Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


25.3.2  Gods and Primitives:  The 11/0 Contact

The 11/0 Contact is a meeting between alien races whose members possess roughly equivalent sentience but one of whose cultures commands 11 orders of magnitude more power than the other. Such encounters may occur between a Type I and a Type II community; between a Type II and a Type III galactic society; or between a Type III and a Type IV universal civilization. Since six sentience differentials are possible, there are 18 distinct scenarios within the classification of 11/0 Contact.

Probably, the most interesting case from the human point of view is an encounter between two conscious races, one of which is a planetary Type I society (like us) and the other of which is a stellar Type II civilization. This suggests three distinct scenarios, as follows: (1) Contact occurs in the Type II’s home system, (2) contact occurs in the Type I’s home system, or (3) contact occurs in the home system of neither.

The first scenario is extremely unlikely. Type I cultures simply don't have the technological wherewithal to send large numbers of contact craft, manned or unmanned, to other stars search for life. True, they may be tipped off when their astronomers observe a Dyson Sphere around some distant star, or they may just build and launch one or two starprobes and hit it lucky, but these are likely to be relatively rare in the total history of the Milky Way. Similarly, the third scenario is unlikely because the few probes sent out by a planetary civilization are unlikely fortuitously to be visiting the same stars at the same time that a Type II society's contact ship is in the vicinity. (Of course, should either situation occur the usual thermoethical principles will still apply.)

This leaves the second scenario, in which representatives of a Type II culture cross the interstellar void to make contact with a planetbound Type I society (most likely on or near the Type I's home planet). It will be as if New York harbor suddenly rose up out of the sea to surprise a lone native paddling his canoe. To the native, the contactors would be as "gods"; to the visitors, the planetary inhabitants may be regarded as "savages" or "primitives." How should the advanced race best handle the problem of first contact? According to aerospace writer Philip J. Klass:

If ETs exist and ever visit our Earth, certainly their civilization and technology will be considerably more advanced than our own. If and when they come, I am sure they will have a well-thought-out strategy. If that strategy is to observe us secretly, they can do so using photoreconnaissance satellites, much as we and the Russians monitor each other's military facilities without the man in the street ever being aware of these spies a hundred miles overhead. If, on the other hand, their strategy at some point is to make their presence known to us, I am confident that they will do so with the grace and elegance born of a very advanced society.2725

What sort of "well-thought-out strategy" might they have in mind? Provided the ETs subscribe to basic theroethical principles, presumably they will do their utmost to avoid causing harm to the primitives. These "gods" will not proceed with contact unless and until they are certain (to the best of their knowledge) that the local natives will not begin to kill each other, or destroy their culture, or begin to worship the contactors as personal saviors. After all, the whole purpose of contact is to increase the total information of the living universe, not to cause it to evaporate or to encourage the contactees to adopt a paradigm that will hinder the further acquisition of knowledge by them. This is in keeping with the three Canons of thermoethical contact as described earlier.

There are many ways to effectuate such a policy in the 11/0 Contact situation. One possible procedure, which has been called the "Seven Phases to Contact,"1347 might be as reported by ufologist Frank Edwards3414 as being described during a joint Army-Navy briefing on the subject of UFOs, delivered in Washington D.C. during the summer of 1950:

Phase One would be the approach. This would take place before we knew whether the planet was inhabited. It would consist of a cautious and careful surveillance from a distance considered safe. If the planet had any satellites which we could use, we would carefully investigate them as possible sites for close-in bases from which to study the planet for the likelihood of intelligent life.

Phase Two would conceivably consist of close-range surveillance of the planet by instrumented probes. These probes would take photographs, gather samples of the atmosphere, and locate the nature and extent of the centers of civilization, if any.

Phase Three: If the results obtained by the instrumented probes seemed to warrant further investigation, that type of craft would be phased out and replaced by faster and more maneuverable manned craft. The purpose of this change would be to check the performance characteristics of vehicles belonging to the planetary inhabitants -- to test their speed, types of propulsion, and maneuverability as compared to our own.

Phase Four. The really risky phase of the trip is this phase -- where manned craft make near approaches to determine whether the alien beings are hostile and, if so, to what extent and by what means. Also to check radar locations and locations of military centers, if any.

