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Manwon Lender

Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis

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Manwon Lender
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The discussion in this Acedemic Paper is a Senario Analysis that was written on 21 April 2011. The authors of this paper are Seth D. Baum, Jacob D. Haqq-Misra, and Shawn D. domagal-Goldman, from the University of Pennsylvania and from NASAs Planetary Science Division. This thread is designed to give the reader a few theoretical Scenarios of what could occur if Extraterrestrial Contact is made. I understand there have been other threads similar to this thread, however, this thread is designed to help answer questions from a Scientific perspective unlike other threads. To understand the possiblities you should read the paper that is included, it has approximately 31 pages.

Abstract 

While humanity has not yet observed any extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contact with ETI remains possible. Contact could occur through a broad range of scenarios that have varying consequences for humanity. However, many discussions of this question assume that contact will follow a particular scenario that derives from the hopes and fears of the author. In this paper, we analyze a broad range of contact scenarios in terms of whether contact with ETI would benefit or harm humanity. This type of broad analysis can help us prepare for actual contact with ETI even if the details of contact do not fully resemble any specific scenario. 

Scenario analysis of ETI contact serves several purposes. First, contact scenario analysis is of strong intellectual interest to the SETI and METI community and others, given the nuances and challenges involved in imagining an ETI we have never observed. But this scenario analysis is of practical value as well. An individual scenario is a narrative of a possible outcome of, in this case, contact between humanity and ETI. Such scenarios can help us train our minds to recognize patterns in actual outcomes. By “training our minds” we mean simply that our minds grow accustomed to thinking about, identifying, and analyzing specific scenarios and variations of them.

The training process is thus simply reading and reflecting on the scenarios and the encounter patterns found in them. The patterns of an actual encounter may resemble the analyzed scenarios even if the specifics differ from the scenario details. By training our minds in this way, we build our capacity to analyze and respond to actual contact with ETI. The scenario analysis presented here thus holds practical value in addition to the noteworthy intellectual insights that come from considering how contact with ETI might proceed.

Additionally, by considering a broad range of possible contact scenarios, including some that might seem unlikely, we improve both the range of patterns our minds are trained for and the breadth of intellectual insight obtained. This sort of broad scenario analysis can thus be an especially fruitful process. 

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1104.4462]

 

Edited by Manwon Lender

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and then

Anyone that's interested in at least one such scenario should read a book by Craig Falconer called NOT ALONE.  I'm not an avid SciFi reader but his series by that name is highly enjoyable.

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Manwon Lender
41 minutes ago, and then said:

Anyone that's interested in at least one such scenario should read a book by Craig Falconer called NOT ALONE.  I'm not an avid SciFi reader but his series by that name is highly enjoyable.

Thanks for adding the information, I appreciate it very much. But, this thread is designed to give readers a different way to think about this subject from a Scientific theoretical view, based upon how the scientific community would view such contact. 

But, thanks again I am certain some members would enjoy reading the Sci-fi books written by Craig Falconer!:tu:

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Manwon Lender

We organize ETI contact scenarios into three basic categories based on whether the consequences would be beneficial, neutral, or harmful to us. Although the possibilities surely fall along a spectrum along these lines, we believe these three bins represent a useful categorization scheme. As defined here, beneficial contact would be desirable for humanity; neutral contact would cause indifference for humanity; and harmful contact would be undesirable for humanity. A relatively large number of the scenarios we consider fall within the harmful to humanity category. We thus further divide these scenarios into two sections in which ETI are either intentionally or unintentionally harmful. Note that the large number of harmful to humanity scenarios does not imply that contact with ETI is likely to harm humanity. Quantitative estimates of the probabilities of specific scenarios or categories of scenarios are beyond the scope of this paper. Here we focus instead on the breadth and form of the possible modes of contact with ETI. Before developing these scenarios, we present some background information of relevance to the discussion that follows. Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis (arxiv.org)

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Manwon Lender

The Fermi paradox

So far, no extraterrestrial civilization has been unequivocally observed by humans. Nearly 50 years of listening for ETI transmissions has found no artificial signals in space [3-4], and the search for ETI artifacts in the Solar System has also produced null results [5-7]. However, a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation initially performed by physicist Enrico Fermi suggests that ETI should be widespread throughout the galaxy [8]. Indeed, an advanced ETI civilization 

could easily colonize the galaxy to form a Galactic Club among intelligent societies, a concept popular in science fiction (such as the “United Federation of Planets” of Star Trek fame) that in the nonfiction literature dates back at least to Ronald Bracewell [9]. This conspicuous absence of extraterrestrials is often referred to as the Fermi paradox [8] or the Great Silence [10] and raises the question: if ETI should be widespread, then where are they? A number of resolutions to the Fermi paradox have been proposed and explored [11-12], and three paradox resolutions are worthy of consideration in our discussion.

One resolution to the Fermi paradox is that life, or at least intelligence, is rare and thus sparsely distributed throughout the galaxy. This rarity could be because few intelligent civilizations form [13] or because intelligent civilizations tend to have short lifetimes, perhaps because they quickly destroy themselves [14-15]. If intelligence is rare, then it is quite unlikely that humanity would have detected ETI. In the extreme case, humanity is the only intelligent civilization in the galaxy or even in the universe. Along the same lines, other intelligent civilizations may be beyond the physical limits of contact even if they do exist [15-17]. These scenarios are of limited value to this paper because they imply that contact with ETI is impossible.

A second possible resolution to the Fermi paradox derives from the challenges of expanding rapidly throughout the galaxy. Perhaps rapid expansion is unsustainable at the galactic scale, just as rapid expansion is often unsustainable here on Earth. This suggests that the absence of extraterrestrials might be explained by the fact that exponential growth is an unsustainable development pattern for intelligent civilizations [18], a response to the Fermi paradox known as the Sustainability Solution [19]. According to the Sustainability Solution, rapidly expanding civilizations may face ecological collapse after colonizing the galaxy, analogous to the fate of Easter Island [20]. On the other hand, the galaxy could be teeming with ETI that expand too slowly to have reached Earth yet [21]. These slowly expanding ETI civilizations could still be detected by us or send us messages, and their nature as slow expanders has some implications for contact scenarios.

A third response to the Fermi paradox suggests that ETI are actually already widespread throughout the galaxy but are somehow invisible to us. The ETI could be unintentionally invisible, if it just happens to take some form that is undetectable to or otherwise undetected by humans. Alternatively, the ETI could be intentionally invisible. The intentional form of this solution is sometimes known as the Zoo Hypothesis [22] because it implies that ETI are treating Earth like a wildlife preserve to be observed but not fully incorporated into the Galactic Club. This idea has been popularized through the Star Trek series as the “prime directive” for non- interference with a primitive culture. The Zoo Hypothesis thus implies that ETI could make contact with humans at any time. Perhaps such stealthy ETI will reveal themselves once Earth civilization has reached certain milestones. They may be waiting until we have reached a sufficient level of sophistication as a society such as the start of a METI program or the discovery of light speed travel [22-23], or they could be applying a societal benchmark such as sustainable development or international unity. The possibility that the Zoo Hypothesis explains the Fermi paradox has several important implications for contact scenarios. https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1104/1104.4462.pdf

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