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View Full Version : How would you react to a message received from space?



Sophia
06-06-2008, 11:37 PM
In my SF WIP, a signal is detected from space that is basically interpreted to be instructions for modifying the human genome. The signal is detected worldwide, is not a secret and was received before the start of the novel's events. Its origin is unknown.

I know the reactions of my characters and the organisations I have in my novel to the signal, but I've avoided until now working out how the world might have changed in response to the signal's detection. I'm approaching it by looking for individual reactions and then extrapolating to larger groups.

In my research, I found several instances of people saying that having evidence of life beyond the Earth would make no difference to them, and they wouldn't be interested in it. This wasn't a reaction that I'd expected, and I wanted to ask for reactions here to hopefully identify any other basic false assumptions I've made. The poll contains the options I've thought of so far: if your reaction isn't listed, could you please specify it in the thread? If anyone wants to expand on the poll option they pick, I'd appreciate hearing it.

Upbeat
06-06-2008, 11:47 PM
...clever research idea! I'll be watching results.

kuwisdelu
06-06-2008, 11:49 PM
As an avid X-Files fan, I'd be expecting to see a government conspiracy to make it all disappear very quickly. Of course, no one would know that's what it is except a few of us who know The Truth.

jhtatroe
06-06-2008, 11:57 PM
I voted "something different," because I suspect the reaction to be disbelief. It's much easier to chalk something like that up to those wackos who really want to believe than to seriously think about the consequences. If it became irrefutable, was analyzed by scientists, and and confirmed in academic journals, then I'd expect a reaction more akin to the news of a successful cloning, with most of the interest being in policy debate.

DeleyanLee
06-07-2008, 12:10 AM
You'd have to make me believe it was real first, though I'm not really sure how that would happen since I don't believe everything science or the media tells me is fact is fact because science takes all the cool-factor out of the world for me and the media is never above lying to make ratings.

And even after I believed it was real, really, how would it affect my day to day life? Modifying the human genome is the stuff of far beyond my life that I don't see how it'll affect me until it boils down to my personal decision whether or not to have it done to me or if someone I love has it done to them.

Outside of the momentary joy of having the SETI Program validated, I honestly don't see any difference between an alien giving us the answer and some scientist somewhere discovering it for themselves.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
06-07-2008, 12:26 AM
I'm in the 'I wouldn't believe it' camp.

Ravenlocks
06-07-2008, 12:53 AM
I voted "Cool!" before I read the part about modifying the human genome. Having aliens around who knew how to do that would freak me out. I'm freaked out by the idea that humans are messing with our genes, too.

In general, though, I'd be fascinated by the discovery of life on other planets, but unless said life-forms showed up and blasted us all to bits, I doubt it would affect my life very much. It certainly wouldn't impact my worldview or religious beliefs, both of which are flexible enough to allow for alien life if we discover it. If I got a message from outer space, my first reactions would probably be, "I need to say hi back" and "I want to know more about this language."

That's given it was proven to actually be from outer space, of course.

waylander
06-07-2008, 01:10 AM
it's spam

DWSTXS
06-07-2008, 01:14 AM
As an avid X-Files fan, I'd be expecting to see a government conspiracy to make it all disappear very quickly. Of course, no one would know that's what it is except a few of us who know The Truth.


I want to believe

Sophia
06-07-2008, 01:25 AM
These answers are fantastic, exactly what I wanted. Thank you so much for taking the time to detail your responses. The poll will remain open (and you can select more than one option if you wish) if anyone else would like to vote and comment. The variety in the reactions so far has been really interesting and a huge help. Thank you again, everyone!

waylander, ROFL! :D

StephanieFox
06-07-2008, 01:44 AM
My answer would depend on if this were a message that everyone (or large numbers of people) received or if I were the only one who heard it. If I were the only one, I'd figure it was a haloooooosination and ignore it.

It would also matter what kind of message this was. I figure that the first message would be trying to sell something, so I'd probably ignore it, kinda like a sales call during dinner.

talkwrite
06-07-2008, 02:03 AM
I too am going to have to be convinced that these are real entities from outer space... I believe there are other forms of life out there/ But we have so many people here that exist to fool and shock people that I would be skeptical from that angle.
So I would try to communicate with them and test their human reactions to the subject matter.

blackrose602
06-07-2008, 02:35 AM
Fascinating topic, and a lot of interesting answers so far. I would be overwhelmingly excited, and would attempt to make contact on my own. Actually, that would be in tandem with my father, a retired government engineer with a major scientific bent, who would probably have the required scientific knowledge to work out how to do it.

