Humanity today is making a "first contact" - well, not really first, as the alien did interact with humanity quite a bit, though incognito - and earned a lot of positive respect from "powers that be". They were curious who their mysterious benefactor is though, and putting the few things they knew about them together, they located the alien living in an unassuming home, with a human assistant/friend, leading their operations over the net. Over the course of time they learned the alien isn't enthusiastic over diplomatic etiquette, already made a lot of political contacts, and definitely wouldn't appreciate an army of reporters, politicians, scientists, alien-search nutjobs and spies raiding their quiet retreat.

There's not much known about the alien. Plain IQ (specifically spotting regularities and patterns) is estimated to be a four-digit number, emotional qualities are quite similar to human, possesses expert knowledge of social sciences and good skill of applying them, can communicate in English, appearance and apparently biology to a degree is quite similar to Earth quadrupeds, and the alien technology, very scarcely used is so alien the scientists are completely unable to begin to wrap their minds around its principles of operation (apparently a different form of existence than matter and energy is employed).

The "welcome committee" is to be small, discreet, unimposing, competent, respectful, convincing, and their primary focus is to learn as much about the alien and everything related - means of travel, world of origin, biology, all that stuff. They are not going to drag the alien away to any laboratories or perform any invasive procedures without the alien's consent.

What should be the composition of the team?

My team consisted of:

  • a charismatic, but very humble, well-mannered and empathic leader;
  • a mathematician.
  • a xenobiologist
  • an astrophysicist
  • an ethnographer.

Would that cover the bases well? Or did I make some glaring omissions or should replace some of the team with a better specialist?

  • $\begingroup$ Replace the ethnographer with a psychologist? You would also want a military-type. Might as well make the mathematician a physicist, as they're pretty good at mathematics too. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2015 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ Replace mathematician with politician, I eager to see how Alien react to politic. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottDowney: Lots of the alien psychology was deduced from the communication so far, but nobody has any clue about the alien culture "back home". A military type is definitely not one they want on the team. Threats to the alien end quite poorly (megacorporations go bankrupt), The astrophysicist is a physicist by default, and also a good mathematician too, so the mathematician leader would likely be the one to be replaced. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760: Slam the door in the face of the team? The alien is not eager to make the contact at all. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. without asking pointed questions it's going to be very difficult to get any information about "back home" as individuals act differently when alone compared to as part of a group but a psychologist can do a 'Sherlock scan' on the alien in person, attempt to read body language, detect lies, etc. but if you're determined to keep the ethnographer, it's up to you. Military-type is only prudent, I'm not suggesting he goes in dressed in uniform carrying a gun but someone who can carry out threat assessment would make sense - even if just to say "it's time to leave" to the googleyeyed scientists $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2015 at 9:00

3 Answers 3


I like the composition of your team. You have a good mix of scientists and people capable of interacting positively with the alien that you will be able to quickly learn much about it.

However, you are not going to manage to conceal the fact that you have four probably well known, upstanding scientists going off into space for some unknown purpose. Not only will you have paparazzi all over it but you'll also get spies from other countries snooping to see if they can find out what's going on.

I highly recommend you call on your own intelligence agency to both

  • protect your contact group
  • defend your national secrets

or you run the risk of having both stolen from you.

  • $\begingroup$ Heh, 1) They aren't going into space. "Unassuming house", rural Central Europe. 2) The spies are in-the-know and busy keeping the papparazzi at bay. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ This is not a welcoming committee; it is a fact-finding expedition. I say your best bet is to find a pretext to lure away the friend/assistant long enough to debrief him on what he knows already about the alien, and to then bribe him sufficiently to persuade him to ask certain questions of the alien and report back later. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2015 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianHitchcock that's a separate answer not a comment about this one. You could post it, since you came up with it. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianHitchcock: Bribing the assistant would be rather difficult, since all financial and legal operations are performed in his name... resulting in his account ballance going into billions. Coercing/abducting/drugging him would be a very bad idea (you really don't want to anger the alien) and - huh - women? Unlikely; he's a recluse and wouldn't fall for that. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:52

Since we're talking four digit IQ here, any interaction is going to be a game for the alien so I suggest:

Replace the Mathematician with a Con artist, preferably a poker player, someone who thinks four moves ahead and can read 'tells' or micro-expressions (no lie is perfect).

Replace the Xenobiologist with a Lawyer, good at asking questions and following a 'narrative'.

Replace the Astrophysicist with an Diplomat, good at smoothing over any misunderstandings.

Replace the Ethnographer with an MI5 agent, someone who knows what are the right questions, combat training wouldn't hurt either.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ ...and what would they learn? (also, wouldn't the poker player need a human face to read these micro-expressions?) - plus one thing more: Four-digit IQ, excellent empathy and very good, positive ethics. A team of scumbags won't cross the door. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @SF. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2016 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. Poker players establish a baseline of comfort for their opponents and then gauge the deviations from that baseline to determine what kind of hand they're holding. The same principle could be applied to an alien without necessarily knowing anything about them (although it would be much more difficult). But this isn't a skill unique to poker players. Virtually any member of the team could provide these insights without having someone specifically picked for it. $\endgroup$
    – aleppke
    Feb 7, 2017 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @aleppke: for what purpose though? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Feb 7, 2017 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. Presumably, to determine whether the aliens are lying about anything. This answer seems to suggest that humanity should not implicitly trust any alien delegation during first contact and our representatives should contain people who are experts at determining the truth. Personally, I don't feel this is amount of skepticism is the best approach if a peaceful outcome is desired but healthy skepticism does have its place in a first contact. $\endgroup$
    – aleppke
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:27

Three xenobiologists, an astrophysicist, and a world leader will do. The xenobiologists so we don't do anything to upset the alien, astrophysicist so the alien can see how far we have advanced, and a world leader to show we respect them. The super smart alien already predicted this was going to happen. Attempt no deception, we aren't smart enough for that. Be very open.

Remember, given the intelligence difference, we are mostly animals. We want them to like us as animals.


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