Wednesday, December 08, 2021
  Chapter 25 ♦ Theory and Practice of First Contact    © 1979 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved   
25.0 Theory and Practice of First Contact

murry leinster 345
Many billions of intelligent races may exist
in the Milky Way alone at the present time.

We have seen that the origin of life, the evolution of sentience, and the development of technology may be common processes in this universe. Many billions of intelligent races may exist in the Milky Way alone at the present time. Naturally, we are anxious to learn more about them if they exist — if possible, to seek them out and have some sort of useful interaction with them. Presumably many of them will be similarly motivated to seek out their sentient brethren.

  • It is for this reason that the general theory of first contact — contact principles applicable to any interaction between any two extraterrestrial civilizations — is of such monumental importance to xenologists.*
  • Knowledge of the basic procedures and ethical considerations involved in first contact will serve two useful purposes:
    1. To suggest ways other civilizations will interact with each other, what polities and societies they may establish, whether or not peace is likely, and so forth; and
    2. To suggest what humanity may expect when it first makes contact with an alien civilization from the stars.

* See, e.g., discussions by:  ■ Lunan1001   ■ McDougal, Lasswell, and Vlasic252   ■ Maruyama and Harkins615  and  ■ Haley382

25.1 First Contact and Metalaw
25.1.0 First Contact and Metalaw

Table 25.1 Summary of Interactions That May Occur

Between Two Populations(after Pianka286)

—, —
COMPETITION: Each population inhibits the other.
—, +
PREDATION: The predator population kills and "consumes" members of the prey population.
PARASITISM: The parasite population exploits members of the host population. The host is adversely affected.
—, 0
AMENSALISM: One population is adversely affected by another, but the other is unaffected.
0, 0
NEUTRALISM: Neither population affects the other.
+, 0
COMMENSALISM: The commensal population benefits whereas the host population is unaffected.
+, +
COOPERATION: Interaction is favorable to both populations, but is obligatory for neither.
MUTUALISM: Interaction is favorable to both populations, but is mutually obligatory.


The study of possible laws
applicable to all relations
between alien intelligences.

According to Dr. Eric R. Pianka, a population ecologist at the University of Texas at Austin, two populations, when they interact, may or may not affect each other. If they do, the influence may be beneficial or adverse. Using these basic notions, Dr. Pianka devised a simple taxonomic technique which xenologists can use to classify all possible interactions between pairs of sentient alien populations.286

  • Let us designate a beneficial effect with a "+".
  • A detrimental effect with a "-".
  • And no effect with a "0".
  • Where two groups interact with mutual negative effect, Pianka designates the interaction as (-,-).
  • When both benefit, it is (+,+); and so forth.
Six distinct ways species interact

Thus, there are a total of six fundamentally distinct ways in which two intelligent species may interact as outlined in Table 25.1.


In this classificational scheme, competition (-,-) occurs when each of two populations affects the other adversely.

  • Typically both require the same resources that are in short supply, so the presence of each population inhibits the other.
  • Xenological might include the competition between human interstellar colonizers and humanoid native indigenes on a distant Earthlike planet, or between two Type II stellar civilizations for the matter and energy in the solar system of the same class G star.
  • Competition may be economic, social, political, or even religious. The most extreme form is war.

Predation (-,+) takes place when one population affects another adversely but benefits itself from the interaction.

  • For instance, a predatory alien society may choose to destroy other societies it meets, killing the sentient inhabitants and then preying upon their planetary, stellar, or technological resources. (Predation for food, more common in biological situations, is less likely across interstellar distances but may still occur when alien colonists invade a less-technically-advanced world.)

Parasitism, another (-,+) interaction, is similar to predation except that the host population is not killed outright but is exploited over some period of time.

  • Powerful parasitic ET conquerors from advanced stellar civilizations might leave heavily armed garrisons on subject worlds where native populations had been enslaved for the purpose of dismantling the planet for its mass or building huge fleets of warships to be used in a subsequent wave of conquest (perhaps fueled with hydrogen drained from the local star).

Amensalism (-,0) is said to occur when one population is adversely affected by another but the other is unaffected.

  • In the xenological context, perhaps one civilization is so advanced that it regards the other as a mere nuisance, "flicking" it off as we would swat a gnat.
  • Another example of amensalism would be when a technically sophisticated race gives a less-advanced society so much technical information that it either loses spirit and becomes dependent on the superior race, or is virtually destroyed when it tries to use knowledge that it cannot fully understand.

Neutralism (0,0) occurs when the two populations avoid contact altogether. There is no real interaction and neither affects the other in any significant way.

  • Such a situation might obtain if two warring starfaring civilizations agreed to cease hostilities, suspend all mutual interactions, erect a "neutral zone" which each society agrees not to cross, and then continue their expansionistic conquests in other directions.

Commensalism (+,0) takes place when one population benefits while the other is not affected.

  • Familiar examples in biology are the mosses, bryophytes, bromeliads, orchids and other plants that grow on the trunks and branches of trees.
  • The commensal population flourishes at no visible expense to the trees because they occupy the surface of what is in effect protective tissue (whose function is not thwarted by the presence of the symbionts.)
  • An analogous situation between xenological populations might involve a powerful Type III civilization that allowed a puny planetary society to freely wander the corridors of the Galactic Library. The galactic culture would be unaffected, but the planetary culture might be benefited enormously.

Finally we have cooperation (+,+), which occurs when two populations interact in a way that is beneficial for both.

  • This may include trade, cultural exchange, integration of the two societies and the synthesis of a higher level of organization, or joint military ventures of conquest.

Mutualism (+,+) is similar to cooperation except that the relationship between the two populations is obligatory rather than facultative. That is, neither race can exist in the absence of the other.

  • An example here might involve a parallel to ants and aphids, where one ET society provides the foodstuffs needed by both and the other provides umbrella military protection from alien predators and competitors.

Figure 25.1 Principle of Competitive Exclusion

figure 25 1 principle of competitive exclusion 400

The Principle of Competitive Exclusion states that unless the niches of two species differ, they cannot coexist. In effect, one race says to the other,

"This environment isn’t big enough for the both of us."

According to modern population biologists, a pair of very similar species can coexist only if new aspects are added to the environment, so that one part favors one species and the other part favors the second species.

Examples in biological ecologies abound. For instance, above are the life histories of two species of flour beetle.

  • In pure flour Tribolium defeats Oryzaephilus (left graph).
  • But when fine glass tubing is added to the flour — creating tiny shelters to which Oryzaephilus can escape — the two species can coexist (right graph) (after Wilson et al.3313)
The maximum competition
is to be found between those
species with identical needs.
Competition theory

Some ecologists have claimed that each of the above six classes of interaction may be described mathematically and the exact outcome predicted given certain initial conditions.

  • "Competition theory," for instance, was devised more than fifty years ago by Lotka and Volterra. The Lotka-Volterra Competition Equations describe the growth of two competing species in limited environments, given the specific reproductive rates of the two races and the environmental carrying capacity for each alone.
  • In 1934 Gause experimentally verified the major result of the Equations — that no two species that are ecologically identical can long coexist.3313

This Principle of Competitive Exclusion, or Gause's Law as it is sometimes called, may be restated as follows:

The maximum competition is to be found between those species with identical needs.3198

Principle of Competitive Exclusion

The two graphs in Figure 25.1 illustrate the Principle in two competing species of flour beetle. Analogous situations readily may be imagined in the context of interaction between two extraterrestrial civilizations. Mathematical models of commensalism, predation, and the rest may yield similar insights for xenologists.

  • Of course, the commingling of two highly complex alien societies will require a vastly more sophisticated analysis than that provided by the Lotka-Volterra Equation and similar formulations such as "game theory"820,3394,3487 and other models of interaction.
  • Further, the sociocultural data needed to properly evaluate each new situation will necessarily be incomplete and thoroughly ambiguous in many first contact situations.
  • For these and other reasons, many xenologists today eschew attempts to precisely and mathematically model interactions between hypothetical alien societies.
  • Most favor a more qualitative generalized approach.
  • This has led to the emergence of a new subdiscipline in xenology known as "metalaw" — the study of possible laws applicable to all relations between alien intelligences.689
25.1.1 Basic Metalaw
clive lewis 360

Interstellar Avon lady or Murderous villains

Science fiction all too often portrays extraterrestrials as a kind of "interstellar Avon lady," providing humans with innumerable goods and services.78 At the other extreme, ETs are frequently described as murderous villains from the stars who conquer Earth and enslave humanity. Neither of these alternatives seems to represent a useful basis upon which to establish metalegal relationships.

  • There may be stringent rules limiting what one race will allow itself to give or sell to another, less-developed one.
  • And if a society has a policy of destroying every alien ship as soon as it is met, and then turning to attack the ET's home planet, someday it will tackle a civilization that is too powerful and will itself be destroyed. As one writer notes: "Interstellar checkers is not a viable mode of existence."1001
Subjugation, colonization and exploitation

As the author has pointed out elsewhere,2001 the history of human expansion has been a sordid tale of subjugation, colonization and exploitation.

  • The Europeans were perhaps most notorious in this regard. Natives of foreign lands were shipped back to the Continent and placed on display as if mere zoo animals, even though they differed in appearance only slightly from the colonists.
  • Our early settlers in this country displaced the Indians similarly, herding them into compact reservations on worthless land and imposing upon them our way of life and our system of government (to a large degree).
  • And the technologically advanced nations weren't the only ones to expand by means of ruthless incursion and expulsion of indigenous races.
    • • The Aborigines ran out the Tasmanians.
    • • The Malays routed the Sakai.
    • • The Bantus expelled the Hottentots …  The tally of human aggression is virtually endless.
Principle of Defense

We see that a constant in human sociopolitical evolution has been the need and desire for security against foreign invaders. From this we may infer that any civilized alien race may regard physical security as a primary requirement in any first contact situation. We may call this the Principle of Defense.

  • But this notion is not easy to apply in practical situations. The main difficulty is in drawing the line between defense and offense.
  • That is, must we wait for the ETs actually to attack us before we try to defend ourselves, or do we attack their strike bases before they can launch against us?
  • That is, how far do we go with what military strategists call "anticipatory defense"?
  • And there may be instances in which we do not realize we have been attacked until it is too late:
    • • Infiltration by human-looking androids.
    • • Planetary inoculation with "propaganda viruses."
    • • And irresistible radio messages from the stars are common themes in the science fiction literature.
Principle of Noninterference

Another suggested basis for metalegal relations that has gained wide currency is the so-called Principle of Noninterference. The gist of this idea is that each culture should leave others entirely alone — let them evolve naturally, with no help or interference from outsiders.

  • If cultural integrity is to be strictly maintained, the technically inferior race must be totally isolated.
  • Yet the mere knowledge that advanced race even existed would probably be enough to interfere with the normal development of a society.
  • Must we therefore insist that extraterrestrial civilizations remain in total ignorance of each other? Is cultural quarantine really desirable?
  • And the whole idea of strict noninterference may be bad.

