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If ET Calls, Who Speaks For Humanity? 371

Posted by timothy
from the your-call-is-very-important-to-us dept.
EagleHasLanded writes "Who speaks for humankind if ET calls on us? Paul Davies, chairman of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, is a likely ambassador. But Allen Tough founded the Invitation to ETI Web site, which encourages ET to make contact via email (and also strongly discourages humans from impersonating ET). But an individual in the UK got over some of the hurdles designed to weed out hoaxers, before finally throwing in the towel."
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If ET Calls, Who Speaks For Humanity?

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  • Just in case... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Manax (41161) <toertel-slashdot AT manax DOT org> on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#31560488) Homepage
    Just in case you, or someone you know turns out to be the first, everyone should read this [laboiteverte.fr]

    It's not exactly rigorous, but it gets the main points across.
    • Re:Just in case... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:56PM (#31560616) Homepage Journal

      It's not exactly rigorous, but it gets the main points across.

      It's a load of bunk. (Biggest bit: A knife fight today is the same as a knife fight 10,000 years ago. Technology advances, but only to physical limits. Oh, and not only does nobody remember the Indians that Columbus met, but most Native peoples don't date themselves as "Post-Columbian" and "Pre-Columbian.")

      Anyway, if an alien shows up and decides to "make contact", they'll be in one of two situations.

      1: They didn't plan it, and this is an emergency or an accident. Offer help if you can, but only if they accept it. Mostly, just stay the @#$ out of their way and try not to get killed. And for the love of god, don't kill them until they've killed one of us. (Yes, that probably means that "first contact bob" would be "first trophy bob." if they're here to hunt. Sucks to be bob.)

      2; They did plan it, and made contact deliberately. It doesn't take more than a day to notice that the species creating buildings and machines and launching crap into space is sentient, and they'll learn a hell of a lot more about us by watching us for another day or two rather than picking one of us at random and watching us flail around. Greet them in your common habit and vernacular FIRST, and only resort to random flailings and scribbling on the floor if they don't respond.

      • Ants and termites build cities, and beavers build dams, and we don't seem to care.

        • Ants and termites build cities, and beavers build dams, and we don't seem to care.

          That's because they don't build cities and damns. You show me an ant, termite or beaver who can build a damn and a city, and I'll show you something I'd like to give to the aliens.

      • Re:Just in case... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:29PM (#31560920) Homepage Journal

        Duncan Lunan from ASTRA [easynet.co.uk] wrote a couple of books on the subject in the early 1970s and basically fleshed out the possibilities you outlined, going through various permutations, including ones where we initiate contact, either inside our own solar system or outside. It was an interesting read but don't know if the books are accessible on the web yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Manax (41161)
        I agree with your 1 or 2. But the writer's point about vast technological differences is really true, probably more-so than he realizes. And I do agree with the writer that alien contact will be such a HUGE deal to society as a whole, that it very well could be the sort of year 0 thing he suggests.

        And I totally agree that they'll know we're sentient, and odds are good they'll be able to have perfect translators pretty damn quickly once they've come into contact with our radio transmissions, if they're ab
        • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @06:47PM (#31561480)

          And I totally agree that they'll know we're sentient

          "Sure, the bipeds on the third planet are merely sentient, they're not >äðûæé< . Thus, it's perfectly okay to anal-probe them; we have every right as an >äðûæé< species."

          • Re:Just in case... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by HungryHobo (1314109) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @07:12PM (#31561688)

            Someone mod the parent up.

            Is there any particular reason an alien species would be any nicer to other species than we are to other species?

            • Re:Just in case... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by shadowbearer (554144) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @08:26PM (#31562342) Homepage Journal

              Ditto.

                Let's hope that they won't judge us on that. If they do, we're pretty well screwed.

                “You are capable of such wonderful dreams,and such terrible nightmares.”

                Hell, we can't even treat other members of our OWN species decently, as a whole, much less other species.

                Some say we're in our adolescence, I'd argue we're still in the terrible two's" stage, where, as a species, we haven't developed a learned sense of ethics...

              SB

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vertinox (846076)

        It's a load of bunk. (Biggest bit: A knife fight today is the same as a knife fight 10,000 years ago. Technology advances, but only to physical limits. Oh, and not only does nobody remember the Indians that Columbus met, but most Native peoples don't date themselves as "Post-Columbian" and "Pre-Columbian.")

        Um... No.

        In fact if an Native American met a crusader knight wearing chainmail, he's have a hard time killing him with a knife.

