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How Should We Deal With Alien Contact? A Survey.

Parson

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@psychotick (Greg) interesting post. I think you are definitely on to something there. It's like the first time being involved in a life or death situation. You are often surprised by not only your own reaction, but also the completely unpredictable reactions of others. This is a kind of a big deal here in the States presently. Some security guards and police men are being legally charged with cowardice for failing to get involved with an active shooter while on duty. ---- Seems a bit harsh in my opinion.

The Bible speaks of being completely aware of your own sin and unworthiness when meeting the Creator. It is not be hard to imagine an alien scenario in which something similar would happen.
 

psychotick

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Hi P,

Yeah, thanks for that. I hadn't considered the biblical parallel. But it works in a strange way. Because don't we describe God as that which passeth all understanding?

But really while I was writing this, I worked with a number of thoughts / works in my head. The scenario began with Simak's Time is the Simplest Thing since it's about astral travellers encountering aliens. But bits and pieces came into it from everywhere. There's a piece in one of the Lewis books where the hero gets to see himself through the eyes of the aliens, and wonders who the strange pear shaped creature is. That always struck me as amazing. To not even be able to recognize yourself as human. And there's loads of other sources out there where alien really means alien. Not a guy with funny ears. But something that's almost completely beyond the human experience.

I mean think about Roadside Picnic. They came, they stopped for a little bit, had a picnic and left some litter behind. And we can't even understand their litter? It's brilliant but I have the horrible feeling it may actually be accurate. And there was a short story I read years ago where aliens declared war on us and practically wiped us out because we signed a peace treaty with them. They simply couldn't understand that such a thing could exist. They would have been perfectly happy being friends with us, but for the peace treaty! (From memory the story was written as an "I told you so!" from the female MC to the others!)

And it seems to me that this might well be the same. We think of aliens in their flying saucers (my book has those too!) as sort of funny looking people. And it never occurs to us that they're not human at all. We may never be able to understand them. It's not a question of maths or logic or language. They simply are completely alien for want of a better word. And how do we respond to that? If they can't understand us and we can't understand them? If we look at them and don't even know what we're looking at?

Cheers, Greg.

PS - we still need a survey!!!
 

psychotick

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Hi P,

Actually I'm going to add a tiny bit to that. I had a friend and Colleague, Helen, now passed from the world sadly. But she had this - I'm not sure if you'd call it a gift - which allowed her to bend her arm a tiny bit backwards. Probably about five or ten degrees. And every time she used to do that, and I'd see her arm bending the wrong way, it would completely freak me. I'd want to turn away and try not to imagine the sound of bones and joints snapping. But it was completely natural for her.

Now imagine seeing that or something equally freaky, but a thousand times worse!

Cheers, Greg.
 

Dave

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But other than that I'm with the OP - if in doubt develop a survey! Always good business school policy!
For the first time when looking at this thread I read the thread title that way (even before reading your post.) Yes, there would undoubtedly be bureaucrats with surveys on clipboards. In fact, there would probably be Royal Commissions held, Special Investigators appointed and a hundred and one committee rooms occupied. Nothing says 'we haven't a clue what to do' like opening a government inquiry.
I'd see her arm bending the wrong way, it would completely freak me. I'd want to turn away and try not to imagine the sound of bones and joints snapping.
A boy at my school could do this. He had broken his elbow when very young and it had set in some odd way. He would do it in the locker room after PE just to wind everyone up. It had that same effect on everyone. He knew that it did and loved seeing people squirm.
 

Vertigo

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I'm not sure I entirely agree with some of these points. For example I don't think @psychotick's friends arm bending trick is completely relevant. The reason for the discomfort is, I think, not because the backwards bending is alien per se but rather because both you and she are human and you know that your body, and most other people's bodies, can't do this without this without breaking. However you don't feel any of that kind of discomfort when looking at say Octopuses (octopusi?) or snakes which are far more 'alien' to us in their movements.

Some may have atavistic reactions to some body forms. So for example if the alien is insect like in its appearance then there are some who will go to pieces just because of that. Or arachnoid the same. But I think it's unlikely all or even most would react like that.

On Earth life has occupied pretty much every niche available and we have environments ranging from ice to super high temperatures in which life manages to survive and over the millions of years life has been around it's tried just about every viable configuration with varying degrees of success. Throughout all of those iterations the solutions have certain commonality. Only looking at higher lifeforms that have at least some chance of achieving technological intelligence those will include some form of motile ability (legs, flippers, wings), ability to manipulate your environment (arms, hands, tentacles, trunks, prehensile tails), ability to reason (brain or some equivalent). I can't imagine anything much more outrageous being successful in an alien environment that has not been tried somewhere sometime on Earth.