As anthropologist Magoroh Maruyama once said:

Many anthropologists say: Don’t disturb this culture because it is the result of so many thousands of years of evolution that it’s perfect. Now that’s entirely a wrong idea, based on the Western kind of logic. Cultures change; all biological and, social processes change.3395

The Golden Rule

A third suggestion is that all ETs should simply apply the Golden Rule in their dealings with one another. This basic principle seems to crop up again and again in the philosophical and religious writings of humankind. For example:

  • "What is hateful to thyself, do not unto thy neighbor" (Babylonian Talmud).
  • "A man should treat all living creatures as he himself would be treated" (Sutra-Kritanga).
  • "You must expect to be treated by others as you have treated them" (Seneca).
  • "Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain" (Hindu Mahabharata 5.1517).
  • "Great Spirit: Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked for a moon in his moccasins" (Sioux Indian Prayer).
  • "We should behave to friends as we would wish friends to behave to us" (Aristotle).
  • "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself" (Buddhist Udanavarga 5.18).
  • And, of course, "As you wish men to do to you, so also do you to them" (Christian Bible, Luke vi. 31).

Applying the Golden Rule, we should treat aliens as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Conversely, they should treat us as they themselves would wish to be treated, assuming the universality of the metalegal principle.

Haley's definition

But the late Andrew G. Haley, the world's first "space lawyer" and widely regarded as the father of metalaw, pointed out the fallacy in this approach far back as 1956, at the Seventh International Astronautical Congress in Rome.693 According to Haley, metalaw, defined as "the law governing the rights of intelligent beings of different natures and existing in an indefinite number of different frameworks of natural laws," would require a different moral basis than present Earthly law.

Golden Rule is anthropocentric

The traditional Golden Rule is starkly anthropocentric; that is, it reflects the subjective needs and wishes of humans. In the case of generalized contact, application of the principle would require each interacting species to impose its own sociobiologically-derived goal structure and motivations upon the other race.

  • As Haley observed, to treat other sentient creatures as we would desire to be treated might well mean their destruction.
  • Similarly, if ETs treat us as they would wish to be treated, it could destroy us. This conclusion derives from the simple fact that two sentient species inevitably must differ in their physiological, psychological, and sociocultural specifics.
  • It would be better for each race to find out how the other desired to be treated, and to act accordingly.
Great Rule of Metalaw

Accordingly, Haley proposed the following as the Great Rule of Metalaw:

quote small leftDo unto others as they would have you do unto them.693 quote small right

In other words, we should treat aliens as THEY want to be treated, not as WE think they ought to be treated. This is a very simple means to ensure both the safety and the equality of metalegal partners.

Do not disrupt

However, in practice the Great Rule might be as difficult to apply as the Principle of Defense and the Principle of Noninterference. If we are to ascertain the desires of the other party, we may have to interact with them to a certain degree — and this may cause sociocultural damage. George S. Robinson of the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal has raised another issue:

Who, or what, determines that which is "injurious or hurtful to some other being"? If mankind is to make such a determination, it is of necessity one which is anthropocentric in nature. If an alien being is to make the determination, is not man deprived of some rights as an integral party? Or perhaps there is a compromise based on an understanding of all participants of the ultimate laws of nature permitting or tending towards a balanced universal ecosystem? If there is truth in the latter approach, again we must turn to the principle involved in Haley's Interstellar Golden Rule — do not disrupt unilaterally the ecosystem of an alien sentient being.1079

Dangerous approach

Others fear that to treat aliens as they wish to be treated may imperil humanity. In the most extreme case, ETs may wish to be treated as conquerors. Remarks S.W. Greenwood:

The Great Rule of Metalaw proposed by Andrew Haley appears to have aroused surprisingly little critical comment. It seems to me to be a highly dangerous approach to the problem of how to behave in the presence of an alien intelligence. Literally it appears to direct an Earthman to do whatever an alien desires. What should be done when an alien desires an Earthman to hand over his vehicle, his equipment, and his crew? It is evident that the Rule of Metalaw would often be unworkable.1181

25.1.2 Fasan's Metalaws

Table 25.2 Suggested Metalegal Rules and Formulations

Table 25.2 summarizes the many metalegal rules which have been suggested by various human philosophers, theologists, xenologists and other writers for use in dealings between sentient races.

  • Many are unfeasible even in theory, some are unworkable in practice, but all appear to be based on anthropocentric considerations which derive from the sociobiological framework and essentially simian psychology of man.
  • We are still left with the problem of developing a set of nonconflicting, serviceable metalegal rules.
Eleven basic metalaws

A major step toward this goal was achieved in 1970 by the Austrian jurist and legal writer Dr. Ernst Fasan. In his book Relations with Alien Intelligences,372 Dr.Fasan attempted to develop a sophisticated, self consistent set of eleven basic metalaws which he believes should be applicable to interactions among all sentient beings in the universe because they are divorced from the details and specifications of individual races.

Categorical Imperative

The central philosophical underpinning for Fasan's Metalaws is the so-called Categorical Imperative, first elaborated by the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.3492

  • The main thrust of the Imperative, which is said to hold for any rational being, is that no activity can be ethical for one if it is not ethical for all.
  • In Kant's own terminology it is a moral axiom which is true for every sentient creature: "Act in such a way that the maxim of your will can at the same time always be valid as a principle of general legislation."
  • That is, if a particular course of action will lead to contradiction or a generally destructive result, then it is proscribed by the Categorical Imperative.
  • Thus if one contemplates murder, he should ask: "Would it be desirable for everyone to murder?" Clearly it would not, as the murderer’s own death would be the result. This inherent contradiction rules out murder as a viable "principle of general legislation."2000
Minimize entropy and build internal order

Fasan then goes on to discuss the physical nature of extraterrestrial beings. He points out that all living organisms select those acts which will minimize entropy and build internal order out of external chaos. As Fasan observes:

So life must necessarily fight, with every sort of movement and decision, the influence of entropy. Evolution means gathering more and more information which enables the organism to better withstand entropy. This gathering of information produces the highest possible level of life: Life coupled with reason and intelligence. Life is reasonable and intelligent if it can understand itself. Like all living beings, the intelligent ones — but consciously so — will choose the alternative which seems to be the least harmful, which seems to be most anti-entropical.372

Proper subjects of metalaw

Those beings which are the proper subjects of metalaw, says Fasan, therefore must of necessity possess the following five characteristics:

  1. The ETs are alive in the negentropic sense.
  2. The ETs have intelligence, consciousness, free will, and empathy.
  3. Each metalegal partner is physically detectable by the other.
  4. The aliens have existence or activity within three-dimensional space.
  5. The ETs have some, if only rudimentary, will to live.

Using the Categorical Imperative and these five basic assumptions about the nature of all sentient extraterrestrials, Dr. Fasan derives eleven metalaws of presumably universal validity, reasoning along the following lines.

Cause no harm

First, to destroy or harm intelligent life is necessarily illegal. This is simply a prohibition against increasing entropy for intelligent life. The rule might be phrased as follows: "Any act which causes damage to another race must be avoided."

  • This confers both rights and obligations on all sentient races.
  • If one race does not comply, then the injured race should have the right to protect itself.
  • So every race has the right to defend itself against harmful acts perpetrated by another race.
Equal rights and values

The basic will to live will not permit any intelligent race to consider itself inferior.

  • The Categorical Imperative will not permit any race to consider itself superior, because that would mean that every race could consider itself superior.
  • Therefore, all intelligent races of the universe have, in principle, equal rights and values.
  • Since no one may have sovereignty over an equal partner, every partner of Metalaw has the right of self-determination.
Preservation of life

Any interaction between mutually detectable races may result in a collision of interests. Damage may be present or future, immediate or prospective. Since the preservation of life is a precondition for its further development, opposing interests must be resolved in a way that gives priority to avoiding actual present damage to existence over possible future damage to development.

  • Hence the preservation of one race has priority over the development of another race.
  • Similarly, no race has the right to seek benefit by demanding that another race inflict damaging entropy upon itself to help the first race out.
  • It is not a legal but an ethical principle that one race should help the other by its own activities.
  • Also, if a race is damaged by past acts of another then it should be able to demand positive action to remove the damaging consequences of those acts.
  • The Categorical Imperative tells us that such is a viable metalegal rule since, according to Fasan, if every race were free to inflict harm on another race without any obligation of restoration, the legal insecurity would increase and the damaged race might feel inclined to retaliate with force.
  • In case of damage the injurer must restore the integrity of the injured party.

Of course, if restitution is impossible it cannot be demanded. Living organisms are not capable of performing the impossible. Even if restitution is possible but would threaten the very existence of the damager himself, says Fasan, still it is not mandatory.

  • No person nor nation must destroy itself in order to fulfill any legal obligation.
  • The basic trend of life is to preserve its own existence.
  • The concept of life itself prohibits any rule which would demand suicide.
  • In other words, no rule of Metalaw has to be complied with when compliance would result in practical suicide for the obligated race.
Truth, honesty, and integrity

Finally, the Categorical Imperative demands that relations between intelligent beings must be based upon truth and honesty.

  • If one race relies to its detriment upon faulty information or broken promises made by another race, the damaged race has suffered unlawful harm.
  • Metalegal agreements and treaties must be kept. And since every conceivable race of aliens must exist or act in three-dimensional space, all sentient species need living space as a necessary condition for their existence.
  • Every race has a title to its own living space.
Fasan's eleven metalaws

In descending order of importance and precedence, Dr. Fasan summarizes his eleven metalaws as follows:

  1. No partner of Metalaw may demand an impossibility.
  2. No rule of Metalaw must be complied with when compliance would result in the practical suicide of the obligated race.
  3. All intelligent races of the universe have in principle equal rights and values.
  4. Every partner of Metalaw has the right of self-determination.
  5. Any act which causes harm to another race must be avoided.
  6. Every race is entitled to its own living space.
  7. Every race has the right to defend itself against any harmful act performed by another race.
  8. The principle of preserving one race has priority over the development of another race.
  9. In case of damage, the damager must restore the integrity of the damaged party.
  10. Metalegal agreements and treaties must be kept.
  11. To help the other race by one’s own activities is not a legal but a basic ethical principle.372
25.1.3 Universal Thermoethical Principles of First Contact

In other words, living beings should always act
to further the mission of life in the cosmos,
which is to reduce the universe to order
by building the maximum complexity into
the mass-energy available.

There is little doubt that Dr. Fasan’s approach represents a significant and welcome step towards the synthesis of a workable set of metalegal rules of conduct, valid a priori for all sentient beings in the universe. However, Fasan’s Metalaws appear to have a single serious flaw which calls into question the validity of several of the derived principles.

Flaw in Fasan’s Metalaws

That flaw is the Categorical Imperative itself.

  • When Kant promulgated his Imperative involving maxims of general legislation, he entirely ignored the possible existence of a sentience of a qualitatively higher order than that possessed by humanity.
  • In Kant's view, creatures are either rational or they are not — there are no other alternatives. Fasan, by adopting the Categorical Imperative as the basis for his metalegal formulations, falls into the same anthropocentric trap.
  • His discussion of the physical nature of extraterrestrial beings makes it clear that he too regards human-style intelligence as "the highest possible level of life."372
Higher orders of awareness

Many xenologists today believe that multiple orders of higher sentience are quite possible. As the author suggested in Chapter 14 (and see below), there may exist a series of successively more sophisticated intellectual emergents in the evolution of sentience — plateaus of intelligence perhaps keyed to the data processing efficiency of alien minds.