        Actually, during Columbus's time, they still wore plate armor much of the tim

      • Re:Just in case... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:54AM (#31564254) Homepage Journal

        3) They might be criminals, political refugees, or any other "undesirable" on the run, who see our remote backward world as a good hideout (this falls somewhere between "planned" and "seredipitous" at least for them). Maybe the scum of their species, maybe the oppressed. Maybe they'll think "Cool, suckers to exploit!" or bring down their version of the law on our heads for harbouring a fugitive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          They might be criminals, political refugees, or any other "undesirable" on the run, who see our remote backward world as a good hideout (this falls somewhere between "planned" and "seredipitous" at least for them). Maybe the scum of their species, maybe the oppressed.

          So it's 1620 all over again, but this time we're all Red Indians and the pilgrims are green?

          Watch out for the blankets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      "Not exactly rigorous"... it doesn't withstand two seconds of critical thought.

      The aliens will be quite used to things flailing like crazy and trying to get away... They know this is what non-self-aware organisms do.

      Well, except plants -- those stand still. So standing still or moving tells them nothing.

      The fact that you're still alive will mean they're going to allow us to exist.

      Tell that to any barnyard animal. Maybe they're not hungry yet?

      I mean, I'll agree that fighting is probably futile, but you never know. We don't know how to defend against a nuke, but we do actually know about enough to visit other planets, if we were willing to expend the resources and wait the insane amonut of time.

      They won't speak your language, and won't be able to mess with your thoughts.

      No good reason to believe

    • That's pretty good; also pretty funny, it's obvious they were going for the humor angle. I do like the math bit.

      One caveat; any aliens that meet us here on Earth (which is where it will happen, at least for some decades, more likely centuries) will likely have been watching our radio/tv/digital output and have a pretty good idea of what is going on, if they can decode our transmissions. (I think it's likely they will be able to, any aliens with the technology to travel across interstellar s

      • Re:Just in case... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tassach (137772) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @06:42PM (#31561446)

        any aliens with the technology to travel across interstellar space would have to have some pretty phenomenal computer technology

        The only thing safe to assume about aliens is that they will be ALIEN. As in, completely unlike us in every way. It's a mistake to terrestrialize ETs, let alone anthropomorphize them. Their concept of 'communication', let alone their culture and motivations, will likely be be so wildly different than ours as to be beyond our ability to even conceive of it. Hell, we have a hard enough time understanding and communicating with other HUMAN cultures. Aliens, especially aliens sophisticated enough to cross interstellar distances? Forget about it.

        • Re:Just in case... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by shadowbearer (554144) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @08:10PM (#31562214) Homepage Journal

            I see your point, but if there are aliens who are capable of traveling across interstellar space and navigating it without computer technology of some sort, there will likely never EVER be any common ground with us to communicate thru.

            We rely on our technology for communications, more and more so the more technically advanced we get. Any form of communication has to have some sort of symbolic nature, otherwise it's not communication.

              Like I said elsewhere, unless they communicate via telepathy, there has to be at least some common ground, technology wise. However, just because WE can't understand THEM, doesn't mean that THEY won't be able to understand US.

            At the risk of providing fodder for fruitcakes, technically they could already be living amongst us, and we'd never know they were there. I am familiar with Clarke's Law wrt advanced technology...

            I think it much more likely that any aliens who would go to the trouble of trying to contact us - as a species - via a means we are familiar with would use the means of communication we are capable of detecting.

            Otherwise there wouldn't be much point in attempting to do so.

          SB

  • Its too late. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#31560510) Homepage Journal

    Our TV broadcasts have already spoken for us, and it wasn't a good message.

    • Just because Buckner can't properly field a grounder doesn't mean the message isn't good ...
    • Re:Its too late. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Animaether (411575) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:13PM (#31560750) Journal

      Our TV broadcasts have already spoken for us, and it wasn't a good message.

      Isn't that in the eye of the beholder?

      We're us - and though we do so with a lot of falling down and getting back up again, we generally strive to better ourselves and our fellow man all the time.

      If that makes us unworthy of a casual visit, or more worthy of evaporation, by some alien civilization, so be it.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6ya7ZRlrEo [youtube.com] - "My Way", Frank Sinatra.

