We need to be ready in case we ever meet ET

Dayton Daily News - - IDEAS & VOICES - By David Lyt­tle Cen­ter­ville writer David Lyt­tle works for the city of Day­ton’s Hu­man Re­la­tions Coun­cil.

You may have no­ticed, space has been getting a lot of at­ten­tion in the news these days. The Chi­nese have landed a rover on the far side of the moon, a weird uniden­ti­fi­able sliver of some­thing or other moved on an un­pre­dictable path through our so­lar sys­tem — and, most in­ter­est­ingly to me, sci­en­tists re­cently picked up re­peat­ing ra­dio sig­nals from some­where in deep space.

Ron Rollins, who ed­its these pages, noted the lat­ter in his daily “To­day’s Mod­er­a­tor” col­umn not too long ago, cit­ing a Newsweek story that got me think­ing: How will we re­act if it turns out we are not alone in the uni­verse?

There have been warn­ings by the late Stephen Hawk­ing and Mi­chio Kaku, who say the con­se­quences for hu­man­ity meet­ing a more ad­vanced cul­ture will likely be dis­as­trous. His­tor­i­cally, the less-ad­vanced cul­ture has al­ways lost — and that would be us.

Both Hawk­ing and Kaku urge us to avoid mak­ing our pres­ence known and hope ETs won’t no­tice us. But it seems we may al­ready have made our pres­ence known in this corner of the galaxy.

Our first ra­dio trans­mis­sion was made in 1906, and is still head­ing away from earth, deep into space at the speed of light. It has cov­ered 113 lightyears, an area con­tain­ing over 7,400 star sys­tems, each likely with plan­ets.

Some of those plan­ets or­bit in a hab­it­able zone — so there could be life there, lis­ten­ing in on our ra­dio and tele­vi­sion broad­casts from long ago.

Yes, the sig­nals have weak­ened, but is it pos­si­ble ex­trater­res­tri­als have sen­si­tive enough de­tec­tors? Af­ter all, we re­cently de­tected re­peat­ing ra­dio sig­nals from some­where, right?

So, let’s say ETs may know we are here. What will they think of us? What would they make of hu­man­ity? Would they be im­pressed or re­volted? Would they be friendly and un­der­stand­ing, or hos­tile and judg­men­tal? The an­swer makes a huge dif­fer­ence as to the out­come of such a meet­ing. On the pos­i­tive side, we do have time to make a dif­fer­ence.

Here are a few rec­om­men­da­tions for putting our best face for­ward:

1. Stop killing each other, ei­ther one-on-one or na­tion-against-na­tion. Make peace the high­est pri­or­ity.

2. In­crease the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing in space so we don’t have all of hu­man­ity’s eggs in one bas­ket, as it were. Be­sides, out­posts in space may give us early warn­ing of ET’s ar­rival.

3. Im­prove our abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with non-hu­man life forms such as whales, dol­phins, pri­mates and oc­to­puses to give us prac­tice.

4. In case No. 3 doesn’t work out, im­prove our de­fen­sive weapons sys­tems. Never to be used on each other — only against space-borne threats. Para­noid, yes, but bet­ter to be pre­pared than en­slaved.

5. Elim­i­nate all crime, across the board.

6. Stop build­ing walls; build bridges. Ex­pand global mar­kets. A ris­ing tide lifts all boats.

7. Max­i­mize sus­tain­able en­ergy — so­lar, wind power, geo-ther­mal — prov­ing we can live in har­mony with our en­vi­ron­ment.

8. Put greater ef­fort into treat­ing each other with fair­ness, con­cern, kind­ness and re­spect.

9. Start a move­ment and put elected of­fi­cials on no­tice this is our col­lec­tive pri­or­ity. We need lead­er­ship to reach these goals, not pos­tur­ing and fin­ger-point­ing.

In­ter­est­ingly, the things we could do to im­press ET will, in the long run, be good for us. Hard? Yes, but this can all be done.


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