  • Individuals comprising extraterrestrial societies may possess simple reactivity (such as plants on Earth).
  • Or personal consciousness (as in humans).
  • Or they may exhibit yet higher orders of awareness not possessed by humans which we have labeled, for convenience, "communality," "hypersociality," "galacticity" and "universality."

Kant’s Categorical Imperative cannot be valid for interactions among beings of qualitatively different orders of sentience, any more than it can be used to guide human dealings with beehives or termite mounds.

Thermodynamic ethics

Let us try to repeat Fasan's analysis of a priori metalaw, avoiding entirely the notion of Categorical Imperative and relying instead solely upon considerations involving entropy.

  • That is, we shall attempt to formulate a set of metalegal principles working solely from the basis of what the author has termed "thermodynamic ethics", or thermoethics.
Principle of negentropism

The basic organizing influence in the universe is life.

  • Life involves the utilization of a flow of energy to draw order from chaos and build internal complexity with an accumulation of information. Living beings thus are anti-entropic, or negentropic, entities.
  • The principle of negentropism is, in a manner of speaking, the "natural law" applicable to all living (matter-energy) beings located anywhere in the universe, regardless of their size, shape, biochemistry, sentience, or culture.
  • (Fasan unwittingly devised a "natural law" applicable to all Homo sapiens, the Natural Law of Man. This is nothing more than what E.O. Wilson might call "mammalian law."3198)

Hence we may state the Principal Thermoethic as follows:

All living beings should always act so as to minimize the total entropy of the universe, or so as to maximize the total negentropy.

Cosmic standard

In other words, living beings should always act to further the mission of life in the cosmos, which is to reduce the universe to order by building the maximum complexity into the mass-energy available.

  • Note that the Principal Thermoethic defines the optimum relationship between an individual and his universe, rather than between individuals.
  • It is fundamental to all thermoethical decisions that one's actions are judged against a cosmic, not local, standard.
  • Consequently it may be ethical to do some act which decreases local order, if the net result is an increase in the total order of the universe.
Applying the Principal Thermoethic

How does the Principal Thermoethic apply to contact interactions between intelligent extraterrestrial races? In this universe there may exist many different kinds of creatures with widely varying levels of sentience and cognitive awareness. Some societies will possess more information than others; some beings will process information faster or more efficiently than others. Thus there is a natural ordering or continuum of all living things.

  • Those entities which are more negentropic are better serving the mission of life in the universe, hence they are inherently "more ethical."
  • Those beings which engender the same negentropy as others are "equally ethical."

Therefore, we may state the Corollary of Negentropic Equality, which follows directly from the Principal Thermoethic, in this way:

Note #1    

Corollary of Negentropic Equality

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Cocca358   ■ Fasan3407,372   ■ Haley382,693   ■ Nicolson3215   ■ Rhyne3398

All entities of equal negentropy have equal rights and responsibilities; the more negentropic an entity, the greater are its rights and the deeper are its responsibilities.Note #1

Three kinds of interaction

As ecologist Eric Pianka has pointed out, there are only 3 basic kinds of interaction which can take place:
Detrimental (-), neutral (0), and beneficial (+). According to the Principal Thermoethic:

  • Detriment is equivalent to a loss of information, an increase in the disorder of the universe.
  • Detrimental (-) acts violate the Principal Thermoethic, and hence are unethical.
  • Neutrality (0) implies that information is neither created nor destroyed, but merely maintained. Since there is no law of conservation of information analogous to the conservation of mass-energy, a positive act is required to preserve order in the cosmos.
  • Such acts are thermoethical; failure to so act is unethical.
  • Finally, beneficence (+) is equivalent to a gain of information, a decrease in the total disorder of the universe.
  • Beneficial acts which affirmatively generate negentropy fulfill the Principal Thermoethic, and hence are ethical.
Three duties

Summarizing, we see that three distinct duties devolve upon all thermoethical entities in the cosmos, following directly from the Principal Thermoethic. These may be called:

  • The "duty to avoid harming."
  • The "duty to preserve."
  • The "duty to create."
  • The duty to avoid harm must necessarily take precedence over the other two, since it is useless to create and impossible to save information if it is simultaneously being destroyed.
  • Similarly, it would be wasteful (and thus entropic) to garner new information if one is incapable of preserving it.
Three duties cast into thermoethical Canons

These three duties may be cast in the form of three fundamental thermoethical Canons, applicable to the interactions between all living beings in the universe a priori:

Canon I: Any act which increases the entropy (disorder) of another race  
should be avoided.Note #2
     To satisfy the Principal Thermoethic the
duties imposed by Canon I should be obeyed.  
Canon II: Each race holds its negentropy (information) in trust for the
entire living universe, and should do the utmost to preserve it.#3
  If this is done, then the duties imposed
by Canon II should be completed.
Canon III: Any act which increases the negentropy (order) of another race  
should be carried out.Note #4
  If the Principal Thermoethic, Canon I and Canon II do not prohibit it,
the duties imposed by Canon III may be carried out.
Notes #2-4    

Canon I

Any act which increases the entropy (disorder) of another race should be avoided.

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Fasan3407,372     ■ McDougal, et al.252     ■ Sagan3448     ■ Freitas2001

■ Miller1204     ■ Vitoria3410     ■ Haley382     ■ Moskowitz3396

■ Human Rights3486     ■ Korovin3404     ■ Rhyne3398

Canon II

Each race holds its negentropy (information) in trust for the entire living universe, and should do the utmost to preserve it.

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Fasan372     ■ Haley382

Canon III

Any act which increases the negentropy (order) of another race should be carried out.

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Bueckling3403     ■ McDougal, et al.252     ■ Fasan3407     ■ Smirnoff3411

■ Greenwood1181     ■ Spiegelberg3404     ■ Lindsay3013     ■ Vasquez253


■ Fasan372     ■ Freitas2001     ■ Human Rights3484

We may rephrase these duties in somewhat less technical language as a hierarchical code of behavior for all living beings, as follows:

Canon I: Destroy not. (Avoid harming, if it is at all possible.)
Canon II: Preserve, if in preserving you do not destroy.
Canon III: Create, if without harm and the creation may be preserved.
Metalaws generated from Canons

Each Canon may be used to generate a number of specific metalaws to guide interactive behavior in particular situations.

  • For example, from Canon I we have Metalaw I-1, the Entropic Censorship Rule: "In any first contact situation, the Contactor should never give the Contactee any matter-energy or information inputs that may cause the Contactee entropic harm."#5
  • Next might be Metalaw I-2, the Entropic Defense Rule: "Every race has the right to defend itself against entropic (disordering) acts perpetrated by another race, provided the entropic cost of such defense is less than the loss of negentropy sought to be avoided."#6
  • Metalaw I-3, the Biosphere Preference Rule, might read as follows: "Every race is presumed to be entitled to the biosphere which it occupies."#7
  • Then there is Metalaw I-4, the Free Egress Rule, which holds: "Living entities have the right to travel to any biosphere, subject to the restriction that they must not entropicate (disorder) indigenous living systems."#8
Notes #5-8    

I-1: Entropic Censorship Rule

In any first contact situation, the Contactor should never give the Contactee any matter-energy or information inputs that may cause the Contactee entropic harm.

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Boyce3663     ■ Bova1400     ■ Campbell3241     ■ Davis171

■ Fasan372     ■ Haley693,382     ■ Hogan3518     ■ Hoyle62

■ Kuiper/Morris2608     ■ LeGuin2895     ■ Miller1183     ■ Molton3629

■ Nicolson3215     ■ O'Neill2710     ■ Reynolds3423     ■ Robinson1079

■ Saunders2611     ■ Smith1206     ■ Stern389     ■ Stover1539

■ Strong50     ■ Zhukov317

I-2: Entropic Defense Rule

"Every race has the right to defend itself against entropic (disordering) acts perpetrated by another race, provided the entropic cost of such defense is less than the loss of negentropy sought to be avoided."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Bova1400     ■ Brownlie3399     ■ Cocca358     ■ Drake3280     ■ Faria3406

■ Fasan3407,372     ■ Freitas2001     ■ Haley382     ■ Smirnoff3411     ■ Vázquez253

I-3: Biosphere Preference Rule

"Every race is presumed to be entitled to the biosphere which it occupies."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Anderson63     ■ Fasan372     ■ Human Rights3483,3485     ■ Hyman1525,385     ■ Vázquez,253


■ Verplaetse386

I-4: Free Egress Rule

"Living entities have the right to travel to any biosphere, subject to the restriction that they must not entropicate (disorder) indigenous living systems."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Faria3406     ■ Haley382     ■ Stern389     ■ Vitoria3410

Metalaws derived from Canon II

Canon II similarly gives rise to a number of specific metalaws, applicable to relations between extraterrestrial races so long as no metalaws associated with Canon I are violated.

  • For instance, we have Metalaw II-1, the Preservation Preference Rule: "The preservation of one race must have priority over the development of another race."#9
  • There is Metalaw II-2, the Infinite Sinks Rule: "Every race has a duty to avoid infinite information sinks or, in other words, no race should demand or submit an impossible request."#10
  • We have Metalaw II-3, the Rule of Restitution: "In case of entropication of one race by another, the race causing the damage must restitute the living universe for the loss of information."#11
  • Then there is Metalaw II-4, called Pacta Sunt Servanda: "Metalegal agreements and treaties must be honored."#12
Notes #9-12    

II-1: Preservation Preference Rule

"The preservation of one race must have priority over the development of another race."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Niven and Pournelle668     ■ Fasan3407,372


■ Friedman694

II-2: Infinite Sinks Rule

"Every race has a duty to avoid infinite information sinks or, in other words, no race should demand or submit an impossible request."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Fasan372

II-3: Rule of Restitution

"In case of entropication of one race by another, the race causing the damage must restitute the living universe for the loss of information."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Fasan372

II-4: Pacta Sunt Servanda

"Metalegal agreements and treaties must be honored."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Fasan372     ■ Joseph1474     ■ Rhyne3398

Metalaws derived from Canon III

If the proscriptions and duties imposed by Canons I and II are observed, then sentient beings may work with metalaws derived from Cannon III.

  • For example, there is Metalaw III-1, the Rule of Submission: "Every race should willingly submit to negentropic acts effectuated by a more negentropic race, provided the information gained by such acts is greater than the total entropy suffered."#13
  • Then we have Metalaw III-2, the Negentropication Rule: "Each race should perform whatever positive actions are necessary to assist in the development of beings of higher negentropy than themselves."#14
  • Also we have Metalaw III-3, the Rule of Permissible Suicide, which goes as follows: "Any race may commit a suicidal act if the local entropication suffered thereby is exceeded by the universal negentropy gained."#15
  • A more moderate version of the same principle is Metalaw III-4, the Self-Jeopardization Rule: "Any race may risk entropication of any of its component parts if the probable negentropy to be gained thereby exceeds the probable entropication."#16
Notes #13-16    

III-1: Rule of Submission

"Every race should willingly submit to negentropic acts effectuated by a more negentropic race, provided the information gained by such acts is greater than the total entropy suffered."


