The (U.K.) Daily Mailreports that the United Nations plans to establish a new diplomatic post: an ambassador to officially greet aliens visiting Earth. The position is being created because, according to the Daily Mail, hundreds of planets have been discovered orbiting other stars.
It's wise to plan for various contingencies, particularly those that are likely or that could have profound consequences. But that raises at least two more questions: What if the alien visitors are hostile? Do we all agree that the United Nations has the moral and political authority to handle this responsibility?
Personally, I don't think the discovery of planets orbiting other stars changes anything. Most scientists have long suspected as much.
I'm not sure what we could do if we were visited by hostile aliens who have mastered interstellar space travel. Though it's just as likely that intelligent aliens would find humans threatening once they really got to know us.
Nor would I trust the United Nations to handle this job. The United Nations is not the world's highest governing body; it was established to foster peace and international cooperation. And let's face it: the UN has done a lousy job. It's well known that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), for example, serves mainly to shield the countries that are the worst human rights violators. The UNHRC has passed resolutions regarding the "defamation of religions" that are clearly intended to justify member state laws that curb freedom of speech. I'm also concerned about who gets to select and fill the UN's space ambassador post. For example, Iran was elected to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women; can you imagine anything more obscene?
Before anyone appoints a space ambassador purporting to represent the entire Earth, I suggest that the position needs to be clearly defined. And it has to be defined in a way that precludes the advancement of any particular religious or political agenda.
UPDATE: 2010-09-27 21:56
Stephen Hawking has another take, per the UK Telegraph:
He [Stephen Hawking] said: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
So, the aliens could turn out to be environmental imperialists and all around bad beings.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said “Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days.”
I don’t know how reliable the first number is, but I’m sure that digital, online technology has spurred phenomenal growth. Digital, online technology makes it easier and more cost-effective to produce, store, and distribute content. That much is obvious.
What’s less well known is that it’s now possible to measure everything. By that I mean (for starters) everything you do, everywhere you go, everything you say, and everything you read, listen to, and watch. It’s also possible to measure the behavior of groups of people, companies, countries, markets, and the entire world.
Isaac Asimov foresaw the possibility of using math to predict the future—at least in its broad outline. He based his Foundation science fiction series on what he called the science of psychohistory. However, Asimov believed that psychohistory would not be accurate enough to predict smaller scale events in the distant future.
An important question emerges: are predictions about smaller scale events unreliable because the laws of physics get in the way? It may be impossible to predict small scale events well into the future, but there’s plenty of evidence that we can predict near-term, small scale events. This is what game theory, behavioral targeting, and sociophysics are all about.
I’m concerned that the propensity to measure and record everything could be harmful to individuals. This information could be used against us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Plus, those who collect and analyze the data would have a huge advantage over individuals.
If privacy is dead, so is individual freedom. Avoid, as much as possible, being tracked and profiled.
I grew up in the Chicago area and know something about how the Daley family has dominated Chicago politics for 42 of the past 55 years. Chicago Democrat Party machine corruption takes many forms, but patronage is its lynchpin. In a nutshell, the Daleys perfected the art of handing out jobs to people who understood they were expected to work hardest during election campaign season.
Now, President Obama wants to scale up Chicago-style patronage to nationwide.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Vowing to find new ways to stimulate the sputtering economy, President Barack Obama will call for long-term investments in the nation's roads, railways and runways that would cost at least $50 billion.
The infrastructure investments are one part of a package of targeted proposals the White House is expected to announce in hopes of jump-starting the economy ahead of the November election. Obama will outline the infrastructure proposal Monday at a Labor Day event in Milwaukee.
While the proposal calls for investments over six years, the White House said spending would be front-loaded with an initial $50 billion to help create jobs in the near future.
The goals of the infrastructure plan include: rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads; constructing and maintaining 4,000 miles of railways, enough to go coast-to-coast; and rehabilitating or reconstructing 150 miles of airport runways, while also installing a new air navigation system designed to reduce travel times and delays.
Obama will also call for the creation of a permanent infrastructure bank that would focus on funding national and regional infrastructure projects. [My emphasis.]
Happy Labor Day.
UPDATE: Mayor Richard M. Daley recently announced he would not seek a seventh term. Surely it was not because he thought he would lose an election. Much more likely, he's noticed the country's anti-incumbent mood, and doesn't want to be around when Chicago's city government collapses from years of corruption, waste, and rising street crime.