I'm kind of a student of world culture, and love just sitting down and conversing with people from other places. How amazing would it be to sit down and converse with someone from another planet/galaxy/universe?

Soccer Mom
06-07-2008, 02:36 AM
it's spam


Space spam? :ROFL:

benbradley
06-07-2008, 02:38 AM
In my SF WIP, a signal is detected from space that is basically interpreted to be instructions for modifying the human genome. The signal is detected worldwide, is not a secret and was received before the start of the novel's events. Its origin is unknown.
I'd like to know a whole lot more about it, what language it's in (presumably a Human language such as English, and how did They learn it?, If not, how did WE learn what THEY are saying? It seems unlikely that several people operating independently would figure it out at the same time), how is the origin unknown (only a directional antenna/telescope could pick up a signal from outer space, unless the signal's transmitter used a huge amount of energy [in which case they're so far advanced they'd have no reason to talke to us], so those who picked it up would know with good precision what direction it came from), and more. But I'm quite "science-minded" and inquisitive (those two are somewhat reduntant), so mine might not be the usual reaction/response.

I know the reactions of my characters and the organisations I have in my novel to the signal, but I've avoided until now working out how the world might have changed in response to the signal's detection. I'm approaching it by looking for individual reactions and then extrapolating to larger groups.
I think many people will see the news similar to an unlikely underdog sports team getting into and winning the world championship game. Perhaps mildly interesting, but of no immediate direct value or concern.

I voted "something different," because I suspect the reaction to be disbelief. It's much easier to chalk something like that up to those wackos who really want to believe than to seriously think about the consequences. If it became irrefutable, was analyzed by scientists, and and confirmed in academic journals, then I'd expect a reaction more akin to the news of a successful cloning, with most of the interest being in policy debate.

I'm in the 'I wouldn't believe it' camp.
I'd also be very skeptical.

I want to believe
You're one of the DANGEROUS people! :D

You'd have to make me believe it was real first, though I'm not really sure how that would happen since I don't believe everything science or the media tells me is fact is fact because science takes all the cool-factor out of the world for me and the media is never above lying to make ratings.
I pretty much agree with you about the media, but it appears we have very different views of what science is. I see science as a method (or collection of methods) for discovering things about the physical world. Many see science as only the results and "announcements" of such methods, and appear to know very little about the methods themselves. For one thing, scientists are rarely as sure and as "factual" about their conclusions as the media shows them to be.

Not even other scientists believe "everything science tells me is fact." Skepticism and asking hard questions of other scientists and their methods are important parts of science.

Science is the SOURCE of most of the cool-factor of the world for me...

And even after I believed it was real, really, how would it affect my day to day life? Modifying the human genome is the stuff of far beyond my life that I don't see how it'll affect me until it boils down to my personal decision whether or not to have it done to me or if someone I love has it done to them.
That's a good point, new medical procedures aren't generally available until they're done on a few volunteers to determine efficacy and any bad effects, then made available initially at a high cost before it becomes

Outside of the momentary joy of having the SETI Program validated, I honestly don't see any difference between an alien giving us the answer and some scientist somewhere discovering it for themselves.
It really depends on what "modifying the human genome" means. There may be several ways to do it, each with its own limitations. There are surely fundamental limitations to what could be done, but I don't even know enough to guess at anyting other than the grossest ones (such as a body that weighs less than 20 pounds probably couldn't support an adult human brain).

it's spam
"Feeling inadequate? 3nlarge Your P1anet!!!"

DeleyanLee
06-07-2008, 02:44 AM
My roommate's response: "COOL! XMEN!"

wombat
06-07-2008, 04:19 AM
At first I thought "Cool!" but then....


it's spam

Of course! And why not? Why would aliens give us something useful for free when they could be selling alien herbal Viagra to new, untapped markets?

Oh, now I'm depressed. But I guess it would still be cool that someone was out there even if they're no better than us.

