on this planet what the odds of us or anyone else finding us in the universe.
  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:28PM (#46955087) Journal
    Remotely near, harmless advanced alien life capable of interstellar travel would leave us alone for a few more centuries whilst we iron out this leftover primal aggression and god fallacy..

    Remotely near, exploitative advanced alien life would have already arrived and , well, exploited us and our resources.

    Depending on how far down along the great filter we find ourselves, we are quite plausibly the Universe's best hope for intergalactic explorer, settler, and exploiter. Deal with that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:52PM (#46955261)

    Stephen Hawking once said that if aliens visit us they will most likely not be friendly. Whether or not he is right is irrelevant because the aliens aren't coming. Ever.

    The idea of aliens coming to earth has been the subject of countless novels, movies and televison shows, and even though those stories are entirely fictional, they have greatly influenced the way we think about the idea of encountering beings from other worlds. Unfortunately, our thinking on this subject is very small and limited. If we step back and think a little bigger, we will realize that any aliens with the ability to come visit us almost certainly would not care to.

    Sci-fi stories can ignore the bits that aren't very interesting. Movie aliens rarely get sick or worry about eating. Sci-fi stories rarely mention gravity because, given our limited view, we expect gravity to just work and shooting a movie without it would be a pain. So, screw it, all movie aliens have invented artificial gravity. After all, warp-drive engines and pew-pew energy-blasters are much more fun to think about.

    In the real world, however, science tends to advance in all directions, because advances in one field almost always results in advances in many others. For example, the invention of the computer accelerated all other fields of human science.

    A race of aliens capable of reaching earth has, at a minimum, perfected faster-than-light travel (or perfected a way to travel for thousands of years at sub-light), conquered the long term biological effects of space radiation, and mastered extreme long distance space navigation, just so they can come to earth and . . . . . what? Steal our water? Study us?

    So why *WOULD* aliens come to earth?

    Do they really want our water (or minerals or whatever)? That implies an economic model in their decision. By definition, they need and value those resources and coming here to get them is their most economical choice. Getting them somewhere closer to home or manufacturing them must be more "expensive" (in some sense of the word) than the cost of traveling all the way here, gathering our resources and flying them home.

    While not impossible, that seems unlikely - both technologically and economically. Even we have (expensively) already mastered alchemy. We have the tech to create matter from energy. Imagine that tech in a few hundred years, or whenever it is you think we'll be able to travel several light years for a mining expedition. What would be cheaper and better, making stuff at home or building a fleet of galactic warships and sending them (along with thousands of soldiers and miners) to some far off planet?

    Currently, getting to Proxima Centauri (the closest star outside our solar system) in less than a few hundred years would require technolgy that is several orders of magnitude beyond what we have now. If getting humans to another star system is a 100 on some "technology ability scale", then we're currently at about 2, which is not far ahead of poodles who are probably at 1.

    What about the idea that aliens might come to Earth to colonize the planet (and maybe vaporize us in the process)? You could argue that terraforming (or maybe aliens would call it xenoforming) could be a technology more advanced than FTL travel. With that assumption, you could imagine an alien race that can travel across the galaxy but not alter planets to suit their biological needs. Coming to colonize Earth could make sense. But this ignores the fact that several other requisite technologies would probably make their need to colonize obsolete.

    Before they had FTL travel, they likely spent many decades traveling at less that light speed and so chances are their ships are quite comfortable. In fact probably more like sailing biodomes than ships - someplace they could live indefinitely. Assuming their other scientists were hard at work while their engineers were busy perfecting FTL, stuff like air and food have long been technologied away.

    The only thing something like Ear

  • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:14PM (#46955399)

    suppose for a second that 'greed' is an evolutionary construct -- which i think is plausible (IE, organisms acting in their own self interest, possibly with some altruistic tendencies towards members of it's own species in higher order critters).

