Moral Quandaries...from Outer Space


Poster for film, District 9 by Neill Blomkamp

This post from the NY Times posits some interesting (albeit not entirely new) ideas on the concept of human and potential-alien encounters.  The author, Robert Wright is drawing upon a quote of Stephen Hawking, the work of Peter Singer, and his own (which he promotes just below "too much" but it did evoke a scene from "The Critic" for me).  The discussion also seems to come in a year following two rather influential and powerful films impressed audiences throughout the world.  The first is District 9, directed by Neil Blomkamp.  Though the film was not as widespread, it was certainly well-received (made over $100 million) and had a compelling and intriguing premise about the types of aliens we might expect to encounter when they come here.  By contrast, there was Avatar, which of course, became the highest grossing film ever (until another film beats it…probably by James Cameron…probably in about 10 years).  Again, here we see an interaction between human and sentient alien life and the troubles of humans to be something other than what they’ve tended to be (though the disregard of non-sentient life in this film is also telling).

One element of the discussion is the debate about history:  Have we actually learned from it?  What are we to expect in the future when we encounter alien life or alien life encounters us?

What constitutes alien life?

If we encounter alien life, the first question that will challenge many of us is "what constitutes alien life?"  We may say that it seems obvious but for many, "alien life" will not mean much if it's single-celled organisms.  Many would not blink in acknowledging or bothering with deeper ponderings about these life-forms.  After all, the majority of us don't recognize them here, unless they're in our way.  The underlying assumption about "alien life" is that it's sentient.  Although even then, we would do well to consider in some ways the Prime Directive from Star Trek.  Although in this case, I don't mean it in regards to prevent sharing of technology but rather, to prevent interfering with their natural evolutionary growth.

Image from film, AvatarActually, I take that back.  That's a question that I don't even know how to come at it.  Do we interfere with any life that we can't actually communicate?  What gives us the right?  What's our larger goal in this?

Like Wright, this may sound like one big mind game, but it may someday have sincere consequences and speak to the kind of "Earthling" we will potentially be as we explore the universe.

This question of what will life look like comes to me from two different angles.  The first is insightful and challenging documentary, Earthlings where its opening sequence explains, that though humans assume (and so much of science fiction proves me right here) that "Earthlings" refers to humans; it actually refers to all life forms from Earth; and that's a lot of life forms.  Who will the aliens choose to engage with, should they come here first?  That also reminds me of the moment in Ishmael by Daniel Quinn when Ishmael points out that the first primordial creature to crawl out of the water, probably thought of himself as the big-cheese (or big fish?) because he was at the height of the evolutionary chain and in hindsight; he's not.  That is, as the current self-proclaimed head of the herd, we too think certain things are self-evident--like humans will be the species aliens choose to contact.  We base that on "civilization"; our ability to alter the physical earth to suit our needs.




But what if the aliens have other criteria?  What if they are looking for the most populous?  Then they might consider ants, plankton or beetles.  As JBS Haldane once quipped, “The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other…”  Or maybe, the aliens will look to plankton.  These are all what we consider lower-intelligent creatures but we presume that
1.  Aliens are looking for intelligence.
2.  That humans are intelligent in the ways that are important to aliens.
3. That the interaction/contact is how we perceive interactions on a human level; they might different significantly).

There’s lot of concern around how humans will act; regardless of the alien life we encounter.  On an individual level, we look at one another and hold one’s history as a means of understanding their present and future.  We are obsessed with each other’s history.  Whether it’s a job history when applying for a new job, your relationship history explained to a new partner, or a criminal history when it comes time to sentencing, we look at a person’s past as a barometer for future interactions.   So when it comes time to weigh in on the chances of positive human encounters with other life, we have to consider how the dominant human cultures have encountered other human cultures and even nonhuman cultures.  After all, if the alien species doesn’t have a recognizable face (meaning something we can register and process as a face), we’re apt to have trouble with accepting it on some level since our facial-recognition mechanisms are part of what allows for empathy.

Why do I say “dominant human cultures” instead of just human cultures?  It tends to reason that the dominant human cultures at a given time may also be the more likely to be sending forth people to other parts of the universe (although even then “dominant” might need some tweaking since it implies an all-arena dominance whereas we’re recognizing some countries/cultures dominate in certain ways: militarily, religiously/spiritually, scientifically, financially, etc.  There’s often overlap, but it doesn’t always mean one has dominance in all ways.

It’s a curious idea for sure; not expecting to have answers, just more questions.

QUESTIONS

For history students; what are some examples of more positive first encounters between different human cultures?  What about positive encounters between human/nonhuman species?

In what concrete ways have we learned from the past that might help us in positive future relationships with alien species (sentient or not)?

For my popular culture and monster students, what sense do you make out of all the alien-human movies, comics, books that have come forth in the last century?  How do you think they engage/help us with dealing with the potential encountering of alien life?  Do they help and in what possible ways? 