Early on there were some pretty wacky life variants but they have always been superseded by more efficient alternatives, a process still going on today. And nothing that life has produce in the last 100 million years or so has been so outrageous that it would cause the sort of complete abandoning of reason as has been speculated on. Terror, maybe, if coming face to face with the likes of T-Rex.

Also it's not too difficult to understand pretty much all of these life variations. I don't mean down to the ability to communicate directly (we're not doing so well with any of our native life on that front) but rather understanding their motivations. All motile life that has ever been on this planet is driven by pretty much the same motivations: survival of the gene, escape the predator and hunt the prey. I see no reason to believe any life from anywhere in the universe would be driven by any significantly different motivations and therefore produce any significantly different structures.

So personally I believe we would probably be able to understand them on a basic level but whether we could manage to communicate is another matter (I refer you again to our ability to communicate with the like of Dolphins for example). I believe that if we ever find life out there we will find whole ecologies of parallel evolutions rather that incomprehensibly alien ones. One of the great failing I see sometimes in SF creations of weird aliens is any plausible progressive evolutionary road to get to that point. The best attempts at this that I have see probably come from Neal Asher, in particular in his Spatterjay books. But even there, though extreme, the weird alien lifeforms are still comprehensible and still obey those fundamental motivations.

So I don't think the hypothetical aliens will be too surprising in form or too incomprehensible in motivation.
 

psychotick

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Hi V,

I don't know. But ask yourself this - google it in fact. Why are people afraid of spiders? Most of them are harmless. Most people who are phobic about them have never actually been bitten by a spider. There's theories that it's a learned thing. Others that it's genetic. Even social. Same thing with snakes.

My guess - and it is just a guess - is that at least it's in part because we specifically don't understand them. We're less afraid of dogs, even though they're probably far more of a danger, because we do understand them. We have some ability to predict what they'll do, how they'll act and react, and what dangers they pose. But I'm guessing if a dog sized spider wandered down the street people would be running in absolute terror. And even if they were told it was a vegetarian spider, they'd still be running.

And there's another factor to consider - immediacy. You see an alien - hey Alien itself - on telly and it isn't really scary. Why because it's on the telly. So a part of you knows you're safe. But what if their were no screen? If it was standing in front of you, and you didn't know what the hell it was or what it could do? Likewise with most of the other extremely weird creepy crawly things. You see them on telly, often magnified and your reaction is anything from mild fear to disgust. But if it was human sized and walking down the street? If in essence it was "real"?

Cheers, Greg.
 

Vertigo

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Oh don't get me wrong, as I say the appearance of a T-Rex doesn't engender terror in a picture but put one live in front of me and I'd be running for my life. So terror I can get to grips with it's the idea of being completely rendered incapable by the alieness that I don't hold with. Terror is understandable and expected. Reactions like attacking, equally so. But I don't hold with the idea that they'll be so alien as to be impossible to understand. I hold that what we are likely to see is a lot of familiar looking parallel evolution. I can see no reason why on another planet exoskeleton based life (insectoid) could outcompete vertebrate life when it has never managed to do so here. Evolution has tried numerous insectoid variations (even quite large ones during periods when oxygen levels were higher than now) and though the most numerous motile life form they have never been dominant since vertebrates became established. So I'm really not expecting too many great surprises when/if we meet Me Alien! But I'll still keep an open mind; it's a moderately large universe out there but I still expect to see familiar structures and motivations.
 

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In that we're only capable of understanding from our own experience and potential actions/motivations to a great degree, past simply guessing, I would think logically any initial contact would play out only one of two ways (regarding their actions).
1. If they consider themselves superior, I would expect that they would simply want to observe us in more detail, close up, taking normal precautions, yet past that feel comfortable circulating freely having little interest interacting past simple amusement.
2. If they consider themselves inferior, that is when they would seek to make direct contact in the hopes of advancing themselves.

The scenario of them feeling 'peer' I find unlikely. We seem to always want to assume that what we long for, in this case 'space travel with ease,' establishes a measuring stick regarding intelligence and power. For all 'we know,' an alien species might have devoted 99% of their efforts to space travel in the hopes of finding something to advance themselves. So our lack thereof, is not necessarily a gauge regarding advancement or feelings of self worth (us tending to be well rounded).


K2
 

Parson

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I guess what I was getting at with the Biblical analogy was that an alien presence might be so vastly and obviously superior to us that we might just stand there with our mouths hanging open utterly convinced of our own inferiority. --- Think Pizarro and the Inca at the first meeting. (At least if the reports are to be believed.)
 