Memnon624
06-07-2008, 06:57 AM
My luck it would be an alien lolcat:

We in yur chest
Burstin yur ribs!

Seriously, though, if word of this came from the government, I'd probably go right into disbelieve mode (the old "you know how you can tell if the President is lying? His lips are moving" thing). Alien dudes, you might want to take over the world's broadcast facilities first. I'm just sayin' . . .

Best,

Scott

Histry Nerd
06-07-2008, 07:59 AM
Cool. I'll have to tell the family about this, if they haven't heard already. I wonder what the kids will think?

I hope I don't miss my train this morning.

That about covers it until it becomes more than just a news-ticker bullet. That, and flipping between CNN and Fox when I get home, until it becomes clear neither knows anything and the same five "experts" are speculating over and over about the same three-minute message I've already seen twenty translations of online.

And going out back with my son and trying to look for the aliens with his telescope.

And explaining to my daughter that the aliens are actually a really, really long way away and it will probably be years before anyone actually sees one.

And wondering what the hell this is going to do to the price of gas.

And wondering whether the Army's going to call me back.

And arguing with my wife about whether we should leave for the cabin in Colorado now, or wait until the situation is a little clearer.

And getting a gun just in case folks get spooked.

And stocking up on canned goods, just in case.

And switching back to the History channel because Fox and CNN are just repeating the same damned thing over and over, from a different angle.

And doing extra time at work because people are scared, and when people are scared you don't want to give them an excuse to make you a target.

And trying really hard not to work aliens into the story, because after all agents and editors are going to be sick and tired of alien stories by the time I can finish it.

And hoping the aliens don't take over the industry, because who knows how long it'll take them to get through a slushpile.

And wondering if, after all, they've been running the industry all along.

And otherwise just getting on with my life, wondering every day: "If everything really has changed, why is nothing different?"

Hope this helps.
HN

benbradley
06-07-2008, 08:32 AM
As an avid X-Files fan, I'd be expecting to see a government conspiracy to make it all disappear very quickly. Of course, no one would know that's what it is except a few of us who know The Truth.
I can just see the big "breaking news" story, interrupting soap operas everywhere, then a few hours later the news that:

"The Alien Message story widely reported earlier today is now being reported to be a hoax by government authorities. These new reports say hackers in Russia faked the message and transmitted it simultaneously to all the microwave-band telescopes facing the constellation of Andromeda, leading scoentists to believe the signal was extra-terrestrial in nature. Russian authorities are still locating the perpetrators. Scientists say they are embarrassed and steamed."

Then no more details come out. Ever.

"And the conspiracy theorists go WILD!"

Izunya
06-07-2008, 10:32 AM
Somewhere between "Cool!" and stockpiling, I think.

It has a lot to do with where I live. I'm in a pretty scientific town (those of you who know East Tennessee can probably track me down, now) so I'd expect curiosity and skepticism from the folks in my immediate area. On the other hand, I do remember sitting in a diner near where I used to work, and listening to a man expound on how the Face on Mars was built by nephilim, so . . . well, it only takes one crazy to really, really ruin your day. Definitely a few cans of beans.

I guess how skeptical I'd be depends on who the aliens contact and how they prove it. SETI, for instance, is pretty cautious about labeling things artificial; they have a number of unexplained signals in their files, including one that someone wrote "Wow!" on because it looked so much like what they were expecting—but they've still never had anything they could pin down. If they call it alien, I would believe them.

I would surf channels like a freak, click around the internet like a mad thing, and try to keep an ear open for trouble. (Which might involve turning off the air conditioner and opening the windows, because my town still has evacuation sirens, of all things. Really annoying when they test them every month; weirdly reassuring on 9-11. If everything did go pear-shaped, at least I would know about it . . .) And the genome thing would alarm me a bit, because it implies they've been here. In which case, when and where and why didn't they announce themselves like sociable sapients?

Also, I would think of Species. But not too hard, because that movie didn't particularly impress me. If gengineering aliens really did want to wipe us out, they wouldn't rely on us doing it to ourselves; if they can get samples of our DNA, they can send us a supervirus. I think I would be more worried about alien good intentions.