      As it stands - we don't know -what- a particular alien civilization might enjoy... perhaps they're big fans of WW2 and want to include us in an intergalactic battle. Or maybe they just love Britney Spears and will come over to abduct all of the * Got Talent, * Idol, * Factor show people. Or maybe they'll catch one of the many talks from Stephen Hawking from old broadcasts and think it would be a jolly good time to sit down and have a chat with him via their neural interface gadgetry. So there's no point in entertaining the thought of "What Would The Aliens Do?" any more than WWJD-shirts do.. just carry on doing what we're doing for our own (planet's) good.

    • I consider that pretty fucking bad, but you know. It could be worse.

       

    • Re:Its too late. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbet (1607261) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:51PM (#31561122)

      Our TV broadcasts have already spoken for us, and it wasn't a good message.

      I hear Single Female Lawyer [wikipedia.org] has some fans.

  • ET Will Pick.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wisesifu (1358043)
    Wouldn't ET pick the ones they wanted to initiate conversations with first? Possibly the ones less likely to point a gun at them?
    • Wouldn't ET pick the ones they wanted to initiate conversations with first? Possibly the ones less likely to point a gun at them?

      What do they know?

      I say we put them in the middle of a joint session of Congress. That should be enough to scare them right off the planet.

    • by melikamp (631205) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:17PM (#31560802) Homepage Journal
      Oh no no no. OBVIOUSLY, if aliens show up tomorrow, after having flown countless light years and having built a highly advanced macro-society the size of a galaxy, it is OBVIOUSLY humans who will be calling the shots. They may have bombs million times more powerful than a supernova and they may be able to derive their energy from teleporting, but surely we will be able to outsmart them, with all that we learned from Arnold movies and sitcoms.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikael_j (106439)

        Likely as that may seem there is always the possibility of some other scenario, such as that depicted in The Road Not Taken [wikipedia.org] where the aliens figure the humans are primitive and easily conquered only to discover that while humans may not yet have the tools for interstellar travel they are much more advanced in pretty much everything else, including warfare.

  • by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#31560514) Homepage
    Just remember, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say, "YES!"
  • Clearly (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#31560520)

    Jodie Foster!

  • obviously (Score:4, Funny)

    by oliverthered (187439) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [derehtrevilo]> on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:48PM (#31560540) Journal

    if et calls we should great them with the communication of the other animals on the planet (well some of them),first. Before grating them ourselfs.

    this would show them that we can appreciate the communication of other life forms, and even put that communication before the communication of ourselfs.

    If we are to communicate we need to demonstrate empathy, since the only thing we know about them is that they can communicate, empathy via appreciation of the communication of other life forms on our own planet may demonstrate we can empathize with them.

    This should reduce fear and hostility towards us, and aid in good relations. in respect they may attempt to empathise with us a little more.

    • by EdIII (1114411) *

      Dear God man, they're aliens, not hippies or PETA members. A good firm handshake and slap on the back. Sheesh.

      • wouldn't you smile before a good firm handshake and slap on the back.

        • for those of you who aren't autistic spectrum.

          a smile make you appear friendly, being friendly is appreciating and empathizing.

          a smile show this because it induces a sense of warmth and pleasure in someone else.

          it demonstrates appreciation though empathy.

          you may or may not have relised that (EDIII seemed to over look it), but try it next time your on a date, or going for a job.

          • Re:obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Kelbear (870538) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:29PM (#31560918)

            But in other cases, baring your teeth is a sign that you're planning to bite down on their neck.

            Humans smile to relax each other. Some animals use it are a threat. We wouldn't know what showing teeth means in an alien's culture.

            • by mog007 (677810)

              Chimpanzee's smile as a form of aggression and warning. And they're practically our siblings as far as genetics is concerned. We're talking ALIENS here. If a smile is that radically different between two species so closely related, what the hell kind of message would it mean for an organism that's not even FROM Earth?

            • Re:obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

              by precariousgray (1663153) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @06:57PM (#31561570)
              I would hope that an alien species capable of something as ordinary as intergalactic travel would also have spent some time thinking this through and determined that our customs and social cues may not necessarily directly correlate to their own.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          wouldn't you smile before a good firm handshake and slap on the back.

          Oh yeah, bear your teeth, seize their forelimb, then strike them between the main arm joints. That'll give them a warm reception. Or make them shit right on the landing ramp...

    • by vxice (1690200)
      but do we as a species really have empathy?
  • by Roark Meets Dent (650119) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:49PM (#31560546)
    Aliens are already here and do not recognize SETI or any human government or group organization. They deal with and judge each human being on their individual merits and faults. For more information, see http://www.alliesofhumanity.org/ [alliesofhumanity.org]
  • I've read my sci-fi and I know how dangerous alien email can be.

