They can’t seem to be able to get anything done with their fellow Earthlings, but the United Nations apparently has a plan in place for what to do in case of first contact with alien life. That’s according to Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who told Chinese media that he and his comrades have all received instruction on what to do in case of alien contact.
Pedalka is convinced that humanity isn’t alone in the universe, and that contact with another intelligent species is an inevitability. If they’re hostile, I hope that the United Nations will be able to respond with something a little more potent than a strongly worded letter.
Organizations like SETI continue to monitor the universe for signals that may indicate the presence of intelligent life (hear my interview with SETI astronomer Seth Shostak here), as well as send signals of their own in hope of soliciting a response from alien civilizations. This process, known as “Active SETI,” is controversial among some quarters. Scientists like Stephen Hawking and David Brin say that intentionally alerting an advanced alien civilization to our presences – especially when we’re not an interstellar species ourselves – could bode very poorly for humanity’s survival. These hypothetical aliens, once they have our cosmic address, could invade and leech the planet of resources. Others (including the aforementioned Dr. Shostak) say that potentially hostile (or peaceful) aliens could have already received our radio and television signals; essentially that the electronic cat is out of the bag.
At least one science fiction writer has seen the potential for humor in what could be the end of human life as we know it. In Rob Reid’s new novel Year Zero, extraterrestrials have become hooked on American pop music, but when American music industry lawyers go after them for royalty payments, the ETs decide the best course of action would be to destroy the Earth. If it sounds like there’s a metaphor there, then it’s probably because Reid isn’t just a writer: he’s one of the founder of the online music service that became Rhapsody, and remains a huge name in tech/music circles.
Maybe Rob Reid isn’t too far off: perhaps the aliens are out there and they like our jams. Maybe they’ll come in peace…to boogie. Or maybe we’ll still face global extinction, but it’ll be at the hands (tentacles?) of aliens bobbing their heads to LMFAO and Justin Bieber as they char our cities into cinders.