Astra Singh


This conversation is closed.

Space 2050: Are we prepared for meeting 'Alien' life?

We have been stargazing forever but the first planets outside our solar system weren’t actually found too long ago. Technology is speeding up. Movies about encountering ET life forms are abundant. We already have tourist flights to the moon. But are we prepared for meeting alien life?
Thinking ahead just a random year: 2050. How far do you think we will have travelled in the universe? What do you think we might encounter? Are we (meaning ‘The World’ and not just powerful countries with space programs) prepared for what we find?

To start things off: I believe by that time we will have identified inhabitable planets elsewhere and that there may well be ‘lower’ life forms than Earth. That we may well be exhibiting the ‘Aggressive Alien’ behavior we ourselves have been so afraid of.
I hope that we will have policies in place (regarding ownership, exploitation, travel etc.) as well as ‘If..Then’ scenarios for when we do encounter life elsewhere.

Closing Statement from Astra Singh

This was my first Conversation post and it has been a pleasant experience. There were many insightful responses that helped further my knowledge on the topic and also presented food for thought.

Are we prepared for meeting alien life? Some comments:
-We are not prepared at all and even issues regarding property rights within our own Galaxy, be it the moon or Mars, are not even talked about yet;
-Interesting scenarios on either us meeting alien life elsewhere or alien life meeting us here;
-Suggestion that Sci-Fi writers may actually be the ones to know possible scenarios;
-A noticeable shift from strictly horror type alien movies to more ‘feel-good’ alien-human stories at present, possibly in a way of preparing a mind-shift for the world community;
-Need to focus on people getting along on Earth first or search for possibilities within our own Galaxy before looking elsewhere;
-The lack of further financing of space related programs will seriously hamper developments in this field; -Some suggestions on what policies should contain as well as suggestions on preparedness in showing intentions of peace and at the same time being ready to defend ourselves if necessary.
I feel that countries should have something like a white paper on preparedness, and that the topic should be on the global agenda.

Many expressed doubts about travelling further beyond our Galaxy because of the distance and the time it would take to travel back and forth. With regard to this last issue I was excited to recently read about an experiment at CERN regarding the ‘neutrino’ a subatomic particle, said to be going faster than light. If this is true it would certainly upset Einstein’s relativity theory E=MC2. And then who knows what’s next?

Thank you Joe, Mathieu, Nicholas, Tom, Kent, Kristofer, Tim, Erwan, Erol, Chris, Mohamed, Cheyenne, Farrukh, Callum, Daniel, Benny, Stephen, Cole, Colleen, Max, Luis for taking the time to respond to this Conversation and enlightening me with your wisdom.

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    Aug 23 2011: Dear Astra,

    This is a fair question. However, like one of the participants said, you do have to realize that distances are just too enormous to possibly have "direct" contact in our lifetime, and probably ever, unless a paradigme shifting technology can be developed for space travel. This is indeed a very sad fact.
    By 2050, we won't have traveled much further than today, in fact we'll probably just have stepped on Mars a couple of times, and have gone back to the Moon, or might have a permanent base on it, which is what the Chinese are planning to do by 2020.
    You are right though in saying that we will have identified inhabitable planets by then, but that doesn't mean that they are indeed. While we are getting closer to finding Earth-like planets, and we should be able to say that they have the conditions to harbor life as we know it within the next 10 years (and that's why we need the James Webb telescope and should support it!), we won't be able to say definitely whether there is indeed life on them or not, we''ll just have a list of "very likely candidates". Which in itself is already a great achievement.
    However, we may also have a passive contact, receiving emissions from a civilization, which is what SETI has been trying to do, but the chances are very slim.

    We can also ( and personally think we should) look closer, in our own Solar System, and as Carolyn Porco says in one of her TEDTalks, may find life on one of Saturn's moons, why not on Titan? or perhaps on Europa around Jupiter? We should look harder and send probes to these places to search for basic elements or traces of life, proving that within one system two independent life forms can emerge would be tremendous, and enough to prove it must happen regularly around the Universe.

    To conclude, I also believe we are not ready to face an advanced civilization, nor should we rush it, the speed at which things are moving now is a good one (I believe).
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      Aug 23 2011: Dear Mathieu,

      Thank you for your comment.
      When I started reading and came across ‘By 2050, we won't have traveled much further than today’ it certainly brought out the rebel in me (in a good way :) and was wondering if this were true, we might as well not continue the space program now, right? I was also inclined to challenge you to ‘meet up’ again when the next milestone is achieved. Just to remind you of your comment :)

      Luckily, reading on, I saw your optimism. Thank you for the reference to Carolyn Porco’s great talk. I will also add that in the ‘Related Talks’. Makes me wonder about the follow up on that research, since it was about 4 years ago. Imagine that! Viewing the viable moons Titan and Enceladus by, possibly, Virgin Airlines :) It does provide us with interesting opportunities.

