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principal questions...

Without any doubt a confirmed contact with an alien civilization would/will be an outstanding event, shadowing even nearly all otherwise as important considered events. Details depend from a number of more or less unknown factors: the type of contact, for example, a detected signal by chance by any unaided radio transmissions, a aided, valuable information packet of more or less great age (does the senders still exist?), eventually any sort of direct physical contact by unexpectedly spacefaring species (how about their attitude against others?). It would be simply a lie, to state, we would be ready for it. Only the event itself can and will tell the truth. But the full range from very negative to very positive consequences seem to be possible. For example, it could be a depressing experience, if we detect messages, which we can only partly decipher, but nonetheless clearly see, that they are extremely superior to us. Nowadays no unlikely version of contact! Remember the short time, since we are able to communicate regularly with radio waves.

...and more individual ones

Probably it will also largely depend from ethical an religious, regional and personal backgrounds (education, profession and so on), how single humans would or will react to such an event. It can't be predicted in a real general manner, I guess. Every single human would have to find out, what a contact means to her or him. Of course some uncertainty (additional, one could say about todays life!) would enter our lives, despite the new clarity of not being alone in our vast universe.

can we or they gain something of real value by it?

This depends primarily from two topics: how well can two civilizations contact one another in technical terms and with respect to time (rember the distances and times for the radio wave propagation!) and how similar their knowledges are? In many cases one will be clearly ahead from the other, than only one can learn from the other, maybe us or them feeling inferior and uncomfortable by this fact!?

But such differences offer also chances: the inferior may learn enough about scientific and technical topics, that these beings may be able, to improve in important aspects for avoiding daily problems, which are probably widespread not only on the Earth, where humans are threatening the network of life and by this also themselves. Despite this chance always the danger is its companion: thus in some way "unnatural", more precisely, faster than alone advances can pose additional, more severe or totally new problems. Even in our world the progress in sciences and technique is such a fast one, that many people have trouble to keep up this pace or are even failing in this. This could easily worsen strongly by informations of a more advanced civilization.

other possible consequences

Is there anything like a global conscious today? I have serious doubts about it. One may accept, that America, Europe and a few other countries like Australia and New Zealand have common basics in ethics, religion and society; and it may be, that the same holds true for a group of Arabian countries. But already the continents Africa and Asia present themselves with considerable differences in these respects. And among these diverse groups of countries nearly nothing is common. Nobody can therefore expect the same reactions by all these people... But some exceptions may nevertheless exist: similar like the view of the entire Earth, first transmitted back by moon bound Apollo astronauts, such a first contact may influence also the conscious of most people on Earth. It could be a further step to spread the knowledge, that we are all inhabitants of one and the same planet, sharing its fragile balance in the biosphere. 

It may be also luck, that direct, physical contacts are unlikely due to our todays knowledge. Even without naïve assumptions, like they want only destroy us,  this poses diverse dangers: a much greater psychical threat, under certain circumstances also eventual extremely dangerous infections (not very likely, the life forms should be not compatible!) and of course also the ever lurking problem of an eventual war by misunderstanding - with an alien species, with which it is always hard and complicate to communicate, this is never to ignore!
 
 
 

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questions, suggestions etc. to:  stefan.urbat@apastron.lb.shuttle.de

(URL:  http://www.lb.shuttle.de/apastron/setiCont.htm)