From Centauri Dreams today:
"I want to commend Johnson’s piece, which is titled “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us).” As you can fathom from the title, the author is looking at our possible encounter with alien civilizations in terms not of detection but of contact, and that means we’re talking METI — Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. "The thing to worry about is not so much 'messaging' as 'meeting'. It's forever interesting to watch liberal propensities overwhelm scientific understanding wherever a warm, glowing chink can be found. Assuming Frank Drake was not misquoted in Johnson’s piece, this is what he said:
"Drake leaned forward, nodding. ‘‘It raises a very interesting, nonscientific question, which is: Are extraterrestrial civilizations altruistic? Do they recognize this problem and establish a beacon for the benefit of the other folks out there? My answer is: I think it’s actually Darwinian; I think evolution favors altruistic societies. So my guess is yes. ..."The magic is in the word 'altruistic'. Social creatures are altruistic within the limits of kin and reciprocal altruism, and - when human - can sometimes be persuaded to interpersonal neutrality on larger scales, when their personal, family & friends' interests are not adversely affected (so nation states and empires).
But in general? If you're a bug and you annoy me, you'll get squashed.
How could an 'altruistic' approach to biological competitors ever be selected for?
One writer who really understands where Darwinian evolution actually leads you is Liu Cixin. You should read the extended excerpt here .. but this is a flavour:
"The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care.Any sufficiently advanced alien society would care about humanity about as much as we care about a local wasp nest. Sometimes we let it survive, because it's in our interests that the wasps do their thing (pest control) - which benefits us.
"The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod — there's only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them.
"In this forest, hell is other people; an eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It's the explanation for the Fermi Paradox."
Other times, not so much.
And in this, we are not being backward, or under-evolved, or lacking civilizational maturity which future generations will fix. We are simply being optimally rational.
If we do meet those aliens any time soon - and given our woeful interstellar capabilities we would be the technologically inferior party - we should hope that, like the wasps, our existence adds some value for them.
Meanwhile I would hold off on all that signallin' and hollerin'.
Update: I'm not the only one with concerns.