Excerpts From The Brookings Institution Report

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2005-12-29 15:16:42

From:   www.daviddarling.inf…   A NASA-sponsored study carried out, in the late 1950s, by the Brookings Institution to identify long-range goals of the United States space program and their impact on American society. The resulting report, submitted to NASA in 1960 only a few months after the end of Project Ozma, included a discussion of the implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life and intelligence.1 The authors pointed out that the reactions of both individuals and governments would probably depend on their social, cultural, and religious backgrounds, as well as on the nature of the discovery. The finding of low forms of life, or “subhuman intelligence,” it was thought, might quickly be assimilated. However, more profound effects might follow from the discovery of intelligence that was superior to our own (see extraterrestrial intelligence, more advanced than us. Such studies, the report recommended, should take account of public reactions to past hoaxes and events such as the 1938 War of the Worlds radio play. They should also consider how best to inform the public of contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, or whether such knowledge should be withheld. International relations, the report concluded, might be permanently altered because of “a greater unity of men on earth, based on the ‘oneness’ of man or on the age-old assumption that any stranger is threatening.” The main report can be found on a link at the top of this page:   www.humanunderground…   Excerpts below:   Page 30:     “4. Though intelligent or semi-intelligent life conceivably exists elsewhere in the solar system, if intelligent extraterrestrial life is discovered (sic) in the next 20 years, it will very probably be by radio telescope from other solar systems. Evidence of its existence might also be found in artefacts left on the moon or other planets. The consequences for attitudes and values are unpredictable, but would vary profoundly in different cultures and between groups within complex societies; a crucial factor would be the nature of the communication between us and the other beings. Whether or not earth would be inspired to an all-out space effort by such a discovery is moot: societies sure of their own place in the universe have disintegrated when confronted by a superior society, and others have survived even though changed. Clearly, the better we can come to understand the factors involved in responding to such crises the better prepared we may be.”   Page 215-216   The Implications of a Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life   Recent publicity given to efforts to detect extraterrestrial messages via radio telescope has popularized — and legitimized — speculations about the impact of such a discovery on human values. 33 It is conceivable that there is semi-intelligent life in some part of our solar system or highly intelligent life which is not technologically oriented, and many cosmologists and astronomers think it very likely that there is intelligent life in many other solar systems. While face-to-face meetings with it may not occur within the next 20 years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit Earth), artefacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus. If there is any contact to be made during the next 20 years it would most likely be by radio — which would indicate that these beings had at least equalled our own technological level.   An individual’s reactions to such a radio contact would in part depend on his cultural, religious, and social background, as well as the actions of those he considered authorities and leaders, and their behaviour, in turn would in part depend on their cultural, social, and religious environment. 34 The discovery would certainly be front-page news everywhere; the degree of political or social repercussion would probably depend on leadership’s interpretation of (1) its own role, (2) threats to that role, and (3) national and personal opportunities to take advantage of the disruption or reinforcement of the attitudes and values of others. Since leadership itself might have great need to gage the direction and intensity of public attitudes, to strengthen its own morale and for decision making purposes, it would be most advantageous to have more to go on than personal opinions about the opinions of the public and other leadership groups.    The knowledge that life existed in other parts of the universe might lead to a greater unity of men on Earth, based on the ‘oneness’ of man or the age-old assumption that any stranger is threatening. Much would depend on what, if anything, was communicated between man and the other beings: since after discovery there will be several years of silence (because even the closest stars are several light-years away, an exchange of radio communication would take twice the number of light-years separating our Sun from theirs), the fact that such beings existed might become simply one of the facts of life, but probably not one calling for action. 35 Whether earthmen would be inspired to all-out space efforts by such a discovery is a moot question. Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different life ways; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of change in values and attitudes and behaviours.   Since intelligent life might be discovered at any time via the radio telescope research presently underway, and since the consequences of such a discovery are presently unpredictable because of our limited knowledge of behaviour under even an approximation of such dramatic circumstances, two research areas can be recommended —   Continuing studies to determine emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes — and successive alterations of them if any — regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.   36 Historical and empirical studies of the behaviour of peoples and their leaders when confronted with dramatic and unfamiliar events or social pressures.   37 Such studies might help to provide programs for meeting and adjusting to the implications of such a discovery. Questions one might wish to answer by such studies would include: How might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public for what ends?  What might be the role of the discovering scientists and other decision makers regarding release of the fact of discovery?  

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