Phase Five: Brief touchdowns in isolated areas to secure specimens of plants, animals, and (if possible) specimens of the intelligent beings themselves.

Phase Six: If we have been successful in acquiring the information we needed by the preceding steps, we must now decide on the basis of that knowledge whether to abandon the project as too risky or otherwise undesirable -- or whether to put into effect the sixth phase of the program. If we decide that the evidence seems to warrant some kind of eventual contact, direct or indirect, then phase six would consist of landings and low-level approaches where our craft and their operators could be seen -- but not reached. These approaches would be made where they could be witnessed by the greatest possible number of inhabitants. If carried out successfully, this phase would demonstrate our existence and our non-hostile nature.

Phase Seven: Referred to by our briefing officers as the "Overt Contact" phase. This would be the deliberate, carefully planned and executed final step in the program. Contact would not be attempted unless we had excellent reason to believe that it would not be disastrous to either of the races involved. There are some good reasons why it might never come to pass -- even though results of the first six phases might have indicated that it could be physically possible.3414

The above requires a technique popularly known among xenologists as "the snatch," or picking up members of the local intelligent population and subjecting them (without their consent) to a battery of physical and psychophysiological tests, There has been much discussion of this method, both in the scientific1001 and science fiction2729 literature, as for instance:

I and some others went down on ethnic survey in the Island region. I suppose you’ve heard something. about the techniques. Kidnap a native, use accelerine and hypnosis to get the language and the basic cultural information from him in a hurry, then dispose of him and go out yourself. Claim to be a foreigner from some other country. It works pretty well with societies that know there are other nations "beyond the horizon" but don't know exactly what they’re like.2884

There is no serious ethical objection to the technique of "snatch," so long as the native is not harmed, his original memory is not destroyed or reduced in any way, and he is returned to where he was picked up without any knowledge of the incident and without any disruption to the culture of which he is a part.1775,3199 However, it should rarely be necessary to resort to "snatch" in actual field operations -- for instance, recently buried bodies may be exhumed, covertly examined, and then replaced if the contactors require physiological details on the sentient primitives. If the society under observation has no radio technology, however, "snatches" may become essential in the determination of psychological and sociological parameters pertinent to the continuation of first contact.*

Thermoethics requires that the pre-contact survey should be accomplished as unobtrusively as possible.3396 Stephen Dole of the RAND Corporation recognized this simple truth more than fifteen years ago; in his now-classic work Habitable Planets for Man, he notes:

Any indication that a planet is already inhabited by intelligent creatures would signal the need for proceeding with the utmost caution. In fact, before a manned landing is made on any likely looking planet, it would be desirable to study the planet thoroughly from a distant orbit about it for a protracted period of time, to send sampling probes into its atmosphere, and to send surveillance instruments down to the surface. Contacts with alien intelligence should be made most circumspectly, not only for the protection of mankind or as insurance against unknown factors, but also to avoid any disruptive effects on the local population produced by encountering a vastly different cultural system. After prolonged study of the situation, it would have to be decided whether to make overt contact or to depart without giving the inhabitants any evidence of the visitation.214

In similar thermoethical vein, Shirley Ann Varughese writes:

It is unlikely that any intelligent culture would intrude on another culture without first making a preliminary study to determine if there were any potential physical or attitudinal threats. These cultural studies would be needed to cope with the rudiments of social interaction.

It is safe to assume that the first steps to contact would be listening for radio or TV signals, such as we have done with project Ozma. If any signals were detected, they would be followed up first with probes (electronic snoopers), to see if further study is warranted. After that, research teams would be sent to the prospective contact planet. The close range studies would be made from the outer atmosphere, with occasional trips to the planet's surface.

