Wednesday, January 2, 2008

On meeting space aliens

I can't believe my last blog was back in October. Wow. I can only attribute that to a combination of overwork and laziness. But, to start off the new year, I have plans to really step up the pace, beginning with my views on whether meeting real, live, aliens face-to-face would be a good idea or a bad one.

Then I'll proceed to post bits and pieces of a multi-part article I'm writing for Mike's Writing Newsletter (the first two parts were published in the October and December 2007 issues), on commonly misused and misspelled words and phrases. These are things I run into all too frequently, even in published/edited works. Some may be simple typos, but most are clearly due to misunderstanding. So, for all you writers out there (even those who write only emails and other "casual" forms of writing), it's back to school for vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation lessons. But don't worry, there won't be a quiz at the end.... 8^}

On Meeting Aliens

On his 90th birthday, Arthur C. Clarke talked about meeting aliens. He remarked that humans are waiting until extraterrestrial beings “call us or give us a sign." “We have no way of guessing when this might happen. I hope sooner rather than later.”

I used to agree with this sentiment. Now I kind of hope later rather than sooner. Why? I don't think we're ready. Religious zealots would freak. (If aliens weren't created in God's image, then they must be godless, right? And thus soulless. Maybe the work of the Devil. Etc.) Plenty of other people would freak out as well. Some would be terrified. The stock markets might crash. There would be rioting in the streets in some places.

Odds are any aliens we hear from will be thousands, if not millions, of years ahead of us. (What are the odds that we'd be at roughly the same level of development?) If so, making face-to-face contact with them might be the worst possible thing for us.

If they're aggressive, we don't stand a chance. (Picture modern humans with tanks and H-bombs against cavemen with clubs.) Even if they're friendly, there's the issue of culture shock. Would we really keep striving to push the frontiers of science and technology if we could buy an inexpensive alien device that's a thousand times better than anything we have today? It would be so easy to just sit back and accept their bounty.

Many human scientists might study the advanced alien science and work up from there; but I suspect that for most of us the knowledge that we're thousands of years behind the aliens would have a crushing effect on our collective psyche. If we start thinking of ourselves as inferior in any way, we're done for as a vibrant species.

On the other hand, as arrogant as we are at the top of the Earthly food chain ("How quaint. Here's how we do things on Earth."), if we take that attitude out onto the galactic stage, we're likely to piss off someone who can slap us back into the Stone Age.

There are all sorts of negative scenarios that are possible and likely and don't bode well for humans. There are positive ones as well (Utopia on Earth and peace throughout the galaxy, for example), but I suspect we aren't ready for them and will screw up through ignorance, pride, aggressiveness, or any of the other less desirable human traits.

As cool as I think it would be to finally meet real-life aliens, I don't think we're ready for them. (And vice versa.) Give us another century to mature and maybe, just maybe we will be. (If we don't kill ourselves first....)


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