Venusian Broon

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I guess what I was getting at with the Biblical analogy was that an alien presence might be so vastly and obviously superior to us that we might just stand there with our mouths hanging open utterly convinced of our own inferiority. --- Think Pizarro and the Inca at the first meeting. (At least if the reports are to be believed.)
Re: Pizarro and the inca. Yes the Spaniards defeated overwhelmingly superior forces, and yes it was down to better technology, but I do think the conquistadors did 'play' into the culture at the time, a lot like Cortez and Montezuma a bit earlier. There was a huge amount of politics and 'culture clash' that afforded the Spaniards massive, albeit fake, advantages against the empires of America. These central and south american civilisation could have easily (if they had taken up 'total war' and re-thought how their cultures worked) wiped out these small bands of bastards. (Although decimation due to eurasian diseases and the inevitable more boat loads of europeans that would/did come across anyway may have ground them down anyway...perhaps)

An alien scenario I think that is similar to conquistadors might see a small bunch of tech'd up aliens siding with the Russians, say, helping them to overcome the US and then take over the world.

But yes, they might be so mind-bogglingly advanced we wouldn't have a chance. Although if they were so advanced, couldn't they just make their own habitats in spaces with material just lying about (there's soooo much of it!) And therefore not need to come and conquer us in the first place....


....but what can we say. They're alien. Just really, totally different from how we could even possibly think how they they actually think.
 

Dave

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(Although decimation due to eurasian diseases and the inevitable more boat loads of europeans that would/did come across anyway may have ground them down anyway...perhaps)
And there are the two other problems we might face immediately beyond that very first contact. How would we deal with preventing the transmission of alien viruses, and how would we feel about mass alien tourism/alien immigration, or of the kind of culture clash depicted in Alien Nation?
 

Parson

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Would alien viruses be a problem? Even given Vertigo's alien similarities I would have my doubts that alien viruses would be able to attack humans, or at least not without some serious evolution.
 

Dave

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Not if viruses are extraterrestrial in origin, as some Panspermia theorists maintain.

But yes, it would involve a species jump. That has not been uncommon among species of Earth-life, but it does depend how close the aliens are to us genetically and biological, if they are at all. (Why only the same four DNA base pairs, why not six, or eight?) We'd be safe with some more exotic alien varieties, like those of the 'beings of pure energy' kind.
 

dannymcg

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There's been a few too many 'cute and friendly' aliens depicted in films and on the telly.
We need to ramp up the paranoia with more 'hostile aliens want to eat/destroy us' stories.

It's the only way we can keep mentally prepared to obliterate them as soon as we spot them. Grab their tech and savage their galactic organisation.

"Party's over Greenies, kneel before man"
 

Dave

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Do you really think that "there's been a few too many 'cute and friendly' aliens depicted in films and on the telly?"

I would fully expect that if I did a proper 'survey' and added them all up, then the 'we have come to harvest your Earth's iron core and oceans of water, make you our slaves, obliterate your puny planet and then assimilate your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own' would overwhelm all the 'kids on bicycles helping an orphan left behind when their ship stopped by to use the restrooms.'
 

psychotick

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Hi,

What about the not so cute and friendly humans? Think the Enterprise epp where the Vulcans land, raise their hands in the universal sign of peace, and Zephram Cochrane blows their leader away and with a band full of human pirates steals their ship!!!

Cheers, Greg.
 

dannymcg

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Do you really think that "there's been a few too many 'cute and friendly' aliens depicted in films and on the telly
E.T.
Mork and Mindy
3rd rock from the sun
Close Encounters of the 3rd kind
My favourite Martian
Mike and Angelo
 

Vladd67

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No, it's the cats! Domestic cats are actually aliens. It is well documented. This is why they have a disdain both for humans and their lackeys; dogs. They also have a radio antenna/ receiver built into their back leg and a microphone hidden under the fur so that they can contact their Kzinti masters. They sit on windowsills on neighbourhood watch, every single day, recording everything like a CCTV camera. There is no record of them before ancient Egypt, when they were delivered as "a gift from the gods." Pull back a cat's ears and your have a Grey Alien's face. Also, the damn purring! There is no adequate scientific explanation for it. You want more evidence? How can they fall backwards off window balconies, fall two stories, and still flip-over to land unharmed on their feet? Anti-gravity emitters!
Reminds me of an episode of UFO, it was theorised that not only were the aliens coming to earth to steal our bodies for parts but that the aliens that came to earth were artificially constructed from captured humans and then possessed by an alien intelligence. This seemed to be confirmed when an alien cat infiltrated S.H.A.D.O. headquarters and scouted out the place, when the true nature of the cat was realised a chase ensued resulting in the alien cat meeting a grisly end when it met up with a pack of hunting hounds.
 
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