By: Nick Sagan
A: In “Alien Encounters” one of the many excellent points Neil deGrasse Tyson makes is that we can barely get along with ourselves, so how are we going to get along with aliens? We’re not ready, he says, and looking at our history to this point, he’s probably right. That said, one can imagine scenarios where first contact brings out the best in us. And perhaps we’ll find a civilization that’s faced similar challenges in their own history, a people who know how to conduct themselves in a way that maximizes the chance that the experience will be positive for all involved.
A: It’s hard to predict extraterrestrial motivations but I would imagine an advanced civilization would gain as much from making contact with us as we might upon discovering an intriguing but primitive new species of life. We’d be a subject of curiosity, perhaps expanding their understanding of how life develops on worlds other than their own. On the other hand, we may be so far behind them in our development that we’d be utterly uninteresting to them (which may explain why we’ve yet to hear from anyone.)