    Is it unreasonable to assume that the evolutionary pressures that led to humans with our 'greed' and desire to dominate would also come into play on another planet with a different set of starting conditions? IE, they might not look like us, or share the same chemical building blocks, but they'd certainly act like us.

    The idea that we as a species are some kind of petulant greedy child just needing to grow up a bit might not be accurate -- it might be baked into our DNA, and by extension other alien life would have the same tendencies: Overuse and over extension of resources, a desire to explore and 'conquer'.. climbing the galactic Mount Everest because it's 'there'.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:19PM (#46955429)

    Well, I'd argue it like this: The only means of interstellar communication we know of so far is Electromagnetic waves. With the number of stars in the sky, it's pretty clear that the number of intelligent civilizations out there has to be infinite. Yet the sky is not saturated with their communications. So therefor those civilizations must be using some other technology. Now if they are communicating with entangled particles, we're kind of screwed. You can't eves drop on that. But all the science has so far lead us to believe that you can't actually communicate this way.

    But now we're starting to find other fields we could use. Gravity wave detectors are getting better and better. There's the higgs field. Maybe we'll find some other new and interesting ways to relay information. But our tech is advancing at an almost exponential rate now, so I think it's entirely plausible that in the next 100 years we finally figure out how advanced life transmits information long distances. It's probably in some way encrypted so we may just hear noise, but at least we'll know it's there.

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:27PM (#46955469) Homepage Journal

    I agree ET would have similar behavior... if they are technically advanced they would most certainly be social, curious and have empathy.

  • by NotSanguine ( 1917456 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:00PM (#46955661) Journal

    That assumes that we know as much physics as they do. They might be using some medium to communicate that we haven't even discovered yet.

    Certainly possible. But then, who of us could receive it?

    Probably all of us would receive it.

    After all, they would understand our limitations, by virtue of examining our transmissions, and adjust their transmissions accordingly.

    You're assuming they would want to talk to us at all. Perhaps we are too backward to even bother saying hello to. Or perhaps they are preparing a sneak attack. Granted, we have little that could harm an advanced race, but why give us a couple of decades to prepare. If they've been watching us, they would certainly have figured out that humans are pretty good at finding creative ways of killing things when threatened.

    Actually, they wouldn't need to be all that much more advanced than we are militarily. We sit at the bottom of a gravity well. As Heinlein suggested in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress [wikipedia.org], they could just "throw rocks" at us.

    Not very high tech, is it?

    Getting here is a completely different story, but the thought that extraterrestrial intelligence would need to be enormously more technologically advanced than we are is just not true. We (in cosmological terms) aren't so far off from creating devices that can autonomously manufacture machines to mine the moon or asteroids for rocks that can be set on intersecting trajectories with the Earth. Presumably, any intelligence that can build an autonomous probe capable of reaching us, could include that sort of technology in the probe. Berserkers [wikipedia.org] are an (albeit fictional) example.

  • by DarwinSurvivor ( 1752106 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:17PM (#46955771)
    Who says the other communication method can't be detected in other ways? A very simple example is using focused EM (or otherwise) radiation to cause a bush to catch fire (and thus produce smoke). Perhaps they have a technology that could disrupt EM radiation, alter the colour spectrum in select areas, vibrate objects to produce sound. Those would definitely be detectable by us. Even if we would have no way to respond along their medium, they could potentially instruct us how to build a transmitter.
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:54PM (#46955949) Homepage

    They don't even have to reveal themselves to us (and thus risk some sort of counterattack). If they are patient enough, they could park a ship in the asteroid belt and fire a few asteroids in our direction. A few years later, the asteroids would come crashing down on Earth. To us, it would look like a completely natural event, albeit one with disastrous consequences for our civilization. The last human alive could die without ever having known that alien life not only exists, but killed off humanity.

  • by Doug Merritt ( 3550 ) <[doug] [at] [remarque.org]> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:57PM (#46955963) Homepage Journal

    Yet the sky is not saturated with their communications. So therefor those civilizations must be using some other technology.