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Comments

  1. One example of a positive first encounter between different human cultures is that right away when you look at both cultures you may find that just by their looks and style may be similar to each other. Another positive first encounter may be that one human culture may look at another and see their way of life style, and actually like it and may introduce that style to their human culture, wich would them make them more similar and maybe start to interact with each other a little more. If a human and nonhuman species came in contact with each other, something positive that could come out of it could be that the different species may look at each other and be really interested in how much they are alike, or maybe a human and nonhuman species could look at each other and not be afraid to stare or try and communicate. We have learned from the past that being afraid or being overpowerful towards an alien species may cause the relationships between the human and alien species to be unsuccessful. So for positive future reltionships with the alien species the human needs to not invade it's space and make sure to not threaten it.

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  2. Some examples of positive encounters between different human cultures could be that the different people have no reason to feel on edge with each other because they realize that there will be no competition between the two groups. If one group of people does not farm, make, or believe the same things as the other group, they will see that there will be no competition between the two groups. Instead, they could trade with each other and prosper in different ways because of the differences between the groups. Another example of a positive encounter could be that the two groups relate to each other or one feels as if they should pick up the way of life that the other lives. If the groups were similar in the things they did they could combine cultures and make it so that they learn from each other and live peacefully together. If one group felt they should be more like the other group it could make it so they did what the other group did, which would eliminate any tension or fighting between the two. Some of the things we have learned from history that could help us when meeting new, outside people is things such as not eliminating a group off the planet just because they are different. Humans cannot understand anything different from them which is our own flaw, but if we realize this from our ancestors meeting new people such as the white settlers meeting the Native Americans and how negatively that went, we could perhaps stop it from happening again. Allowing people to be different is what needs to be done for the world to be peaceful. In my opinion, the movies that have been coming out about humans on earth meeting aliens have not been helping anything at all. If aliens were to actually come to our planet, we hopefully would not act like the movies portray us acting. If anything I hope we would see the parts of these movies that show how to cope with people or things being different and allow them to be instead of fighting them all off.

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  3. One positive example in history when different cultures met is when, Columbus and his men met the people who were settling on our land. Without them then we would not be who we are today. Where would we be? I have no idea. All I know is, it was positive we all live on this land and without that happening then I don't know where we would be or what we would be doing. So that was very positive. The positive encounters between human and non human spices are for us we can hunt animals for food. It's not good for them, but, it is positive for us. We eat these animals and this gives us the protein that we need. So this is positive. What we've learned in history that might help us in relationships with non human species is basically helping them out. If we helped them than we would both get along.

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  4. One positive example in history when different cultures met is when, Columbus and his men met the people who were settling on our land. Without them then we would not be who we are today. Where would we be? I have no idea. All I know is, it was positive we all live on this land and without that happening then I don't know where we would be or what we would be doing. So that was very positive. The positive encounters between human and non human spices are for us we can hunt animals for food. It's not good for them, but, it is positive for us. We eat these animals and this gives us the protein that we need. So this is positive. Without hunting for food we wouldn't be able to consume the protein that we need. What we've learned in history that might help us in relationships with non human species is basically helping them out. If we helped them than we would both get along. WIthout the non human species we would not be able to survive. We eat animals for protein and believe it or not we need them, as much as we as humans don't think we do in actuality we really do need the non human species around.

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  5. One example of a more positive first encounter between different human cultures is like Stephen previously said, native americans. At first things were hostile but we learned and grew off of and from one another. i believe this is a prime very good example. We basically got the basics of everyday living from these people and they learned from us as well. Also, another good example of a positive first encounter between human cultures is when we (America ) started trading/interacting with regions over seas (mostly Europe). This was huge for America simply because positive relationships and encounters with these people meant that we traded a lot with them and got the supplies and various items we needed in America. In terms of positive encounters with human and nonhuman species, i believe vegetation and various food sources hit the spot on this one. Food as we all know is a necessity for human life. Yes you can survive off of only water for so long however my point is that we all need food. Animals don't really benefit from us hunting and skinning them however we do . This is a definite positive encounter for humans. We use the meat for food and depending on the animal and its makeup, the skin for clothing and shelter. Different plants and vegetables also benefit us simply because we all eat fruits and vegetables everyday and this is most definitely positive for humans. I also believe that in the future, maybe a thousand years from now, positive human encounters with maybe some other life form such as aliens would only benefit both parties we would learn from each other and our cultures would intertwine and who knows, maybe one day our planet will be mixed with alien or non human life forms or species and us everyday humans. These types of positive encounters would greatly benefit everyone creature simply because it will open up a whole new world for us in the years to come.