      When you say ‘To conclude, I also believe we are not ready to face an advanced civilization, nor should we rush it, the speed at which things are moving now is a good one (I believe).’ does that mean that governments shouldn’t pay too much attention to making policies or thinking up ‘If/Then’ scenarios yet?
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        Aug 31 2011: just on your point about continuing the space program- its quite obvious from the last space race that we would end up fighting over the territory in our solar system- it would raise questions like "should mars be recognised as an independent nation, and therefore if anyone was ever born on mars would be martian and not terran?" and others like "is the moon technically americas because they got their first or have the rules changed since the 50s?" would fight over the natural resources of places like titan and its hydrocarbon lakes. do you think it would be a good idea to harvest resources of other planets just for ours? the last question is for you btw :)
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          Aug 31 2011: Dear Tom,

          Thank you for your thoughts and replies on the subject.
          With regard to your question ‘do you think it would be a good idea to harvest resources of other planets just for ours?’ IMHO I feel we have all we need to peacefully exist with each other on this planet. However, the balance has become very lopsided because many of us believe we don’t have enough of whatever (fill in any desire). So as to harvesting resources….I believe we already have everything we need and do not require harvesting on other planets. Especially when it would involve resources belonging to others.
          And I agree with you that the territory battles will pose a problem along with the exploitation rights. So therefore I hope that governments will share their thoughts in public debate over this issue.
          As for the nationality question…I am all for having one main nationality at a time (so where you live at a given time could be your main nationality) and….(very important) a world-traveler’s passport :)
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    Aug 22 2011: I think we aren't ready. The idea of there being complex life forms beyond Earth is something most people haven't thought about enough. The meeting would be too shocking and I believe that'll lead to panic among citizens. Unless the discovery would be a secret between special government branches, society wouldn't be in stable condition.
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      Aug 23 2011: Hi Kent,
      I like your feedback on the subject. Maybe mostly because I am amazed that at your age you are part of this TED forum and are voicing your thoughts. Keep it up :) And you still see lots of government secrecy with regard to alien life going on in 2050 right?
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    Sep 4 2011: Dear Astra,

    I believe higher speed is almost certainly not the answer, especially when we would be forced to pick an arbitrary direction in which to travel. And even if we do manage to perfect local interstellar drives to a point where we could reach Proxima Centauri in as little as 6 to 10 years, relativistic effects would make it a one way trip for the explorers.

    Currently, the fastest human-made object - the Helios probe - travelling at 250,000 km/h, would take about 144 million years to reach the centre of the Milky Way. So, quite a wait! Ion and photon drive systems could knock some time off the figure, but they would take some years to get up to speed and are quite power hungry.

    I would much rather back your second research option. At this point, the ability to punch a hole through space-time is still 100% theoretical. We are nowhere near even harnessing the energies required to accomplish this.

    But consider this thought experiment: Fast forward a thousand years. Cold fusion powered ion drives allow us to travel at close to the speed of light, so we launch an unmanned probe to a star on the opposite edge of the Milky Way. But shortly thereafter, we make a breakthrough: a working, programmable Einstein-Rosen bridge device, which we use to travel to the same star instantaneously. By the time our unmanned ion drive probe reaches the star 84,000 years later, the descendants of the Einstein-Rosen bridge travellers are unlikely even to recognise it, and may well regard it as a primitive alien artifact!

    This illustrates which avenue deserves the research.

    In any event, a wormhole device would open the doors not only to distant corners of the universe, but also distant times past and future. In view of my earlier argument, this makes the probability of finding life much higher, because we could meet our little green men millions of years before their star burns out. This would not be possible with conventional space travel.
    • Sep 4 2011: "At this point, the ability to punch a hole through space-time is still 100% theoretical." Do you also mean 100% possible? i.e, it has not been disproved or dismissed as impossible?
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      Sep 5 2011: Dear Joe,

      The constraints of written discussions may have its purpose but can also really feel like a nuisance sometimes. As in this case, where almost every one of your sentences evokes a comment or question :)
      It would definitely make a difficult read so I will limit my comments.

