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Yes, they consider us cockroaches. Cockroaches left in charge of increasingly advanced and destructive technology.
August 19, 2011 2:50 PM   Subscribe

"Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis" A scholarly paper (33-page pdf) summarized by the Guarniad with its most attention-getting scenario semi-explained by DiscoveryNews: "[the aliens may] want to exterminate us for the greater good of the Milky Way." (for the record, it was NOT written for NASA though one of the authors is a "NASA dude")
posted by oneswellfoop (72 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that didn't take long...
posted by Rhaomi at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stephen Hawking already wrapped that up for us.
posted by Malice at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would benefit Michael Bay.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:54 PM on August 19, 2011


Why would aliens want to exterminate humans? We make great egg incubators and all-around chaseable prey.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I, too, sometimes receive summarized message from The Guarniad. Hail them, and their mighty sigma beams.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:56 PM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


I should mention I only receive messages from The Guarniad because one of their leaders gave me a cell phone.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:57 PM on August 19, 2011


The Guardian synopsis (pdf article loading at 678 bytes/sec) is a rehash of a bunch of sci-fi scenarios but the secret to undoing the menace is usually some artisanal Earth product, so I'm going to posit that the earth shall be saved by Henri Bardouin pastis.
posted by jet_silver at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2011


Yes, i always assumed that any alien species would breed, raise, and harvest us as a particularly stupid kind of tasty cattle.
posted by elizardbits at 3:01 PM on August 19, 2011


I think it's cute that these guys still think someone humanity is a threat to the *universe*. Planets, it's turning out, are pretty fucking common, and as long as we're stuck on ours we'll wipe ourselves out eventually. I'm sure a species that is going to spend decades in transit understands the long-game.
posted by absalom at 3:03 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


We just need to make sure we keep some old Macs around to interface with alien computers. Who knows if OS X or iOS can upload alien-crippling viruses as easily?
posted by kmz at 3:04 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


ELLIE:    We pose no threat to them -- it would be like
          us going out of our way to destroy
          microbes on a beach in Africa.

DRUMLAND: Interesting analogy.  And how guilty
          would we feel if we happened to
          destroy some microbes on a beach in
          Africa?

posted by ceribus peribus at 3:06 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I dunno. I always figure aliens want a free trade deal and access to cheap labour.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've always assumed that perhaps aliens have landed at some point, observed us, chuckled ever so slightly, climbed back in their spaceship and moved on.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 3:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


As long as we have tuna and string we'll be OK.

(Also, why hasn't this been remade? It's internet catnip)
posted by sien at 3:08 PM on August 19, 2011


Someone needs to get this blue green planet out of the way so we can build an intergalactic highway.
posted by analogue at 3:19 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always assumed that perhaps aliens have landed at some point, observed us, chuckled ever so slightly, climbed back in their spaceship and moved on.

I'm quite confident that the South Park theory is true: Earth is a TV show for other civilizations. Ratings have got to be getting damn good right now.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2011


Heck, aliens have been around for a long time; here's one discussing Important Stuff almost forty years ago...
posted by kinnakeet at 3:23 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those desirious of a TL;DR version of the paper's scenarios:
    Beneficial:
  • Detection - philosophical implications
  • Cooperative - discussion of science; advice/solutions for problems on Earth
  • Uncooperative - humans overcome any threat
  • Neutral:
  • Aliens invisible to us; intentionally hiding, different form of existence or no desire to communicate
  • Noticeable but indifferent - perhaps a mild nuisance
  • Harmful:
  • Intentional harm - a selfish ETI eat/enslave/attack humans
  • Intentional harm - a Universalist approach in which ETI makes improvements to galactic infrastructure (e.g. the HHGTTG hyperspace bypass) or simply wants access to our resources without us getting in the way
  • Unintentional harm - disease, invasive species, experiments gone wrong, incompetence of some unknown form
  • "Information hazard" - computer virus or a demoralising cultural impact
I think it's a good paper. The authors make some interesting points I've not seen addressed elsewhere (for example, investigating a highly heterogeneous alien population).
posted by alby at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2011


I think it's cute that these guys still think someone humanity is a threat to the *universe*.

Well, as long as we are stuck on Earth you're correct. We aren't any threat to any alien races out there.