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  6. Well I'd have to say the most positive early interaction on this planet would have to be between Man, and Woman right it's also the longest Human to Human. Thank God we have Laws today about some of those other type of interactions, oh I'm sorry you didn't mean those type, My Bad! Between a Human, and Non-Human depending on who's point your looking at I would have to say the first time Man killed a beat and ate it. For man kind it was a positive thing to find a food source, for the beast well ...not so positive.
    Now your talking about beings from outer space, and the reaction of the Sentient beings of this planet when and if they meet. I can see it now, just like in the movies mass panic in the streets, women and babies cring, and men breaking windows and stealing everthing they can get there greedy hands on. Some General wanting to Nuke-em, and some Red Neck wanting to know if there going to be able to collect walfare and where are we going to get the money to pay for it. I'm sorry if I sound harsh. I'm a little older than my peers in your classroom, hell I'm even a little older than you, and in my 50 plus years on this planet we call Earth I have wittnessed first hand some of the savagery that man can infiect on his fellow man, Im also sorry to say that I have taken part in some of that savagery in the name of God & Country. Our tex book we use is great Armesto did a wonderful job telling us how we came to be about, but he left out the parts about Mans injustice to other Men. What we was in the beging of "G,G &S" was the truth. Man destroyed whatever got in his way or he did not understand. So just think what would happen if anther sentient life form showed up on our small little world. I just don't think we are ready yet as sentient beings to deal with it. Thank's

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  7. 1. Some positive encounters between different human cultures were when early states started to trade and interact with each other. Trading goods made it so different cultures could communicate while getting different resources needed. Trading with different cultures is a positive encounter between human cultures because that is how history started to be shaped. If cultures never interacted with each other then we would all be very isolated states still. With trading throughout different cultures, we could learn new ideas, religions and ways of living from other humans. All of this leads into how the world as shaped today. Because of trading, the world now interacts with all different countries and cultures in order to get the best goods and resources needed to survive to the fullest possible. Trading and communicating with different cultures was one of the most important factors on why the world is the way it is today.

    2. There were not only positive encounters between other humans but there were encounters between other species. Some other species in which humans encountered in a positive way are animals such as horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, cats and dogs. There are many more animals that helped out the humans in a positive way but these are a few main ones. These animals were a positive encounter for humans because they made work much easier. These animals were used to get work done in a faster and more efficient way. Now people are able to have animals to some hard labor for them while also getting all different types of food and nutrition from these animals. Over all, when humans encountered all these new animals in helped revolutionize the way people lived and how they had to get there supplies in order to survive.

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  8. An example of a good interaction between cultures in human history is the ancient river civilizations. Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Harappan civilization benefited greatly by interacting with one another. They were able to trade with one another and gain the resources they needed that were unavailable in their own country. Dogs are one example of a positive example of a human-nonhuman interaction. Dogs have become "man's best friend" and has become a domesticated animal that we rely on as a companion. One thing that humans must overcome is the fear of the unknown. Many civilizations have gone to war over differences and have lost a lot along the way. We must not fear these differences, but learn from them. Fear will lead to war and that will not help any future interactions with alien species. Alien species are portrayed as evil beings from another planet that come to earth and usually cause harm in some way, shape or form. They are horror films in which they kill off humans and control them to do their bidding. I think that horror films with aliens do prepare us in a way for possible future interactions with alien species because we depict them as these scary and frightening creatures so it can't get much worse. We view them as terrible looking and completely different so we will expect the worst and may be pleasantly surprised.

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  9. When taking into account the different ways different forms of media have presented what will happen when or even if humans come into contact with alien life, there seems to be only two general ideas. The first is the typical invasion of hostile aliens who want to destroy humanity for the heck of it or harvest human beings to gain more knowledge of the world. This presents the aliens as being cold, calculating and bloodthirsty creatures with no compassion, which, in all honesty is a bit cliché. The second is that humans will either discover alien life on their own planet or the aliens will be too submissive and we, having superior technology and greed, will take advantage of them and try to harvest their unique resources even worse than Columbus and the Native Americans. Either way one of the species loses. There is hardly any middle ground. Neither movies nor comic books ever presented the thought that both species will contact and treat each other in a completely mutual way. There always has to be one with superior power over the other. This does not help the case of the reality of encounter. Something should also be said of the aliens always being incredibly physically different. I suppose this is the only thing that will truly help humans in accepting the aliens since they must be ready for something grotesquely different.

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  10. One example of a positive first encounter between different human cultures is farming and trading. Back thousands of years ago when farming and trading was first being developed, it was also the start of encounters to different human cultures. For example, when West Africans visited Egypt, they saw and learned new developments of farming that they have never seen. By observing how the Egyptians planted crops and how much food they could grow, the West Africans first encounter with them changed their human culture because of what they saw. Human culture also has an effect on trading. When explorers from all around the world trade with others culturally diverse people it sometimes has a positive affect. When trading goods from their land, humans are able to see what other culture is like and what others make and do differently. It gives humans a different look at different cultures.
    Farming and trading is also a good encounter with non human species such as animals. Humans from other cultures could trade certain animals for another that they have never used before to help their farming such as pigs, cows, horses and goats. Animals gave a glimpse at how other cultures were and what they could become.

