Written by Max Borders
In a recent House Oversight Committee hearing, whistleblowers from the Pentagon made significant claims about alien technology and the military leadership’s resistance to reports on such sightings. If true, it appears aliens have been buzzing around Earth for decades.
The three witnesses were David Grusch, a former intelligence official who claimed the US possesses “intact and partially intact” alien vehicles; David Fravor, an ex-Navy commander who spotted an unidentified flying object in 2004; and Ryan Graves, a retired Navy pilot who regularly spotted unidentified aerial phenomena off the Atlantic coast for several years.
Grusch alleged that some people have been injured while trying to reverse engineer UFOs and reported finding “non-human biologics” with the recovered crafts. Graves estimated that 95 percent of UFO sightings by pilots go unreported due to fear of officials’ reprisals.
Dear Alien Beings,
We’re not ready.
I write that bald assertion without really knowing what it would mean to be ready, you know, to make contact. We can only speculate. That is, we can only make assumptions about you and your kind. Still, your criteria might differ radically from ours. Do you view us as prey? Objects of scientific scrutiny? Something to be conquered?
Sadly, humans still view each other through such lenses, to the detriment of our species.
Because your species is more technologically advanced than ours, we can only assume you’re more highly developed in other areas, too–areas such as cognition, morality, wisdom, and social organization. I acknowledge that such assumptions might be entirely wrong.
There are at least five important milestones our species has yet to reach. If we were to reach these milestones, we might be ready. Despite your technological superiority, I dare say if you haven’t reached these milestones, you’re probably not ready either.
There was a great period in human history when a courageous group of people, we’ll call the “second,” dissolved the political bands that tied them to another group that we’ll call the “first.” The first group was an imperial hierarchy. But as the second group moved far away from the first group, the second group realized they wanted to live free of the hierarchy and, indeed, any arbitrary hierarchies. They longed to govern themselves.
A revolutionary fire burned in the second group’s hearts. That fire included the idea that one ought to consent to any governance system. After winning a war of separation, the second group then experimented with a novel system of self-government, which lasted in fits and starts for two centuries. Eventually, though, the experiment lapsed into a different kind of hierarchy.
Self-government’s founders thought that perennial experimentation would be necessary and that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [consent of the governed], it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.” We have not yet learned how to set up new experiments without violence, much less how to develop a consent-based order. Still, that first experiment offers some clues to subsequent experiments that might help us evolve socially.
Throughout our history, we’ve seen recurring themes among our wisest. These themes amount to distinct virtues we ought to practice, at least among our kind. I suspect it would be wise to practice these if our species intermingled.
Yet the conditions under which we evolved have left us with diverse, sometimes contradictory, proclivities. As an evolved species, we must suppress certain proclivities and habituate others. We find ourselves in destructive game-theoretical situations when we fail to do so.
- Nonviolence. Refrain from initiating violence against innocents or their property.
- Integrity. Be concerned with truth in one’s dealings, honoring all commitments.
- Compassion. Practice sensitivity to the suffering of others, acting in wisdom to mitigate that suffering when feasible.
- Stewardship. Take care of one’s possessions and offices, endeavoring to leave them better than you found them.
- Pluralism. Acknowledge the differences among humans while tolerating those others and seeking to take on their perspectives.
- Reason. Apply all one’s rational faculties to understand the world better and meet one’s objectives.
Why should we practice these virtues? The wise ones have found that the more we practice them, we become happier, more peaceful, and enjoy greater prosperity.
In complex societies, people choose community. People organize around shared interests, values, or needs. Individuals seek out like-minded peers to form associations that provide support, understanding, and a shared purpose. This conception differs from political engagement, which too many humans conflate with community.
While politics may play a role in the communal landscape, true communitarianism goes beyond partisan affiliations and government structures. It seeks to foster connections and cooperation at an intimate level. Political agendas can help people build coalitions, but coalitions are not communities. Conflating community with political engagement limits the potential of a community by reducing it to mere political alignment rather than nurturing the diverse and nuanced relationships that make up a community’s fabric. Indeed, politics often cuts the invisible threads that tie people together.
Community is a form of human interconnection that promotes understanding, empathy, and mutual aid. That is why, in most respects, politics is anti-communitarian.
The more we understand about the world, the more we realize we need humility. But that doesn’t mean that knowledge about our reality isn’t possible. It’s been intellectually fashionable–and politically expedient–to deny the very idea of truth. This has left too many humans living in either relativism or politically-constructed reality.
But if we are to progress as a species, we have to get better at tracking truth. Not only are we capable of better understanding the universe our species shares with yours, but we are also capable of better understanding each other. It will take discipline and improvements to method. Even though humans are evolved to apprehend the world through mediated systems of perception, representational consciousness, and language, that doesn’t mean anything goes, or that everything about the world is “socially constructed.” Reality can be like a great iceberg, the extent we cannot see due to our limitations. But just as icebergs can sink our ships, reality is reality, and we must navigate it despite our shortcomings.
We might be ready to make contact when we learn to track the truth better and carry out our truth-tracking methods with wisdom.
There are two kinds of evolution: species evolution and social evolution. In the former sense of evolution, any being alive is the offspring of another being that survived to transmit its genes. Some biologists believe we can extend this rationale backward in time to explain how and why we developed.
For now, I want to talk about the second sense, which is social evolution. We seem to have moved in phases as a species, in which technological advances and theories of organization helped us change our relationships to each other for the better. Might your social evolution have proceeded in ways similar to ours? (I would be so curious to learn about your history.)
What I can say is this, though it is controversial among our kind: To the extent humans have practiced 1-4 above, the more we have been able to evolve and flourish. Yet a mix of old habits and inborn proclivities keep us from realizing our full potential.
The Infinite Game
My hypothesis, silly and simple as it might seem to you, is that we will be ready to make contact once we figure out how to live in peace with one another. The truth is, we have only just begun to teach ourselves how to mitigate our antisocial tendencies. We evolved these tendencies during eras of scarcity in which roving bands bound themselves in tribal groups and had to fight over limited resources. So we learned to fight, and we evolved as fighters. We learned to signal our status. We learned to survive. Still, we are fearful, envious, and confused–imagining we are locked in a zero-sum contest.
But we’re getting better.
One among thousands of wise men taught us the difference between “finite” and “infinite” games. Finite Games are games with a clear beginning, ending, and objective. The players are known, the rules are fixed, and the outcome is an endpoint–usually with a winner and loser.
Finite games are played to win. But once they’re won, they’re done. Such games are prevalent in competitive environments where success is determined by beating others.
Infinite Games are games with no defined beginning or end, and the objective is not to win but to keep playing. The rules can change, and new players can enter the game any time. An infinite game is about perpetual play, where the goal is to continue the game itself, rather than reach a specific endpoint. This mindset is often applied to personal development, business sustainability, or any long-term vision emphasizing continual growth and adaptation.
My hypothesis, bold but tentative, is that your species has learned how to play infinite games. Maybe when we get further along as a species, operating with greater wisdom, we will learn too. Hopefully, you’ll be amenable when that time comes. Till then, we must awe at your spacecraft from here on the ground.
Max Borders is a creative advisor to the Advocates. Find more of his work at Underthrow.org.