  • I vote for.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anita Coney (648748) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @04:59PM (#31560644) Homepage

    Morgan Freeman.

  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:00PM (#31560652)

    Bruce Campbell. No matter what happens, he's seen it all before.

  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:01PM (#31560660) Homepage Journal

    ;-)

      Obviously, there's no good answer to this question. No matter who was picked, by whatever process, some group on the planet would resent it.

      Personally I think Sagan had it right - we pick someone who doesn't have a religious or political agenda, is broadly educated especially in sciences, and
    would be willing to perform the task.*

      (Hmm... Richard Dawkins? *g*)

      * No, really:

      1) No religious agenda - doesn't matter whether or not the aliens have religion. If they don't, they'll likely think us backward. If they do, it's possible they will be offended by our version(s) - and it's certain that picking anyone who professes one major religion would piss off the other major religions.

      2) No political agenda. I doubt I need to explain this one; the person will be speaking for ALL HUMANITY.

      3) Broadly educated - in trying to understand a totally alien viewpoint, experience in many different fields would be essential.

      4) ... especially in the sciences - because it's likely anyone who *could* contact us would be extremely far along in the sciences. Unless they're doing it with telepathy...

      5) Volunteer, of course.

    SB

    • by corbettw (214229)

      Science? Are you kidding me? We need someone well trained in diplomacy to speak on our behalf. Someone who's only trained in science won't have the requisite background in deal making, understanding different points of view, and convincing others more powerful than we not to wipe us out. Honestly, I wouldn't trust a pure scientist on any of that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Judging from how we treat animals that are less mentally and technologically developed than ourselves, I would argue that a very, very cute person would be the best option.

        That is if ET has a sense of cuteness. Otherwise I would guess that we are what scientists technically refer to as "fucked".

      • by shadowbearer (554144) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:37PM (#31561004) Homepage Journal

        requisite background in deal making, understanding different points of view, and convincing others more powerful than we not to wipe us out

          Sure they do. Nearly all scientists are familiar with the grant application process ;-)

        SB

      • No. Diplomats have preconceived notions that predicate on their experience negotiating between assholes with human agendas. You're almost suggesting to assign a psychologist to speak on our behalf. Shadowbearer's list of qualifications has a heavy basis in neutrality. We want that. A person who simply represents us as an average. Let the aliens who dragged themselves all this way decide if they like what we are.

        No diplomats "spinning" things to make us look better than we are. I would really prefer t

  • Paul Davies, chairman of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, is a likely ambassador.

    Why would we want a religious philosopher to speak to aliens on our behalf?

  • Please hope the Brits don't make first contact with ET, their track record [wikipedia.org] isn't so hot when it comes to handling these things...

  • The politician who can exert the greatest political power in the country where they land. Which in most cases won't be someone from that country, but from the US, China, Russia, etc.
  • Rick Astley (Score:2, Funny)

    by largesnike (762544)
    ...though they might declare war on us...
  • Nobody (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:25PM (#31560862) Journal
    Why do we need someone to speak for humanity as a whole? Why do we assume the aliens will have a single government? Why can't we communicate nation-to-nation?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I mean... we have the UN right? so wouldnt' Ban Kyi Moon be the appropriate choice?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hilarious as always. [hubpages.com]

  • It is human arrogance and ignorance that lead us to these 'answers'. Do we have to have a figurehead to speak for all of us? What if the aliens want to talk to the 'everyman'. It is a human concept that we need an alpha to speak for all of us, and folly imho.
  • No one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @05:28PM (#31560906) Homepage

    No one speaks for "humanity." Everyone speaks for themselves. But, I suppose that won't stop some sleazebag politician from claiming to speak for a few million or billion other people...

  • please leave the store!

    i.e. whoever's holding the mic?

  • by master_p (608214) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @06:57PM (#31561576)

    The one and only...the G.O.A.T...The man who has banged every green chick from here to the Delta Quadrant...

    WILLIAM SHATNER!!!

    Hmmm...now i know why aliens do not dare to land...they obviously mistook ST-TOS for reality...;-)

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @07:50PM (#31562012) Homepage

    Whoever picks up the phone. Hopefully it will not be one of our "leaders".

  • Ban Ki-moon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Explodicle (818405) on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:22AM (#31567812) Homepage
    I'd imagine the Secretary-General of the United Nations would be the most reasonable choice. He's the closest thing Earth has to "our leader".

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