The possibility of first contact with extraterrestrial life is a hot topic these days, with recent reports of UFO sightings and government cover-ups. But as an Indigenous studies working group has warned, we need to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

History shows that contact between different cultures can often lead to colonization and genocide. For example, when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, he and his crew brought diseases that killed millions of Indigenous people. They also enslaved and exploited many others.

The working group argues that the same thing could happen if we make contact with aliens without first thinking carefully about the ethics of the situation. They point out that SETI, the organization that is responsible for searching for extraterrestrial life, is largely dominated by STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) scholars. This means that there is little input from social scientists and humanities scholars, who have a better understanding of the history of colonialism and its potential consequences.

The working group also argues that the act of listening for alien signals is itself a form of contact. This is because it sends a message to potential aliens that we are interested in communicating with them. If we listen without their permission, it could be seen as a form of eavesdropping or surveillance.

The working group concludes by calling for a more inclusive approach to planning for first contact with aliens. They argue that we need to involve a wider range of experts, including social scientists and humanities scholars, in order to develop a more ethical and responsible plan for contact.

The working group’s warnings are timely and important. As we get closer to the possibility of first contact with aliens, we need to be mindful of the potential consequences. If we don’t learn from history, we could repeat the mistakes of the past and end up colonizing or even destroying an alien civilization.

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