"It is conceivable that there is semi-intelligent life in some part of our solar system or highly intelligent life which is not technologically oriented, and many cosmologists and astronomers think it very likely that there is intelligent life in many other solar systems. While face-to-face meetings with it will not occur within the next 20 years (unless its technology is more advanced that ours, qualifying it to visit Earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus.
"If there is any contact to be made during the next 20 years it would most likely be by radio -- which would indicated that these beings had at least equaled our own technological level.
"An individual's reactions to such a radio contact would in part depend on his cultural, religious, and social background, as well as on the actions of those he considered authorities and leaders, and their behavior, in turn would in part depend on their cultural, social and religious environment. The discovery would certainly be front-page news everywhere; the degree of political or social repercussion would probably depend on leadership's interpretation of (1) its own role, (2) threats to that role, and (3) national and personal opportunities to take advantage of the disruption or reinforcement of the attitudes and values of others.
"Since leadership itself might have great need to gage the direction and intensity of public attitudes, to strengthen its own morale and for decision making purposes, it would be most advantageous to have more to go on than personal opinions about the opinions of the public and other leadership groups.
"Whether certain earthmen would be inspired to all-out space efforts by such a discovery is a moot question. Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different ways of life; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values and attitudes and behavior.
"Since intelligent life might be discovered at any time via the radio telescope research presently underway, and since the consequences of such a discovery are unpredictable because of our limited knowledge of behavior under even an approximation of such dramatic circumstances, two research areas can be recommended:
"(a) Continuing studies to determine emotional and intellectual understanding, and attitudes -- and successive alterations of them if any -- regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
"(b) Historical and empirical studies of the behavior of peoples and their leaders when confronted with dramatic and unfamiliar events or social pressures. Such studies might help to provide programs for meeting and adjusting to the implications of such a discovery.
"Questions one might wish to answer by such studies would include: How might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public, for what ends? What might be the role of the discovering scientists and other decision makers regarding release of the fact of discovery?
"If superintelligence is discovered, the results become quite unpredictable. It is possible that if the intelligence of these creatures were sufficiently superior to ours, they would choose to have little if any contact with us. On the face of it, there is no reason to believe that we might learn a great deal from them, especially if their physiology and psychology were substantially different from ours.
"It has been speculated that, of all groups, scientists and engineers might be the most devastated by the discovery of relatively superior creatures, since these professions are most clearly associated with the mastery of nature, rather than with the understanding and expression of man. Advanced understanding of nature might vitiate all our theories at the very least, if not also require a culture and perhaps a brain inaccessible to earth scientists....
"It is perhaps interesting to note that when asked what the consequences of the discovery of superior life would be, an audience of Saturday Review readership chose, for the most part, not to answer the question at all, in spite of their detailed answers to many other speculative questions. Perhaps the idea is so foreign that even this readership was bemused by it. But one can speculate, too, that the idea of intellectually superior creatures may be anxiety-provoking. Nor is it clear what would be the reactions to creatures of approximately equal and communicable intelligence to ours."
Original file name: CNI - Brookings Report
This file was converted with TextToHTML - (c) Logic n.v.