What Role Will Extraterrestrials Play in Humanity’s Future?

Eventual Impact


Advanced extraterrestrials probably are monitoring us, willing and able to help us, and waiting for the appropriate time to do so. It seems highly likely, then, that they will eventually have an enormous, significant, central impact on humanity’s future developments. Whether this impact occurs this year or 100 years from now, it will likely affect our civilization profoundly at that time and for many centuries afterwards.

The general picture presented in this paper indicates that extraterrestrial impact will likely be highly positive rather than harmful, and will foster or speed our development in beneficial ways. (I am assuming in this paragraph that we do not extinguish ourselves in the next few decades through our extraordinarily risky gamble with nuclear weapons.)

What will the specific effects of extraterrestrial messages, interaction, or intervention turn out to be? This is a common theme in the scientific literature about ETI (as well as science fiction, of course). Few nonfiction writers treat the question with much thought or depth, unfortunately, nor even go beyond one paragraph. There are stimulating and useful exceptions, however, such as Michaud, Prytz, Regis and Thatcher.

If we accept the knowledge and other help that will someday probably be offered to us, here are some major sorts of impact that might occur:

  • Enormous advances in technology, know-how, medicine, levels of consciousness, spiritual growth, social organization, decision-making, and governing may occur.

  • We may eliminate nuclear weapons and other threats to humanity’s survival.

  • Our understanding of the Cosmos, its creation and ultimate fate, and even its meaning or purpose may increase.

  • Our view of ourselves, our place in the Universe, and our ultimate destination may shift dramatically.

  • We may receive a definitive answer to our questions about the existence and nature of a supreme supernatural being (God ).

  • Various academic and scientific fields of knowledge may be outmoded or transformed.

  • Fresh goals, priorities, and projects may supersede our present ones.

  • Our values, taboos, motivations, and emotional patterns may be deeply influenced or even shattered.

  • Our cultural norms may be turned upside down as we interact with highly intelligent gigantic snails or other beings even stranger in appearance and manner than the creatures in various science fiction films.
    We may thoughtfully choose to have our genes and/or our culture mixed (partially or completely) with those of one or more nonhuman species.

  • Without losing our identity as human beings, we may join a galactic information network, a political or trade federation, or a Galaxy-wide pool of consciousness.

  • Individually and collectively, many human beings may join galactic projects to solve fundamental mysteries of the Universe, to help other species and civilizations develop and flourish, and to spread harmony and wisdom throughout the Universe.

Compared to the various sorts of impact in this list, the impact of a brief message that simply reveals the existence and location of one nonhuman civilization might be fairly minor. After all, millions of people already believe that extraterrestrials exist, or have at least become used to the idea through films, television, and novels.

Before leaving the topic of eventual impact, we should note one particular galactic or intergalactic project that may eventually be the most significant project of all. If advanced beings do not prevent it, probably this physical Universe will either expand and cool down until there are no temperature differences (heat death) or else collapse inward in a “Big Crunch.”

In either case, an enormous project will be needed to avoid the extermination of all life, knowledge, wisdom, and genetic information. Perhaps this project will find a way to avoid the end of life in this Universe, possibly by altering the physical Universe (or one portion of it) in some powerful and massive way, thus avoiding its physical death. Alternatively, some way may be found to break out of this Universe into another one, either existing parallel to it or arising subsequent to it.

That is, perhaps the best of our knowledge, consciousness, and genes can somehow be transferred to this other universe. As the time approaches when such a project is needed, intelligent life may have reached such an advanced stage that this project no longer seems absurd or impossible. Indeed, Freeman Dyson has already explored some possible ways of achieving it.

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