Assume that the events of this question begin in a current-day (2019) world. For the purposes of this question, let's base the scenario on Atlantis. The intelligent sea-creatures inhabiting the underwater city have decided to join the "world stage."

What is a realistic path of Atlantean's forming diplomatic relations with humans, from their making the decision, to "first contact," to forming treaties with other nations, to joining international bodies like the United Nations?

  • $\begingroup$ Just for clarification; is this a hidden nation or a hidden species? They are likely to have different issues to each other largely based on human reaction to their differentness so it would be useful to know if our intelligent sea creatures are exactly that or just adapted humans. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Apr 17 '19 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sea-nuke them, eliminate the risk. Total annihilation of other side is the ultimate move of diplomacy, as it get rid of all subsequent problems (coming from them). Yeah, I don't trust mankind to be peaceful and civilized. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Apr 17 '19 at 8:10

Much will depend on what you mean by "intelligent sea creatures". Humans don't really have a good track record when it comes to not killing or enslaving other intelligent creatures. Humans included. In other words, if this is a civilisation of intelligent polupodes, then chances are good we'd just turn em into calamari and call it a day.

If they are humanoid in appearance, merfolk for example, then at least they'd stand a chance of not being immediately hunted or farmed.

I think a realistic path for such people to follow would be very much like the paths trodden by many countries in the past.

  1. Make yourself known
  2. Demonstrate that you are intelligent to a load of self-centered, short-sighted humans
  3. Demonstrate that you are not a threat to the humans' navies
  4. Make contact with a local government official (mayor of New York, e.g.) who will be able to bump the contacts up the political food chain (governor, president)
  5. Having established friendly relations with the neighbours, risk sending a few of your folk into some kind of cultural exchange programme. Because you really don't know much about human society, culture, history or technology, you have to learn. Humans also have to learn about you, your societies and cultures.
  6. Make contact with ambassadors or consuls of foreign governments residing at New York.
  7. Carefully read this webpage and follow its general directions

Hey presto! You've done all you can to integrate yourselves into the great network of the world!

Now be prepared to be flooded (ha!) with human tourists who will want to come down into Atlantis and vacation there, take pictures of everything, pester your people for selfies, leave their trash all over the place, insist on imposing their ways of doing things on your people, etc.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note on part 2. "Intelligent" means "thinks like us". Even humans that think different are generally considered either idiots or insane. Which is why "genius" is considered similar to insanity. A genius thinks different but is clearly not stupid therefore he must be somehow insane and naturally stupid in practical things because different. So the sea people might want to manage pretty carefully what they show and what not, if they want to appear intelligent. A bit of "exotic" is okay but anything public should be based on copying human thinking. $\endgroup$ Apr 17 '19 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ not so sure about part 3: there is a long history of nations being strong with the weak, and weak with strong... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 17 '19 at 5:12

With a big stick and a carrot

The nation/species needs to be able to defend itself. No claim to the oceans will be recognized without the threat of war if it isn't. China is busy building fake islands to extend it's claim over the oceans. If someone told them their claims over the oceans were not valid, they'd threaten war. The species needs to be able to back their claim by force.

The other side is the carrot. Minerals, food, drugs, technology is available to their trading partners which would make them rich. All the more reason to accept their claim


First off they want to go public as big and fast as they can. If a government or small group of people find them first it could end in bloodshed or capture. But if the global public is aware of them public good will could prevent a lot of mistreatment.

I'd say the best way to go about this is to get internet access. Then build up media attention if possible. Post videos that would be hard to fake proving you exist. Not everyone will believe but at least some will and that's a start. Next have a few members of your species show up in public at places where celebrities are and let people touch them and give some basic proof that they are real.

All of this needs to be combined with messages of peace and friendship. The goal is to get the western public on your side so that when the world governments actually do something it can't be too heavy handed or cruel. If you can get at least one powerful country to say they will protect you that should hopefully prevent any rouge nation from attacking.

Next I would say the best idea is to give the rich nations what they want. They are probably gonna want to study you and any magic/tech you have. So if at all possible give them the bodies of your dead, let them study your living and share your secrets. Basically remove any reason they would have to screw you over and further convince the public you are on their side and just want to help.

Alternatively start a religion. Tons of religions have started based around nothing more than a charismatic speaker. Imagine starting one based on an actual true honest to god alien race that you can show upper level members. If you can get enough of a start your followers will help smooth over your transition into the world and possibly give you a lot of power.

  • $\begingroup$ Be careful with your media campaign, though. If Notre Dame burning is flagged as fake news, who knows what will happen to your videos, proof or no proof. And then there the problem of half the conspiracists in the world (some being rulers of major powers) going bonkers over this... $\endgroup$
    – Eth
    Apr 17 '19 at 15:57

It generally starts with what pressures are causing them to want to make contact with the outside world? Generally, depending on the species and their drive, a civilization that is healthy and self-sufficient (and is not being invaded) has no need to reach out to other nations barring general curiosity.


If they are doing this because they need resources, there are two avenues they would have to explore: a) invading nations with resources they need and b) making overtures to nations with resources they need. The former would hinge on an analysis of the military strengths and allegiances of those involved. For example, if your nation had a ridiculously overpowered weapon that could wipe out another country in an instance, I don't think they'll have too much trouble invading. :)

For the second avenue, if they were really trying (and depending on how desperate they were for the resources), they could learn the language and customs of the nation in question and make overtures via a delegation. For example, let's say they need food and they wanted to approach the US (in better times), they could learn the language (listening in to broadcasts, figure out the Internet, etc.) and learn that hands in the air and a white flag are signs of surrender/peace.

If they're doing this out of curiosity or because they've decided to give up on being isolationists, I figure they'd take the peaceful route noted above. Alternately, they might decide to send agents to integrate into the destination society and bring back their knowledge to help adjust to how they need to interface with that society.

First Contact

In terms of first contact, it depends on who they want to interface with. If we're talking about the rough scenario you outlined above, then interfacing with the UN is probably their best bet since they're looking for an international/all-encompassing relationship with the rest of the world. If they wanted to connect with a single country, then obviously, they'd approach the capital (or perceived capital) of that nation.

A lot of this depends on how well their society syncs up with the target society. Water breathing entities that barely see the light of day might have a LOT of trouble interfacing with those floppy air breathers above. Additionally, if they are drastically different from humans, they will likely need to address that somehow, either by hiding their appearances or finding a way to make themselves look more human, which can lead to some seriously funny but scary situations.

Separate Relations with Nations

Again, depending on their goals and such, they may decide to do separate deals with different nations. From the outside, I'm guessing they'd do it as a sort of common sense diplomatic strategy where they want to establish embassies with various major countries to do business with them. They might start with the UN as a general starter but ultimately the UN is more of a forum than an actual entity you'd entreaty with (most countries don't like giving up their sovereignty which is why we are where we are historically).

Additional Questions

Going forward, you'll want to ask yourself some questions about whatever nation this ends up being to help determine how they'd approach this:

  • Are they physiologically different and will that cause problems for any relationship they hope to foster?
  • What are their motivators/drivers when it comes to opening relations with another country or the world? Everyone and every country has them whether they like to admit it or not.
  • What is their technology level and does it work along the same lines as ours? Atlanteans might rely on chemical circuits for their technology or even light because shooting electricity through salt water may not be very effective. :)
  • How far or close are they to the target civilization in terms of social norms? They may hate the idea of socializing or conglomerating in crowded conditions because the seas are so vast. Or they might be too clingy for the same reason.

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