I can't say that I've thought long and hard about this question before. This seems somewhat strange to me, since it is a question I would be naturally inclined to think about anyway, both as a giddy supporter of expanding human exploration of space and as a science fiction writer. That's the way things go, I guess.
In any case, I'd like to take the opportunity here to explore, however briefly, how the proven existence of aliens would affect me. And then I'd like to know how you would respond to the same question! Leave a comment.
Aliens! They're Alive!
Those that know me well enough (or pay attention to my online existence) will also know a few things about me which are relevant to this discussion:
- I am an Atheist
- I believe in the existence of aliens
- I believe it is more than simply "a cool thing to do" to focus more of our attention on space exploration and its related technologies. In fact, I think it is a moral/ethical imperative.
I bring these up because I think the question of alien existence is also attached to the foundations (or security) of religious faith (broadly defined) and pre-held notions of life in the universe. I'm not sure why that is, though. There are plenty of Christians and peoples of other faiths who also accept that aliens may very well exist, and there are certainly atheists who do not. The crisis of faith, for me, is universal. If you don't believe in the existence of aliens, you're likely going to have a few issues when they turn out to be real (with some exceptions, of course).
As for myself, because I believe in the existence of aliens -- the probability that they do not exist is astronomically low, given the size of the universe -- the proof of their existence would not challenge my faith. Rather, I think the changes will be largely cultural for me. I'll have to rethink how our society is structured. What new ethical frames will we have to create to work with these new beings? What political or cultural changes will have to occur? For me, my biggest concern is ethics. These new beings will have their own ethical frame. They may not believe the same things humans do or they might come to their conclusions through a different kind of logical argument. I want to know how these beings think so I can understand how we have to change in the wake of their arrival. Don't ask me to speculate what those changes might look like...Just know that while society will bicker and argue over what changes need to be made, I'll be making concessions left and right. Such is life...
There's also the sheer excitement of it all. Imagine! Aliens! They exist. They're out there doing whatever it is aliens do, and we've met them or discovered their messages or whatever. Think of how incredible a discovery that would be! Would it blow the Presidential elections out of the water? I sure hope so. We'd finally have news stations covering...news, and our society would suddenly have to think about something we've relegated to literature and film. Our scientists would be running about trying to fill in the gaps while everyday people would ask themselves, "What do we do now?" Talk about history! A moment of utter brilliance! That, in my mind, would be incredible!
Ultimately, the discovery of aliens would produce (mostly) positive effects. There would be no crisis for me, unless by "crisis" you mean "pictures of Shaun doing the giddy dance all over the place." I know a few people who wouldn't feel the way I would, though. They'd find their beliefs challenged, their worldview shattered, and their faith in disarray. I suppose I'm fortunate not to harbor such restrictions...
Now it's your turn. How would the existence of aliens effect you?
P.S.: I take as given that aliens who visit us will be "friendly" (in a loose sense). Aliens we do not meet could be anything...