■ Fasan372     ■ Moskowitz3396

III-2: Negentropication Rule

"Each race should perform whatever positive actions are necessary to assist in the development of beings of higher negentropy than themselves."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Anderson3491     ■ Anvil2162     ■ Lee22     ■ Vinge634     ■ White2442

III-3: Rule of Permissible Suicide

"Any race may commit a suicidal act if the local entropication suffered thereby is exceeded by the universal negentropy gained."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Haley3397     ■ Herbert/Busby3273     ■ Lunan1001     ■ Ritner1550


■ Fasan372

III-4: Self-Jeopardization Rule

"Any race may risk entropication of any of its component parts if the probable negentropy to be gained thereby exceeds the probable entropication."

(See Also) ♦ Further Reading

■ Harrison1537     ■ LeGuin97     ■ Oliver1560

25.2 The Character of First Contact
25.2.0 The Character of First Contact

goethe 360

What will first contact actually be like? How will the participants regard each other?

  • It is often suggested that when humanity encounters technologically advanced aliens they may seem as gods to us.
  • It is said that they will be capable of miracles and, in essence, "magic" — and that they may be as far beyond us in intelligence as we are beyond the ants.

In the author’s opinion, each of the above statements represent gross understatements of the most probable reality.

25.2.1 Mass-Energy Scales of Contact

Table 25.3 First Contact Power Differentials:

Contactor’s Advantage

table 25 3 first contact power differentials contactor s advantage 398

The first most important basic parameter that we would like to know about any alien civilization we may encounter is:

  • What is their matter-energy-handling capability?
    What class of civilization are they?

This single datum will give us a good idea as to what level of contact interaction we may expect.

Class of civilization

From our considerations of cultural power utilization we have recognized that there may exist four major classes of mature civilization in the universe:

We might well be the only technical civilization undergoing
a technological step-transition in the Galaxy at the present time.

Thus in a very real sense, in a Milky Way galaxy
possibly teeming with life, mankind may yet be quite alone.
  • Planetary societies (1015 watts continuous)
  • Stellar cultures (1026 watts)
  • Galactic communities (1037 watts)
  • Universal civilizations (1047 watts)
Power differentials

Therefore, in any bilateral first contact situation there can only be sixteen distinct levels or modes of contact along the mass-energy scale, as summarized in Table 25.3. The data in the table are called "power differentials," representing the difference in mass-energy-handling capability between the two interacting races. The numbers here are expressed in terms of the contactor's advantage over the contactee.

Looking at Table 25.3 as a whole, there seem to be four distinct power differentials that may occur in any first contact.

  • First, the two civilizations may be roughly equal in power usage, in which case the power differential in the contact situation is ~100, or 1.
  • Next, two societies may meet whose power consumption differs by ~11 orders of magnitude, or by ~22 orders of magnitude, or, finally, by as much as 32 orders of magnitude.

Table 25.4 Comparison of Various First Contact

Scenarios, based on Relative Power Differentials

table 25 4 comparison of various first contact scenarios 397
Comparison of Various First Contact Scenarios

Each such contact event is a qualitatively different situation. To help put the above figures into some kind of reasonable perspective, the series of comparisons assembled in Table 25.4 should prove helpful. In the leftmost column we have the logarithm (order of magnitude) of the power differentials likely to be encountered in most first contact scenarios.

  • So, for instance, we may imagine a contact in which the log power differential between the cultures is about zero. This would be roughly equivalent to a nation like the United States, which commands about 1012 watts, coming into contact with another nation of similar power handling ability, say, West Germany.
  • Next, imagine a meeting between cultures differing in power usage by 11 orders of magnitude. This would be like a contact between the entire United States and a society in command of only 10 watts of power. Such a meager society could operate one tiny light bulb, play a single miniature pocket radio, or perhaps paddle one small canoe slowly into New York harbor. The phrase "hopelessly outclassed" is an extreme understatement.
  • But it gets much worse! Imagine a contact in which the power differential is 22 orders of magnitude. Compared to the entire energy output of the United States, this would only be about 10-10 watts — one-thirtieth the power output of a single human neuron — and some one-hundred-thousandth of the energy expended by a swimming rotifer. An amoeba swimming at low speed uses about 10-10 watts, so the power differential in such a contact scenario would represent a difference between the contacting societies as great as that between the entire United States and an amoeba pseudopoding slowly into New York harbor.
  • Finally, consider the most extreme case of a power differential of 32 orders of magnitude, which works out to about 10-20 watts in comparison to all of U.S. society. It is hard for us to conceive of differences in power that are this large. 10-20 watts is about enough energy to evaporate one molecule of water every ten seconds from the surface of the sea. We thus arrive at the incredible comparison of a society with the power of the United States confronting another race whose power usage is barely enough to evaporate a single molecule of water off the back of a tiny amoeba as it swims into New York harbor.
Beyond human experience

These latter comparisons span such enormous scales that they boggle the mind into incredulity. Such levels of contact are wholly beyond any normal human experience.

  • How are we to visualize a meeting between extraterrestrial societies which differ in energy as much as the entire United States and a single amoeba?
  • And what if we are that poor lone protozoan, naively wafting into the galactic equivalent of New York harbor? Not only would such a civilization seem godlike to us, it would actually be God for any practical purpose that can be imagined.

Figure 25.2 Timescale for Technological Advance

figure 25 2 timescale for technological advance 400
Timescales of technological advance

The timescales of technological advance give us some important clues as to the nature of the technical societies we are most likely to encounter. Consider the graph in Figure 25.2. If we depict human technical advance — as measured by energy output, population of, radios or telescopes, or whatever — as a function of time, we find that technological advance appears almost to be what mathematicians call a "step function" over geological and evolutionary timescales.

  • Progress is nil for a very long time; all of a sudden, technology shoots up to the maximum theoretical limits as defined by the fundamental laws of physics in the universe.
  • Based on our discussions elsewhere in this book, it appears that Type II stellar civilizations will not be technology limited at all. Anything that is physically possible in theory, they should be able to accomplish in practice.

From a technological point of view, then, it would appear that the vast majority of sentient societies may lie on either side of the step (assuming humanity is a typical case).3853

Table 25.5 Estimated Number and Distance to

Nearest Earthlike Technological Civilization

table 25 5 estimated number and distance to nearest earthlike technological civilization 397
Impotent or omnipotent
  • Most cultures may be regarded as "impotent" or "omnipotent" insofar as technical abilities are concerned.
  • Only a tiny fraction of all evolving technological societies will be in the transition phase occupied by present-day humanity.
  • Or, to put it in another more striking way, in any contemporary first contact situation humans are vastly more likely to encounter gods or animals, almost never peers.
  • Indeed, it may be viewed as unethical for any omnipotent civilization to contact a society which is technologically impotent or in transition.
Estimated Number and Distance to Nearest Earthlike Civilization

Table 25.5 puts numbers to this basic idea. Using our estimates of the probable number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy and a "reasonable" value for the Drake Equation constant L0 of 10-2 cultures/year (see Chapter 23), the author has calculated the mean number and distance to civilizations that are today at approximately the human technological level.

  • "Human level" is taken as a technological "window" in time of about 10,000 years (and we are probably in the last millennium of this span of progress).
  • Even given the most optimistic value for civilization lifetime imaginable — 10years — there are only a thousand other cultures like us in the entire Galaxy, and each is 6700 light-years from the nearest other.
  • As we select more modest values for L, we begin to suspect that we may be lucky to find another society at our same stage of development in the entire Milky Way.
  • We might well be the only technical civilization undergoing a technological step-transition in the Galaxy at the present time.

Thus in a very real sense, in a Milky Way galaxy possibly teeming with life, mankind may yet be quite alone.

25.2.2 Information-Rate Scales of Contact

How information-efficient are human beings
when measured against the universal standard?

Apparently humans are woefully inefficient thinkers,
having a sentience which is only 10-38% efficient.

The second most important parameter of civilizations which both contactor and contactee will want to determine as soon as possible is the total information processing capability of each culture.

  • This datum will tell each party to the contact how "smart" the other is, how sophisticated may be its thinking processes, and how great are its stores of knowledge.
Mission efficiency

The basic mission of life in the cosmos is to process information.

  • To the extent that systemic or organismic energy is used for purposes other than information processing, a living entity may be regarded as "inefficient."

As Dr. James Grier Miller suggests in an hypothesis drawn from his general theory of living systems:

Hypothesis 3.3-1: Up to a maximum higher than yet obtained in any living system but less than 100 percent, the larger the percentage of all matter-energy input that it consumes in information processing controlling its various system processes, as opposed to matter-energy processing, the more likely the system is to survive.3071

In other words, it is always better to be smarter.

Human efficiency

How information-efficient are human beings when measured against the universal standard?

  • A 70 kilogram man can process at least 1012 bits/second of neural reactivity data.
  • Yet, according to calculations performed by H.J. Bremermann,3072 the theoretical maximum computing power for an entity of that mass is about 1052 bits/second.
  • Apparently humans are woefully inefficient thinkers, having a sentience which is only 10-38% efficient.
Six orders of sentience

In an earlier chapter we introduced the concept of the Sentience Quotient (SQ), defined mathematically as the log10 of the information processing rate divided by the quantity of mass-energy needed to sustain it, for any living entity.

  • We established that the maximum SQ for any being in the universe was about 50, and that human bodies have an SQ of about 10.
  • We also speculated that with each decade of improvement in the SQ, a qualitatively new level of awareness might emerge, comparable to our own "consciousness" but vastly more efficient in terms of data processing.
  • This defined an arbitrary series of six orders of sentience which we described as "reactivity," "consciousness," "communality," "hypersociality," "galacticity," and "universality," based on the assumption that new modes of thinking emerge every time a thinker can increase its information processing capacity per unit mass by roughly ten orders of magnitude.

(Obviously this is just an approximation, based on Earthly experience; more or less than exactly six orders of sentience are possible. We chose six orders primarily for convenience of discussion in this text.)

Table 25.6 First Contact SQ Information Processing

Differentials: Contactor’s Advantage

table 25 6 first contact sq information processing differentials contactor s advantage 420
36 first contact scenarios

In other words, although the Sentience Quotient actually spans a continuum from 0 to 50 for thinking entities, it may be that each jump of 10 produces a qualitatively different kind of intelligence.

  • If this is so, and if our approximately six basic orders of sentience have any reality, then we may distinguish some 36 different basic first contact scenarios in much the same manner as we found 16 distinct contact possibilities based on the mass-energy usage scale.

The data processing differentials in each contact situation are summarized in Table 25.6. The figures are again expressed in terms of contractor's advantage over the contactee race.

Six differentials

Table 25.6 shows that there appear to be six distinct differentials that may be used to characterize contact along the information processing spectrum.