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  11. An example of a positive first encounter of different human cultures was when the settlement of Columbus and his people was taking place. The encounter between the Native American and them was unfriendly at first, however once they got to know ad better understand each other they were able to learn new things from one another. Since they were able to survive successfully and peacefully amongst each other the Native American’s were able to teach the settlers new ways of life and vise versa. A positive encounter between human and non-human species is between farm animals and humans. The relationship between the two is a mutually beneficial one (although much more beneficial for humans) in that the animals are taken care of, and the human’s are able to use the animal to help farm their land and also for food. The animals were such a positive encounter for humans because they made work much, much easier. The animals helped to get work done a lot faster and more efficiently than before humans used the animals to their benefit. Also animals can be traded between cultures and that was a beneficial encounter between humans. These experiences may help us with future encounters with alien species in that we should know from past experience that being negative and hostile towards others usually doesn’t get very far in the long run. But hey who knows what will happen, we could be total psychos and start shooting them or maybe an alien encounter will never even happen so we wont even have to worry about whether or not it will be a positive friendly peaceful encounter or a negative violent blood bath of an encounter.

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  12. This article posed many reflections that as an elitist earthling I found quite intriguing. As a bleeding heart for human rights, I can't help but jump to the deplorable instances of human contact with untouched cultures such as native americans, africans, aborigines, and so on. When faced with the challenge of recollecting positive human encounters, I can only cite instances where both societies are closer in developmental stages. Primordially speaking, nomads who encountered other nomads were far more likely to assimilate than if war faring peoples such as the vikings were to stumble across a cluster of peaceful farmers in Brittany. This will be the case when we encounter aliens. Because of the issues posed by the uncanny valley, it is imperative that the creatures we cross paths with are similar enough physically so we can proceed integration without prejudice, but also dumb enough so that we can still assert power and feel unthreatened. The most non-threatening way to encounter these creatures would be in space, preferably while the creatures in question are performing similar, yet less sophisticated experiments as us. The reason we have been able to "coexist peacefully" with life forms other than human is because humans were able to better evolve the ability to use tools and therefore protect themselves. The plethora of alien movies presented to us end in inherent doom because the aliens try to share their technology with us, a feat we are threatened by as an egotistical race.

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  13. Certainly the idea of alien and human interaction brings to mind some violent images. In every novel, comic book and movie where aliens and humans meet things never really seem to go over well. From War of the Worlds to Monsters vs. Aliens things always end in some serious mass-destruction whenever humans and aliens get together. But there are some pretty good examples of positive first-time interactions between two different cultures. I would have to disagree with many of the students who posted above me and say that the interaction between Columbus and the Native Americans was not positive; at least not for the Native Americans. However when civilizations were just beginning, ie: the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding, things started out ok. Granted they did eventually turn to violence: nomadic communities raiding farms and raging wars on the civilizations who took control of their land, but in the beginning things were ok. Farmers showed the nomads their new way of life and the technologies that stemmed from them and nomads took notice of the benefits that the stationary communities were receiving. As more and more civilizations grew and evolved they began trading with each other: another example of positive interactions between different societies, cultures, and peoples. The major religions of today’s world spread because of these interactions and true, wars and crusades also spread because of these interactions, technology, food, and knowledge also spread. Europe learned more advanced forms of paper making from China, we gained a multitude of new commodities as well. Without these interactions civilizations would have never evolved or expanded. I think it’s safe to say things wouldn’t go as smoothly between humans and aliens, but hey, who am I to make that call? Another serious interaction that took place that reaped tremendously positive results was that between humans and other species. Dogs became hunting companions and a form of safety and protection. Later horses became a means of travel and worked the fields along with mules, donkeys, cows and sheep. Even more important interaction then just man and these farm animals were man and animals in general. We would be nowhere if early humans hadn’t figured out how to hunt animals and use them for food and clothing it’s pretty safe to say we humans would have died out pretty quickly. The reason we as humans have been able to coexist so easily with other species is because our technology is more advanced than theirs. We use animals because we know how to and have developed that sort of relationship with them. Aliens, on the other hand, would probably take the part as the dominant species if they ever invaded. Another safe call I’m willing make is that if an alien species travels through time and space and lands on earth, they probably have more advanced technology. And we’re probably going to end up like the animals we control today. Either that or we’re dead. Because, frankly, I don’t think we as a species have figured out a way to control ourselves and if aliens came along and were like “Here share our super awesome, super advanced technology”, we’d probably just end up killing each other, without alien hostility. But hey, who knows? It’d be pretty narcissistic of us to think we were the only “advanced” form of life in the entire universe. It’d also be pretty narcissistic of us to think that if aliens did come to earth, things would go any other way besides similar to that of Columbus and the Native Americans. On the other hand, the only reason we humans exist today is because we learned to coexist with other species and cultures, so maybe we’d be capable of it when it comes to aliens. Maybe.

