When we encounter alien life, we must be prepared. Because: The first encounter is always decisive for cultures. Where and how the first alien date should best take place and why we first have to learn to understand dolphins in order to communicate properly with aliens.
The question of whether we might be confronted with something alien in our exploration of space, which may also be dangerous, has not been taken into account enough so far. We want to change that.
In our galaxy alone there are an estimated 200 to 300 billion planets. And among them are probably one to two billion, where conditions prevail under which life could arise. Therefore, it is much more likely that there is intelligent life outside the Earth than that we are all alone in the universe.
We cannot predict when the first contact will occur. But you can say that when it happens, it has an extremely high impact. And that’s why we have to look into this possibility scientifically.
There are three different scenarios for how this contact can be established. The signal scenario assumes that we will receive some artificial signal whose source lies far beyond the limits of our solar system.
In the artifact scenario, we can assume the discovery of an artificial object near Earth that is certainly not of terrestrial origin. In the third scenario, we are confronted with a spacecraft near Earth that is obviously controlled and with which we can interact. This does not mean that biological beings have to sit in it. This seems rather unlikely to me because the universe is so big and hostile to life.
I think it is much more likely that we will be confronted with a highly developed artificial intelligence in such a scenario. I do not yet see that the strangers if we should ever meet them one day, are organic.
The artifact scenario is the most likely scenario
With the other scenarios, too much time must simply fit. For signals, for example, the message that was sent a long time ago must arrive at the right time: The recipient must be technologically capable of receiving it. We are talking about huge distances and time periods. If all this were to fit together, it would be a mad coincidence. In the artifact scenario, on the other hand, time does not play such a decisive role. As long as an object is outside planetary atmospheres, it can survive huge periods of time.
If there is immediate contact, then you assume that we are dealing with a postbiological intelligence. Why?
We ourselves are on this path. We are currently making every effort on Earth to develop a general (as they say: strong) artificial intelligence – and there is always a danger that it will slip out of our control.
That doesn’t make a possible encounter any less complicated.
Such an encounter with artificial intelligence would indeed be more difficult. In biological life we can say: they are born naturally, they will die and they will have knowledge about their own death. And they have certain motives which are common to all biological beings. Besides, they will probably come from a complex society, so they know how to communicate and interact with each other. Just from the fact that they are biological beings, we can deduce a lot that makes it easier for us to communicate with them. In the case of an encounter with an AI, I can only say: wait and see and hope that it already has experience in communicating with biological entities.
What would a perfect first contact look like?
It would be good if the first meeting could take place at a place outside the earth and also the earth orbit. A neutral place, so to speak, to which we can direct the foreign object. We specifically propose a receiving station on a Mars moon. Not because there might be bad intentions behind the visit, but only for physical, psychological and biological reasons. It is also a question of mass psychology. We do not welcome strangers in the bedroom, but at the front door when we are unsure, even at the garden door.
We still don’t have really good communication strategies. One example: We have been researching dolphins intensively for over 80 years. To this day, we don’t know how smart the dolphins really are. This is simply due to the fact that dolphins live in a completely different environment, have different sensory organs, which in turn creates different communication structures. This example shows us how difficult it is to communicate with non-human beings. Dolphins are an ideal counterpart to learn what you might need to communicate with an extraterrestrial intelligence. I just hope we haven’t killed them all before.