What an alien might think
I tend to take the name of this slot literally, so I offer some thoughts for today. Today is the 8th January 2005, at the beginning of the 6th year of the 21st century, and we (by ‘we’, I mean the human race) have enormous potential, vast resources, and great knowledge. So why do we make things so difficult for ourselves? I often try to imagine what a highly intelligent alien from another part of the universe would think, if she or he were to come and see how we carry on. An alien with superior intelligence and an ethical approach to life might ask how we can be both so stupid and so clever.
My alien might be impressed by the compassion shown by so many, and the ingenuity, and the creativity, but might well ask why these things aren’t shared around. Why are a million and a half children a year dying from malnourishment and preventable diseases, when we could stop that happening? Why is it that their plight is largely ignored because they’re dying in ones and twos, while an event like an earthquake or plane crash that kills a lot of people at once attracts so much more attention? Why do we seem to care more about some deaths than others?
Why talk about disasters like tsunamis being a ‘punishment’, when we know that they’re caused by natural events? Nature’s indifferent to human or any other sort of suffering. Earthquakes happen because the earth’s crust is moving around on top of a molten mantle, and the continents are colliding or separating. We can’t stop that happening, but we can predict when major events might happen, and take steps to limit the destruction and loss of life.
The American Humanist Gene Roddenberry wrote the TV series Star Trek, in which he imagined what life might be like in the future. He imagined living without money, because if you lived in a fair and equitable society no one would need it. An alien coming here now might ask why so much is spent on armed conflict while others starve? And why is so much destructive energy devoted to maintaining differences, rather than developing what we have in common?
I think an alien might assume that, in terms of development, the human race is only at an ignorant adolescent stage, and has yet to mature. I think an alien might say it’s about time we grew up.