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  14. Certainly the idea of alien and human interaction brings to mind some violent images. In every novel, comic book and movie where aliens and humans meet things never really seem to go over well. From War of the Worlds to Monsters vs. Aliens things always end in some serious mass-destruction whenever humans and aliens get together. But there are some pretty good examples of positive first-time interactions between two different cultures. I would have to disagree with many of the students who posted above me and say that the interaction between Columbus and the Native Americans was not positive; at least not for the Native Americans. However when civilizations were just beginning, ie: the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding, things started out ok. Granted they did eventually turn to violence: nomadic communities raiding farms and raging wars on the civilizations who took control of their land, but in the beginning things were ok. Farmers showed the nomads their new way of life and the technologies that stemmed from them and nomads took notice of the benefits that the stationary communities were receiving. As more and more civilizations grew and evolved they began trading with each other: another example of positive interactions between different societies, cultures, and peoples. The major religions of today’s world spread because of these interactions and true, wars and crusades also spread because of these interactions, technology, food, and knowledge also spread. Europe learned more advanced forms of paper making from China, we gained a multitude of new commodities as well. Without these interactions civilizations would have never evolved or expanded. I think it’s safe to say things wouldn’t go as smoothly between humans and aliens, but hey, who am I to make that call? Another serious interaction that took place that reaped tremendously positive results was that between humans and other species. Dogs became hunting companions and a form of safety and protection. Later horses became a means of travel and worked the fields along with mules, donkeys, cows and sheep. Even more important interaction then just man and these farm animals were man and animals in general. We would be nowhere if early humans hadn’t figured out how to hunt animals and use them for food and clothing it’s pretty safe to say we humans would have died out pretty quickly. The reason we as humans have been able to coexist so easily with other species is because our technology is more advanced than theirs. We use animals because we know how to and have developed that sort of relationship with them. Aliens, on the other hand, would probably take the part as the dominant species if they ever invaded. Another safe call I’m willing make is that if an alien species travels through time and space and lands on earth, they probably have more advanced technology. And we’re probably going to end up like the animals we control today. Either that or we’re dead. Because, frankly, I don’t think we as a species have figured out a way to control ourselves and if aliens came along and were like “Here share our super awesome, super advanced technology”, we’d probably just end up killing each other, without alien hostility. But hey, who knows? It’d be pretty narcissistic of us to think we were the only “advanced” form of life in the entire universe. It’d also be pretty narcissistic of us to think that if aliens did come to earth, things would go any other way besides similar to that of Columbus and the Native Americans. On the other hand, the only reason we humans exist today is because we learned to coexist with other species and cultures, so maybe we’d be capable of it when it comes to aliens. Maybe.

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  15. Part 1:
    Certainly the idea of alien and human interaction brings to mind some violent images. In every novel, comic book and movie where aliens and humans meet things never really seem to go over well. From War of the Worlds to Monsters vs. Aliens things always end in some serious mass-destruction whenever humans and aliens get together. But there are some pretty good examples of positive first-time interactions between two different cultures. I would have to disagree with many of the students who posted above me and say that the interaction between Columbus and the Native Americans was not positive; at least not for the Native Americans. However when civilizations were just beginning, ie: the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding, things started out ok. Granted they did eventually turn to violence: nomadic communities raiding farms and raging wars on the civilizations who took control of their land, but in the beginning things were ok. Farmers showed the nomads their new way of life and the technologies that stemmed from them and nomads took notice of the benefits that the stationary communities were receiving. As more and more civilizations grew and evolved they began trading with each other: another example of positive interactions between different societies, cultures, and peoples. The major religions of today’s world spread because of these interactions and true, wars and crusades also spread because of these interactions, technology, food, and knowledge also spread. Europe learned more advanced forms of paper making from China, we gained a multitude of new commodities as well. Without these interactions civilizations would have never evolved or expanded. I think it’s safe to say things wouldn’t go as smoothly between humans and aliens, but hey, who am I to make that call?

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  16. Part 2:
    Another serious interaction that took place that reaped tremendously positive results was that between humans and other species. Dogs became hunting companions and a form of safety and protection. Later horses became a means of travel and worked the fields along with mules, donkeys, cows and sheep. Even more important interaction then just man and these farm animals were man and animals in general. We would be nowhere if early humans hadn’t figured out how to hunt animals and use them for food and clothing it’s pretty safe to say we humans would have died out pretty quickly. The reason we as humans have been able to coexist so easily with other species is because our technology is more advanced than theirs. We use animals because we know how to and have developed that sort of relationship with them. Aliens, on the other hand, would probably take the part as the dominant species if they ever invaded. Another safe call I’m willing make is that if an alien species travels through time and space and lands on earth, they probably have more advanced technology. And we’re probably going to end up like the animals we control today. Either that or we’re dead. Because, frankly, I don’t think we as a species have figured out a way to control ourselves and if aliens came along and were like “Here share our super awesome, super advanced technology”, we’d probably just end up killing each other, without alien hostility. But hey, who knows? It’d be pretty narcissistic of us to think we were the only “advanced” form of life in the entire universe. It’d also be pretty narcissistic of us to think that if aliens did come to earth, things would go any other way besides similar to that of Columbus and the Native Americans. On the other hand, the only reason we humans exist today is because we learned to coexist with other species and cultures, so maybe we’d be capable of it when it comes to aliens. Maybe.

