Appearance At First Sight: Would we really trust aliens who looked human? (an article by: GF Willmetts).

November 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

Would we really trust aliens who looked human?

Considering the way we are working our way through Science Fiction tropes in real life these days, you do have to wonder when are we going to expect our first acknowledged extra-terrestrial visitors or tourists. Let’s delay calling them conquerors until we see their intentions. I mean, having giant spaceships floating over various key populations around the world doesn’t necessarily have to be an act of aggression, just keeping some cities in perpetual shadow.

If they use faster-than-light spacecraft and sorted out all the problems of accelerating and decelerating, they might suddenly just be here. They might even have missed our TV broadcasts only 90 light years out now and know nothing about our TV or film fiction of how we view alien invasions and how closet and out-of-the-closet xenophobic we are. Granted we are slowly changing as a species, but we would have to consider the alien element and, even if they don’t stay, how it would affect our societies at all levels. I mean, we’ve been looking for alien-life since SETI but, as far as I can see, little has been done about official protocols should they visit us instead.

Giving this some thought, I’m going to focus on one thing this time, namely what an alien species looks like. We’re assume they come from a similar nitrogen-oxygen mix atmosphere and have sorted out some sort of protection against terrestrial infections as well as us from their own potential infections. The same with language translation. There might be some variations on this but we’ll take some things are given. After all, a species that can travel between stars is technologically wise far out ranks humans is bound to have the means to sort out some communication technique than us fumbling around for the right keys to understanding and speaking it correctly.

There’s a lot to be said for a nitrogen-oxygen based atmosphere as we’ve seen from our own planet. 20% oxygen means it reduces combustibility but doesn’t rule it out and our own history shows the discovery of fire means heat for everything from cooking food and improve digestion to intense heat and blast furnacing iron and carbon into steel and other alloys. In many respects, much of their scientific background is likely to have some parallels to our own that we can connect to. That’s not to say that there aren’t other atmosphere combinations but, given the choice, you’re more likely to visit a planet with a similar atmosphere to your own homeworld, even if you have to air filter and purify the water than rely on your own supplies.

Appearance wise, we are undoubtedly going to compare to our own interpretation of aliens. Arthur Clarke with his novel, ‘Childhood’s End’, hit it on the head with the Overlords looking devil-like and it took 50 years to build up acceptance before coming out of their starships showing they realised the problem had they just met us. Even so, if the aliens looked like the xenomorphs, Klingons, Cardasians, metal pepperpots a’la Daleks, looking like robots or the predator hunters, then we are likely to be more than a little wary as to their intentions. Even if, as a planet, we outnumber them many times over, the difference in advanced technology or weaponry might not favour us if we went on a pre-emptive attack.

The same would also be the case if they resembled the Vulcans, ET or even the little grey men from ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ and automatically think they would have our best interests at heart. Appearances are only skin-deep and we would need to rely on more than that. It would be more worrying if they had a human skin coating over a reptilian body like the Sirian Visitors from either version of ‘V’. Yes, this might make them easier to accept, but if that wasn’t made clear from the start, you would have to wonder what else they are hiding and a needed look at their cookbooks and dietary habits. Anyone got a copy of the book, ‘To Serve Man’ in their kitchen?

This doesn’t mean appearance is everything, just that we shouldn’t associate it with what we’ve created ourselves and think we’ve seen it all before and carries the same sort of baggage, good and bad, we’ve associated with it. Despite what I wrote in the previous paragraph, I doubt if they’ll allow us full access to their text books, even in translation, or medical scans to show their biology simply because we might use their knowledge against them. Equally, we might think the same thing as well unless there is a mutual sharing and then there is bound to be some reluctance without a lot of trust. This does go along a discussion point of why no official visitations so far, assuming some alien species is observing on the out-skirts of the Solar System. You would want a measure of civilisation and sanity to be met as equals and the human race still has got a long way to go in that regard. Even so, that wouldn’t stop some alien species to think they could manage us better rather than risk we exterminating ourselves in a nuclear war or over-pollution. The best intentions might not always look the best from our own perspective. After all, it isn’t as though we’ve never been to foreign lands an indoctrinated our religions, conquered or made slaves of local populations ourselves. Our history shows we have form for doing this ourselves and can hardly assume any visiting aliens wouldn’t contemplate such a gesture themselves.

Appearance At First Sight: Would we really trust aliens who looked human?

