The Astronomical Journal estimates of the ten billion known planets in our galaxy, at least 300 million have ingredients similar enough to Earth and therefor able to support life. That makes it a decent bet that we’re not alone. Despite this, extraterrestrial life is still often looked at as science fiction. Whether or not first contact has or ever will be made, Eric Melcher recommends we at least be prepared. WellWell recently spoke to the author of The Extraterrestrial Big Hello: A Guide for What to do When the Aliens Introduce Themselves on how humanity can prepare for the discovery of alien life and all it would change about how we view ourselves.
What is your approach to extraterrestrial life?
There are so many different considerations of the idea of extraterrestrial life in general and certainly extraterrestrial intelligence. But since there’s no real evidence of any of that yet, it’s all pretty much speculation and that means that folks are really kind of coming at it from 1000 different angles. My approach is that no matter how it might occur, if it does occur someday, we are entirely unprepared for it. And that in looking at some of the implications and complications it could cause for humanity, we might at least be able to consider some of these things if it ever happens. Though, I personally do not believe that contact has occurred between humans and extraterrestrials in any official capacity.
From an infrastructure standpoint, how are we unprepared and how can we improve our readiness?
Let’s face it, we are a world of many different nations that are often competitive and warring. There’s a question of how best to approach humanity without causing more problems. Probably the best way would be through the United Nations, but the United Nations is fraught with all sorts of complications when it comes to what various countries think of it. My main recommendation or hope would be if there is an extraterrestrial civilization that wants to make contact with humans, they can do so by reaching all humans at once through our mass media rather than trying to approach a single nation.
Given the way in which the world has faced the coronavirus pandemic, are you more or less confident about its ability to face a similarly global event like the introduction of extraterrestrial life?
Covid’s a great example showing that every nation would handle it differently. Some things went well, some things didn’t go well. I don’t think any one nation handled Covid perfectly. It’s certainly an example of what could happen if there is a divided approach to our response to an extraterrestrial civilization making contact. We need to have a coordinated response. They’re not going to want to deal with 253 nations, they’re going to want to deal with one entity, one group and the United Nations has a lot of weaknesses, and some strengths of course, but there would be a lot of political ramifications and international relations ramifications in any type of first contact event.
If contact were to occur, how would it change the way we view ourselves and our place in the universe?
That’s what’s so interesting about this subject matter. There are so many different ways that it would impact humans, both psychologically and sociologically. I think not only our own perspective on our world and universe but certainly some very basic perspectives of our security and our safety. At what point do we have to get together as a planet to decide how we move forward? How is that done in a world where we have folks fighting so much in the international relations sphere that it’s tough to get anything done. We certainly could not coordinate a worldwide effort with the Covid-19 response. It’s clear that we would not be able to do so with extraterrestrial contact right now. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t. It just means that we have a lot of work to do.
Do you think this would bring us all, as humans, together?
I don’t know actually that we’d all come together. I think there’s a very good chance there would be a lot of division on many levels. I mean, individual nations would be fighting for competitive advantage. Religious groups might have a lot to say about this. Probably the most dangerous element would be kind of radical extremist reactions, which might be small groups, but can sometimes be quite violent and confrontational. So, I think that there’s going to be such a range of reactions that it’s really going to necessitate the United Nations joining together as individual nations, keeping all their autonomy, but realizing that the United Nations is really the only body that exists where they get together to solve problems.
Do you think people are generally more willing to accept the possibility of life on another planet?
Well interestingly, there was also a few surveys that showed most people think that there is extraterrestrial intelligence out in the universe somewhere. A large number of humans that were surveyed even seemed to think that we’ve already visited. So, I think people might be more prepared than you might think. If anything, there’s been a kind of progression over the last 100 years where humans have begun to consider these things in increasing complexity. There’s even an entire field of science dedicated to life in the universe now, astrobiology.
Why do you think that they kept this information hidden for so long given that the response has been fairly positive and doesn’t seem to be causing any harm?
That’s the best part of all of this. It’s the conspiracy of reputation. What they found is that individual pilots or their commanders would report a sighting through the proper chain of command, but it would pretty much sit there because no one really wanted to risk their reputations. Hilariously, this inaction bred all these conspiracies about the government organizing and hiding things when in reality, people were just scared of impacting their reputation.
About Eric Melcher
Eric Melcher is a Nashville-based communications and public relations professional. He is the author of The Extraterrestrial Big Hello: A Guide for What to do When the Aliens Introduce Themselves and The Ashland City Landing.