If aliens contact humanity, who decides what we do next?

The Very Large Array at the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, New Mexico. Photograph: VW/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The moment has been imagined a thousand times. As astronomers comb the cosmos with their powerful telescopes, they spot something that makes them gasp. Amid the feeble rays from distant galaxies lies a weak but persistent signal: a message from an advanced civilisation.

It would be a transformative event for humankind, one the world’s nations are surely prepared for. Or are they? “Look at the mess we made when Covid hit. We’d be like headless chickens,” says Dr John Elliott, a computational linguist at the University of St Andrews. “We cannot afford to be ill-prepared, scientifically, socially, and politically rudderless, for an event that could happen at any time and which we cannot afford to mismanage.”

This frank assessment of Earth’s unreadiness for contact with life elsewhere underpins the creation of the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) post-detection hub at St Andrews.

Over the next month or two, Elliott aims to bring together a core team of international researchers and affiliates. They will take on the job of getting ready: to analyse mysterious signals, or even artefacts, and work out every aspect of how we should respond.

Source: If aliens contact humanity, who decides what we do next? | Space | The Guardian

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