May 22, 2024

How would humanity react to contact with aliens?

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

Are we the only beings who look at the universe questioningly? We have not yet found any evidence of the existence of “aliens” in the universe. But there is a huge probability in favor of its existence: against the background of countless stars and planets, it seems unlikely that life forms and ultimately intelligent beings would have evolved only on Earth. Theoretically, it is also possible that one day we will receive signals from extraterrestrials, or they will appear here. Therefore, considerations of how humanity will react to such communications are not just crazy thinking. That's what the five-part topic title “What If…?” is all about.

About UFOs and post-biological beings

In the first article, astronomy expert Rüdiger Fass first addresses the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent beings visiting our planet. The extent to which living organisms can overcome the enormous distances between stars seems questionable. But post-biological beings – self-replicating artificial intelligences – are also conceivable. In theory, they could survive for long periods of time during their journeys through space.

Vass then focuses on the supposedly unscientific subject of UFOs. As he asserts, they actually have nothing to do with the “little green men” – they are just “unidentified flying objects.” It is therefore also a formal subject of research. It is a topic that NASA and American political and military institutions deal with, among other things. The background to the sightings can usually be reasonably explained, but in some cases questions remain unanswered. Fass also cites startling claims from people who supposedly have insight into secret information about aliens. Its reliability can be seen in the article “A Visit from Space?”

But what if scenarios appeared that we have only seen in science fiction stories? Fass addresses this question in the second part of the title issue. The author explains that how humanity reacts to evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence will depend greatly on the type of discovery. These can be distant signatures, artifacts, or nearby spaceships with strange creatures. People will probably get along better with remote versions. But alien objects or devices in the solar system can lead to shock with unexpected and problematic reactions, according to the article “Communication and Conflict.”

This article concludes with an interview conducted by Fass with sociologist Andreas Anton from the Borderlands Institute for Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg. In it, the scientist explains, among other things, the extent to which he believes it is necessary for humanity to prepare for contact with aliens.

What laws apply to foreigners?

The focus will then be on legal intellectual games on the topic of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Experts have also already addressed the issue of how much aliens obey Earth's laws and how we should properly deal with them legally. Among other things, it concerns the extent to which there can be generally valid meta-laws for intelligent beings and whether they are enforceable. There are also questions that seem strange – such as whether aliens have the right to explore Earth and when defensive measures will be legitimate. Ultimately, the thought games in Galactic Legislation illustrate the depth of our human views.

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This article is supplemented by an interview conducted by Vass with 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 intelligence. One of his messages is: “It is time for humanity to develop a planetary species awareness.”

You can read articles on the topic titled “What if…?” Online as part of a bdw+ subscription, or you can find it in the March issue of bild der Wissenschaft, which will be available in stores from 16 February.