  • When the two contacting races are of equal sentience, the bit-rate efficiency differential is 0.
  • When a communal race meets a merely conscious race, the SQ difference will be 10.
  • In still other contact situations, the sentience differential may be 20, 30, 40, or 50.

Table 25.7 Comparison of Various First Contact Scenarios,

Based on Relative Information Processing Differentials

table 25 7 comparison of various first contact scenarios relative information 420
Comparison of Various First Contact Scenarios

As in the previous Section, the figures in Table 25.7 provide a meaningful comparison to assist in our understanding of each of the six different "levels of contact."

  • In the leftmost column we have the Sentience Quotient differentials most likely to be encountered in any first contact situation.
  • These are accompanied by a set of comparisons which attempt to relate different orders of data processing ability to something that human minds can readily comprehend — in this case, book reading rates.
Obvious major problem

A major problem immediately becomes obvious. It appears difficult intellectually to relate to the awesome power (or awesome lack thereof) of a sentience even a mere 10 orders away from us.236 This hints at the tremendous difficulties humans are likely to experience in dealing with higher order sentiences during the first contact situation. The subject is so difficult that even science fiction writers have rarely attempted to deal with the astounding implications of an encounter with such advanced ETs.

  • What would we have to say to a being able to mentally digest 8000 books per second?
  • Going in the other direction, could we even communicate with a creature who required 400 million years to read a single volume?
Mind-boggling examples

These numbers are so far removed from everyday experience that humans can have no empathy with the orders of sentience that they represent.

  • And yet each of these mind-boggling cases are examples of a meeting between beings differing in Sentience Quotient by only 10.
  • What of encounters involving differentials of 20, 30, and more? Ours may be the lot of the amoeba creeping slowly across a requisition form on the information counter in the front office of the Galactic equivalent of the Library of Congress.
Successor sentience to humanity

The successor sentience to humanity may already be on the horizon — the electronic computer.3270,55,3489,3278

  • Using a machine intelligence constructed of experimental superconducting Josephson junction logic gates, the Sentience Quotient will be quite high.
  • These gates have switching times on the order of 10-11 second, so can handle about 1011 bits/second.
  • They weigh about a nanogram each (10-12 kg), so their information processing efficiency is roughly 1023 bits/sec-kg, for a Sentience Quotient of 23.
Progeny of our minds

When computers based on the Josephson junction (or similar principle) eventually are built, it may be time for humankind to step aside. Here is one computer scientist’s view of the future:

I expect the human race to expand into space in the near future, and O'Neill's habitats for people will be part of this. But as soon as machines are able to match human performance, the economics against human colonies become very persuasive. Just as it was much cheaper to send Pioneer to Jupiter and Viking to Mars than men to the Moon, so it will be cheaper to build orbiting power stations with robot rather than human labor. A machine can be designed to live in free space and love it, drinking in unattenuated sunlight and tolerating hard radiation. And instead of expensive pressurized, gravitied, decorated human colonies, the machines could be put to work converting lunar material into orbiting automatic factories. The doubling time for a machine society of this type would be much shorter than for human habitats, and the productive capability would expand correspondingly faster.

The first societies in space will be composed of cooperating humans and machines, but as the capabilities of the self-improving machine component grow, the human portion will function more and more as a parasitic drag. Communities with a higher ratio of machines to people will be able to expand faster, and will become the bulk of the intelligent activity in the solar system. In the long run the sheer physical inability of humans to keep up with these rapidly evolving progeny of our minds will ensure that the ratio of people to machines approaches zero, and that a direct descendant of our culture, but not our genes, inherits the universe.

This may not be as bad as it sounds, since the machine society can, and for its own benefit probably should, take along with it everything we consider important, up to and including the information in our minds and genes. Real live human beings, and a whole human community, could then be reconstituted if an appropriate circumstance ever arose. Since biology has committed us to personal death anyway, with whatever immortality we can hope for residing only in our children and our culture, shouldn't we be happy to see that culture become as capable as possible? In fact, attempting to hobble its growth is an almost certain recipe for long term suicide. The universe is one random event after another. Sooner or later an unstoppable virus deadly to humans will evolve, or a major asteroid will collide with the Earth, or the sun will go nova, or we will be invaded from the stars by a culture that didn't try to slow down its own evolution, or any number of other things. The bigger, more diverse and competent our offspring are, the more capable they will be of detecting and dealing with the problems that arise.3233

This vision of the future provides but one model of many that are possible for SQ=20 sentiences we may encounter on alien worlds throughout the universe.*

* Since theoretical lower limit biological cell size is about 400 Angstrom, a human-size brain could handle roughly 1020 bits/sec-kg. It thus may possibly be true that no strictly biological intelligence can have a Sentience Quotient greater than about 20.

25.2.3 Generalized First Contact Taxonomy

Table 25.8 A Generalized First Contact Taxonomy

table 25 8 generalized first contact taxonomy 400

It is possible at this point to construct a generalized taxonomy for first contact scenarios which includes all possible combinations of encounters between beings at different stages along the mass-energy and information processing scales we have discussed.

  • If our speculations are correct, there are four major levels of power usage and six major levels of sentience.
  • Thus, there should be 24 distinct contact scenarios involving various pairings of extraterrestrial cultures.
  •   Table 25.8 labels     These are shown, and labeled for convenience of discussion, in Table 25.8 above.
  • In the table, ΔSQ is used to denote the differential in Sentience Quotient between the two contacting races.
  • And ΔP is used to denote the log10 of the power usage differential.

Table 25.9 Complete First Contact Taxonomy

Difference in Power Usage(Civilization Type) ΔP

Notes to Table 25.9  

Notes to Table 25.9

  • A "0 > 10" Contact is a meeting between an SQ = 0 Contactor and an SQ = 10 Contactee race.
  • A "I > III" Contact is a meeting between a Type I planetary Contactor society and a Type III galactic Contactee civilization.
  • Numbers given in Table 25.9 represent orders-of-magnitude differentials in power and sentience, respectively; 
    the sign, "+" or "-", shows Contactor’s advantage or disadvantage
  • (ΔP/ΔSQ): (Power Differential/Sentience Differential)
table 25 9 complete first contact taxonomy 430
All 576 possible basic encounter scenarios

Table 25.9 is an expanded version of the First Contact Taxonomy showing all 576 possible basic encounter scenarios, with labels for each.

It is possible to draw a First Contact Taxonomy chart with yet higher resolution, accounting for all levels of cultural power usage (from 100-1056 watts) and all levels of sentience (SQ = 0-50), using single order-of-magnitude steps in both cases. However, such a chart would have 8,450,649 entries, thus seems unwieldy.

  • Most science fiction authors and speculative fact writers have concentrated primarily upon the 0/0, 11/0, and 0/10 Contacts.
  • There are several cases where 11/10 or 22/0 Contacts have been discussed, and there are even a few scattered references to higher-order Contacts in the literature.
  • But, by and large, most of Table 25.9 represents a vast uncharted wilderness of unknowns.
  • It is to these gaping holes in our understanding that theoretical xenologists of the future should devote their attention.
25.3 First Contact Protocols and Elementary Astropolitics
25.3.0 First Contact Protocols and Elementary Astropolitics

leonard mccoy 338

Our final topic in this chapter is the pragmatic methodology of first contact.

  • What are the proper protocols in establishing contact and communication when two alien races encounter each other somewhere in space?
  • We have already seen that the subject of interaction is very complicated, both ethically and logistically, and that the number of different levels of interaction is enormous.

We turn now to a discussion of a few "standard first contact procedures" to be used in various encounter scenarios between sentient extraterrestrial species.

25.3.1 Encounters Between Equals: The 0/0 Contact

The 0/0 Contact is an encounter between alien races among whom power consumption and information processing capability are roughly equivalent.

  • Such a contact may occur between two Type I civilizations, or between pairs of Type II's, Type III's, or Type IV's.
  • A 0/0 Contact also occurs between pairs of reactivity species, two conscious races, two societies which both enjoy communality, and so forth.
  • All told, there are 24 distinct contact scenarios within this particular classification.
Encounter between two Type I societies

First we consider the simplest cases. Type I societies by definition cannot possess advanced starflight on a commercial basis, nor can they create and launch a sufficient number of unmanned automatic probes to nearby star systems to ensure first contact. Hence, a 0/0 Contact between two planetary civilizations will probably involve some form of simple interstellar signaling, perhaps by means of radio waves. (See >Chapter 24 Tooltip text.)

  • Round-trip data exchanges will take centuries or even millennia to complete, and interaction between the two societies will be very weak.
  • There are few ethical issues at stake.
  • Similarly, a meeting between two reactivity (SQ = 0) races should not be too exciting, resembling to human eyes more of a contest of creeping forests or at most a dogfight between two packs of wild animals than a congress of sentient alien beings.
Encounter between two Type II societies

What about an encounter between two Type II stellar societies, each comprised of beings of equal conscious sentience?

  • First of all, the most likely place for such a contact to occur is in the general vicinity of a star. (Encounters near nebulae, neutron stars and other astronomical oddities are conceivable too.)
  • The depths of space are so vast that even the bustling commercial activity of a mature Type III galactic culture would go unnoticed by a stationary observer nestled deep in the void between the stars.
  • This being the case, two possibilities immediately present themselves: First, that the nearby star is the home (or local colony base) of the contactee race, and second, that it is not.
No way to hide and no place to flee

If the solar system is the home of the ETs, there will be no way for them to hide and no place to flee. The artifacts of advanced technological civilization will be blatantly obvious. Even if it is only an early Type II culture, the contactee society will have enveloped individual planets (if not the entire sun) with swarms of:

  • Orbiting space platforms
  • Powersats
  • Communications outposts
  • Industrial and manufacturing stations
  • Military hardware
  • Artificial habitats
  • Space radar bases
  • Starship launching ports and various drydock facilities
  • Orbital astronomical observatories with large space telescopes
  • And all the other trappings of a burgeoning stellar society
Home society advantage

Countering the contactee’s relative immobility and the contactor’s advantage of surprise, the contactee should enjoy a tremendous advantage in available military power. Even though the two interacting races nominally command the same magnitudes of energy:

  • The visitors cannot bring it all with them.
  • Whereas the home society has all of theirs right at hand.

This should help to reduce the vulnerability of the contactee somewhat.

Sitting ducks

However, in the final analysis it must be granted that solar systems may be sitting ducks unless they are armed to the teeth and constantly maintained on alert status for evidence of hostile intruders.

  • Alien invaders may lie in ambush for years, decades, or even centuries, unseen, patiently monitoring the radio and other emissions of the target system and learning all about them — and calling in reinforcements.
  • Small reconnaissance probes could be fired through the system to collect vast quantities of data without detection.
  • The erstwhile conquerors could choose the time, place, and manner of attack exactly calculated best to destroy the defenders. Even the most careful of military preparations might not prove adequate to fend off such an onslaught.
  • As one writer admits: "In the final analysis, any contacted planet will be at the mercy of its visitors."3257
Two conclusions

From this we may draw two basic conclusions.