      Why would we ‘be forced to pick an arbitrary direction in which to travel’? Especially considering our rapidly developing technology and progress on ‘discovery’ of stars and planets, it would seem that the travel direction(s) shouldn’t be difficult to decide on. Even if, at first, it was ‘just’ a one way trip the next galaxy.
      With regard to the wormhole theory (apart from the fact that it opens up fodder for discussing perception of Time :)…do you believe we can manufacture such a wormhole?
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    Sep 1 2011: As someone who believes she has seen 'UFO's', I DO believe there is intelligent life on other planets, and that they have actually been observing us for quite a long time. I have no idea what their 'motive' is, but I would like to think that it is of an educational nature...If they have the ability to come to our planet and be (for the most part) undetected, then they must be far more advanced than we earthlings are...Who knows what their level of intelligence is? But I think that if they are so 'advanced' tecnologically, then it stands to reason that their intellectual reasoning capabilities are far more far more advanced than ours I don't really think that they are here to HARM us, only that they are curious and studying us...I for one would probably welcome the opportunity to meet and talk with a life form from another planet...Would it scare the beejeebers out of me? YES, but I would still welcome the opportunity! Let's not be so arrogant as to think that we are the ONLY planet in this universe who has intelligent life forms...just imagine what we could LEARN from them!
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      Sep 4 2011: Dear Tambra,

      Re: ‘But I think that if they are so 'advanced' technologically, then it stands to reason that their intellectual reasoning capabilities are far more far more advanced than ours I don't really think that they are here to HARM us, only that they are curious and studying us.’
      I tend to think so too, however, that is of course reasoning like an ‘Earth-person’. Who knows what their reasoning methods might be. In case they are studying us….I hope they are able to make the distinction too between the Alien-hostile-thoughts and the Alien-curious/welcoming-thoughts :) Let’s hope that our policies, as indicated by Erwan, are in line with their friendly intentions. And that they are not contemplating their property rights on Earth, as Tom suggested we would be doing the other way around :)
    • Sep 9 2011: This thought has always confused me. Why should a more advanced civilisation be less hostile? Where does this notion come from?
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    Sep 1 2011: Dear Astra,

    Don't get me wrong. Our presence here is in itself proof that the universe can nurture life. But the birth and development of self-replicating molecules and eventually complex organisms is measured in astronomical time - that is, in billions of years - even on an ideal planet such as ours.

    Under ideal conditions, life could take 1.5-2.5 billion years to develop, as it did here. The universe itself is less than ten times older than that. When dealing with such vast time scales - and adding to this environmental factors that may stand in the way of evolutionary processes - we have to consider the possibility that the window of opportunity for sentient life may be rather small. Either way, it is limited to the lifetime of any given star. In another billion years, our own sun will be too hot for water to exist in liquid form. Once a star burns through its main sequence and balloons into a red giant, it's game over for life in its solar system.

    Of course it is possible for life to have developed elsewhere. But there is no telling how long that would take. We have no way of telling whether Earth was simply an early developer. In addition to the odds of finding life elsewhere, there are also the odds of finding it at a specific time. Our little green men's star may have burnt out millennia ago - or still be coalescing from gas. We simply don't know.

    Seen from this perspective, I believe that we should follow an Ockham's Razor approach. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we should proceed from the assumption that we are alone. The vast responsibility this entails is that we are the first best hope: the keepers of life in the universe. It may indeed be up to us, and us alone, to seed and populate the Milky Way and eventually other galaxies.

    We as a species cannot do this while bickering amongst ourselves, warring or otherwise showing a general disregard for how precious life is.
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      Sep 4 2011: Dear Joe,

      Thank you for your insightful elaboration on the topic. It’s an interesting point of view.

      Re: ‘It may indeed be up to us, and us alone, to seed and populate the Milky Way and eventually other galaxies.’ This would then definitely support the case for world’s governments to put more effort in space research and development. For example: The advancements in propulsion technology should be strongly supported. Not necessarily only space-related but also other speed related activities (boats, cars, motorbikes) where the ‘common’ people (meaning: no rocket scientists :) also dedicate their knowledge to developing speed. There may be gems of ideas here for furthering the aim of venturing out to other galaxies.
      Also any research on creation and/or manipulation of space-time distortion (I have no idea what the status is on this research) would add to this goal.

      I agree that it is very difficult to get this done while there is little harmony and respect among Earth inhabitants (and it seems to be getting worse too) but I’m also aware that even that has its purpose (that’s another conversation topic :).

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
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    Sep 1 2011: ha, ha. Absolutely NOT.

    If any advanced alien civilization had the technology to reach our planet, they would be thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ahead of us.

    They would learn nothing from us that would require our discretion.

    Secondly our species at the moment is like a child. An immature, selfish child. Not close to ready for the big world.
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      Sep 4 2011: Cole, as rude as you are, you are correct.

      We need to travel space for newer and better materials for scientific usage.

      Star Trek baby. Or something like it.. Stormship Troupers... whatever..