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  17. When I hear or see aliens and humans or humans vs. aliens, the thought of destruction and violence. Humans and monsters are always put together in comics, movies but never in real life, and the ending to the story never turns out to be “a fairy tale ending”. Aliens are always the bad guys in most cases such as War of the Worlds but in other cases such as ET they can be lovable and friendly, usually depend on the atmosphere of the plot/setting. I think a good example of a positive first time interaction would be Columbus and the Native Americans. I would agree with other peoples post about this. I do agree with Eaton about how “we look at one another and hold one’s history as a means of understanding their present and future”. I think with aliens at some point had to be part of the human society, sounds crazy but seriously their features resemble humans and there movements. Only on solution to that we evolved from aliens and in the future we will be forced to recognize them due to technology.
    Humans are only around because the evolved from something, and we had to coexist with species, animals, and different cultures so if people didn’t have the image of “movie” aliens then we could in the future be able to coexist with them.

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  18. Most alien movies of late seem to be extremely preachy. I am referencing the two films mentioned above, District 9, and Avatar. And they always seem to have the same message, which is, the aliens are not inferior to us, but equals and should be treated as such. Most of the time these types of movies can be seen as a metaphor for cultures here on earth interacting. The aliens in Avatar struck up in my mind many images of Native Americans and their lessons and teaching of loving nature and there meetings with Easterners coming to the New World. While District 9 spurs up images of Apartheid and exudes strong anti-racism messages. In this way I think films like Avatar and District 9 help us accept the fact that there may be life forms that seem very different then us, but should be treated justly.
    Then on the flipside of that, there are movies like The Thing or Cloverfield which do not sympathize with the alien, but instead demonize it as a hostile brainless killing machine that must be stopped. These films should of course not be taken as seriously as an actually politically relevant film such as District 9 but nonetheless they encourage the stereotype that humans will always be the good guys and the aliens always the hostile bad guys.

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  19. I love district nine and realistically it would never happen. I believe our government has known about other life forms from other planets and more importantly already existing here on earth that we have no idea about. I believe that most of our technology has already been found out years ago from reverse engineering alien technology and the government lets it out a little at a time. I do not think that there will ever be a time where unknown beings will just come out to the world for the fear of panic and a collapse in society. I believe it would be too much for the general public who are already stuck in their ways and think they have how the world and life are worked out in their minds already. District 9 is realistic in the sense of that’s what could happen if some alien race came that we could not necessarily communicate with that well and it would also depend on their exterior appearance because that’s what a lot of human culture is based on. If the aliens looked like prawns people would dislike them more than if they looked like the avatar aliens because the avatar aliens look more humanoid. If humans did start coming into contact with beings I believe that the humans level of consciousness would have to reach a certain height. Chanelers are said to talk to beings from other planets and dimensions and to be a chaneler your consciousness has to be a certain level.

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  20. The first example of "positive" human encounter that comes to mind is the interaction between Columbus/his people and the Native Americans. At first the interaction between the two was horrendous and unjust. After a bit of time the interaction changed into one where both cultures learned from one another and grew. I guess you could say one positive interaction between human and non-human species was the first time humans began using horses as transportation. Sure, the horses probably don't love doing so, but most humans don't physically harm their horses when transporting goods or using the horses to get from point A to point B. Some examples of human to human interaction gone horribly bad was the Holocaust. We have learned about the devastating events that took place and have learned certainly what not to do.

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  21. Human cultures interact with each other in positive ways every single day. If it wasn’t for human interaction, the world would not be what it is today. For instance, we all know the popular story of Thanksgiving. When the Native Americans taught the white people how to hunt and gather all of their food, they were interacting and influencing each other. In return the Natives, received valuable information from the white people. Every interaction humans have made with each other was not positive, but if most weren’t then we wouldn’t be as globalized as we are today.
    Someone else mentioned the interaction with a man and a woman. I completely agree! Without the physical bond between them, their would be no human race. It is mandatory that these sexes have interactions or the world would not grow or increase. Not taking away from one’s sexual preference or the diverse sexualities we have nowadays, but a man and a woman are the basic components for creating a home. They started a family and the line of those genes were passed on from generation to generation creating our ancestors. Without the initial reaction of these to sexes, none of these other interactions could have ever been made possible.

