How would humanity react to alien contact?

How would humanity react to alien contact?

What would happen if fiction became reality? © Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock

It’s not just science fiction authors and “weirdos” who are concerned with aliens, UFOs and first contacts: from a scientific perspective, “encounters of the third kind” also seem at least possible – and that’s why they are being seriously considered. The cover story of the March issue of bild der Wissenschaft now deals with these mind games surrounding the topic of contact with extraterrestrial intelligences.

Are we the only beings who look questioningly into the universe? So far we have not found any evidence of “aliens” in the cosmos. But there is enormous probability in favor of their existence: against the background of the countless stars and planets, it seems unlikely that life forms and ultimately intelligent beings have only developed on Earth. Theoretically, it is also conceivable that one day we will receive signals from extraterrestrials, or that they will even appear here. Therefore, considerations about how humanity would react to such contacts are not just crazy. This is what the five-part title topic “What if…?” is about.

About UFOs and post-biological beings

In the first article, bdw astronomy expert Rüdiger Vaas initially deals with the possibility of visits by extraterrestrial intelligences to our planet. The extent to which living beings can overcome gigantic interstellar distances seems questionable. But post-biological beings – artificial, self-reproducing intelligences are also conceivable. Theoretically, they could survive enormous periods of time during their journeys through space.

Vaas then focuses on the supposedly unscientific topic of UFOs. As he emphasizes, they actually have nothing to do with “little green men” – they are simply “unidentified flying objects”. They are therefore also an official subject of research. It is a topic that NASA and US political and military institutions are dealing with, among others. The background to the sightings can usually be explained plausibly, but in some cases questions remain unanswered. Vaas also reports spectacular claims from people who supposedly had insight into classified information about extraterrestrials. The extent to which they appear credible can be seen in the article “Visit from space?”

But what if scenarios arise that we have only seen in science fiction stories? Vaas addresses this question in the second part of the title topic. How humanity would react to evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligences would depend heavily on the type of discovery, the author explains. These could be distant signatures, artifacts or nearby spaceships with bizarre creatures. People would probably get along better with the distanced versions. However, alien beings or devices in the solar system could lead to a shock with unpredictable and problematic reactions, according to the article “Contact and Conflicts”.

This article is rounded off by an interview that Vaas conducted with the sociologist Andreas Anton from the Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Psychohygiene in Freiburg. In it, the scientist explains, among other things, to what extent he believes it is necessary for humanity to prepare for contact with extraterrestrials.

What laws apply to aliens?

The focus will then be on legal thought games on the topic of contact with extraterrestrial intelligences. Experts have also already addressed the question of the extent to which aliens have to obey earthly laws and how we should legally treat them correctly. Among other things, it is about the extent to which there could be generally valid meta-laws for intelligent beings and whether they would be enforceable. There are also seemingly strange questions – such as whether aliens even have the right to explore the Earth and when defensive measures would be legitimate. Ultimately, the thought games in the article “Galactic Legislation” illustrate how deeply human our perspectives are.

This article is supplemented by an interview that Vaas conducted with the legal scholar Michael Bohlander. He is an expert in global law and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) strategy at Durham Law School. In it, Bohlander talks about the risks and legal side effects of contact with extraterrestrial intelligences. One of his messages is: “It is time for humanity to develop a planetary species consciousness.”

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