      Get with it people, think space. Before some alien does try to Independence Day our ass. I hate how sci-fi is presented as just an art form... it is far more advanced than other arts.. it is trying to take basic knowledge of today and artistically create an idea of the future... the crazy part is, a lot of these crazy sci-fi writers get REALLY close to knowing how it actually works. IT being a spaceship or lasers or transporters... anything futuristic there are already THEORIES, just no people really exploring the ones without scientific credibility... thus sci-fi genre of film and entertainment.

      A question for the local skeptic. Wonder why the most resent topic of movies are "field good" type and aliens??? Of course the occasional murder/gore film... Just fishy, ya know? Not even just aliens and aliens fighting, but aliens and HUMANS on earth mainly.. Governments letting out the UFO files... NO American coverage of such topics.... except movies.. like one giant constant lie..look at sci-fi in the eyes of "this is plausible"... if we kill each other, what makes you think aliens don't? Paranoia, is so a human mechanism for being readily available for the improbable, that way we will survive if the occasion calls. Cavemen survived cold/dark winters for generations... it is said to have been a significant point where we evolved in intelligence.

      So I ask, if there are dark thoughts, what makes you think there are not naturally good?

      A united planet would not fall to an army of aliens, but a divided planet very well could.

      "Illuminati" The new world order of leaders taking charge of the big nations through money, corruption, and overall power through lineage.Why is there so much information not being covered? Reality is a lie...

      I detest, earthlings look out for earth..
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        Sep 4 2011: I agree...Star Trek dude!

        The concepts indroduced in Star Trek are not so far fetched at all! There was a time when airplanes actually flying through the air was si-fi...remember? Oh no're too young to remember...LOL!

        There ARE people exploring this issue who have scientific credibility, and they are sworn to secrecy...military. And they are afraid people will panic, which could be a valid concern. I think there are several life forms that could have killed or overtaken us by now, and they chose not to.

        the "Illuninati" have been a world power for a long time, have they not? They've simply been very quiet about their interactions...true?
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        Sep 5 2011: Dear Nicholas and Colleen,
        You both have a point there, regarding the Sci-Fi writers. There are many things that were deemed improbable and way too futuristic years ago but are normal, and in some cases already outdated, to us now. Things that were proposed, dreamed-up, suggested etc. by these writers (visionaries?).
        As for the lack of openness from governments…it may well be that they are concerned people would panic. If that’s the case couldn’t it be argued that they would actually have to try and break the news gently? Since people are going to know it at sometime anyway. Is that what you were referring to Nicholas, with the ‘feel good’ alien movies as a marketing tool?
        However, the lack of openness may also be plain greed and perhaps fear that another country would benefit more by anything Aliens could ‘bring’ us. Be it knowledge or perhaps the recently discovered diamond planet :)

        In any case I agree with ‘A united planet would not fall to an army of aliens, but a divided planet very well could.’ It is a concern several TEDsters also raised.

        Thank you both for your input. And to Cole in whose tread this is nested.
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          Sep 5 2011: Reality, may make you unsettled, but it is the truth...

          better to be uncomfortable than ignorant in my opinion.
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    Aug 31 2011: In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I like to approach it from the other side. The pervasiveness of life on earth is such that it is easy for us to assume life must exist elsewhere. But life on earth, for all its diversity, started with a single proto-cell. Which may have been a fluke.

    The odds against life - and especially sentient life - are literally astronomical. So, I would like to answer your question with another question:

    What if we find nothing?

    What if ours is the only (or at least the first) world where an insignificant little flame of life is kindled? What a vast responsibility that thought should instill in us!
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      Aug 31 2011: in all possibility life is a by-product of a time-travel anomaly. humans from the future went back to the birth of the planet and brought some tiny bits of bacteria with them, hence life is merely a contained time loop anomaly.
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      Aug 31 2011: Dear Joe,

      Thank you for your participation in this conversation.
      Not meaning to be insipid here, but answering your question with yet another question: Do you have more foundation to your statement: ‘The odds against life - and especially sentient life - are literally astronomical.’
      And in answer to your question ‘What if we find nothing?’ Well, I think we will continue until we do, in this indescribably huge universe of ours.
      And what responsibility do you believe it should instill in us if we find that ours is the first world with life?
  • Aug 31 2011: I believe that as a collective we are, it is the minority who inflict pain on others (or a majority acting on the orders of a minority for some ominous reason - whole other topic) Sure upon seeing a visitor many of us may defecate ourselves, but I think that would be one of a small handful of expected reactions. Once we got over the initial shock the natural curiosity in humanity would kick into overdrive and we would continue our exponential scientific knowledge.