The researchers would try to determine if there had been previous extraplanetary contact, how it had been made, and the effects it had had on the alien society. Perhaps after a careful study, the researchers would find the prospective contactees completely opposed to extra-world contacts of any kind; or they might judge the society too unstable for contact, or a definite threat to our society and would withdraw without making contact. If they found the culture safe and ready for contact, the researchers would try to find a compatible means of communication and the best agency to contact.3415

A Type II stellar society may also "contact" a technically inferior Type I planetary culture by using what could be called "covert infiltration."3199 According to William O. Davis:

I would say that the most probable case of communication with extraterrestrial beings is an encounter with a race more advanced than we; therefore, the problem would be primarily psychological on our part. We would undoubtedly be deeply upset by this state of affairs. Thus these beings, if they are really advanced and subtle, would know this and would approach us in such a way as not to frighten us. If I were on their staff, I think I would use my advanced knowledge to learn the languages of the human race through one means or another, imitate human structure and appearance, and send representatives down to mingle with the earth’s people. Gradually I would begin to understand the earth's culture and develop means of communication to a point at which at a later time communication could be established in the proper verbal manner after the human race had been thoroughly relaxed. Thus, it is entirely possible and maybe even probable that extraterrestrial races are already amongst us!171

Such on-site investigations are ethical because they do not disrupt the culture under observation. The risk to the field investigator is justified under the Self-Jeopardization Rule.

Anthropologists have amassed a great wealth of knowledge on useful procedures for contacting "alien" societies right here on Earth. (See discussion of "culture contact" in Chapter 26.) Xenologists interested in the methodology of first contact would do well to survey the existing anthropological literature for the countless writings on this subject. Just one example of useful material is found in the Ethnocentrism Field Manual for field workers and researchers which, in part, explains how to go about collecting sociocultural information in unknown human societies. For instance, on page 253 of the Manual we have "Selection arid Description of Informants," which goes like this:

In selecting informants, the ethnographer should use the following desiderata as a guide:

1. Expertness on the Traditional Culture. The informants are not to be selected per se as a representative cross section of the population but, instead, as experts on the traditional culture. Thus if there are official or semiofficial trained custodians of the oral history, they may be ideal.

2. Articulateness, Willingness, and Perspective. Not all persons who fully participated in a culture can report on it fluently. Articulateness and willingness obviously are required. Interest in the content of history, in the contrast of cultures and in culture change, may all be requisite to a willingness to talk in detail, to search old memories, and the like. We cannot blanketly rule out the use of marginal persons as informants, although the source of bias and limitation that may accompany this should be noted. (In interview Section III.H we suggest a deliberate supplementary use of interethnic migrants.)

3. Age. Insofar as articulateness and willingness are not jeopardized, the older the informant, the better for our purposes. Every informant should have reached adulthood....

4. Role and Status in the Community. First priority should be given to old persons who once occupied central political positions in the community. Persons who currently are politically active may be suspected of distorting past beliefs and actions as to better justify current political stands and alliances Although past political responsibles have top priority, if useful informants are sufficiently available, four replications should be spread over social roles and statuses. Thus traditional followers and soldiers, as well as leaders, should be used. If religious, military, peacetime, and judicial leaders were differentiated, some use of all types would seem desirable. Notice that although we aim at four or more complete replications of the interview content, these may be spread over 10 or 20 informants, as it is not expected that one informant will go through all interview content.

5. Sex. Males should be used exclusively for all sections except Section M, for which there should be two female and two male informants....

The ethnographer is likely to find that it is easier to use numerous informants, breaking the interview up into parts, rather than getting all of the material from only four or five. The main advantages are the reduction of informant fatigue and the elimination of the insult of asking for information the informant feels he has already given....1882

Finally, we should briefly mention the astropolitical issue of interstellar imperialism or "colonization ethics." Much has been written in favor of colonialism in the xenopolitical literature and elsewhere.2884 One political scientist, who spent five years in the service of the old colonial government of Indonesia, wrote that:

Despite some abuse and exploitation, colonies served a purpose and had a place in the history of world progress. The colonizing powers can look back with a certain amount of pride on their efforts to make productive those parts of the world in which they held colonies.737

Xenologist John W. Macvey, in his book Journey to Alpha Centauri, proposes a scenario involving Type II human colonists swooping down on a. terrestrial world circling our closest stellar neighbor and wresting ownership from the hands of the more primitive autochthones:

