Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Implications of Finding Aliens – Example 2

One reason to inquire as to what might be the fallout from finding proof of aliens is that we can gauge the importance of the investigation. If it really doesn’t make much difference in the life of anyone on Earth, it probably isn’t worth spending a lot of research dollars on. If it does change the course of history, it should be funded flat out to the max.

The first example was one where we discovered a proof of existence of aliens on a distant star’s system of planets, and knew there were aliens there, some thousand of years ago, when the light we detected left their solar system and started its voyage to here. Maybe they are still there or maybe they went and destroyed themselves, we won’t know for a while. We can keep watching them to find out, but it might be a while, and when we are done watching, we still won’t know if they have destroyed themselves in the last couple of millennia.

Consider a different example here. Suppose there is a kid somewhere on Earth, whose parents buy him an expensive science kit, and he plays with it. One of the pieces of equipment is a simple radiation detector, able to detect gammas and give a rough count of them. He goes out with it, through the rural, mountainous area he lives in, finding out that trees and living things don’t have any additional radioactivity, and the ground has just a little. Except one place on a low peak that has a very high signal.

A few days later he tells his parents, who verify it by going out there. They call somebody at the local university, who measures it better, and says there is a large source of potassium-40 there, and some simple passes over the ground indicate it is buried 4 meters down. It is too hot to be dug up unshielded, but some robots are brought in, and above the source a metal box is found, with eleven plates in it. There is virtually no activation of the plates, and they each have 10,000 characters, arranged in a grid of 100 by 100 on one side of each plate.

From the existence of several separated isotopes, each at 99.99+% purity, comprising the source, the box and the plates, it is inevitably concluded that this is an alien artifact. The race is on to translate the plates. Even the orientation of the plates and the direction of the writing is unknown, as there is no ending on the last plate to show that. Surprisingly, they are published openly, and every agency with any decoding capability comes to a decision that these will only be translated with the help of all, in a sudden reversal of centuries of secrecy. It is slow going, and after a year the only progress is that the orientation is resolved, along with the direction of writing, up from the left, and that there are seven marks which seem to be punctuation. Another year later numerals to base ten are identified, and many years after that a tentative translation of about 20% is ready, a completely joint effort of amateurs and professionals.

It says that 107,000 years ago, as measured by some orbital variables which slowly change, in the numerical section of the text, aliens were there and introduced some genes into a primate species for a larger, more convoluted, and more connected frontal lobe, and we have them to thank for our intelligence, which would not have otherwise evolved. They described themselves as space insects, whatever that was, and wished us good luck as they were leaving, never to return. They were in our solar system for a little over 200,000 years, and were leaving for another one they did not list.

Other parts get gradually translated, and the rest is a history of their species, stretching back many millions of years, involving other seeding efforts in other solar systems, but mostly names of notable figures and where they were when something happened. The lack of knowledge on Earth of accurate proper motion of even nearby stars prevented any backtracking of their travels, although some clues based on star types were included.

These eleven tablets, over the course of a century, changed the inspiration that guided mankind. There was an example of a successful species and by and large, something to be emulated. The short-term thinking that had dominated our planet, which had led to much of the destructive side of competition, gradually became tempered with long-term thinking, and the population began to think of what long-term goals they should have. This was aided by the continual increase in technology and the associated benefits of it, and by the time a century had passed, mankind had grown more wiser and more thoughtful.

This second example illustrates that there may be much more of an effect on Earth people by their learning that there is or was an advanced civilization traveling the galaxy than the alien civilization postulated in the first example. Knowing that the galaxy has other intelligent life has an effect, but it does not tell us anything about how we might change for the better. Knowing that the galaxy has other advanced intelligent life, and they have overcome all the problems they might have had to persevere for millions of years, does provide some clues for our own future and how it might be structured. The example was chosen so that there is no opportunity for factionalism to play a role in gaining an advantage from the information provided, as the aliens were smart enough not to put any such information onto their tablets. They did not feed any negative aspects of the civilization they expected to develop some day from their genetic tampering with an Earth species, but instead simply announced their former presence. This may be enough to alter the thinking of the species that gets to the level of technology where they can find a radioactive semaphore and that has the computational capability to decipher a string of 110,000 characters of totally unknown variety. In the example, the tablets had no instructions for the civilization that found them and simply provided one thing: the knowledge that there were advanced, long-living civilizations in the galaxy. That one fact may have an effect far in excess of its extent.

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