  • First, if the contactor arrives at a surprisingly inconvenient time, supported by an armada of escorts and other unknown vessels, the contactee should expect trouble. Unfortunately there is little it can do, and unless it maintains a powerful military force of its own it probably will fall prey to the invaders.
  • Second, if the contactor arrives in a single ship or among a very small group of vessels, chances are excellent that he has not come to fight. Any society capable of crossing interstellar space with a few starships could always find the resources to send more. If attack is the plan, there is no need to send in a few scouts for information that can be obtained more safely, cheaply, and surreptitiously.
Peaceful alternative

Assuming the peaceful alternative — the only one in which any options remain open to the contactees — how should the two parties behave? What can they, what ought they, demand of one another?

  • Reasoning from our basic thermoethical principles, if the interloper has not attacked then he himself should not be attacked by the host race occupying the local star system. Beings of equal negentropy have equal rights.
  • If contactees desire further contact, they should each be prepared to bear half the cost and intellectual burden of interaction. Beings of equal negentropy have equal responsibilities.
  • The contactee should not give the contactor any technical information which it knows may cause sociocultural entropication in the contactor’s society, but if it is accidentally harmed in this manner the host is not liable since the visitor assumes the risk of contact on the presumption that the probable benefits would exceed the dangers.
  • Finally, the author would like to propose a basic rule-of-thumb in all contact situations: Never allow an alien vessel to approach the centers of civilization closer than the Total Conversion Blast Radius. This is defined as the kill or destruction-radius of the explosion which would result if (accidentally or purposefully) the mass of the entire alien vessel instantaneously suffered total conversion into pure photonic energy.3204,3482
Contactor behavior

As for the contactor, he should never enter a system without careful prior surveillance (unless it’s an extreme emergency).

  • The visitor is allowed to risk entropication from such surveillance under the Self-Jeopardization Rule. The contactor should scout out the solar system and learn all it can about the inhabitants before making its presence known to them, both to minimize the possibility of harm to itself and to ensure that the contactee will not be harmed by the act of contact (the Entropic Censorship Rule).
  • Once contact has been established the visitor should treat the host as an equal and respect their right of self-preservation. Beings of equal negentropy each have priority in determining how their own information (e.g., culture) should best be preserved, because preservation (Canon II) takes precedence over creation (Canon III).
  • Applying again the Self-Jeopardization Rule, the contactor should be willing to take the initiative in managing the progress of the encounter (though he should expect the contactee to contribute equally to the exchange) and should be willing to submit to any reasonable nonlethal request by the host which does not violate the Entropic Censorship Rule.
Leinster Contact

Consider now an alternative form of first contact, in which the site of the rendezvous is not the home solar system or colony site of either party. This is the an example of a so-called Leinster Contact, named after the author of a 1945 science-fiction story entitled "First Contact":

We don’t know what they’re like and can’t take a chance. We’re going make contacts and try to find out all we can about them — especially where they came from. I suppose we’ll try to make friends — but we haven’t much chance. We can't trust them the fraction of an inch. We daren't. They’ve locators. Maybe they’ve tracers better than any we have. Maybe they could trace us all the way home without our knowing it. We can’t risk a nonhuman race knowing where Earth is until we’re sure of them.1213

Clever, but unworkable

Murray Leinster’s solution is to have the two races swap ships, each returning home to its own respective solar system to report the news of contact after arranging for a future meeting at the same place on a specific date. The Leinster Solution is clever, but unworkable in a practical sense for the following reasons:

  1. Lack of training of each crew in the written technical language of the other race and on the method of operation of each other's complex starship technology;
  2. Incompatibility of food processing equipment and other life support systems;
  3. Microbiological or indirect ecological damage to the crew or its home culture, unless each ship is fully decontaminated, bow to stern and inside out, prior to the swap;
  4. Destruction of the other party in such a suspicious atmosphere is likely, since each party probably knows how to subtly sabotage their own ship (which the other must take home) so it will self-destruct a short while after encounter is broken off (thus giving the surviving group a short-term technological advantage; and
  5. The parties are automata, they are the ships and thus cannot swap.
Response from thermoethical ideals

Xenologists can analyze each possible behavior and suggest the most ordered response from the standpoint of thermoethical ideals. For instance:

  • If one party flees immediately following the encounter the other party should not pursue.2580 Contact would most likely be too entropic for the frightened race.
  • If one party ignores the overtures of the other, the more active party should increase the bit rate a few times just to make sure the passive ship simply is not bored or impatient.1001
  • If there is still no response, the active party should move on without boarding the unresponsive craft.
  • If there are astronauts on board, clearly they do not wish to make contact; if the ship is fully automated, the boarding party might inadvertently damage its mechanisms.
Ethically justified defensive

If one ship attacks the other, the victim is ethically justified to use whatever defensive force is required to repel the attack. (Acts of retaliation or vindictiveness are not justifiable, as these merely serve to increase the total loss of information in the living universe.)

  • Immediate withdrawal and flight is preferable if possible.
  • If not, and if the victim is winning the battle, he should disengage as soon as the attacker ceases the attack in order to spare the enemy any unnecessary casualties.
  • The victim should then retreat, following a circuitous route home and perhaps changing ships once or twice in uninhabited star systems to foil possible backtracking by the hostiles.
Worst case scenario

If, on the other hand, the victim is losing the battle and destruction seems imminent, several things should be done.

  • First, a small, undetectable automatic marker buoy with a 1-year activation time delay or coded proximity trigger should be released at the approximate velocity of nearby debris, in a random direction. The buoy should contain full details of the encounter encoded using theoretically unbreakable "trapdoor" cryptography or "Rivest coding," and broadcast using "spread-spectrum" communications channels under cover of the Galactic background noise.
  • Second, the victim should not allow knowledge of the location of the home system to fall into enemy hands; navigational charts and records should be prepared for immediate destruction. If the hostiles do find out somehow, radio silence should be broken and a warning message dispatched at the speed of light (faster, if possible) — a signal which, presumably, will arrive well ahead of even the fastest possible alien armada.
  • Third, even if it is possible to get a signal off, the victim vessel is ethically justified in committing suicide and self-destructing.1550,1001,3273
  • This will serve at least three useful purposes:
    • To prevent knowledge of the victim’s technology from falling into the attackers’ hands.
    • To prevent the hostiles from learning details of the victim's physiology (which may help in the design of species-specific weaponry and the exact determination of the location of the home system).
    • To inform the hostiles that the victims value their race more than their own personal existence, and thus may represent a force to be reckoned with on their home grounds.
Assumption of peaceful intentions

Hopefully, though, the encounter will be a peaceful and active one. Lacking evidence to the contrary, the assumption of peaceful intentions should always be made.

  • Messages by radio (television) or some equivalent medium may be used to establish a Lincos-type linguistic basis. Ambiguities can easily and swiftly be resolved simply by projecting a movie film of the appropriate object or behavior onto a huge screen on the side of the contact craft, or by exchanging actual samples and artifacts.
  • If information transferal is continuous, the bit rates in each direction should be adjusted to rough equivalence; if transmission is discrete, as an the case of physical samples or movies, reciprocation is again expected.
  • The rate of interaction should be rapid enough. to ensure progress, but slow enough to allow the analysts of each race to properly assess whether the exchange of further information will be beneficial or entropic to themselves.
  • If either party decides that further interaction will prove harmful, then the conversation may shift to other areas of discourse or may be terminated altogether.
Establish full mutual trust

If full mutual trust can be established, the two ships may trade information on the location of the home system of each, set up preliminary trade agreements, establish common communication modes and media, and so forth, if authorized, to do so by the civilization each represents.

  • If not, or if full trust cannot yet be established, a second meeting should be arranged in the same solar system, at some specified and agreed-upon time.
  • Each party should then withdraw along a random course, following a circuitous path home.
  • The contact ships of each, and any artifacts that have been taken aboard during the contact, should be parked in an uninhabited solar neighborhood far from the home system.
  • A friendly Transfer Vessel should then be dispatched from the home system to pick up the travelers and return them to home; the contact ship and its cargo may be quarantined and examined at leisure, thus foiling any possible attempts at backtracking by the other less-than-totally-trustworthy party to the contact.
Many other variants of 0/0 Contact

Space does not permit a discussion of the many other variants of 0/0 Contact.

  • An exchange between a pair of communal sentients would appear to humans much like two high-speed digital computers transferring gigabits of data as they talked.
  • If two Type III galactic societies came into contact, the agreed upon procedure might be to set up a Contact World on which the various contacting races could meet and exchange information.
  • All situations, however, should be analyzed using the same thermoethical fundamentals as were applied in the cases above.
25.3.2 Gods and Primitives: 11/0 Contact

The 11/0 Contact is a meeting between alien races whose members possess roughly equivalent sentience but one of whose cultures commands 11 orders of magnitude more power than the other.

  • Such encounters may occur between a Type I and a Type II community.
  • Between a Type II and a Type III galactic society.
  • Or between a Type III and a Type IV universal civilization.

Since six sentience differentials are possible, there are 18 distinct scenarios within the classification of 11/0 Contact.

Encounter between Type I and Type II

Probably, the most interesting case from the human point of view is an encounter between two conscious races, one of which is a planetary Type I society (like us) and the other of which is a stellar Type II civilization. This suggests three distinct scenarios, as follows:

  • (1) Contact occurs in the Type II’s home system.
  • (2) Contact occurs in the Type I’s home system.
  • (3) Contact occurs in the home system of neither.
Scenarios 1 & 3 unlikely

The first scenario is extremely unlikely. Type I cultures simply don't have the technological wherewithal to send large numbers of contact craft, manned or unmanned, to other stars search for life.

  • True, they may be tipped off when their astronomers observe a Dyson Sphere around some distant star, or they may just build and launch one or two starprobes and hit it lucky, but these are likely to be relatively rare in the total history of the Milky Way.
  • Similarly, the third scenario is unlikely because the few probes sent out by a planetary civilization are unlikely fortuitously to be visiting the same stars at the same time that a Type II society's contact ship is in the vicinity. (Of course, should either situation occur the usual thermoethical principles will still apply.)
Second scenario: gods & savages

This leaves the second scenario, in which representatives of a Type II culture cross the interstellar void to make contact with a planetbound Type I society (most likely on or near the Type I's home planet).

  • It will be as if New York harbor suddenly rose up out of the sea to surprise a lone native paddling his canoe.
  • To the native, the contactors would be as "gods"; to the visitors, the planetary inhabitants may be regarded as "savages" or "primitives."

How should the advanced race best handle the problem of first contact? According to aerospace writer Philip J. Klass:

If ETs exist and ever visit our Earth, certainly their civilization and technology will be considerably more advanced than our own. If and when they come, I am sure they will have a well-thought-out strategy. If that strategy is to observe us secretly, they can do so using photoreconnaissance satellites, much as we and the Russians monitor each other's military facilities without the man in the street ever being aware of these spies a hundred miles overhead. If, on the other hand, their strategy at some point is to make their presence known to us, I am confident that they will do so with the grace and elegance born of a very advanced society.2725

Well-thought-out strategy

What sort of "well-thought-out strategy" might they have in mind?

