As the human race begins to explore the solar system and nearby neighborhoods, the question of our worthiness to be part of a galactic expeditionary force arises.
Many of the achievements that have made us competitive survivors on our own world, and able to develop technologies capable of propelling us to the stars, are reasons we may not be fit to interact with other civilizations.
5 Movies Where Humans Are the Aggressors
|District 9||Humans prove to not be the most tolerant hosts when a spaceship filled with destitute aliens show up on our doorstep.|
|Avatar||A greedy corporation wants minerals and an alien race stands in its way.|
|Ender's Game||Humans are the villains when encountering an alien race we don't understand.|
|E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial||An alien is stranded on earth and the US government wants to get hold of him for one purpose: dissection.|
|Blade Runner||Humanity creates sentient beings but deny them equal rights.|
The Day the Earth Stood Still
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” is a classic tale where our alien neighbors would rather see us destroyed than free to roam the galaxy with possibly more advanced and civil societies. With a brilliant screenplay by David Scarpa this 1951 classic is an ultimate warning that we should mend our ways as a race.
“The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, carries a similar message. In this case, we are the ones under attack. Despite their technological advantage we defeat the aliens proving that we are dangerous indeed! That we did it by sheer accident by infecting the invaders with disease. This is doubly concerning as we could possibly destroy another civilization just by making contact with them and giving them a virus. We may well be an “infectious virus” with tragic consequences for any one we visit.
The War Machine is a Creative Machine
Is the technology that will ultimately take us to the stars the result of our warlike nature and will we inevitably bring that destructive technology with us as we discover new worlds?
The War Machine does drive much of our technological advancement. The sword over our heads is that we now have the ability to annihilate ourselves completely. One question frequently raised is if we will achieve that dark objective before we even get close to travelling to other planets.
As early as the first century, the Chinese were using gunpowder in battle in the form of flaming arrows and rockets. This eventually became firearms and cannons and by the 1500’s we could devastate almost anyone with weapons of mass destruction. Even the great artist and scientist Leonardo DaVinci designed some impressive weapons during the Renaissance.
The Wright Brothers proved that powered flight could be accomplished at the turn of the century. It was designed and developed with the noble notion that man was destined to fly. It did not take long for the military to see the value of flight and by 1917 air warfare was deciding the destiny of nations.
Our first forays into space were the German rockets designed to wreak havoc on Britain during WWII, and our own space program had roots in the achievements of German scientists who came to the USA after the war.
In that context, the answer is yes. War is a major motivation to the advancement of technology.
Cosmological Question of the Day:
|Would any given galactic species be able to obtain a sufficient level of technological advancement if there were not strife, wars and brutal competition built into its DNA? That is, would a completely benign peaceful civilization ever feel the need for technological advancement?|
A dangerous trend is that we tend to advance geometrically when it comes to technology. Life on earth began about 2 to 3 billion years ago. The first human types diverged from the more primitive ape types about 2.5 million years ago. The making of fire was achieved 1 million years ago.
Gunpowder is a relative newcomer at 900 years ago and powered flight a mere hundred or so.
Advancing from that first flight to the atomic bomb and landing on the moon took only a little over a hundred years and we are already setting our sights on the edges of our solar system and beyond.
Clearly, we are advancing at an incredible pace and Galactic Travel is becoming a possibility.
The question is, do we belong there?
Let’s look at the face of humanity. That is, the people who will call the shots when we reach out to the stars: humanity’s governments and leaders.
Cruel Political Structures
Our history is not encouraging either as we tend to conquer first and ask questions later. History is filled with mighty empires, and most are remembered for their brutal conquest of opposing nations.
Some of The Biggest Empires in History and How Humane They Were
- The British Empire: Reached 458 million people by 1938 – more than 20% of the world population. Bloody subjugations in countries like Scotland, India, South Africa, etc.
- The Roman Empire: At its hight in the second century AD, the Roman Empire consisted of approximately 65 million, about 21% of the world population. Most of this growth was through conquest of other nations, and while there were some benefits to the conquered populations of these nations, the conquests themselves were brutal.
- Mongol Empire: Reached 12 million people throughout Asia in the 13th century through bloody conquest. Was it not for the Black Death starting its decline, the world map would have looked different today.
The Romans are not alone in their thirst for conquest as evidenced by the British and Mongol empires, and who could ever forget Genghis Kahn, the most brutal figure in history and founder of the Mogul Empire in the 12th century. Recent examples of the quest for power and empire can be found in the First and Second world wars where the Germans and the Japanese had empire building ambitions.