    That seems logical, but that turns out not to be the case. A SETI scientist said in a talk (and I've seen this in articles since) that our deployed SETI listening technology is still nowhere near sensitive enough to pick up signals even from as close as the nearest star (Proxima Centauri, 4 light years away), if a planet there was broadcasting RF at current Earth levels.

    (That doesn't mean SETI to date is pointless, because there's always a chance of a highly directional signal beamed our way, or of just something unexpected, like signals far far brighter than Earth's.)

    So no, we have no idea whether the sky is saturated with radio waves or not.

  • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @11:09PM (#46956017)

    Greed about what? What would we, either as a race of creatures, or as a populated biosphere, or even as the raw planet itself, what would we have that an advanced race could not find somewhere else for less hassle?

    This assumes advanced races couldn't just do "magic" with materials sciences and simply make whatever they needed. If they still need raw material, why come here?

    Water? We know there's a LOT of it out there. Our own Oort cloud could be mined for water for close to forever and we wouldn't know about it or be able to do anything. They won't need our oceans.

    Gold? Metals? Asteroids. Free. Nobody with spears guarding them. They don't need your dental fillings.

    Food? Oh come on, advanced races surely have sorted out getting rid of biological needs like food and waste processing. So they won't need to eat us.

    Reproduction? Laughable. Our reproductive process is ridiculous. And probably not compatible. We don't have horse-humans running around and our DNA is already close to the horse DNA. Alien DNA won't be that similar. It would have to be modified, tested, modified more, tested more, to get to a viable hybrid. Hmmm....

    Toys? Now this is really the only reason for them to come here. A set of living toys. If all we are to aliens is a set of toys, then we have no hope. This is worse than if they wanted to come here to eat us and take our water. Being a toy means we're only here until somebody decides they want new toys.

  • Or not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:49AM (#46956843)

    Do you drink coffee or beer or eat peppers or yogurt?

    These are all things that are capable of altering your mood and your behavior. Most of the time we don't notice the alteration, both because it's subtle and because believing in one's own self-ness is a survival characteristic.

    The sophistication that allows trans-galactic travel will also allow substantial self-modification, including and especially modification of behavior to null out the instincts to honor self above others and the instinct to win at all costs.

    Technology is simply leverage; the means of wielding power beyond that which we physically possess. To make a simplifying example: probably no one on earth today could responsibly handle an antimatter-powered 10 gigawatt hand-held ray-gun-type device. Normal people would be hard-pressed just to keep it safe from the rest of us and never use it. Anyone who actually has the power to keep it safe is already in the position of dominating others by virtue of how our society works. They are either at risk of being sacked by greedy competitors or they dominate so completely that they are already corrupt in their power.

    Probably the real danger isn't in the form of a ray-gun. It's likely a virus or an AI or a self-replicating nano-tech. Even if you took away the part of our selves that generates our dangerous and anti-social behaviors, we would still have to deal with the real danger of just being too clumsy to come up with a safe way to handle some things like nano-tech or AI. We just aren't any good at evaluating things that exhibit geometric growth networks effects. Of course, the good news is that once you have control of the design of your own mind, you get to choose what you're good at.

    A civilization that has tremendous technology will almost certainly have modified itself to be responsible in wielding it. To do otherwise would make survival less and less probable as the technology advances. Also, we can see that this is a pretty good parallel to the evolution of human society. When we were just smart mammals focused on survival, we had no particular qualms about killing each other. As technology has progressed, our notion of humanity has progressed roughly apiece. We're still brutal and horrible to each other, but on average, I think we're becoming more human all the time.

    All of that said, I think that there's still a situation in which aliens would visit. I think it would be simply to foster the on-going proliferation and advancement of consciousness in the universe. At the end of the day, I think we'd all like for something of ourselves, some kind of consciousness to survive in the universe rather than for it to all die out. Having more creative, capable and varied consciousness in the universe is the best way to further that goal. Letting us know that there's something else out there could go a long way to waking us up to our part of the consciousness mission.

