I wonder if our fear of the beneficent alien is rooted in the same fear. Perhaps we hope that aliens will be peaceful because we know how badly an alien invasion could go. Of course I’d like to think that belief in the beneficent alien is an attempt to appeal to our own better selves.
This reminds me of Hawking’s warning that we shouldn’t try to contact alien species, that we should keep our location “secret” as best we can. I think that if aliens have interstellar travel and go through the galaxy looking for rest stops chances are pretty good they either already know we’re here or simply don’t find Earth all that inviting.
I think it has the most to do with how animals treat animals, that is, how predators treat prey.
Though I think the most rational fear has to do with how we treat vermin, which is the most apt analogy for the degree of difference between us and technological life millions of years beyond ours. We are not safe because we are not a threat to them, we are safe only because so far we are incapable of doing anything that would annoy them. We are bacteria in our native biome. No deity will help us if we ever reach the level of cockroaches and stumble into the wrong house.
I can’t think of much precedent for any creature—human, animal, plant, fungus, bacteria, whatever—to invest a huge amount of resources for purely altruistic purposes. It’s almost always about obtaining resources, spreading DNA, or (in the case of some humans) converting others to one’s religion or political leanings.
I think a lot of the narrative also reflects our understanding of what happened in the Americas in the 16th century. Strangers in advanced ships, incomprehensible weaponry, deadly new plagues - the full colonial monty.
There’s a hugely popular anime about aliens arriving in Edo-era Japan and taking over, and the whole thing is a thinly disguised look at the arrival of Admiral Perry - except comedy.
Fear of aliens – and the consequences of this fear – are central premises in Joe Haldman’s excellent novel Mindbridge.
Oh, JEEZ! Now you’ve got me worried about BEM Jehovah’s Witnesses!
There’s no such thing as “pure” altruism. If the giver doesn’t get even some small amount of emotional or spiritual satisfaction out of it, much less genetic propagation or some form of quid pro quo… well, I don’t think we’d call that altruism at all. I don’t know what we’d call it, because that trait would have been selected against a very long time ago.
I dunno. See I think we should be cautious. I think there are three main possibilities if an alien culture encountered us:
Disinterested and ignored. Simply put we aren’t worth contacting.
Interested and helpful. They want to share their knowledge and tech and elevate us.
Interested and aggressive.
The last one isn’t for our resources. The idea someone would mine earth of water and/or minerals is a foolish one. There are plentiful amounts of all those things are available throughout the galaxy, hell in our own solar system, with much less trouble.
No if they were hostile it would be for the pure reasons of conquest. Either to obliterate or enslave.
I guess that’s the concern. If somebody is investing the resources to cross light years of space to get here then they must want something from us. Best case scenario is some mutually beneficial trade of knowledge and/or resources. Worst case scenario is… considerably less beneficial for one side than the other.
I think that is Dyson’s point entirely. You are making that assumption based on the current social zeitgeist. The assumption in the 70s and early 80s was completely different. Then it was assumed that any beings that could muster the technology and knowledge to travel such great distances must be very advanced, and that with that advanced knowledge and tech they wouldn’t bother coming all that way just to try to eat us.
Nowadays we diet constantly on fear of alien cultures here on earth (from a US perspective) and so we simply project that same fear on to extra terrestrials. Personally, I’m staying with the 70s version.
Well, like I said it’s not just our culture. It’s generally true of all known organisms.
OH - story idea I had. Alien race comes to Earth. They want to learn about all the major religions, so the Pope, some Rabbis, Muslim leaders, the Dali Llama, and others all board and spend a week telling them about their various beliefs.
In the end it turns out they are sure there is a Creator and are desperately trying to find proof of him. So they go back in time to try to meet Jesus, Bhudda, Mohammed etc. They come back and just shake their heads, get back in their ship, and go off to find the next planet…
“Oh man, here comes that guy who always wants to talk about The Watchtower.”
Yeah, I mean, even if they know we’re here, we don’t really have anything that can’t be gained in one of the many places in this solar system that doesn’t have hairless apes with nuclear weapons living on it. Other than labor, I soppose, but if you can bild a realtivistic-speed or even superlumenal starship, yyou’ve probably got automation so effective slavery just doesn’t really make sense economically.
I personally doubt it because the lunar surface was so clean. It hasn’t changed much for billions of years but the only garbage there is from our vehicles.
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