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  22. There are many example of positive first encounters between humans from one culture and humans from another culture. Encounters between different cultures helped form what we call culture today. Without these interactions, the world would probably be very different than it is today. Through traveling and trading, cultures have learned so many new things from other culture. For example, farming. Although it may have been developed in more than one place, it would not have been as widespread as it is today if not for encounters between different cultures. People would not be able to grow their own food or own farms because they would not know how to do so. We also would not have a large diversity of crops like we do today. Trading is also an example of a positive encounter. Through trading, a lot of important things are accomplished. Products are traded from country to country or culture to culture. This leads to more of a diversity of products available. Cultures and Religions are another thing that also spread through trade. Because different cultures are trading, it is possible for them to pick up each other’s traditions. Without these first encounters, the world we live in today would be completely different.

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  23. This is something that has always interested me. How will humans, or any other species react if life from other planets do try to contact with us? I never really thought about it through the possibility that they may not be looking for us. Just because we are an intelligent species who have dominated most of the environment of earth does not mean we are their point of interest. Who’s to say that they would even be able to relate with us or be able to understand us? If life from other planets had the technology and intelligence to make it to earth than it is possible that they have explored other planets far beyond our imagination. And to them, the life on our planet may seem as dull as a single cell organism is to us. Humans interacted from the very beginning just as all animals do. The entire reason that language was developed was due to interactions so it is obviously important to humans to have a means of communication. Are the same things important to an alien? Maybe or maybe not. Hopefully is life from other planets do someday make a visit to earth, the interactions will be harmless not seeking a fight. You mentioned ” There’s lot of concern around how humans will act; regardless of the alien life we encounter.” That could be a huge concern. I know it seems like something out of a 1960’s sci-fi movie, but what if the other life forms are violent not coming in peace? This could be the start of a full on war that no one on earth would know how to even prepare for. Hopefully humans will react in a way that will not um, endanger the fate of our planet if by any chance this ever does happen!

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  24. A positive encounter between two humans is the pilgrims and Native Americans. When the Pilgrims came to Massachusetts they were in desperate need for help. The Native Americans taught the pilgrims to farm on the new type of land and introduced them to new crops like corn. The pilgrims and Native Americans even had a Thanksgiving together! This is one of the few times in history when Europeans did not murder the natives of the place where they moved to. Some ways in which we learned from the past, that might help us with future encounters with aliens are any time in history when people come into contact with people of different cultures. For example, when Europeans came over to North America and came into contact with Native Americans. Most people who came into contact with the Native Americans saw them as barbarians and killed them because they were different. This has happened many different times in history, like when the nomads of Eurasia came into contact with the people who lived in China. These types of events should teach people not to assume things about other cultures, because they are different. If people came into contact with aliens they should not attack them, they should try to get to know them and understand them. I believe that all of these movies that people are exposed to alter their perception of what an alien would be like. Most people when they think of aliens think like green things with huge heads, but aliens may be only bacteria or cells. Movies have a huge impact on how people think aliens look.

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  25. There are many positive aspects when it comes to encountering different human cultures. There is usually no judgment when first meeting someone with a different living style because it could be offensive to their religion or beliefs. There may also be similar ways of culture between the two human cultures. By coming into contact with a culture different than you own, there are many lessons that could be learned and ways of living such as farming and technology. Another major encounter that has pretty much benefited everyone is travel and trade. I would have to say this is probably the most beneficial encounter. During trade, religions have been spread world-wide over a long period of time and different cultures have similar religions which bring them together. Throughout trade, humans have learned how to communicate with other cultures, along with receiving resources that they would not be able to in their own culture. Human encounters with animals have benefited in a food supply, but it is more of human versus other human cultures. Encounters with animals are not exactly a mutual positive encounter because they do not benefit from us like we do with them. As for aliens, it would not be a win-win encounter. With the technology humans have today, taking over the alien species would be a piece of cake. Humans have had many positive encounters which make up part of history.

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  26. The human preoccupation with being the dominant species, not only on Earth, but in the universe has certainly been the key motivator for the alien narratives in the forms of novels, cinema, and comics. The vast majority of alien films, for example, has depicted a more violent alien race with intentions to take over Earth or dominate humanity. Another common attribute aliens tend to have is superior intelligence. Perhaps that we create aliens to be smarter than the human race is a testament to the commonly held belief that aliens aren't real- because realistically, what could be more intelligent than the human race, right? If we ever do come into contact with an alien race that is intellectually superior to our own, it will be a bold and shocking wake up call, to be sure. Furthermore, the depiction of aliens as evil, power-hungry and grotesque beings is specifically used to create fear in horror movies and novels (think War of the Worlds). But in other films, such as E.T, Avatar, and District 9, the alien is not a threat, but is rather a representative of a race discriminated against at some point in the past. District 9 is a reflection of apartheid in South Africa, and Avatar employs various tribal elements, including a language similar to that of a tribe in Africa to represent the "less civilized" cultures of humanity today. That said, aliens are generally lumped into one of two categories: the persecuted, bullied, lesser race, or the terrifying creatures hell-bent on world domination. Either they're a great threat or an inferior and easily controlled race. I cannot say what would happen if aliens actually did exist and we came into contact with them, but my guess is that the common alien stereotypes wouldn't fit. They likely would not fall neatly into a category. The truth is, we have NO IDEA what they would be like. Because of that, I don't know that any of our alien narratives would help us better understand the scenario.