However, if we were to develop something like Project Daedalus, then we would be fully capable of deploying a relativistic kill vehicle. A bag of kitty litter, accelerated to 90% of the speed of light, would have a yield of about 195 megatons, almost 4 times the yield of the largest thermonuclear bomb ever made.

The ability to develop RKV's, combined with our rather bloody and ferocious past of killing each other, would make Humanity very dangerous indeed.
posted by smoothvirus at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Suppose we are the children of the andromeda strain.
posted by humanfont at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting analogy. And how guilty would we feel if we happened to destroy some microbes on a beach in Africa?

"Bluebell had been saying that he knew the men hated us for raiding their crops and gardens, and Toadflax answered, 'That wasn't why they destroyed the warren. It was just because we were in their way. They killed us to suit themselves.'" - Watership Down
posted by vorfeed at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


We'll make great pets.
posted by Sailormom at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, smoothvirus. Now that the RTV's out of the bag, we're goners.
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 3:32 PM on August 19, 2011


My favorite alien scenario: while observing us, they get something totally wrong. Or DO they?
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:34 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Truth be told, I have had a Home Alien Defense Kit - consisting of a bicycle and a bag of Reeses Pieces - for decades.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You misspelt "Grauniad". Did the aliens make you do it?
posted by zamboni at 3:39 PM on August 19, 2011


The most likely reason why any civilization would actually travel the stars is to find resources, be it entires planets to populate or raw materials. Do you have any idea how much precious metals there's in space? We, the planet and the solar system are so insignificant that it's pathetic how obsessed we are about being exterminated by aliens.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:42 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's completely unfeasible that any alien race is ever going to make physical contact with us. The energy costs for transporting living things (or anything usefual at all, really) are just too high. And we're not going anywhere, so there's no reason to attack us for defensive purposes.
posted by empath at 3:43 PM on August 19, 2011


Here's my question about these scenarios:

Why are humans always the superlative of awful behavior, when we have no basis for comparison?

Maybe aliens will be like, "Compared to the nine planets we wrecked already, these humans really take care of the environment well." Or, "they've NEVER had a full-scale nuclear war?? We had three last week! What a peaceful planet!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


Exterminate? Nah. Accidentally squish like ants? Sure.

There might be researchers intent upon cataloging all our memes, but they might play second fiddle to more productivity oriented processes focused upon some interesting proteins or something.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:47 PM on August 19, 2011


Joey Michaels: "I should mention I only receive messages from The Guarniad because one of their leaders gave me a cell phone."

The roaming charges must be astronomical.
posted by Splunge at 3:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's also one of the posited reasons why we have not yet detected any intelligent signals from outside our own solar system (at least none that have been validated): a scenario I like to think of as "tiny fragile mammals in a big scary intergalactic jungle": make a lot of noise, in the form of powerful EM spectrum signals, and you're likely to get eaten.

It's very possible that smart, surviving civilizations go stealthy: fiber-optics, low-wattage wireless, and no or little pollution (its the distinctive, unnatural byproducts of industrial pollution in an exoplanet's atmosphere [PDF] that is currently one of our best possibilities for locating an extraterrestrial intelligence).

We have a terrible history of wiping out entire human and near-human societies that differ only slightly from our own. We do it accidentally and purposefully. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine a xenophobic alien society that fears any neighbors within a few dozen light years. One clever enough would simply send long-term robotic ships into the Oort cloud and Kupier Belts of nearby systems, have them find and park themselves on sufficient large chunks of rock and ice, and wait to see what happens. if the signs look unfavorable, start nudging megaton rocks towards the planet. Problem solved.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


drjimmy11 makes a very good point.
posted by davebush at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2011


There might be researchers intent upon cataloging all our memes

Killer Anthropologists From Space !
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2011


I've long held that anything that can travel interstellar distances probably wouldn't be recognizable to us as life.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:02 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've long held that anything that can travel interstellar distances probably wouldn't be recognizable to us as life.

FTFY
posted by alby at 4:04 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


If they came here with hostile intent and lacked the capability to destroy (or had forgotten the existence of, given their vast technological achievments) nuclear missiles, I think we'd be okay. Especially if they landed and made one central point of attack instead of lighting strikes across the globe.