Izunya

frimble3
06-07-2008, 10:35 AM
And why would we want to let a pack of aliens modify our genome in some unspecified way? We've got people who don't trust immunization, why would we allow untested, unproven genome changes? What if they want use to die off in a generation to free up some property? Or make us earlier-maturing and more flavourful? I'm kinda hoping it's a hoax.

Sophia
06-07-2008, 01:48 PM
Thank you very much, everyone! These responses are great and have helped a lot.

HistryNerd: "If everything really has changed, why is nothing different?" struck a chord. Thank you!

Kathie Freeman
06-08-2008, 03:15 AM
And why would we want to let a pack of aliens modify our genome in some unspecified way? We've got people who don't trust immunization, why would we allow untested, unproven genome changes? What if they want use to die off in a generation to free up some property? Or make us earlier-maturing and more flavourful? I'm kinda hoping it's a hoax.

Amen to that. Remember the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"? Besides, any changes to the genome would not affect the currently living, only their progeny.

Miguelito
06-08-2008, 05:01 AM
I'd want to send a message back asking, "How did you avoid destroying yourselves when you were at our developmental stage?"

Don Allen
06-08-2008, 05:08 AM
Asshole and elbows....

Thats all you'd see of me departing the scene...

C.bronco
06-08-2008, 05:17 AM
I'm working out how best to use this to advance my financial interests

I'd send them an invite to a barbeque at my house for margaritas and a little brainstorming for product and marketing.

benbradley
06-08-2008, 05:59 AM
I'd want to send a message back asking, "How did you avoid destroying yourselves when you were at our developmental stage?"
"Sorry, we can't answer. Our society advanced beyond war and other intraspecies strife well before we discovered how to make nukes and other methods to kill all our own species."

"Good luck."

GeorgeK
06-09-2008, 06:19 AM
When the Sklyzbatarians finally reveal themselves, you will realize just how long they've already been communicating with us via the faceless internet, posting on bulletin boards, posing questions such as, "How would you react if...?"
;)

smallthunder
06-09-2008, 08:52 AM
When the Sklyzbatarians finally reveal themselves, you will realize just how long they've already been communicating with us via the faceless internet, posting on bulletin boards, posing questions such as, "How would you react if...?"
;)

Now STOP that! You're freaking me out!

:tongue

benbradley
06-10-2008, 04:12 AM
Now STOP that! You're freaking me out!

:tongue
Have no worry - the mods can check the IP addresses of all the posts in this thread and confirm that none are of extraterrestrial origin. Right, Mods? ;)

kuwisdelu
06-10-2008, 08:25 AM
Have no worry - the mods can check the IP addresses of all the posts in this thread and confirm that none are of extraterrestrial origin. Right, Mods? ;)

That just means the aliens are among us.

NeuroFizz
06-10-2008, 10:04 AM
The same way if I hit a hole-in-one and no one witnessed it--I wouldn't say a word for fear I'd have to buy drinks for everyone in the clubhouse. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

RJK
06-10-2008, 06:58 PM
I guess I'd want to know where they got their hands (if they have hands) on the original model of the human genome, and just what the modification was meant to accomplish. Does it make us taste better?

Oberon
06-10-2008, 11:02 PM
I have only one question: Why would they want to change our genome? For what purpose? We think we're hot **** but as Carl Sagan has informed us, we are a small insignificant planet in a far corner of an insignificant galaxy in a universe of billions of galaxies. Why us? If there are other folks out there there are plenty of other planets to mess with much closer to home. I don't know how they would do it, either, if they were not physically here on Earth. A signal from outer space takes a lot of years to get anywhere. If we answered them it would be generations before they got the message and answered back. I would love to hear from them, but I am pretty sure governments would have no idea what to do about it and would no doubt screw things up. Reminds me of Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan, the robot roaming for light years with a message: "Greetings."

Sophia
06-10-2008, 11:40 PM
Thanks very much for the continuing responses, everyone! They're all being saved and are very helpful.

Regarding the why / how /who questions that some people are asking, they're basically what the novel is about and I didn't want to get into it all here. I'm interested mostly in people's personal feelings about 'evidence' of alien life, and perhaps it was a distraction to mention the genome part. I wanted to be clear in the original post that we weren't talking invasion, or any two-way first contact; just an isolated signal. The questions are good, however, as it gives me an idea of the kinds of things I should make sure to answer in some way.

Thank you again for taking the time to post.