  • by Aphadon ( 3402087 ) on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:18AM (#46957599)
    There's a very interesting xkcd what-if [xkcd.com] on this. Turns out nowadays aliens would have a better chance at finding us based on the reflected light anomalies created by our atmosphere, rather than picking up radio transmissions.
  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:58AM (#46957791) Homepage

    ... in a multiverse to generate one Earth?

    Just to add to the possibility of unlikelihood of other space civilizations, with quadrillions of totally empty universes...

    Great analysis.

    All that said, we just don't know the odds of alternatives within out universe. And we may be living in a computer simulation (like Minecraft?) with parameters set to generate either one or trillions of different space civilizations.

    Although given how hardy bacteria are, it would not surprise me if our solar system had been inoculated by bacteria from far away.

    A big irony of all this SETI stuff is that so many people act like finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe with a different culture or technology elsewhere would be a big deal, whereas we in the USA and also globally are so busy killing off whales, elephants, octopods, and people of different countries and religions for various short-term economic or xenophobic reasons... And our culture also have a history of ignoring great technologies like Smalltalk or QNX. Comments on SETI are often just some weird mix of irony, hypocrisy, and blindness... Not to say I have not been guilty of such myself sometimes...

    Someone in another post talked about a popular fantasy that some alien technology would solve all our problems, but is that true? As Bucky Fuller said in the 1960s, and is only more true now, we have more than enough resources and technology to make life pleasant for everyone on Earth (well, except haters and greeders maybe). Eat more vegetables and fruits, get out in the sunshine and walk in nature, hang out with other people locally, sleep well, do good work, and so on are the basics for a healthy happy life (see "BlueZones"). People in the USA can see much happier and healthier people in Europe or Canada if they bothered to look, but US politics in general can't admit that. Can you imagine what the US political parties (either left or right) would say about some happier healthier more prosperous space civilization that was more communal? Or that had different sex roles? Or had different religious rituals? Or whatever?

    Example of the kind of nonsense people in the USA would start spouting in talk-radio: "Yeah, those red-skinned aliens live 100,000 years each in perfect health traveling the universe if they want in FTL ships that can print anything they want in 3D, but it's an unhappy 10,000 years because they have high taxes and have a different notion of God/Universe and different rituals. We need to help these backward aliens come to know our loving God (by torture if need be) and how to vote correctly to give all their money to wealthy Earthlings who will create good jobs for all of them. Their medical care system sucks because they don't have private sick care insurance to deliver medicine by board-certified entrepreneurial MDs and the health care facilities and testing labs the MDs own and so the alien's million-year old political obviously will surely be insolvent soon. Anyone who explores or advocates their ways is an alien-sympathizer traitor, guilty of treason, and needs to be imprisoned or re-educated. Anyone who harbors an alien is guilty of aiding terrorists because these aliens want to destroy our way of life. For our citizens' own protection, we will not issue passports to anyone dumb enough to want to go visit them and anyone attempting to board an alien vessel will be shot out of our boundless compassion. The aliens are obviously here to corrupt our morality and sap the ardor of the hard-working minimum-wage-paid American to cause the USA to collapse. These aliens in their crappy ZPE-powered FTL ships obviously want to steal our fossil fuel coal, oil, and natural gas. We need to increase out military spending to counter this alien threat, and it is sensible to take simple precautions like a first-strike with nukes and plagues on the alien homeworld using stolen alien spaceships to keep this alien menace at bay. Better dead than Red."

    For this playing out historically in North America centuries ago to "R

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:43AM (#46959229)

    based on your sample size of one? you are funny, the universe may be teaming with life, microbal life. That's all Earth had for the first 3.5 billion years, that may well be the norm and whatever freak accident made multicellular life never happens elsewhere

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!