Just as long as they eventually went screaming through the Milky Way, "The monsters are coming, the monsters are coming!"
posted by Slackermagee at 4:05 PM on August 19, 2011


I've come to the opinion that at some point, our section of the galaxy was set aside as some type of national park/preserve/what have you - like Banff National Park or Yellowstone. An area that has been set aside to remain in its natural state, for tourists to enjoy.

We just happen to be located pretty deep in the park, in an area that hardly ever sees visitors. At some point, the interstellar equivalent of backcountry hikers will come along and discover us, evolving here in the middle of their pristine wilderness.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


You misspelt "Grauniad".

After doing some research into Muphry's Law, I've decide to embrace my inner screw-up and put one obvious typo in every MeFi post I do. Congratulations, zamboni, you win a copy of the unedited proof of my first book, should I ever publish one.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:23 PM on August 19, 2011


We'll make great pets.

Speak for yourself, I'm not housebroken.
posted by Hoopo at 4:24 PM on August 19, 2011


Aliens will arrive with the purpose of snorflaxing their jurbulators and the next day we'll wake up without our fingernails and all chickens will have four legs and ovipositors and we'll be all lol wut and that will be that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's the deal with calling it the Groiniad, or whatever? It's called The Guardian. It's not like Americans here link to "The Grey Lady" or some other equally-unclever nickname for the New York Times. I've been seeing this for years now; haven't you people stopped chuckling about this yet?
posted by indubitable at 4:33 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or they might be disappointed in our small talent for war.
posted by homunculus at 4:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speak for yourself, I'm not housebroken.

I just want to say to our wonderous PhXOfgha overlords guests that I'm not with that guy, and I don't even know who that guy is or how he got in here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:41 PM on August 19, 2011


I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.
posted by Twang at 4:43 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah is the misspelling of 'Guardian' like, a thing? What gives?
posted by Mister_A at 4:55 PM on August 19, 2011


What's the deal with calling it the Groiniad, or whatever?

Wikipedia sez...

Further research (including the writings of MeFi's Own languagehat) provide more interesting details.

Besides, I misspelled the 'official' misspelling.

Or you can just blame it all on UFOs.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:57 PM on August 19, 2011


Damn those UOFs.
posted by Mister_A at 4:59 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought the aliens wanted our wimmens?
posted by maxwelton at 5:02 PM on August 19, 2011


I for one...

aw, fuck it.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:03 PM on August 19, 2011


What if they discover our vast holdings of alligator fat? We could be the cosmic Saudi Arabia of redneck spaceship fuel!

Is anyone researching armadillo or opossum based energy solutions?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:22 PM on August 19, 2011


For those who can't be bothered to read the wikipedia article and know nothing about British newspapers, The Guardian was notorious for making lots of spelling errors and so is affectionately nicknamed thus. The term 'The Grauniad" was originally coined by the satirical magazine Private Eye while the Guardian own the domain name grauniad.co.uk just in case. Back in the days of hot type, bolshy print unions and constant industrial action the paper was a lot worse in this regard than it is today but the reputation lingers.
posted by joannemullen at 5:32 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those who can't be bothered to read the Languagehat addendum, back in the day, newspapers all over were frequently under-proofread to make deadlines, with many typos caught and corrected after some copies were printed. The first copies off the press always went to be delivered the longest distance away. So the Guardian, published in Manchester, sent their first error-ridden batch to London, while the Times of London sent theirs to, well, Manchester. More of the Guardian's typos got noticed in the Big City of London, Private Eye, headquartered in London, was only happy to promote the "notoriety", and the London papers were delighted to pass it on. Since then, improved technology has helped avoid typos, busting the 'bolshy print unions' hasn't.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Killer Anthropologists From Space !

That's pretty much Star Trek: the Motion Picture right there, if in a mechanical, soulless kind of way.
posted by chambers at 5:58 PM on August 19, 2011


Maybe they'll just land, offer up a message of universal peace and cosmic harmony and suchlike, and then sternly scold us about our albedo. I could handle that.
posted by cmyk at 6:12 PM on August 19, 2011


"The people of my star system need to know:
Can you sell a 'Get out of Jail, free' card to another player?"
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:41 PM on August 19, 2011


If we get past the "DC2U" comic book reboot in September without the Planet Krypton declaring war on us (because having it blow up is something we've ALWAYS gotten wrong), we should be safe from alien menaces for a while.