    That is assuming there intelligent enough to get to us, and not the enslaving consumers we are.... Should we be the ones to find them, I think there will be new flavours at Mc Donalds until a new predator finds us.
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      Aug 31 2011: Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your thoughts on the subject.
      Do you think that with proper preparations (call it PR or Communications programs if you will) the majority you refer to might be more friendly and less shocked when meeting alien life? I do believe that it matters how much attention is given to the subject and how it is presented influences the way we treat it. If there is no noticeable, public preparation from governments it is most likely that people (possibly instigated by that minority) will react aggressively, defensively or just plain hostile.

      As for the new MacDonald’s flavors :) …let’s hope we don’t end up in alien burgers.
      • Aug 31 2011: Hi Astra,

        I would like to think that we would act defensively, and primarily because of the stories we tell of them (movies, books, ect) We have a pre-programmed instinct to fear what we don't understand and I don't believe any amount of social programming could eliminate that, nor should it, it has purpose. However reason tends to win out in the long run over instinct, and I think the majority would analyse what information we have available (theories from the stories along with actual details of these hypothetical encounters) to determine the appropriate level of friendlessness to encourage ... :D

        But only two possibilities exist in my mind if they find us, either they are consumers or explorers.
        If they are consumers, they either use or eat us... not a good situation but I like to think this type of alien wouldn't make it off there own planet due to misuse of resources (not unlike us today).
        If they are explorers they would most likely be accumulating knowledge from the civilizations they visit, seeing peaceful diversity as strength, which humanity has plenty of. There is also a good chance they would share with us at least some knowledge which could advance our own species, perhaps the wisdom of the one true religion pastafarism :D Perhaps with the formulas allowing interstellar travel, perhaps with an alliance.
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          Aug 31 2011: Hi Chris,
          I understand your point of view regarding the social programming, however, in my opinion (relying on my Marketing experience here :) people tend to believe what is often presented to them or at least give it the benefit of the doubt. E.g. that’s the reason why we would pick a well advertised detergent over one we have never heard of before, although they might work the same. It’s all about communicating a message you want people to buy into.
          And I agree that fear has its purpose, but I believe that we may be working that concept a bit too much…starting from when we are kids and instilling fear of monsters under our beds (But that’s material for another Conversation :)

          Re: ‘However reason tends to win out in the long run over instinct,… to determine the appropriate level of friendlessness to encourage’ Good for you, I am happy that you have such faith in what the majority will do. Just to be safe…Maybe we should have a manual by then ‘What to do when meeting Alien life’ :)
      • Aug 31 2011: re: "what to do when meeting alien life" have you seen star trek? ;)

        There's just too many subtleties, I think the sci-fi genre in general is exactly what you propose.
  • Aug 28 2011: In my opinion, Alien life forms are a total mystery indeed. However, what we should be thinking of is how to reach further away into the far galaxies while having techniques of either showing our intentions of peace or our readiness of defending ourselves. We can't even defend ourselves against meteorites or Armageddon scenarios we see in movies. It's best to reach some sort of an advanced defense system that defends our planet from the outside. A grid of mutli-function advanced defensive layer of satellites which act like a fence to keep anything out there away from us and keeping us safe. As for the peaceful treat, we can start to learn how to interact with advanced life forms in some sort of a universal language which allows us to reach out to any aliens who appear anytime.
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      Aug 31 2011: Dear Mohamed,

      Thank you for your comment.
      I agree that we may be ill-prepared for even meteorites and such scenarios. I doubt if that has been on any priority list of governments considering the fact that it isn’t seen as a likely life-threatening scenario for Earth in the near future. But it might not be a bad idea since an ‘accident’ of meteorites clashing and shooting off our way could also be a possibility. And scrambling then to think of some defense may be way too late.
      As for learning to interact with advanced life forms, or even lesser life forms for that matter, may be a huge challenge for us since (talking a bit tongue-in-cheek here :) we can’t even manage to interact pleasantly within our own families, or towards neighbors, others countries etc. right here.
      As I am writing this reply I see that Chris and Tom have also commented with this in mind (funny and true).
  • Aug 25 2011: lets focus on our planet before we launch into space.
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      Aug 31 2011: agreed- we can't even come to decent terms with neighbouring countries.
      • Aug 31 2011: all the more reason to create distance between neighbours who cannot get along ;)
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          Aug 31 2011: but we are all stuck on this earth- so will our contact with alien life be extended communication from a safe distance?
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      Aug 23 2011: If you are French and speak English it is far above from your best. You are a true revolutionist.
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      Aug 23 2011: Dear Erwan,

      Your thoughts on the subject are fascinating. You have laid out a lot of possibilities for the type of life forms we may encounter. Perhaps suggestions to use in government’s preparations?

