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Extraterrestrial Contact: The Players

I suggest in this blog that an extraterrestrial civilization interested in making Direct First Contact could leverage the power and technology of the international news media to reach all humans with a message of introduction. I don’t necessarily believe there are extraterrestrials out there waiting to do such. It’s merely a suggestion of what could be done.

What happens next would depend on some key players. These are some of the players I think would be involved in the response to Direct First Contact:

-President of the United States: The country with the most established space program and greatest military strength would certainly be a major player in any First Contact event, no matter how it occurs. The President of the United States would likely have a huge impact through direct actions (deployment of military forces, NASA and other federal agencies) and the indirect actions, such as global leadership. Other nations would look to the U.S. for an indication of how they should react. A President who handles First Contact in a thoughtful and rational way could set the tone for the world reaction. Knee-jerk and fear-based reactions could be disastrous. The Hollywood view of the President somehow being the defacto leader of Earth in such an interaction is, of course, ridiculous. The United States would play a part in such an event; however it would only be one player on a crowded international stage.

-China and Russia: Both of these nations have the military power and international influence to change the nature of First Contact. They also have highly-developed space agencies and scientific communities, both of which would be critical in the response to First Contact. It would be important to engage Russian and Chinese leaders immediately in any First Contact response. The Chinese reaction is especially important because of the unique nature of the Chinese government and economy. China might react quite differently than other nations to First Contact.

-Other World governments: There’s more to global politics than just the actions of the old fashion big three: the United States, China and Russia. The individual governments of other powerful nations on Earth have the ability to influence First Contact in many ways. Governments, such as Germany, influence other countries both regionally and, as blocs, internationally. Their reaction would be critical to the overall international response. They also have military power that could make things more complicated and potentially dangerous. Considering the reaction of certain influential countries on Earth, outside of the big three, would be essential.

-Political groups within nations: We would be naive to think that politics would not be a major force in First Contact response. Political groups would stake out turf and look to protect their interests in the wake of First Contact. The political battles in each country will have a profound impact on the overall international response, unless the other key group involved, the United Nations, can find the strength to act independently.

-United Nations Security Council: This would likely be the first group charged with responding to First Contact at an international level. This powerful group of nation representatives handles international security issues for the United Nations. They could set the tone for First Contact diplomacy.

-United Nations Secretary General: Calm, cool and decisive leadership would be important in any First Contact scenario. In the United Nations this leadership would need to start with the Secretary General.

-United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space: COPUOS is the primary United Nations group to consider space issues and it seems likely that they would have a major role in a First Contact event. This committee has been presented with First Contact preparation proposals on several occasions and has failed to act on them.

-The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs: The primary functions of UNOOSA are space treaties and the consideration of Near Earth Objects (NEOs). However, given their unique functions at the U.N. they would most likely be a critical group in any First Contact scenario. The current director, Mazlan Othman, has seriously considered First Contact issues. Thus far, however, she has not been able to get the UNOOSA parent body, COPUOS, to pay serious attention.

-SETI scientific community: If First Contact comes in the form of the discovery of an engineered signal, clearly SETI scientists would be front and center. It would probably be they who would discover such a signal in the first place. However, SETI scientists also have an important function in other First Contact scenarios. These scientists are a small group of dedicated researchers who have actively and rationally considered the impact of First Contact. It seems likely the media would need them as expert commentators in the wake of First Contact. It also seems logical that the United Nations would turn to them for advice and counsel.

-Social scientists: Very few social scientists have actively considered First Contact issues. And yet this may be the most important field After First Contact. Social scientists would be needed to take the collective pulse of human society. The social sciences could monitor reactions in the world economy and the global political arena. Scientists would need to evaluate human perception of First Contact, to help us better understand the public reaction taking place. Surveys and analysis would provide the United Nations and other world leaders with important data to help them move forward.

-Mainstream media: Leveraging the news media for live coverage of First Contact has certain implications. That coverage would certainly depend on how an extraterrestrial civilization decided to use the media to reach humanity. The most important part of the process would actually come later for the news media as editors and reporters find the time needed to develop enterprise stories. These pieces are not part of the breaking news/headline news cycle. Enterprise stories focus on a range of subjects outside of the obvious. For example, if we know that aliens exist, then no matter what the aliens tell us, the alien abduction folks would suddenly seem a lot more believable. The media would probably have to consider some of these “conspiracy based” ideas. How far do they take it? How much does that coverage influence the overall process?

-Alternative media: First Contact would lead to much speculation. The very notion that an extraterrestrial civilization exists would open the door for a wide range of theories and ideas, many of which may fall on the fringe of current commentary and yet would find new life in the wake of First Contact. How web communities respond to First Contact would be essential for what happens next. If conspiracy theories and fear spread on the Internet the mainstream media will be forced to consider such issues. The result could be a collective hysteria of sorts that would not be good for human civilization.

-Fringe elements: Religious, political and cultural groups have elements on the fringe of majority thought. Those fringe groups, by their very nature being small, can react more dynamically than the rest of the population to situations, creating disruption and perhaps chaos. A certain amount of fringe reaction is important for the overall conversation. First Contact would need to include a number of different viewpoints and consider a variety of concerns. However, the degree to which fringe elements drive the overall world response may ultimately dictate what happens after First Contact. Fringe elements often speak the loudest and react in visible ways that garner a great deal of attention. They are not necessarily acting in the best interest of the public or acting for the common good. They often have a particular agenda and seek to gain power.

-Sensible majority: The Arab Spring protests and recent Occupy Wall Street movement shows that the Internet can be a powerful tool for organizing a large response to world events. The trend lately in protest is not so much one organized group expressing dissent, but rather many groups coalescing around one general idea and then growing a protest movement through the social media. This shows hope for the sensible majority in the wake of First Contact. It seems likely that at first fringe elements would be speaking the loudest After First Contact. It could be necessary for the sensible majority to speak up with a collective voice to influence world leaders and keep the First Contact process moving forward in a positive way.

About The Real Signs of Time

Think for yourself” is probably the most important advice an educated person can hear. Unfortunately, its meaning has become ambiguous.
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