6 minutes

What do aliens think of us?

Firstly, I would like to clarify that I have not experienced any encounter with any extraterrestrial civilization, at least not that I am aware of. They also have no particular message to convey. However, I believe that it is worth, at times – and perhaps even frequently – gaining a broader perspective on the world we live in, as it allows us to grasp those aspects that are difficult to see when we mainly focus on what is immediately in front of us.

But before we delve into what the aliens might think of us, let us outline a few circles of stories that we humans tell about our life on planet Earth.

The first circle consists of individual or family stories, which are derived from our family history and personal experiences. These stories place “I” at the forefront, with “We” only encompassing a narrow group of people who are closest to us. These stories include tales of love and hate, selfishness and altruism, joy and suffering, and so on.

The second circle consists of national stories that were once tribal stories. These stories are comprised of our shared national history, beliefs, and relationships with neighboring countries, among other things. In this case, “We” includes much larger groups, millions and sometimes tens of millions of people. These stories typically involve a great deal of pride and a sense of uniqueness, and sometimes even superiority over others (hence the numerous stories of “chosen nations”). While uniqueness is a good thing, a sense of superiority is a simple way of denying the right to exist of others.

The relatively new third circle is the regional circle, especially the story that lies at the origin of the European Union. It is an attempt to select those elements of European nations’ values that unite them and to create a structure that would put an end to the constant wars.

Finally, we have the attempt to build a universal story, which includes, among others, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon within the same organization. The elements of the story from this circle theoretically encompass the entire human community, the broadest possible “We”. However, in practice, there is a long list of evidence showing that this is not the case.

So what would be the story of our planet as seen through the eyes of someone from outer space? Someone who has docked their ship in orbit around the Earth and has spent the last year studying the relationships among us Earthlings, perhaps even taking on a human-like form. A form that has listened to conversations among Poles, Russians, Germans, Brazilians, Chinese, Americans, and so on, while also carefully studying all available media. A form that has conducted atmospheric and life sample studies for a year and analyzed the technologies we use.

Well, for someone from space, we would be a civilization that is not only primitive but also suicidal. Why? On the one hand, we are “attached to the Earth” – we are unable to leave it and move to another planet – on the other hand, we devote a lot of attention and energy to destroying our only place to live in one way or another. We direct enormous resources towards building up military arsenals (over 4 times more than is needed to feed those living in poverty), including those for mass destruction. Biodiversity is rapidly declining. Non-renewable resources are being exploited to the hilt, in exchange for emitting enormous amounts of harmful substances that lead, among other things, to dangerous climate change. Not to mention the numerous laboratories – military and otherwise – where human intellect is used to work on various forms of chemical or biological weapons (there are many indications that the deadly COVID is the product of one such “factory”).

The extraterrestrial observer would also notice that we are a civilization in which physical strength is once again becoming increasingly important, rather than the power derived from arguments. All of this is happening in a situation of deep interdependence and challenges that cannot be solved without universal cooperation and collaboration. So in a world where competition and power cannot produce winners, they are only a straight path to our failure as a civilization.

The intergalactic traveler would also notice that we are a civilization that cannot focus on key challenges because it lacks the ability to think critically. But where would this last ability come from if educational systems widely regard knowledge as wisdom, and schools focus on indoctrination (reproducing specific harmful patterns from the past). In this situation, forcing only the correct – that is, “my/our” – truth becomes common, rather than seeking truth as such.

He would also certainly notice that we Earthlings are creating a society whose development is one-dimensional, materialistic. At the same time, it is a society in which technology often stands before the human being; its development is largely uncontrolled, and yes, it often serves to solve specific problems, but often the same solutions are immediately used to do evil, to gain and maintain power.

Our cosmic visitor would be amazed that the crucial technological race taking place on Earth is a race to determine whether Chinese or American artificial intelligence, connected to American or Chinese quantum computers, will ultimately control the Earth’s community. He would also be amazed that people themselves voluntarily support the process of hacking their own brains, providing – usually for free – almost all data about their lives, patterns of behavior, beliefs, etc. In practice, no law effectively protects them from the misuse of this accumulated knowledge, gradually making us humans into passive objects of universal manipulation.

Our alien sees a civilization that is increasingly creating a world without humans or – perhaps an even worse vision – a non-human world. Maybe this is just how it has to look? Maybe instead of grabbing his head in horror, our alien would simply nod with understanding? Maybe every civilization on its path of development must go through its infant-childhood period in order to be able to step onto the path of maturity, when wisdom finally begins to reign… let’s hope so.


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