      ‘Even if all these restrictions were to be overcome, what would be the interest in enslaving them, if bringing products back to earth is very expensive, as Kristofer said.’
      That’s true, however, considering the fact that our population is growing explosively there may well be an exodus from Earth people to planet X. If we just observe the immigration tendencies now (especially from the overpopulated countries) and quantify that to the future, it’s not so much about the products travelling, as it is about people.
      And when you say ‘colonists’ do you mean a combined world consensus or private enterprises?

      ‘Maybe exporting our moral values would be a drama too. Imagine we arrive in a society in which you are owned by those who are more powerful than you. Should we refuse complying to this society’s morale and thus creating an enormous social quake?’
      Ideally we should be considerate of another society’s moral values. However, this is not the way we have done it throughout history. I sincerely hope that by 2050 we will have progressed.

      And btw, as Erol mentioned, your English is fabulous. No need to apologize.
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          Aug 28 2011: Dear Erwan,

          Thank you for the further thoughts on the topic.
          I think that from the information you have already shared you could easily make a ‘White Paper’ for the Government containing advice/suggestions on: The future of space exploration.

          -Background information on the status quo of space exploration
          Body: Space 2050
          -What to be prepared for and why: Financial, Social, Demographical, Defense etc. aspects.

          What do you think? :)

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    Aug 22 2011: The sad thing when it comes to space travel is that the distances are enormous. If we find life in our own solar system, we will hopefully be able to examine it first hand. But anything other than very primitive life forms should not be expected.

    The closest star is more than four light years away, and with the speed mars mission travels at it would take thousands of years to reach there. As long as we don't discover something that radically changes how we understand the universe in terms of special relativity, we are almost certainly never going to be able to travel to any other solar system. I think our best hope would be to be able to comunicate with relatively close inteligent life through radio waves. But such commmunication would be very difficult as well as we would have to wait at least eight years to get an answer to our sent messages. And that is if there is life intelligent enough to build electronic equipment in the closest solar system.

    When it commes to life on other planets, I think I find the most interesting idea to be that we maybe could plant life on one or several of the planets in our solar system and generate life there. With the advances in bioengineering, maybe we can engineer really tough bacterias that survive on the surface of mars, eats rocks, and creates an atmosphere there.
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      Aug 23 2011: Hi Kristofer,
      It’s clear you have given the subject some thought, thank you for the effort.

      ‘we are almost certainly never going to be able to travel to any other solar system’
      Darn, you almost burst my hope-balloon there :)

      Your suggestion of planting life on other ‘nearby’ planets is totally in sync with the experiments already going on in artificial biospheres. This is beautifully explained in a TED talk by Jane Poynter (Life in Biosphere 2). Here she also mentions growing plants for use on the Moon and Mars.
      In this light it seems we (The World) should definitely start putting policies in place for all sorts of rights, e.g. landownership. Or will it just be available for affluent people (4th, 5th house)?
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        Aug 23 2011: Yeah I think I was a bit disapointed when I realized it too. :(

