The assumption that extraterrestrial intelligence would be similar to present day humans cannot be made with current knowledge. Aliens would have developed under different environments, they would have their own unique cultures and they would be centuries ahead of humanity with much more advance technology that would have its own unknown impact on their culture.
If they have survived long enough to develop the advanced technology needed to travel between the stars, then the negative tendencies of their past would have vanished since the technology would instead be used for destroying each other had they not rid themselves of those tendencies already. Caldwell’s view that humanity’s negative qualities could be the cause of their own extinction is prominent in the title of his article “Is Humanity Destined to Self-Destruct”. Caldwell suggests that “Assumptions and behaviors that have served humanity for centuries may no longer be appropriate. (Caldwell 3). Civilizations need to change as they develop. Constant distrust and paranoia were essential for survival in the wild but applied to current society these qualities hinder individuals and often medication is used to counteract them. The survival of the fittest method of the distant past is considered very barbaric today.
The Nazis believed in survival of the fittest and most of the world united in the common cause to stop them. The narrator in The War of the Worlds describes the Martians killing humans with gas. So, setting about it as methodically as men might smoke out a wasp’s nest, the Martians spread this strange stifling vapour over the Londonward country. ” (Wells 142). This is an odd example in which H. G. Wells’s aliens are actually more cruel than humans. Almost a century ago humanity realized that chemical weapons are morally wrong. In the past chemical weapons were used but society has come to recognize them as being barbaric and they are outlawed by the international community. Even so, H. G. Wells fails to imagine the potential of the weapons of the future.
In The War of the Worlds, the narrator considers the possibility of the tripods being robots. “I began to ask myself what they could be. Were they intelligent mechanisms? Such a thing I felt was impossible. ” (Wells 82). The tripods turn out to be more akin to cars or tanks, with a Martian controlling each machine. In reality though, the tripods would be self-intelligent, if machines were used at all. Already humanity is beginning to use drones to kill other humans without putting themselves in harm’s way.
An alien race would especially use robots when considering the possible microorganisms that could inhabit the planet and infect them, which was actually the downfall of the Martians in The War of the Worlds. This is assuming they would use any sort of technology that could even be comprehended by humans though. In The War of the Worlds, the narrator says “He compared it to a colossal puff of flame, suddenly and violently squirted out of the planet,’as flaming gas rushes out of a gun. ” ( Wells 16). Wells thought that the Martians would use giant cannons to launch themselves to Earth. Wells’s vision of space travel is impossible.
Currently, space travel is achieved through relatively small, complex rockets. Future technology would use more efficient methods of space travel, some of which humans are already trying to develop. This shows the vast difference in knowledge caused by technology and how it affects a society’s views of the universe. Even within a species there are differences in culture that have a large impact on thought processes and history. Ambady cites a study in which “Members of both cultures ( American and Japanese) showed the same neurological path but the different behavioral outcomes reflected cultural preferences. (Ambady). The Americans preferred more powerful leaders while the Japanese preferred warmer leaders. Different cultures have vastly different views on what behaviors are positive qualities. Ambady says that the brain functions were the same but with different outcomes.
With a different brain function, as a different species would have, the outcome could vary even more. Ambady makes the case that “One of the most fundamental ways in which cultural beliefs, practices, and ideologies influence psychological processes is in the cognitive schema… hat people use to think about themselves and their relation to others. ” (Ambady). American participants in the study only had activation in the self awareness area when shown themselves. Japanese participants had activation both when shown themselves and people who were close to them. This demonstrates how vastly different views of the world and others can be simply because of culture. The difference between humans and aliens are likely vast.
Dick states that “I am sympathetic with Lem’s view that extraterrestrial communication may be much more challenging than we think… he problem reduces to a question of extraterrestrial epistemology, or ways of knowing. There are 3 cases… no overlap, partial overlap, and complete overlap… with no overlap between human and alien minds, there would be no communication,” (Dick). The most likely scenario being partial overlap, humans and aliens would differ widely in the way they think and thus the cultures and beliefs they create. This biological and cultural difference creates an unimaginable amount of possible variations of what an alien’s nature, history and current culture could be.
The possibility of them being similar in nature to humans is unlikely when considering all the other possibilities. Keeping this in mind, Dick notes that “One approach to the implications of extraterrestrial intelligence has been general historical analogies, especially physical culture contacts on Earth, which usually end in disaster. ” (Dick). It has previously been shown how Dick warns against the use of analogies and how there are other types of culture contact, some of which are more likely. Here Dick acknowledges the most common idea of alien contact, which H. G. Wells exhibited in The War of the Worlds.
There is a bias to assume that aliens would be aggressive since human history often revolves around conflict. Additionally, a movie or a book about an alien invasion is much more interesting than making contact through transmissions and signals which exchange peaceful information, even though Dick says that the later is actually a more likely scenario. Caldwell emphasizes that “As the twentieth century ends, we may identify both constructive and destructive trends that will influence the future of humanity… Attitudes, beliefs and behaviors all interact to direct the flow of change over time. (Caldwell 3).
Constructive trends are what keeps humanity alive. These trends include eliminating disease and famine, ending racism and slavery as well as creating a cooperative international organization, such as the United Nations. Without constructive trends humanity would have made itself extinct long ago through nuclear war. Examples of destructive trends would be increasing instances of war and the destruction of the environment. If human history is examined, it can be seen that the trend is constructive. If it was not, humans would be gone by now.
The same can be said for aliens. Aliens would not have lasted long enough to develop interstellar technology if they were still as destructive as humans currently are. The behavioral and historical tendencies of intelligent life outside Earth has too many variables to be assumed to resemble human nature, as H. G. Wells does in The War of the Worlds, and thus the fear that they would is unjustified. Evolution has guided humans to be fearful as a survival instinct. The push to be fearful was so strong that it is thought that part of the reason for human intelligence is because of fear.
Humans have learned to fear the negative qualities of humanity since they are the largest threat to themselves. The fear of these negative qualities in alien life is attributed to the fact that humans are the only example of intelligent life thus far. The War of the Worlds, as well as society, often compares alien behavior to human behavior which is not a valid assumption since it is likely that humans and aliens have developed under entirely different conditions with different cultures, different civilizations and different technology.
This is because all civilizations change along with changes in technology and culture. H. G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds with the intention of leading humanity into a more peaceful world. If humanity, or any species for that matter, is to survive long enough to possess the technology to travel between the stars, then certainly they would have replaced their destructive tendencies with constructive ones instead.
Caldwell believes that “human future may depend upon social learning; the transformation of knowledge into culture and behavior. ” (Caldwell 10). Destructive behavior will extinct a species. To extend any species’ survival it must recognize the flaws in its behavior and learn from the mistakes of its past. Its behavior must be constructive to deal with the issues that come with the prolonged existence required for interstellar travel. If not, any technology they create will be used to further their destruction.