Cornell University Issues New Paper On Contact With Extraterrestrials: Will ‘They’ Benefit Or Harm Humanity?

Monday, August 29, 2011
By Paul Martin

While humanity has not yet observed any extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contact with ETI
remains possible. Contact could occur through a broad range of scenarios that have varying
consequences for humanity. However, many discussions of this question assume that contact
will follow a particular scenario that derives from the hopes and fears of the author. In this
paper, we analyze a broad range of contact scenarios in terms of whether contact with ETI would
benefit or harm humanity. This type of broad analysis can help us prepare for actual contact with
ETI even if the details of contact do not fully resemble any specific scenario.
Keywords: extraterrestrials, contact, scenario analysis
1. Introduction
Humanity has not yet encountered or even detected any form of extraterrestrial intelligence
(ETI), but our efforts to search for ETI (SETI) and to send messages to ETI (METI) remain in
early stages. At this time we cannot rule out the possibility that one or more ETI exist in the
Milky Way, nor can we dismiss the possibility that we may detect, communicate, or in other
ways have contact with them in the future.
Contact with ETI would be one of the most
important events in the history of humanity, so the possibility of contact merits our ongoing
attention, even if we believe the probability of contact to be low

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