A militaristic response to a First Contact with telepathic species would be understandable, considering every fiber of the individual’s sense of self for internal preservation. How do we avoid that? Perhaps, if one were to ask J. Michael Straczynski, it may not be avoidable. Had Babylon 5 not gone off the air the next phase in store for the show would have led to a war between telepathic humans, the telepathic military (Psi-Corps), and non-telepathic humans. That is, at least, my best understanding and I think the common understanding. What Babylon 5 offers, overall, is a vision of the future where humans have become spacefaring but have certainly not outgrown their vices or worst natures. This, of course, is a complete turnabout to many other science fiction series that state we will only truly be ready for the stars when we have become ready for ourselves and each other.
Okay, let’s turn that on its head a bit. Let us imagine that in the here and now, given what we know we are now, we are confronted with a First Contact with a telepathic species. The first question you should be asking is whether it is realistic to imagine that there may be an alien species out there that is made up of what until now has only existed in the imaginations of humans. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps we cannot imagine what type of a mental processes an alien species that visits us would have. Perhaps some species sophisticated enough to make the journey to us will be well beyond all that we could imagine telepathy to be; be it the “oh, it’s nothing” common mind reading to the possibly life-threatening Mind Melds in Star Trek to the painful “deep scans” of Babylon 5
Invasiveness is the point here. What can we not imagine about the cognitive abilities of an alien species? The human internal self is fragile. It will take generations after a permanent and greatly reformed education system and a new code of character and mental discipline among humans before we could even hope to be okay with being around such a species. As such, without these reforms and time to grow as a civilization from them, it is reasonable to assume that a military-driven tête-à-tête would blossom from such a confrontation.
Humans have always understood the hierarchy of thought leading to self-realization, even though we did not always use that term. That primary designation is much more recent. What is also much more recent is our understanding of the symptomology of mental illness. Conditions like thought insertion and thought broadcasting and devastating for the sufferer. This is true not only at the time of the expressed symptoms, but even as a temporary lived experience can lead to PTSD. I do not use these psychiatric terms lightly and I am aware that far too many do use psychiatric terms far too loosely, becoming ableist models while claiming to be “advocates,” but I do use these terms to highlight there is a reason such experiences, though imagined, are so real to the sufferer that they can lead to PTSD. How then could we hope to be diplomatic with a species with extra-cognitive abilities?
It can be said that is acceptable that a species may evolve with far more extra nodes of communication than humans have. We have a lot more nodes of communication that we typically give ourselves credit for. From the musical to the linguistic to the sociological to the ontological, there are a great deal of meaningful ways that we communication whether we are trying to or not. Humans are constantly exposing ourselves within our nodes of communication. The fact that the Western world does so under the present limitations of what I call a Cheroot Democracy only adds to our problems if we meet a species that uses more direct, or at least vastly different nodes of communication, whether it is something we could think up in science fiction or not.
In our current state, under this Cheroot Democracy – exposed at both ends, intangible, yet vulnerable and contradictory – we are in a heightened state of risk for military confrontation. I would not even go so far so that we would lose such a confrontation. After all we have the advantage of being on our own world with the world united in the cause and no doubt suddenly able to compensate creatively for what technology we may lack against what few ships have gathered to meet us. It seems to stand to reason that such a species would not return seeking revenge, but would decide we are more trouble than we are worth and leave us alone. That is, after the initial military assault, which should never have to happen in the first place.
There is something Una Chin-Riley says in the season one, first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds when a First Contact scenario has gone bad (at first).
We can’t make them care about the stars. That’s not our job.
Does this not sound like something that would happen to us? Are humans not an ideal species to be some other species’s bad First Contact scenario? I would put forward that a species with telepathic, extra-telepathic, or extra-cognitive abilities might, just might observe us long enough to make the mistake that thinking First Contact would be welcomed with their species. If they are a peaceful species they may just pick up on how constantly distracted with are with the love and openness of family and friends to mistake closeness with open-mindedness and ability. Cross-cultural misinterpretation is just asking to be made with such a species. We do not currently have the ability. This again brings me back to the very real likelihood that governments would activate military, the military would be willing, and the public would stand in support of the military under such a confrontation.
As I have said before, given the confines of such a delicate First Contact, humans could only hope to be prepared for such a scenario after generations of discipline and permanent and greatly reformed educational and governmental systems.
[Header Image: Public Domain]