Governments are the people entrusted to protect, provide and care for its citizens. Some enlightened societies have the rare privilege to elect their governments, whilst in the case of others the citizens play no part in selecting the people who rule over them. And these governments have their own agendas and plans to stay in power.
Just take a look at the history books to see that national governments are not known as peaceful, harmonious benefactors. Greedy, destructive and violent would be much more appropriate words to describe them. Below is a list of humanity’s top 5 genocides by deaths, most if not all committed in the name of politics and religion:
- The Holocaust in Nazi Germany: 4.9 to 6 million Jews killed, at least 11 million killed in total.
- Ukrainian genocide: 1.8 to 7.5 million estimated.
- Cambodian Genocide: 1.3 to 3 million estimated.
- Kazakh Genocide: 1.3 – 1.75 million estimated.
- Armenian Genocide: 700,000 to 1.5 million.
And even democratically elected governments are not always glowing examples of responsibility. To conclude the Second World War, 120,000 to 220,000 civilians were killed in two cities by employing weapons of mass destruction. This far surpassed the deaths from the more primitive chemical weapons of mass destruction (mustard gas) used in the First World War.
Greedy Economic Structures
Sci-fi is a mirror we hold up to reflect certain inconvenient truths back at us. The capitalism-in-space theme that director Ridley Scott started with the Aliens series extended to James Cameron’s Avatar. In this movie a planet’s indigenous population stands in the way of a corporation’s access to a rare mineral. Not even genocide of a species would stop them from making more profit, and we might not be far from the truth if we suspect humanity is quite willing and capable to go to these lengths.
What is a corporation? In the documentary movie: The Corporation, the filmmakers used a psychological test, the DSM-IV to test if corporations displayed psychopathic symptoms.
- Disregard for others’ feelings. True
- Cannot maintain enduring relationships: True
- Disregard for the safety of others: True
- Continually lying to others for its own gain: True
- Inability to experience guilt: True
- Not conforming to social norms with respect to lawful behaviour: True.
Test result? Corporations are psychopathic.
When humanity reaches out to space, odds are it will be corporations at the helm.
Beam Me Up!
In the iconic science fiction masterpiece, Star Trek, the Federation had one overall restraint. The Prime Directive (a non-intervention rule). As the Enterprise progressed through the solar system and beyond, the inevitable contact with new and alien races had to be dealt with.
The crew was not allowed to interfere with any new culture they would encounter. This is in stark contrast to Cortes, who defeated the Aztecs by simply being there. It was not his military genius, but the fact that he and his men carried diseases that the Aztecs were not immune to, killing many of them off. This is theorized to have played a part in his victory, and we did the same to the aliens in War of the Worlds. Having that awareness of our own potentially lethal effect on other cultures is a step in the right direction.
Alfred Nobel learned a valuable lesson when he created dynamite. He was horrified that the explosive he intended for peaceful purposes such as mining and building was used in weaponry and killing. He created the Nobel Prize to make amends. The Prize rewards those who make positive contributions to civilization rather than trying to destroy it.
We may have the good fortune to learn from our past as well as our science fiction and become responsible galactic citizens after all.
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Is Space Travel a Realistic Expectation for the Human Race?
Space is incredibly vast, with distances measured in light years instead of miles. The nearest star system, Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away, or about 2,528e+13 miles. Even at the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second, it would take over four years to reach them. As Einstein stated, it is impossible to reach the speed of light so journeys could take decades or longer. Everything else in the universe is even farther and more impossible to reach. As far as transporting ourselves physically, to another planet, the prospects do not look encouraging unless we can develop entirely new propulsion technologies.
We may not have to worry about our fitness to explore and colonize the galaxy, as we may not ever have the technology to do so. One theory states that we may destroy ourselves before we can make the attempt, or we may become extinct. In the HG Wells book, the “Time Machine”, the world ends with a small primitive creature crawling on to the shore in the rays of a dying sun. This is much the same scenario that existed when life started on this planet.
Anything is possible, even travel to the far reaches of the galaxy. Our rapidly accelerating technological development may even someday conquer the limit set by the speed of light. We may not have physical bodies as we do today, or may evolve into immortal creatures for whom a thousand-year journey in deep space is like a trip to the shopping center, but there is a chance.
Our fitness as citizens of the Galaxy remains to be seen however, so this is a venture we need to approach with caution. The same caution we extend to wildlife on our own planet so we are careful not to damage their environment will have to be applied to any race we encounter in space. Another possibility is that we may achieve the goal of interplanetary travel and never be noticed any more than we notice the progress of a colony of microbes on a leaf.
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