        Have watched the biosphere talk and it was really interesting. I would love if a project like that was underaken on the moon or mars during my lifetime. I can really see some usefullness in collonising other planets. If robotics are developed to the point where they can sustain factories that don't need human workers, we could move our nuclear powerplants there and beem the energy down to the earth.
  • Sep 9 2011: If alien life exists, isn't it extremely uinlikely to be anything like ours? All of out UFO 'sightings' and alien 'contact' seems to be based on the limitations of our own imaginations. We see humanoid creatures, with big eyes, because we can't imagine a being without physical form for example, walking about on 2 legs... what we imagine is really what humans might be like in the distant future. It seems to me vaguely ridiculous. We see spaceships, because we can't imagine how else these things might travel about. If there is life anywhere else in the universe, I would imagine it to be nothing like life here on earth, as the conditions to nurture carbon based life doesn't really seem to exist anywhere else. Our physics and chemistry need not apply to these beings. They could be pure energy, capable of moving between dimensions and capable of being everywhere at once. We could be coexisting, and never know it. They may not even be aware of us. But we won't know until they show I guess.
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      Sep 10 2011: For most of my life I have also felt that reported descriptions of alien visitors were extremely anthro-centric. I have always considered it more likely that the diversity of possible life out there would be such that beings with torsos, four limbs and a head were probably quite unique to earth. However, recently I have come to think that that line of thinking may be akin to assuming that the earth is the center of the universe. Indeed, why would animals with torsos, heads, and limbs with digits be unique to earth. Consider this, The Kepler telescope and many others are looking for rocky worlds in their respective goldilocks zones. Planets that may have liquid water and breathable atmospheres. This is not to deny that each respective atmosphere may have it's own unique qualities that might render it unbreathable to us, and that those unique qualities will call for unique variations within its inhabitants, but why wouldn't those inhabitants still have heads, torsos, and limbs like most complex life forms on this planet. Our planet was seeded with the same stuff as all the rest of the planets and there is no reason to assume we were seeded with anything more special than them. Now, I'm not saying that all the planets with the possibility of life are all producing giraffes and horses and humans. Again, I wish to stress that the diversity is probably vast and unique to specific variations. But nonetheless, we are looking for earth-like planets (and evidence is starting to point towards there being many more than we anticipated). These earth-like planets are sure to contain earth-like creatures. Our bigger more intelligent brains have been attributed to the fact that we stand upright and have erect spines. Why wouldn't we assume that to be the case with intelligent alien animals be they reptilian, amphibian, mammalian, or some other genus, species or order.
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    Sep 7 2011: In asking 'Are we prepared for meeting alien life?' my immediate reaction is that we have been a lot less "prepared" in our history and have had to deal with just such a situation regardless. Whether inspired by actual events or imaginative storytelling, beings with apparent supernatural abilities that come down from the heavens exist as characters in almost every religion's history. We could not imagine humans having the abilities of these beings and our response was religion. Whether that response exhibits preparedness or not is debatable but either way we have been dealing with 'alien' life and stories of 'otherworldly beings' as a theme in our oldest books, stories, and religions all along. Prepared or not our "heads" did not "explode", societal structures did not break down and, in fact, quite the contrary. It would seem that knowledge of 'aliens', whether from myth or actual events, has inspired us to build, ask questions and develop science and reasoning. Reasoning continues to demystify abilities that would have seemed supernatural to our ancestors. Now the shoe is on the other foot and we can imagine the possibility that by 2050 we could be going to the stars and meeting alien life. The Kepler mission is showing promising signs that rocky planets in habitable zones around their stars may be abundant in the galaxy. Are there intelligent being out there to interact with? If life-bearing planets are abundant than so might be intelligent beings and civilizations. So where are they now? Most likely they are either unable or unwilling to come here. Our star is in a bit of a back-water compared to other denser areas of the galaxy. Perhaps any sort of galactic civilization is in a bit of a dark ages and no-one's traveling around out there right now. Perhaps ruins are all we will find out there. Do we need a 'Prime Directive' of the Star Trek sort if we do meet anyone. Asking these types of questions proves we are indeed prepared to meet alien life.
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    Sep 5 2011: Doubtful - In an extreme situation where an advanced, tolerant Alien civilization is "discovered", I'd imagine most everyone's head would explode from the sheer awesomeness and inability to comprehend that we really aren't alone in the universe.
    Embarrassingly, everyday or so I wish this scenario would play out and e.t.'s would become textbook fact for my own selfish desire that it could humble human kind, thus dissolving cultural, economic, & religious differences and tension. Wishful thinking.
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      Sep 5 2011: Dear Luiz,
      It may indeed be wishful thinking and we are left to clean up our mess all by ourselves. However, it has been proven time and again that outside events have greatly inspired us to unite for a certain cause.
      Thank you for your comment.
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    Sep 5 2011: Hi Astra,

    I'm sorry, poor choice of words in the first instance. What I meant is that technologies that aim at maximising speed will limit deviations from any given bearing. Going faster essentially commits us to going in one direction.

    Of course, this direction will be carefully chosen, but at the expense of all others.

    As for the wormhole machine, it would require a mastery over the force of gravity. If we assume this mastery, there is nothing in current theory that precludes the possibility. So the question becomes 'is it in principle possible to harness gravitational forces without collapsing the surrounding spacetime?'. I don't know the answer to that one. But either way, we are seriously far from that degree of advancement.

    And as you say, it's all too easy to become bogged down in interpretation of temporal reference frames, but I think it's an aspect inherent to any discussion about space travel. Time and space are related. One cannot change one without affecting the other.
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      Sep 5 2011: Thank you for the clarification Joe.
      You know, I like the ‘wormhole machine’ idea. Imagine that one day we may all have our own pocket-size wormhole machine, much like the pocket-size telephone and computer are so common now. :)
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    Sep 5 2011: Hi Stephen,
    All it means is that current theory allows for it, but this theory has not begun to translate into practice. At this point the only entities with enough mass to form a gravity well with walls more than 90 degrees are black holes. Unfortunately, their power requirements involve more than three times all the mass in our solar system, and in their natural state they will crush your body into subatomic particles at the speed of light.