  • Provided the ETs subscribe to basic theroethical principles, presumably they will do their utmost to avoid causing harm to the primitives.
  • These "gods" will not proceed with contact unless and until they are certain (to the best of their knowledge) that the local natives will not begin to kill each other, or destroy their culture, or begin to worship the contactors as personal saviors.
  • After all, the whole purpose of contact is to increase the total information of the living universe, not to cause it to evaporate or to encourage the contactees to adopt a paradigm that will hinder the further acquisition of knowledge by them. This is in keeping with the three Canons of thermoethical contact as described earlier.
Seven Phases to Contact

There are many ways to effectuate such a policy in the 11/0 Contact situation. One possible procedure, which has been called the "Seven Phases to Contact,"1347 might be as reported by ufologist Frank Edwards3414 as being described during a joint Army-Navy briefing on the subject of UFOs, delivered in Washington D.C. during the summer of 1950:

Phase One would be the approach. This would take place before we knew whether the planet was inhabited. It would consist of a cautious and careful surveillance from a distance considered safe. If the planet had any satellites which we could use, we would carefully investigate them as possible sites for close-in bases from which to study the planet for the likelihood of intelligent life.

Phase Two would conceivably consist of close-range surveillance of the planet by instrumented probes. These probes would take photographs, gather samples of the atmosphere, and locate the nature and extent of the centers of civilization, if any.

Phase Three: If the results obtained by the instrumented probes seemed to warrant further investigation, that type of craft would be phased out and replaced by faster and more maneuverable manned craft. The purpose of this change would be to check the performance characteristics of vehicles belonging to the planetary inhabitants — to test their speed, types of propulsion, and maneuverability as compared to our own.

Phase Four: The really risky phase of the trip is this phase — where manned craft make near approaches to determine whether the alien beings are hostile and, if so, to what extent and by what means. Also to check radar locations and locations of military centers, if any.

Phase Five: Brief touchdowns in isolated areas to secure specimens of plants, animals, and (if possible) specimens of the intelligent beings themselves.

Phase Six: If we have been successful in acquiring the information we needed by the preceding steps, we must now decide on the basis of that knowledge whether to abandon the project as too risky or otherwise undesirable — or whether to put into effect the sixth phase of the program. If we decide that the evidence seems to warrant some kind of eventual contact, direct or indirect, then phase six would consist of landings and low-level approaches where our craft and their operators could be seen — but not reached. These approaches would be made where they could be witnessed by the greatest possible number of inhabitants. If carried out successfully, this phase would demonstrate our existence and our non-hostile nature.

Phase Seven: Referred to by our briefing officers as the "Overt Contact" phase. This would be the deliberate, carefully planned and executed final step in the program. Contact would not be attempted unless we had excellent reason to believe that it would not be disastrous to either of the races involved. There are some good reasons why it might never come to pass — even though results of the first six phases might have indicated that it could be physically possible.3414

The snatch

The above requires a technique popularly known among xenologists as "the snatch," or picking up members of the local intelligent population and subjecting them (without their consent) to a battery of physical and psychophysiological tests, There has been much discussion of this method, both in the scientific1001 and science fiction2729 literature, as for instance:

I and some others went down on ethnic survey in the Island region. I suppose you’ve heard something. about the techniques. Kidnap a native, use accelerine and hypnosis to get the language and the basic cultural information from him in a hurry, then dispose of him and go out yourself. Claim to be a foreigner from some other country. It works pretty well with societies that know there are other nations "beyond the horizon" but don't know exactly what they’re like.2884

Ethics of the snatch

There is no serious ethical objection to the technique of "snatch," so long as the native is not harmed, his original memory is not destroyed or reduced in any way, and he is returned to where he was picked up without any knowledge of the incident and without any disruption to the culture of which he is a part.1775,3199

  • However, it should rarely be necessary to resort to "snatch" in actual field operations — for instance, recently buried bodies may be exhumed, covertly examined, and then replaced if the contactors require physiological details on the sentient primitives.
  • If the society under observation has no radio technology, however, "snatches" may become essential in the determination of psychological and sociological parameters pertinent to the continuation of first contact.*
Pre-contact survey

Thermoethics requires that the pre-contact survey should be accomplished as unobtrusively as possible.3396 Stephen Dole of the RAND Corporation recognized this simple truth more than fifteen years ago; in his now-classic work Habitable Planets for Man, he notes:

Any indication that a planet is already inhabited by intelligent creatures would signal the need for proceeding with the utmost caution. In fact, before a manned landing is made on any likely looking planet, it would be desirable to study the planet thoroughly from a distant orbit about it for a protracted period of time, to send sampling probes into its atmosphere, and to send surveillance instruments down to the surface. Contacts with alien intelligence should be made most circumspectly, not only for the protection of mankind or as insurance against unknown factors, but also to avoid any disruptive effects on the local population produced by encountering a vastly different cultural system. After prolonged study of the situation, it would have to be decided whether to make overt contact or to depart without giving the inhabitants any evidence of the visitation.214

Preliminary cultural study

In similar thermoethical vein, Shirley Ann Varughese writes:

It is unlikely that any intelligent culture would intrude on another culture without first making a preliminary study to determine if there were any potential physical or attitudinal threats. These cultural studies would be needed to cope with the rudiments of social interaction.

It is safe to assume that the first steps to contact would be listening for radio or TV signals, such as we have done with project Ozma. If any signals were detected, they would be followed up first with probes (electronic snoopers), to see if further study is warranted. After that, research teams would be sent to the prospective contact planet. The close range studies would be made from the outer atmosphere, with occasional trips to the planet's surface.

The researchers would try to determine if there had been previous extraplanetary contact, how it had been made, and the effects it had had on the alien society. Perhaps after a careful study, the researchers would find the prospective contactees completely opposed to extra-world contacts of any kind; or they might judge the society too unstable for contact, or a definite threat to our society and would withdraw without making contact. If they found the culture safe and ready for contact, the researchers would try to find a compatible means of communication and the best agency to contact.3415

Covert infiltration

A Type II stellar society may also "contact" a technically inferior Type I planetary culture by using what could be called "covert infiltration."3199 According to William O. Davis:

I would say that the most probable case of communication with extraterrestrial beings is an encounter with a race more advanced than we; therefore, the problem would be primarily psychological on our part. We would undoubtedly be deeply upset by this state of affairs. Thus these beings, if they are really advanced and subtle, would know this and would approach us in such a way as not to frighten us. If I were on their staff, I think I would use my advanced knowledge to learn the languages of the human race through one means or another, imitate human structure and appearance, and send representatives down to mingle with the earth’s people. Gradually I would begin to understand the earth's culture and develop means of communication to a point at which at a later time communication could be established in the proper verbal manner after the human race had been thoroughly relaxed. Thus, it is entirely possible and maybe even probable that extraterrestrial races are already amongst us!171

Ethics of on-site investigations

Such on-site investigations are ethical because they do not disrupt the culture under observation. The risk to the field investigator is justified under the Self-Jeopardization Rule.

Selection and Description of Informants

Anthropologists have amassed a great wealth of knowledge on useful procedures for contacting "alien" societies right here on Earth. (See discussion of "culture contact" in Chapter 26.) Xenologists interested in the methodology of first contact would do well to survey the existing anthropological literature for the countless writings on this subject. Just one example of useful material is found in the Ethnocentrism Field Manual for field workers and researchers which, in part, explains how to go about collecting sociocultural information in unknown human societies. For instance, on page 253 of the Manual we have "Selection and Description of Informants," which goes like this:

In selecting informants, the ethnographer should use the following desiderata as a guide:

  1. Expertness on the Traditional Culture. The informants are not to be selected per se as a representative cross section of the population but, instead, as experts on the traditional culture. Thus if there are official or semiofficial trained custodians of the oral history, they may be ideal.
  2. Articulateness, Willingness, and Perspective. Not all persons who fully participated in a culture can report on it fluently. Articulateness and willingness obviously are required. Interest in the content of history, in the contrast of cultures and in culture change, may all be requisite to a willingness to talk in detail, to search old memories, and the like. We cannot blanketly rule out the use of marginal persons as informants, although the source of bias and limitation that may accompany this should be noted. (In interview Section III.H we suggest a deliberate supplementary use of interethnic migrants.)
  3. Age. Insofar as articulateness and willingness are not jeopardized, the older the informant, the better for our purposes. Every informant should have reached adulthood. …
  4. Role and Status in the Community. First priority should be given to old persons who once occupied central political positions in the community. Persons who currently are politically active may be suspected of distorting past beliefs and actions as to better justify current political stands and alliances Although past political responsibles have top priority, if useful informants are sufficiently available, four replications should be spread over social roles and statuses. Thus traditional followers and soldiers, as well as leaders, should be used. If religious, military, peacetime, and judicial leaders were differentiated, some use of all types would seem desirable. Notice that although we aim at four or more complete replications of the interview content, these may be spread over 10 or 20 informants, as it is not expected that one informant will go through all interview content.
  5. Sex. Males should be used exclusively for all sections except Section M, for which there should be two female and two male informants. …

The ethnographer is likely to find that it is easier to use numerous informants, breaking the interview up into parts, rather than getting all of the material from only four or five. The main advantages are the reduction of informant fatigue and the elimination of the insult of asking for information the informant feels he has already given.1882

Colonization ethics

Finally, we should briefly mention the astropolitical issue of interstellar imperialism or "colonization ethics."
Much has been written in favor of colonialism in the xenopolitical literature and elsewhere.2884 One political scientist, who spent five years in the service of the old colonial government of Indonesia, wrote that:

Despite some abuse and exploitation, colonies served a purpose and had a place in the history of world progress. The colonizing powers can look back with a certain amount of pride on their efforts to make productive those parts of the world in which they held colonies.737

American West repeat

Xenologist John W. Macvey, in his book Journey to Alpha Centauri, proposes a scenario involving Type II human colonists swooping down on a terrestrial world circling our closest stellar neighbor and wresting ownership from the hands of the more primitive autochthones:

What would probably be essential during very early days on the new world would be a form of military government with built-in safeguards for the individual. Were it to prove a world of primitive warlike tribes intent on savagely destroying the immigrants this would be especially desirable. In these circumstances much of the early history of the great American West would in a unique way be repeated. Surely this would make it seem as if the needle running along the disk of the space-time continuum had strangely jumped. Lonely forts and settlements amid a great wilderness, bands of marauding savages and the occasional (or not so occasional) tragedy of a massacre — surely this is a road along which some of our ancestors have already passed. Perhaps the analogy is not complete. This civilization, despite a serious lack of numbers, would still have at its fingertips at least something of the technological skill and knowledge which had sent it to the stars. This could hardly be but an advantage.732

Potential Interaction with Advanced Forms of Non-Earth Life

The most detailed and technically sophisticated discussion of "astrocolonialism" which has appeared in the xenopolitical literature to date may be found in the last chapter of Law and Public Order in Space, entitled "Potential Interaction with Advanced Forms of Non-Earth Life," written by three prominent space lawyers in 1963.252 In the section on contact with cultures of inferior science and technology; applicable when representatives from Earth travel to other star systems and meet the less-advanced primitives there, the authors propose a series of Earth policies based on the terrestrial historical experience. These policies include:

  • (1) Minimum security and the sphere-of-influence device.
  • (2) Eventual partnership and the trusteeship device.
  • (3) Direct intergovernmental administration.
  • (4) The policy of minimum interference.
  • (5) The technique of devolving authority and control.

