Could aliens have found humans first without us realizing? A group of scientists who gathered last week in Paris claims intelligent beings could be quietly watching humankind in a ‘galactic ZOO’ to protect us from the distressing truth of their existence.
One possibility, albeit unflattering, could be that intelligent aliens are intentionally shielding us from the truth because humans would struggle to cope with the reality of their existence, some say.
Researchers at the METI International meeting proposed that aliens could be keeping us in somewhat of a ‘galactic zoo,’ simply watching us without revealing themselves so as to avoid spurring cultural upset on Earth.
The day-long workshop organized by METI International (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is held every other year in Paris.
Scientists from all disciplines gathered at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie science museum to explore a question that dates back to 1950, now known as the Fermi Paradox: ‘Where is everybody?’
While it’s an unnerving thought, some suggest extraterrestrial observers have been there all along without us realizing it.
‘It seems likely that extraterrestrials are imposing a “galactic quarantine” because they realize it would be culturally disruptive for us to learn about them,’ said co-chair Jean-Pierre Rospars, the honorary research director at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique.
‘Cognitive evolution on Earth shows random features while also following predictable paths. We can expect the repeated, independent emergence of intelligent species in the universe, and we should expect to see more or less similar forms of intelligence everywhere, under favourable conditions. There’s no reason to think that humans have reached the highest cognitive level possible. Higher levels might evolve on Earth in the future and already be reached elsewhere.’
To break the silence, then, the researchers say we may need to be more direct in our approach.
Douglas Vakoch, president of METI, likens this to a zebra in a zoo who suddenly turns to look you in the eye and punches out prime numbers with its hoof.
Such an extreme and unexpected prompt would most certainly provoke a response from the observer.
‘Perhaps extraterrestrial are watching humans on Earth, much like we watch animals in a zoo,’ Vakoch said. ‘How can we get the galactic zookeepers to reveal themselves?’
For humans using a scientific approach, that prompt could be radio signal transmissions to nearby stars.
It’s something that’s been attempted on numerous occasions going back to the early 1970s, when scientists beamed – for the first time – an intentional message into space, using the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. But, it seems we’ll just have to keep trying.
WHAT WILL WE DO IF WE MAKE CONTACT?
Basic protocols for our first contact with aliens were put in place in the 1980s, but these are merely guidelines, rather than an action plan for dealing with alien contact.
Dr Seth Shostak, who leads the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute’s efforts to detect radio signals from alien civilisations, has previously said a more detailed action plan must be put in place.
In November last year he said our current response to aliens ‘would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the US Air Force showed up.’
In the 1990s, Dr Shostak chaired a committee that prepared a ‘post-detection protocol’ for researchers listening for alien transmissions.
But these have remained largely unchanged since then, and are seen as guidelines, rather than a definite plan for dealing with alien contact.