What would probably be essential during very early days on the new world would be a form of military government with built-in safeguards for the individual. Were it to prove a world of primitive warlike tribes intent on savagely destroying the immigrants this would be especially desirable. In these circumstances much of the early history of the great American West would in a unique way be repeated. Surely this would make it seem as if the needle running along the disk of the space-time continuum had strangely jumped. Lonely forts and settlements amid a great wilderness, bands of marauding savages and the occasional (or not so occasional) tragedy of a massacre -- surely this is a road along which some of our ancestors have already passed. Perhaps the analogy is not complete. This civilization, despite a serious lack of numbers, would still have at its fingertips at least something of the technological skill and knowledge which had sent it to the stars. This could hardly be but an advantage.732

The most detailed and technically sophisticated discussion of "astrocolonialism" which has appeared in the xenopolitical literature to date may be found in the last chapter of Law and Public Order in Space, entitled "Potential Interaction with Advanced Forms of Non-Earth Life," written by three prominent space lawyers in 1963.252 In the section on contact with cultures of inferior science and technology; applicable when representatives from Earth travel to other star systems and meet the less-advanced primitives there, the authors propose a series of Earth policies based on the terrestrial historical experience. These policies include (1) minimum security and the sphere-of-influence device; (2) eventual partnership and the trusteeship device; (3) direct intergovernmental administration; (4) the policy of minimum interference; and (5) the technique of devolving authority and control. The attitude of the three legalists is aptly summarized by the following passage from their text:

Assume that when an astronautical Columbus arrives at his destination he finds advanced forms of life which are quite obviously inferior in the science and technology of warfare and production, though possessed of excellent brain capacity. What policies are appropriate to the overriding goal of human dignity, interpreted to include consideration on for the dignity of all advanced forms of life? In a divided world arena it is obviously necessary to give primary attention, not to the long run interests of new communities, but to the significance of the newly discovered state of affairs for minimum requirements of world security. At the same time it would fatally compromise the fundamental aim to make unnecessary sacrifices of other policies, such as the protection of the interests of the weaker society while it is being prepared for full membership in the astropolitical community.252

What does thermoethics have to say on the subject of interstellar colonization?** It seems that the usual scenario in which the Type II "gods" take over a world and attempt to "bear the torchlight of civilization" to the natives is unethical in the traditional application because it violates the Principal Thermoethic.1540 An advanced race which imposes its own form of government and colonial administration upon a species of conscious but less technically advanced beings is using valuable energy to copy old data (its own), rather than to create new data. Since energy is expended and no new data are generated, the net consequence is a loss of order (or ability to create order) in the living universe.3389

Note that this is distinctly different from the contact scenario in which information is exchanged rather than imposed. Each sentient species develops a paradigm which it uses to interpret its environment, collect and analyze data, and to calculate the parameters of survival. Each such paradigm is unique in all the universe, and this constitutes new information in favor of the living universe which Canon II demands to be preserved.(Or, to paraphrase Kierkegaard: "Every race is an exception.") When two cultures meet and information is exchanged, the data are filtered through two unique paradigms which process them and create new data, thus augmenting universal negentropy. When two cultures meet and one imposes its data on the other, one paradigm may be lost -- while the other is simply copied intact. This is entropic, unethical, and should be avoided.

Note also that in most 11/0 Contacts the contactor will be a Type II society or higher. Since even early Type II cultures have sufficient energy to engage in planetary terraforming operations and artificial habitat construction,2362 advanced colonists have few ethical excuses for encroachment or seizing control of a planet from conscious entities already inhabiting it.81 Advanced beings can build worlds of their own; there is no need to resort to theft.2165,2163 However, there is no thermoethical objection to peaceful coexistence without imposition -- the sharing of a planet by two races -- so long as entropic harm is avoided and the more primitive culture is preserved or improved.


* If the aliens give us a choice, theréll be no shortage of volunteers. When a London tabloid in 1951 flashed "British Stellar Passport" (issued by a member of the British Interplanetary Society to his friends as a joke) across its front page, hundreds of people submitted applications thus to take leave of Earth.3605

** Kfrafft Ehriche has pointed out that b Hydri is a nearby class G1 subgiant star which has just "recently" left the Main Sequence and will become a full-fledged Red Giant in perhaps 10-20 million years and that our own sun Sol should be an attractive refuge for any Hydrian colonists who may be fleeing the catastrophe.1154


Last updated on 28 March 2011