The attitude of the three legalists is aptly summarized by the following passage from their text:

Assume that when an astronautical Columbus arrives at his destination he finds advanced forms of life which are quite obviously inferior in the science and technology of warfare and production, though possessed of excellent brain capacity. What policies are appropriate to the overriding goal of human dignity, interpreted to include consideration on for the dignity of all advanced forms of life? In a divided world arena it is obviously necessary to give primary attention, not to the long run interests of new communities, but to the significance of the newly discovered state of affairs for minimum requirements of world security. At the same time it would fatally compromise the fundamental aim to make unnecessary sacrifices of other policies, such as the protection of the interests of the weaker society while it is being prepared for full membership in the astropolitical community.252

Violates the Principal Thermoethic

What does thermoethics have to say on the subject of interstellar colonization?** It seems that the usual scenario in which the Type II "gods" take over a world and attempt to "bear the torchlight of civilization" to the natives is unethical in the traditional application because it violates the Principal Thermoethic.1540

  • An advanced race which imposes its own form of government and colonial administration upon a species of conscious but less technically advanced beings is using valuable energy to copy old data (its own), rather than to create new data.
  • Since energy is expended and no new data are generated, the net consequence is a loss of order (or ability to create order) in the living universe.3389
Information exchanged, not imposed

Note that this is distinctly different from the contact scenario in which
information is exchanged rather than imposed.

  • Each sentient species develops a paradigm which it uses to interpret its environment, collect and analyze data, and to calculate the parameters of survival.
  • Each such paradigm is unique in all the universe, and this constitutes new information in favor of the living universe which Canon II demands to be preserved. (Or, to paraphrase Kierkegaard: "Every race is an exception.")
  • When two cultures meet and information is exchanged, the data are filtered through two unique paradigms which process them and create new data, thus augmenting universal negentropy.
  • When two cultures meet and one imposes its data on the other, one paradigm may be lost — while the other is simply copied intact. This is entropic, unethical, and should be avoided.
No need to resort to theft

Note also that in most 11/0 Contacts the contactor will be a Type II society or higher. Since even early Type II cultures have sufficient energy to engage in planetary terraforming operations and artificial habitat construction,2362 advanced colonists have few ethical excuses for encroachment or seizing control of a planet from conscious entities already inhabiting it.81

  • Advanced beings can build worlds of their own; there is no need to resort to theft.2165,2163
  • However, there is no thermoethical objection to peaceful coexistence without imposition — the sharing of a planet by two races — so long as entropic harm is avoided and the more primitive culture is preserved or improved.

To take leave of Earth

* If the aliens give us a choice, there'll be no shortage of volunteers. When a London tabloid in 1951 flashed "British Stellar Passport" (issued by a member of the British Interplanetary Society to his friends as a joke) across its front page, hundreds of people submitted applications thus to take leave of Earth.3605

Refugees from Hydri

** Krafft Ehricke has pointed out that b Hydri is a nearby class G1 subgiant star which has just "recently" left the Main Sequence and will become a full-fledged Red Giant in perhaps 10-20 million years and that our own sun Sol should be an attractive refuge for any Hydrian colonists who may be fleeing the catastrophe.1154

25.3.3 Trees and Humans: The 0/10 Contact

The 0/10 Contact is an encounter between alien races having equal levels of energy consumption but whose members differ in Sentience Quotient by a factor of 10. (That is, the individuals of one species processes information ten orders of magnitude more efficiently than the other.)

  • Such meetings may occur between pairs of Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type IV civilizations.
  • On the sentience scale, contact may be achieved between reactivity creatures and beings which are conscious, or between conscious ETs and communal entities, and so forth.*
  • All told, there are 20 distinct contact scenarios within the 0/10 Contact classification.
Indistinguishable against the universal standard

How can we understand the implications of a contact between races differing in sentience by ten orders of magnitude?

  • Most of the animal life on Earth has an SQ ranging from 7-14 (with humans near the top), and so are virtually indistinguishable when measured against the comprehensive universal standard.
  • To a galactic or universal sentient, all Earthly animal life would appear roughly equivalent in mental potential.
  • Brains built from neurons, in other words, carry the potential for conscious awareness.
0/10 Contact analogy

A good analogy for an encounter between beings having a Sentience Quotient differential of 10 may be gained by comparing a meeting between a member of the plant kingdom and a member of the animal kingdom on Earth.** For instance:

  • One example of a 0/10 Contact might involve an encounter between a human (a conscious entity) and a tree (a reactive entity).
  • Both use about 102 watts to power their internal processes, but a man can process data at least ten orders of magnitude faster than the tree because of his complex nervous system.
  • These two beings represent qualitatively vastly different orders of sentience. One can read a book each month; the other is hypothesized to "read" one "word" each 8000 years (at the conscious level).
Corollary of Negentropy Equality
The more negentropic an entity,
the greater are its rights and
the deeper are its responsibilities.
Ethical duties of the higher sentient

What are the ethical duties of the being with the higher sentient emergent in such a contact scenario? We must refer to the Corollary of Negentropy Equality, which part: "The more negentropic an entity, the greater are its rights and the deeper are its responsibilities."

  • Conscious beings with SQ = 10 (e.g., humans) belong to a qualitatively higher negentropic order than mere reactivity creatures of SQ = 0 (e.g., trees).
  • Hence, thermoethics grants a limited right of exploitation to the higher-order being in the encounter, because this entity has access to a qualitatively superior process of data analysis and thus is presumed best qualified to decide how universal negentropy may be maximized by the contact.
Exploitation in the mission of ordered life

However, with greater rights come deeper responsibilities as well. The right of exploitation of creatures possessing lesser sentient emergents than one’s self is not absolute.

  • The superior minds (e.g., humans) in each case must assume the role of trustee, carefully preserving the lesser race’s negentropy except to the extent that its exploitation will enable the superior race to increase total order in the living universe.
  • The duty of the inferior race (e.g., a forest of trees) in such a case is to voluntarily submit to the exploitation deemed necessary by the higher race, because this serves to further the mission of ordered life in the cosmos.
Sentient emergent is the critical test

Note that sentient emergent, not Sentience Quotient, is the critical test in each circumstance. A certain SQ is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of its associated sentient emergent.

  • Ten million years ago on Earth, before human consciousness had emerged, creatures existed with SQs around 10 but having only neural reactivity.
  • Conscious ETs arriving at that time would have been ethically justified in converting our planet to their own use, subject to the aforestated restrictions.
  • But once human consciousness emerged, that justification evaporated.
  • Today it is humanity which must exploit the resources and bear the responsibilities of trusteeship over the total neural reactive biological community on Earth.

* Note that encounters may occur between a high technology, low sentience race and a species having a higher sentience but a lesser technology.3490

** The level of reactivity is emergent in the plant kingdom, as for example in the Venus Flytrap (SQ ~ 1) and other carnivorous plants3434 and in the "plant behavior" reactivity exhibited by aroid vines in tropical rain forests.3416

25.3.4 Higher-Order Contacts

plotinus 296

Twenty-one distinct classes of first contact remain to be discussed, but, sadly, we have neither the space nor the imagination to do so here. It is virtually impossible for a human being to properly visualize the incredible mental power of creatures able to process information 20 orders of magnitude faster than ourselves.

  • The problem of understanding is crudely analogous to the difficulties involved in comprehending 4-dimensional and higher-dimensional geometry. By taking a simple mathematical projection into three dimensions (the physical space to which we are accustomed) of a 4-D solid such as a hypercube or a hypersphere, we can gain a very tenuous grip on the reality of the object in question.

There may, of course, be entities who collect
solar systems as a child may collect stamps.

If this happened to us, we might never be
aware of it; What do the inhabitants
of a beehive know of their keeper?

  • But 5-D objects are vastly more difficult, 6-D objects inconceivable.
  • Similarly, we can get some idea of what a ΔP/10 meeting might be like by visualizing a man and a tree, but a ΔP/20 encounter appears incomprehensible and a ΔP/30 Contact hopelessly intractable.
  • Perhaps all higher contacts are too entropical for the lesser race and hence are ruled out as unethical.
11/10 Contact

What about out an 11/10 Contact? Such an event lies barely within the human ken. It involves an encounter between races whose members are one step higher than the others in sentient awareness, and whose societies differ in power utilization by a factor of 1011. What would this kind of meeting be like?

Duncan Lunan suggests that beings this far in advance of humanity "are likely to regard us as intelligent animals":

Not too bad a situation, perhaps, if we are regarded with affection — hopefully, encouraged to learn — though it might be rough on individual humans snatched for the aliens' purposes....A danger which increases with the differential in intelligence is that they’ll be sufficiently unlike us to see our cities only as convenient gatherings of protein, the way we see schools of whales and used to view herds of buffalo.1001

Ant scratchings

A more accurately scaled analogy might be an encounter between an anthill and the whole of United States society, or between a single man and a single ant. Movie producer Stanley Kubrick once remarked:

Why should a vastly superior race bother to harm or destroy us? If an intelligent ant suddenly traced a message in the sand at my feet reading "I am sentient; let’s talk things over," I doubt very much that I would rush to grind him under my heel.1558

Who notices the friendly ant

It is doubtful, however, that an ant could ever learn to write English in the sand. More appropriate for this analogy would be if Kubrick’s ant commenced to bite him periodically in the leg, chomping a series such as 3 bites, 1 bite, 4 bites, 1 bite, 5 bites, and so forth to render the first ten digits of pi. While this could suffice to demonstrate the creature’s mathematical expertise, the superior Kubrick being might just swat the damn thing away without giving the matter a moment’s thought. After all, asks John Macvey, "when applying pesticide who notices the single ‘friendly’ ant?"2724

Philip Morrison in one of his many lectures questioned whether a civilization advanced both in power and sentience would maliciously stamp out other sentient lifeforms. Morrison has been quoted as saying:

If [I] were looking through a microscope and saw a group of bacteria spell out, like a college band, "Please do not put iodine on this plate. We want to talk to you," [my] first inclination would certainly not be to rush the bacteria into a sterilizer.702

Cognizance of lower levels

Again, however, bacteria-level sentients (or humans under the microscope of the communal sentients) probably could not learn to speak English. Their efforts at communication might be regarded as little more than an infection, easily dispatched by the application of antibiotics. There is a chance that communals might recognize and respect conscious beings, since higher-order sentients should be cognizant of all lower levels, but there is no guarantee that we will be able to yell loudly enough for them to notice us. And our own treatment of mere neural sentients makes the author skeptical that communals would treat "mere conscious" being any better.

Then again, they might just ignore us altogether. According to Arthur C. Clarke:

There may, of course, be entities who collect solar systems as a child may collect stamps. If this happened to us, we might never be aware of it; What do the inhabitants of a beehive know of their keeper? … That may be an analogy worth pursuing. Men do not interfere with bees — or wasps — unless they have good reasons. As far as possible, they prefer to leave them alone.81

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