4.26.2012

First Contact: Values Dissonance


By on 9:43 PM

Now I know I've written about our anthropic limitations before but it's actually fairly difficult to understate just how important it is that we as a civilization recognize how incredibly unlikely it is that any extraterrestrial civilization will have a value system in any way similar to our own.

What?





It's important to understand I'm not necessarily talking about simply having different values, I'm talking about have completely different ethical structures. Here on earth there exists a sizable degree of values dissonance. We don't even have to look at different time periods to see this, or even in more than one country. 

In the U.S. people's opinions on everything from gun control to environmental protection change fairly predictably by region. If we do decide to look at more than one country things get even more drastic. In the famous Milgrim Experiments it was found that while most people would “kill” the subject, the proportions would drastically increase in some Asian countries, demonstrating the increased emphasis placed on authority in these cultures.

While these certainly demonstrate how different cultures and societies measure various values it's important to remember that most human cultures have the majority of their moral codes more or less the same (for example, killing is wrong). Furthermore, even though one culture might find another’s truly strange, it's generally possible to understand the logic behind another group's value system. 

Aliens on the other hand probably have a system so different from ours that we'd be incredibly lucky if their actions didn't seem completely random to us. While writers love to play with this trope, they still often fall victim to the inescapable limitation of having been raised in a human society. While it's possible there are aliens that value asymmetrical beauty and kill anything that doesn't fit into this ideal because anything “hideous” must be evil, it's more likely that aliens follow some standard of ethics that doesn't make any sense to us whatsoever.

This all assumes of course, that aliens even have a concept of right and wrong. It's also a distinct possibility that having a system with moral and immoral actions – and possibly amoral depending on how you want to look at it – is a concept that was never developed amongst extraterrestrials. Sure there might be some that use a similar system, but there also might be some with a system that uses a million different intersecting axis for measuring the desirability of an action.


So what does this all mean?

Well to start with, it means that when we do eventually find life it is highly unlikely we'll be able to interact with them in any meaningful way for quite awhile. Both sides are likely to have a tremendous amount of difficulty even if we both use the exact same moral structure. Considering how unlikely this is, it will probably take years of study before we're able to even interpret their actions and longer still before we're able to figure out how they view our actions.It also means that there might even be some aliens we come into contact with that we will simply never be able to understand because are value systems are just too different. 

In this case no matter how hard we'd try to study them, their actions would always appear entirely random to us.


And then?




War. As a whole humans have shown themselves time and time again to be pretty dismissive of people different from ourselves and there's no reason to think this wouldn't extend to any extraterrestrials we happen to stumble across. Add to that the fact that many humans take offense to anybody with even mildly different beliefs and we have a recipe for disaster.

This is all assuming of course that the aliens don't kill us on sight because our density is too high or our surface area too low.

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

About Syed Faizan Ali

Faizan is a 17 year old young guy who is blessed with the art of Blogging,He love to Blog day in and day out,He is a Website Designer and a Certified Graphics Designer.

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