I think I would be a little more wary of an extra-terrestrial species that resembles humans too much. Although there is a case for parallel evolution and probably cause for humanoid being the least number of limbs, I would be inclined to want to see a CAT scan and other tests to determine how close they are to ourselves and how good they are at bio-engineering. I would certainly prefer to see them wear their own style of clothes than dress terrestrial. After all, their mindset might determine we would be happier with a similar face but it tends to question what other motives they might have. As I noted above, one only has to look at both versions of ‘V’ to wonder what is really going on beneath the skin. Offering cures for every illness or injury we have might appear generous but can conceal ulterior motives and should certainly be under some scrutiny first. Certainly, to do that would also make you wonder how, where and when they got their knowledge of human physiology so quickly without the examination of some subjects.

At least our knowledge of the galaxy is showing that there are a lot more planets capable of sustaining life now, although the ecological systems might not be suitable for all. It is the distance between star systems that will make any habitable planet an oasis discovery for any sentient species in the great beyond. Think of the effect every time astronomers have every time they find what they consider an exo-planet now and multiple that elation by a million if you or them had the ability to get there quickly and meet them or vice versa from their perspective.

The odds so far that there are other sentient alien species out there have shown no results after decades of looking for signals doesn’t mean much really. We’ve only made significant massive strides in our technological development in the past two centuries. It could still be another couple of centuries before we found advances in physics that showed how alien species might have developed their version of Ursula LeGuin’s ansible interstellar instance communication device. How many more centuries before we become united as a species will be a lot longer. In some respects, having extra-terrestrials amongst us might change that to a ‘us’ and ‘them’ and become collective and getting us past differences, at least while they are here. Again, an extra-terrestrial species might also consider this option as well if they want to unify us.

However, when you consider we’ve barely been looking seriously with big budgets for less than a century and modern technology and growing not quite two centuries, the threshold for a successful civilisation moving into the atomic age and surviving contamination and other problems we’ve had is quite short. With the length of time, let alone distance, it takes the speed of light, even if another alien species was looking for life elsewhere, it is doubtful they would receive signals back in their civilisation’s time period, more so when you consider our own pollution woes elsewhere. Certainly, if our nearest stars like Tau Ceti and the Centauri systems had technological advanced life, we would have heard by now. They might well determine that the time they detect life here and getting to Earth, several centuries have past and that we would be ready for them.

Having other species within the same time-frame as ourselves would primarily be space-travellers. Given the choice and bearing in mind the expanding universe, even if you suspected life here, you are going in the opposite direction to the way it is moving. Whether there are any space-farers moving forward from behind, it would also depend on their route. After all, we are on the outer spiral of the Milky Way, you would be targeting further in where the density of star systems is greater than where we are. Why go to the out-skirts when there is more likelihood of life nearer the core?

Again, how far from our own appearance would we find acceptable? Additional sensory apparatus from extra eyes to other senses might be passable. Whether they had more than spurious extra-sensory talents like telepathy might be a little more worrying if they don’t tell us about it. The same would also apply to how quickly they mastered our language, taught us theirs or how long it would take. Any sort of translation device would be suspect if it couldn’t understand and make sense of our metaphors.

I think what would worry me the most is if they looked exactly like us. Yes, there would be some satisfaction that parallel evolution happens across the galaxy with similar DNA and we would certainly expect to see some sort of power struggle in how they evolved in comparison to human history. We would certainly hope that they’ve outgrown any of our own tendencies when it came to conquering other countries and subjugating or removing the natives. Even so, to look exactly like us would be a big disappointment and even studying their travels to find it always happening this way. You would hardly want to travel to see other species, even if you could, just to see more of the same. How many text books can you fill up on that subject?

Of course, they could end up looking like little grey or green men and then we would have one heck of an apology to those who might have been abducted by them in the past, more so if it turned out to be true and they were sampling to understand us. That being the case, then we would be asking more questions about abductions and why they didn’t reveal themselves earlier. Of course, if its revealed that they have, then we’re going to be asking various governments about any cover-up.

Certainly, it would change the complexion of Science Fiction and how we view extra-terrestrial life. On the other hand, some stories might be more revealing as to how we would see ourselves in the universe, especially if we were to join their communities. It would no doubt be a bigger question as to whether we would like to be seen as lowest ranking or tell them to go away and leave us to our own development. Would anyone want to bet on how such a voting might turn out? We might also lose out on a one-time deal. Let’s hope the right protocols are in place before we get to that stage and hope extra-terrestrial visitors are wiser and patient than ourselves. I mean, what could go wrong with that?

© GF Willmetts 2020

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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