Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis
Seth D. Baum,
Jacob D. Haqq-Misra,
& Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman
1. Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University3. NASA Planetary Science Division
, 2011, 68(11-12): 2114-2129This file version: 22 April 2011
While humanity has not yet observed any extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contact with ETIremains possible. Contact could occur through a broad range of scenarios that have varyingconsequences for humanity. However, many discussions of this question assume that contactwill follow a particular scenario that derives from the hopes and fears of the author. In this paper, we analyze a broad range of contact scenarios in terms of whether contact with ETI would benefit or harm humanity. This type of broad analysis can help us prepare for actual contact withETI even if the details of contact do not fully resemble any specific scenario.
extraterrestrials, contact, scenario analysis
Humanity has not yet encountered or even detected any form of extraterrestrial intelligence(ETI), but our efforts to search for ETI (SETI) and to send messages to ETI (METI) remain inearly stages. At this time we cannot rule out the possibility that one or more ETI exist in theMilky Way, nor can we dismiss the possibility that we may detect, communicate, or in other ways have contact with them in the future.
Contact with ETI would be one of the mostimportant events in the history of humanity, so the possibility of contact merits our ongoingattention, even if we believe the probability of contact to be low.A central concern regarding possible contact with ETI is whether the contact would be beneficial, neutral, or harmful to humanity. This concern will help us decide, among other
Throughout this paper we define the term “contact” broadly to include any way in which ETI has some impact onhumanity. This includes human-ETI interactions that only involve remote detection or communication without any physical contact.