    So, we have a long way to go before we can start talking about "possible" in any meaningful sense.
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    Sep 4 2011: I believe there are thousands of civilisations in our universe, some of higher consciousness and some of lower.
    Already people claiming to have met alien life, up from the 1960s and earlier. alot of hush around it and besides do you really wanna know anyway? what if there are? will you be called crazy, can you handle that. lol
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      Sep 5 2011: Hi Benny,
      Of course I would want to know. Better to explore, giving my curious mind room to learn and understand than to crawl into a corner, living in fear of being called crazy. Wouldn’t you? :)
  • Sep 2 2011: How can we be ready to meet alien life and be peacfull to them when we can't even be peacfull to all the countries on our own planet. How about we reach peace on our planet first, eh?
  • Sep 2 2011: I have seen some interesting points raised in the comments section. However Tom Hodges-Sellers conclusion stood out to me; any ET capable of space travel and lucky or able to find us would not immediately tamper with us, we are too irresponsible with our own technology currently, let alone future tech from another civilisation . Suppose Tambra Tice's Comment was true (UFO's with ET's in or controlling them, enter our earth's atmosphere to observe/monitor). They'd have the technology to view any and all media on earth (jumping through our primitive firewalls and dodahs easily and undetectable) , Im sure they could probably go to and watch a video, without ever stepping into our atmosphere and without anyone knowing consisously observing us and deciding that we're not ready, close... but not just yet. Theres a few problems.

    They would be able to foresee that proof of ET life would inadvertently cause a lot of religious aspects of people's lives upside down with varrying consequences. Who do the ET's contact first? which country? even after thousands of years we still live divided by language, currency and borders. We are divided here on earth, until we are unified we all splinters and not ready to be judged in plantery terms.

    The additional aspect of earth inevitably wanting that bump start into space would potentially be another hazard, seeing as we still have issues toward over populating our own planet. Not to mention all the technological advances i'm sure if they'd conquered well before long distance space travel, that we'd quickly reverse engineer such as the potential for expanding one's life largely. Can moores law be extended to life expectancy? (with certain medical breakthrough's; Cloning, growing new organs etc) Assuming that these technologys would become available, at this time we would be the bunny rabbit of the universe or virus....

    Not to mention the potential for blowing ourselves up with the technology they'd have. they'd pass right by
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      Sep 5 2011: Hi Daniel,

      If ET’s are logged on to TED I do hope they read this conversation and enlighten us on the topic :)
      Including the questions regarding the decision who they would contact and any advice on our life expectancy issues.
      Thanks for your comment.
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    Aug 31 2011: If any Space Alien Civilizations wanted people to know about them, that would have already happened or it has already happened. In case of existence of Alien civilization civilized less that human civilization, they would not want to be discovered by humans.
    I'm not saying that such civilizations exist or not, but I'm giving a function of logic, which can be applied to our world.
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    Aug 31 2011: i think most likely if their is intelligent advanced space-travelling similar life out there they will find us- observed us, and just decided it's best to leave us to kill each other for next thousand years or so, then if the planet is ever properly united, they will communicate with us from a very long, safe distance until terms can be decided on a neutral basis.
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      Aug 31 2011: Funny :)
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        Aug 31 2011: but that is what i actually think, if i were them and i had the chance to observe humanity i would just move on, better not get involved in this catastrophe if you can go somewhere else.
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          Aug 31 2011: Ok Tom, I respect your view.
          Humor me for a second with answering this (although digressing a bit from the topic :) 1. Do you really think it’s visible from space whether we are friendly or not, and can a just judgment be made from that perspective? Granted there are some hot spots with war scenes, but the greatest ugliness is what people sometimes harbor in their hearts. 2. Would you undertake such a voyage (and keep in mind all the years in time, energy, money and what not in preparations), finally encountering other life…only to immediately turn away because of such judgments?
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    Aug 23 2011: if it takes quantum leaps to reach alien life, then what better way to do it then with the human brain. i like terrence mckennas theorys on alien life and there purpose related to us.
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    Aug 23 2011: Well I think I am. Last 20 years taught me that I should be open to any kind of disparities. I will also respect them unless they harm others with their customs or so.
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      Aug 23 2011: Dear Erol,
      That sounds intriguing. Does that mean you have an ‘If..Then’ scenario? Meaning: 1. If they are ‘harmless’…then your actions are…X.? And: 2. If they are ‘not harmless’…then your actions are..X..? Please share.
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        Aug 24 2011: Yes Dear Astra

        If they come for good we should welcome them and act helpful. If they come as invaders we should give em hell...
        • Aug 31 2011: and how do you propose we determine there objective? ask them?
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    Aug 23 2011: i haven't been on top of my alien cover-ups lately. know any good ones? lol
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      Aug 23 2011: So sorry, I don’t know of any recent incidents. That could either be because the cover-ups have become better or because people in general aren’t as surprised and interested anymore :) But do share if you come across one.
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        Aug 23 2011: The aliens and the people behind the cover-up might come after me if I do lol I might have enough courage in me to take one for the team.