Who would be entitled to speak in representation of the Earth?

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Pablo Edronkin

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What persons or institutions would be the best to do the talking in case of contact with an extraterrestrial civilization? Would it be right to bet on our politicians to do the talking in such a situation, which could easily become one of significance for the survival of our planet?

The notion of life outside planet Earth has evolved from a purely conjecture of Science Fiction novels to a scientific probability. A few decades ago scientists asked themselves whether there would be planets outside our solar system. Everything indicated them that exoplanets should indeed be out there: however, they an empirical lacked proof until methods and instruments capable of making the necessary observations were developed. We are now in a similar situation regarding life outside planet Earth: Logic and scientific deduction indicate that it is highly likely that there is exolife as well, but we still lack concrete, empirical proof beyond question. Then, if life exists outside our world, it is possible that some of it has developed intelligence and ultimately, space faring capabilities. So, sooner or later we will make contact with them and as a consequence, thinking about such an event from different perspectives - including that of survival - is not just an abstract exercise.

And one of the factors of such a contact with off world aliens is diplomacy. It is necessary to determine what kind of person or institution would be best prepared to handle such a situation. Based on experience and expertise, we could easily say that no representative as such exists simply because despite UFO believers, Earth has had no known and proven contacts with other worlds: hence, nobody - as far as we know - has ever had any business with extraterrestrial visitors and therefore, no one knows how to handle a negotiation of any kind with them. However, that doesn't mean that people or institutions couldn't be trained and prepared for that, much like new professions appear as the world evolves: There were no true astronauts and cosmonauts to teach Yuri Gagarin how to fly into space. Sometimes, it is just the time to begin creating knowledge. That is indeed a paradigm shift.

We have already analysed a scenario in which Earth could make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization that could fly thorough space to our own world (see "What if we have to play the part of Mt. Ararat in an interstellar, UFO survival situation?"). This could be interpreted as a purely fantastic argument, typical of a science fiction short story, as the product of the collective deranged mind of a sect, or as a scientifically sound possibility. UFO beliefs aside, the odds and our present knowledge indicate that alien contact is, in fact, something that could take place: it is highly probable that there is more life in the universe other than in planet Earth. It is possible that a fraction of those life forms are intelligent, at least like us. And then, the odds are that sooner or latter we will possibly make contact with them in one way or another.

As thee current state of our technology indicates, considering our still relatively modest space faring capability, Earth - speaking in terms broader than just mankind - would likely not have the initiative in such an event. Taking an example from our own history, we would be in a situation similar to that of the native American Indians that first saw Columbus and his ships, at least for a while.

Then, considering that we would find ourselves in a complicated spot, confronting a situation that could initially be described as a negotiation with beings or people from whom we know nothing about, ignoring their intentions but certainly not underestimating them as travellers, explorers, conquerors, or even refugees, we should seriously consider what kind of person or institution would be the most suitable to represent us as a planet. Making a mistake at such a delicate moment could make us waste an enormous opportunity or even put the whole Earth in danger, thus generating a survival situation with unfathomable consequences.

Besides, that a president or prime minister could unquestionably represent his or her electorate doesn't mean that he or she would represent adequately or acceptably the interests of other people, especially in the case of rival or enemy nations. Could the Israeli Prime Minister represent the Palestinians or the Chinese Premier could become an authorized voice of the Japanese people?

Hence, politicians and political leaders, no matter how powerful they are could hardly represent the whole planet because they might not be seen as legitimate by everyone.

As for religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama, the Pope, a Rebbe or an Imam, we can reasonably say that they would be more acceptable for a broader public. However, there might still be some illegitimacy in the view of some regarding that matter, particularly religious fanatics, apocalyptic prophets and religious purists. To that we should add that it is questionable whether such a task could be undertaken purely from a religious perspective - any, including ecoreligion. In favour of religious leaders as representatives of Earth we can say that at critical moments such as during the fall of a regime, after the unconditional surrender of a country, during natural disasters, etc. religious leaders have kept societies in distress together.

This means that while they might not be the best choice perhaps for a celestial diplomatic role, they would still be needed - as, unfortunately, politicians - to calm down people. However, since history shows that religious leaders are generally still able to keep people together in difficult times, even after political institutions fail completely and utterly, we can bet on the fact that religion and religious figures will be more important than politics, policies and politicians.

Perhaps the UN would be the only institution capable of negotiating with true aliens: Most countries are members of it, its personnel is essentially formed by career, skilled diplomats: it has offices around the planet and it is essentially a peaceful, widely/-accepted institution. On the low side, the composition of the Security Council with veto power in the hands of certain nations, its bureaucracy and the magnitude of its General Assembly might prove problematic, unless they elaborate plans in advance for such a contact.

In this regard we have to admit that there are very few individuals or institutions capable of representing the whole planet, starting with the fact that while we see ourselves as such, that might not be necessarily the case with the aliens. Will they really think that we are the legitimate leaders of the planet? They might come to terms with our de facto status as the dominant species on Earth, but not necessarily the best or most representative.

It is very important to keep in mind that such a contact should be analysed open-mindedly. If there are significant differences in thought, culture and habits between people of different provinces in a same country, we can expect a gap as wide as interstellar space itself between us and any alien species coming to see us. Hence we can take nothing for granted and even things that we see as obvious might be seen differently by them, for better or worse.

Any envoy of ours would have to be acceptable to them as any individual or group of individuals to communicate with, as much as any of their envoys would have to be acceptable to us. On Earth we would likely accept someone or something as an authoritative envoy based on evident displays of leadership, like managing a ship or overseeing the interstellar expedition. However, we should assume that we will have no idea about what to expect from such visitors until the eleventh hour and hence, we will not be able to determine what kind of a representation would be acceptable for them. Thus it would be advisable to:

Understand that such a situation would be very delicate.

Have at hand interdisciplinary advice.

Have more than one contact plan.

Assume that envoys might have to improvise on the spot, as the contact situation unfolds.

Prevent anyone in order not to take any action that might be interpreted as hostile, but at the same time, put every military, law enforcement and security service on alert.

Stop panic by all means necessary.

The diplomat that would represent Earth in such a situation would have to work with a very high degree of freedom to solve situations as they unfold quickly. Since nothing or very little will be know about the visitors, at least during the initial stages of such a contact, there will be almost no predictive capability regarding them, their reactions and the possible ways in which, in turn Earth's population will react as well. That means simply that Earth's envoys would have to receive a plenipotentiary status.

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