But who's to say the 'near miss meteors' aren't being used by alien civilizations to get a closer look at us to help them decide what to do? That's why, when the Perseid Meteor Shower passed by, I would look up, smile, and give a big 'thumbs up'... I just hope 'thumbs up' isn't considered an obscene gesture by alien cultures.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:15 PM on August 19, 2011


The time traveling "Monkey on a Stick" farmers just threw the seeds of life in the ocean and went away to lunch, they will be right back with the freezer ships...

The time traveling Carbon Dioxide franchise threw the seeds of life in the ocean, and went to lunch, they will be right back...

The time traveling Intergalactic H2O Fuel Conglomerate, pushed some ice balls toward a small, rocky planet, and went on to seed the next well, they will be right back, complaining about how all the fish plug the intake orifices.
posted by Oyéah at 8:24 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: My favorite alien scenario: while observing us, they get something totally wrong. Or DO they?

Thanks for that link, oneswellfoop, it was an amazing find for me and lovely to watch.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:43 PM on August 19, 2011


I'm personally updating my collection of computer virii to run on Lion.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What if they come but they don't consider humans to be the representatives of earth (despite what some human religious texts state)? Perhaps, they'll choose elephants, whales, dolphins, killer whales, and/or gorillas to be the representatives they wish to deal with and regard humans as a kind of vermin.
posted by millardsarpy at 9:48 PM on August 19, 2011


The theory that the media focused on sounds narcissistic. Animal populations overshoot their carrying capacity, then die off, then recover, then overshoot. I suppose our propensity to find and exterminate them historically correlates somewhat to their abundance, but usually because we wanted their fur, not because we were just so intimidated by their success as a population.
posted by salvia at 10:11 PM on August 19, 2011


In all seriousness, any contact we have with an alien civilization will be reading signals from a civilization thousands of light years away and thousands of years old. The universe is too large and the variety of planetary systems too large- the odds have to be enormously against another civilization being close enough to communicate with. It will be a problem for historians, not politicians.
posted by happyroach at 10:34 PM on August 19, 2011


Just heard something about the film I linked to. It appears that watching "What On Earth", in which aliens mistake cars for the Earth's dominant species, inspired Douglas Adams to name the character Ford Prefect (after a popular car model in Britain).
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:44 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Universe is large, but it's not all that old. The earth 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is 13.75 years old, which means the earth has been around for over 1/3rd of the entire existence of the universe. During most of that time, the only living things were single celled organisms. Billions of years with no really complex innovation. Then, all of a sudden lots of strange, complex animals started to form. And the human race is only a few hundred years old

It is possible that we could be among the first complex lifeforms out there.
posted by delmoi at 1:24 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Porno For Pyros- Pets.
posted by Splunge at 6:34 AM on August 20, 2011


Imagine we are each fireflies circling bonfires. The bonfires are thousands of miles apart, and they are moving away from each other. Now imagine these fireflies trying to communicate.
posted by humanfont at 8:19 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the human race is only a few hundred years old

This is only true in parts of the Bible Belt.
posted by warbaby at 9:15 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every time I see something like this, I hope the aliens stay the fuck away from here or at least in the closet they live in. Because clearly when humans cannot handle, to this day, other human beings that have a slightly different skin color from them, we sure as hell can't handle aliens. We'd probably nuke them immediately, or at least the Republicans would.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:38 AM on August 20, 2011


Right Wing Freaks Out About Aliens
posted by homunculus at 5:38 PM on August 20, 2011


I DO NOT welcome our alien overlords... they will take away our BigMac's, cigarettes, vodka, and all the other stuff that poisons the meat!


Now, in comparison to this rock in space we ride on, we ARE fairly young, but we're a little older than a few hundred years: "genetic studies now suggest that the functional DNA of modern humans and Neanderthals diverged 500,000 years ago". I'm assuming "human race" = homo sapiens.
posted by _paegan_ at 2:29 AM on August 21, 2011




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