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  27. Humans have been encountering successfully with other humans as well as nonhuman species for as long as history tells us. We rely on one another to provide certain emotional needs and travel, as well as using communication to make inferences about one another, especially when it is a specific topic. In Gonick’s The Cartoon History of the Universe III, we see that there was a major feud between Nubians and Arabs, who battled along the lands of Egypt. He shows us that, after much of the battle had commenced, “both sides agreed to [just] talk” (Gonick, 71) and settle their differences. The fact that some of these people had decided that it was a good idea to just discuss their problems shows that they were striving to achieve the successful encounter with others.
    As far as interaction with nonhuman species goes, where would we be without the help of travel from animals? Camels provided help carrying people, as well as luggage. We have used sheep as well, to get wool for our own warmth. Animals, in these ways have helped by positively contributing (although we do know there are many negative ways we have used animals, for example, for food) to humans. Humans, in return, have fed and bred animals so that they may be safer while under their watch.

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  28. n the topic of the interactions of different species as a whole, I’m going to reference a video game series I thoroughly enjoy – Mass Effect. The first Mass Effect included a character that stated aliens were just like humans in the sense that “they’re jerks and saints.” When we ask questions like are aliens interested in us, we are assuming that aliens are so far ahead of us, not only in a technological sense but in a philosophical sense as well, that an alien species lack the wide variety of opinions and interests of humanity. We assume that those other species all think and act along the same line of reasoning, and have done away with the chaos caused by conflicts of interests and opinions that so plague humans.
    What reason do we have to think this? It’s almost impossible to find a small group of people that agree about every little thing in life, much less an entire species. In fact the creatures that do act in nearly identical manners are generally those creature that only have a rudimentary sense of self-awareness. My bet, if humanity every meets an alien species, if it’s intelligent enough to have accomplished a means of space travel, it’s people are probably as divided as we are, and as a result what one alien deems necessary for study may be humanity and another tries to talk to mosquitoes (yes, I did just reference ‘Lilo and Stitch’).
    My point is this, if we want to discuss the possibility of alien life in the universe we may want to expand our thinking beyond the idea of human being the only divided species in the universe.

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  29. I'm conflicted on this idea. They help, I suppose, but they aren't exactly guidelines to go by. On the one hand, they offer insight into the harsh reality of the universe, but on the other hand, they vary so much it's not all that reliable. The fact of the matter is that we have no idea what they would look like, how they would act, and what they would want. I think that alien narratives are ironic. They often warn us not to pursue a certain course of action, but it's evident that we will likely do precisely what we're being told not to do. The first obvious one is shoot at the aliens. In most cases where one or both sides are hostile, someone makes a mistake, misinterprets something, or acts stupid. A good example: I remember a scene from the novel Halo: Contact Harvest where the humans and the Covenant aliens, after a misunderstanding that led to a battle, try to reconcile with each other. This ends disastrously, of course, as the two sides simply can't understand one another. The absence of communication is damning. It's also realistic. The likelihood of humans being capable of communicating with aliens is extremely low. We are dealing with two completely distinct cultures. The smallest action could be interpreted as hostile--a wave of the hand could be seen as a threat.

    Humans like to think they are the highest beings--that they are the masters of the universe. We like to think we're the most intelligent life form, and that the universe revolves around us. Well, it doesn't, and when an alien race comes along and makes that clear, it's almost inevitable that we won't respond in a favorable manner.

    Books, films and other media are all well and good, but they can't prepare us for the real thing. It's the same as with war--soldiers are all trained to kill, but when the time comes to do it, some of them just can't, because they aren't prepared to do it. Aliens could come in any shape or form, and, in fact, it's highly unlikely they'll come in a humanoid form. There are simply too many factors that can decide appearance: the home world's gravity, the star type, the planet's environment, atmospheric composition, evolution, contact with other alien races..... there are too many possibilities. When we finally do encounter alien life, it will likely be in a form we can't even recognize.

    I think works involving aliens ask us good questions and present interesting challenges and realities, but, one again, they can only do so much. For all we know, when we encounter alien life (and I'm certain we will if we aren't wiped out by an asteroid, solar flare, supernova, or other cosmic cataclysm) it may not even see us as a sentient creature it would like to interact with. The universe is simply too vast. We can never predict what will happen.

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