I’m working on a astronomy discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.
There are very considerable obstacles that stand in the way of interstellar travel, mostly relating to the nearly unimaginable distances between the stars. As a consequence, it seems very unlikely that we will ever be able to travel efficiently to and between the stars, or conversely that we will be or have been frequently visited by ETs from home planets around other stars.
If contact is ever to be made, it is more likely to be in the form of interstellar communication via radio signals or some equivalent. The vast distances and consequent travel times for the signals and messages will, however, necessarily constrain the ‘conversations’ and information flow between us and any ET; but knowledge of their presence, once established, will be forever with us.
In light of these considerations, it is arguably unnecessary to fear (as some people do) that any ET who learns of our existence will swiftly swoop down to plunder or enslave us (a common theme in science fiction stories). Nevertheless, it is certainly true that profound effects on our societies and our perception of ourselves would follow our learning of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligences comparable to (or vastly more advanced than) our own.
With that in mind, please discuss two aspects of this issue:
- If and when such a discovery is made, how do you believe it should be handled? Does human society have the capacity to absorb this kind of information without calamitous consequences, or should there be some mechanism for gently conditioning the general public to the new reality? If so, how and by whom?
- How do you imagine that such information would affect your own human perspectives? If you are religious and comfortable with doing so, you may choose to comment on that particular aspect of the discovery, but discussions in much more general terms and contexts are welcome and encouraged.