Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Implications of Finding Aliens – Example 4

This example continues the set of three already posted by postulating a situation in which we learn something about aliens, and then speculating about how it would affect Earth. The first three examples had no communication with aliens in it, and worse, they had no direct observation of aliens. They were all at-a-distance scenarios. This example continues the parameter excursion to include something a bit more close-at-hand, but still not exactly contact.

Suppose tomorrow morning some astute amateur astronomer notices a new comet. Looking to have his name attached, and to reap the fame of being the first to find it, he announces the astronomical coordinates of the new comet, which is simply a barely discernable point of light. As with all new comets, many other observers turn to corroborate the finding, in the usual courtesy of the amateur community. It is there.

Now comes the period of watching it to observe its motion, and to begin to plot its orbit, and see just how interesting it would become. Comets which barrel into the inner solar system and outgas in various jets provide a more interesting show that those which simply continue to be points of light at the edge of detection.

After some time of watching its motion, with the kind collaboration of some larger dishes, it is clear that it is on something like a deep elliptical trajectory, and will make the discoverer proud, as it is coming into the inner solar system. It poses no threat to Earth. A little more observation over some months indicates that it is coming straight into the inner solar system, and it is not in orbit. Its trajectory is not an ellipse. Now comes the fun for astronomy buffs. What could make it depart from an elliptical trajectory? It is too far from the sun to be outgassing. Thermal signatures of the comet indicate it is outgassing, but with a high energy jet? Now things get really interesting. This is novel, and a few more big eyes are set upon it. It is something novel. It is a decelerating alien ship.

The signatures are unmistakable. This huge thing is decelerating, and heading into the inner solar system. Since approximately 99.999% of the Earth population haven’t thought about aliens except by watching a few movies about them, the level of speculation goes wild. Are Earthlings going to be eaten by these creatures? Are they going to rescue us from some problem or another, or tell us about a problem they have with other aliens? Are they refugees escaping from the clutches of a galactic federation of evil overlords? Are they going to blast our planet into bits? Unfortunately, the ship looks rather nondescript, without anything that looks like a weapon, but then they might be concealed inside the hull. Our military is put on alert, as if they had any capability to do something against a high technology alien ship. At least they can help clean up any destruction. The trajectory is plotted, but since the deceleration direction is changing, no destination can be chosen. What part of Earth will they land on? Will they just orbit and expect Earthlings to go up to them? What do they want from us?

It turns out, nothing. They go into orbit around Europa and run some shuttles up and down. Over and over. We watch them. We assume they are refueling before they come here. We send them radio messages, at every frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum. We compose the kindest welcome possible. We still have the military flying around and making speeches. We wait.

They keep shuttling down to Europa. We keep waiting. They just keep doing it. How much stuff do they need from that satellite? They keep doing it. A wretched year goes by. They are still doing it. They don’t respond to any of our messages. They send nothing. They signal nothing. They just keep shuttling down to Europa and back. Obviously they are mining. We can see the excavations even from ground telescopes and orbiting ones. Every available observer is looking there. The aliens just keep mining and ignoring Earth. After a while, the more astute Earthlings realize that the aliens don’t give a damn about us. They just want some resources from Europa. We make plans to send a space probe to Europa, but the thing will take ten years in conception, design, construction, testing, launch and flight, and nobody can agree on what to send. So we just send some scientific probe to examine their ship and their site. We launch it.

More years go by. The news about the aliens is pretty repetitive. We have a close count of how many shuttles go down to Europa, as they are regular in schedule and we assume the ones going down when the ship is out of view, eclipsed, are the same. The numbers are getting high. We still speculate about them coming our way when they are done, but the absolute lack of communication indicates this isn’t likely. Then they make our probe disappear before it even has a chance to decelerate into orbit around Jupiter. Some laser blast and it turns into dispersed atoms. Not a very pleasant greeting.

Then they leave. We have no idea what to do.

This example continues the series of the first three in adding one more piece of information about alien civilizations to what was postulated to be learned in the first three. We learn space travel is possible and aliens are doing it. We learn they need resources but they don’t need us. We learn we are not very important to aliens, at least the ones who came by on an expedition. Instead of the exhilaration of previous examples, such as number three, where we accidentally intercept communications and think that with a lot of effort, we can join in the network, there is the realization of the utter unimportance of mankind. This is a worse sociological impact that the first example, which was the realization of loneliness. This is the realization that nobody wants to bother talking to us, even when they are nearby.

We could adopt the opinion that we need to continue developing and then we might become something of importance in the galaxy, but that is countered by the expectation that if this was the case, the alien ship would at least have said something to the effect that we were just too young, and we should keep working. But they didn’t. So the result is that we recognize Earth is an uninteresting backwater, and will always be. Mostly, life goes on, but our spark is diminished, and maybe just burns out. Should we go on to space? Why bother? We are nobodies. Should we take offense and prove them wrong, and try and become a civilization worth talking to? They have probably figured out we won’t make it. So why try? Maybe we should just enjoy our time here on Earth, and not worry about aliens. Maybe we should go out to Europa and try and figure out what they were digging up there. Maybe they left something behind. Do we want to do some interplanetary dumpster diving?

The implication of being ignored has been with us since we first started asking about where all the aliens were, but in this example, we learn where the aliens are and we are still ignored. This is an awakening and perhaps represents a conclusion to our progress towards space. Why not just forget about it?

No comments:

Post a Comment