By Abhik Gupta, METI Trustee.
We almost always imagine human – ET encounters in which the ETI, being highly advanced in science and technology, come to the earth either as marauding invaders spelling doom for humankind or as benign benefactors solving our problems and guiding us to a better future. Even when we create an ETI that is in distress, we usually imagine him/her to be retaining his/her extraordinary powers to be able to command the situation as a superior being (Spielberg's ET, for example).
But imagine a situation where the ETI come to us as supplicants, as asylum seekers without any technological support. How would we respond to them and treat them? Their condition would be similar to that faced by today's human refugees, the only difference being that they would belong to another species, and supposing they are reproductively isolated from us, cannot hope to have hybrids or get assimilated into the human population in the near or distant future. Again, they are non-humans, but are different from the other non-humans that we have on the earth in possessing intelligence and technology far advanced from what we have (considering that they have landed here after interstellar travel). At the same time, suppose they neither have any weapons to defend themselves in case of hostile responses from us, nor are carrying any of their superior communication devices in a functional state, how would we behave? Would it help if there was a widespread awareness among the humans throughout the world about the possibility of the existence of ET so that it does not come as too big a surprise? Do you think the introduction of a small chapter explaining the Drake Equation in a simple way and the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations in books meant for school children might help us in dealing with such a situation in more composed, organized and compassionate ways?
Another situation may also arise in the distant or not-so-distant future. A human spaceship could land on another planet that is inhabited by extraterrestrials technologically far less advanced than us. Stephen Hawking had reminded us about the fate of less advanced human societies meeting the colonial settlers armed with sophisticated arms and equipment, and warned us of a possible similar situation if humans meet advanced ETI. How are the humans likely to treat extraterrestrials less advanced than them? Would human history repeat itself?