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First Contact

In 2020s an alien starship visited Earth. First contact was peaceful - with intial contact made from orbit, humans started learning the alien language and the aliens - let's call them Species A - started learning English and communication was established. Eventually the aliens were invited to land to meet in person with representatives of the UN. But the intial talks reveal there is a problem: Earth and Sol System lie in the middle of territory of a large interstellar empire. Species A is not willing to give up its rightful territory, so aliens deem it necessary to integrate Earth into the Empire.

The Terms

Specifics are up for negotiations, but there are a few specific points which are not up for debate:

  • Earth must demilitarize - all militaries are to be disbanded and WMDs in particular are to be disposed of. Personal weapons and police forces are irrelevant.
  • A governor of Earth will be appointed. That governor must be of Species A
  • Earth must host an alien military garrison
  • Aliens will build a space station in Earth orbit, to act primarily as transit and communications point but also a military fleet outpost
  • Humans will not receive citizenship, but will instead be given permanent resident status - sharing that distinction with about 20 other species. Only Species A has full imperial citizenship, but residents are far from having no rights.

The alternative to integration is violence, but as aliens think it would be a shame to desolate a near-perfectly habitable planet, a peaceful solution is preferred, even if getting humans to give up their independence will be tricky.

With that in place: How could Earth be peacefully integrated into the alien Empire? I am asking about what could be the possible and likely terms and the process that could realistically lead to peaceful integration of Earthlings.

EDIT in response to comments:

What do the aliens want from Earth - first and foremost they don't want an unsupervised developing civilization in the middle of their territory. Apart from that: habitable land, resources, workforce, trade, refueling and maintenance facilities for starships... With that said, they would also invest in Earth, rather than just exploit it.

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    $\begingroup$ "Join or genocide." Nothing else needs to be said. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ what do the alien want from earth? just do a bit of trade? extract some ressources? because depending on what you want from earth and by what mean, it will greatly change your chance of "peacfull" integration $\endgroup$
    – shas
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a story based question. Your world is built you have your aliens and your humans and you're asking how one group of individuals can convince the other of something. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings i do disagree. if you break down the question it is "simply" asking how to do colonialism well. but it could be worded to be less story oriented $\endgroup$
    – shas
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ The "What have the Romans ever done for us?!" scene from Life of Brian contains a lot of insight for this kind of scenario, I'd argue $\endgroup$
    – Mookuh
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 9:44

6 Answers 6

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How does 'empire' translate across species barriers?

Present-day mankind is probably extremely far away from interstellar travel. It could be that it is a simple Doh! insight and we cannot explain how we failed to discover it ourselves, but probably there are many different technologies involved in routine starflight. We don't even have routine orbital travel yet. No high-efficiency surface-to-orbit transport (I'm talking of the payload ratios and costs of an airliner, not three guys on top of a disposable fireworks container). No real artificial ecologies. And so on.

Then the aliens arrive in orbit. If they are careful, first in high orbit, beyond the reach of most human anti-satellite weapons. They communicate, they send shuttles down, they start negotiations. Then they appoint an ambassador. At least that's how the humans understand it. As the aliens see it, "imperial representative to contacted planets" is more like governor, and of course the representative is from species A ...

The aliens begin to trade, and offer mankind provisional membership in their interstellar trade organization. That's how it comes across to most human translators. A few maverick analysts might insist that they're talking about submission to their empire, but there is no talk of tribute or taxes at this point. Humans might be allowed/invited to travel to other planets of the empire/trade organization, with subsidized tickets. Of course they are not full citizens when they arrive, they are tourists or business travelers. Perhaps students.

Getting mankind to disarm without ruffling any feathers will be difficult. But as a first step, the aliens could threaten that there will be consequences if the humans develop, test, and deploy weapons to hit starships in high orbit. Either threats of military action, or of economic sanctions. The aliens have so much technology to offer, but they won't do that until mankind gets their house in order. No wars, a sort of planetary government, general disarmament.

The ambassador/governor will establish a compound, under alien jurisdiction. With armed guards. At first these embassy guards have no jurisdiction outside the embassy compound. But then they offer technological aid missions on the condition that their teachers will have guards at need.

They build the orbital transfer station for Earth, too. Having more than one isn't how it is done. There are quarantine procedures for interstellar flight, documents to be checked, each world has one orbital starport. But the ISS would fit into the hangar of one of their starliners, not the other way around. And even if mankind did come up with a sufficiently large station, they wouldn't have artificial gravity, or tractor beams, or standard docking beacons.

As mankind learns more about the aliens, they find out that only species A has full citizenship in that trade union, and that there are rival trade unions. And that switching unions is not acceptable.

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    $\begingroup$ "The aliens have so much technology to offer" - "Carrot" alone here won't work. Some governments won't agree to disarm, no matter what is being promised to them. And because of them, other, more pliable governments would refuse to disarm too. Aliens should make good promise of "policing" the Earth, and human should believe in such promise. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander, there would be some of that. But discovering aliens might make the 'mainstream' human society get their act together and form an Earth government. Which uses/expends the existing military to subdue holdouts. Not the only answer, but a possible one. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. I wonder how long it took most colonies in our own world's history to realise that they were being "colonised" and what that really meant. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor, depends on the timeframe. Consider the Chinese voyages which delivered gifts and collected tribute, as far as official records went. The 'colonies' saw them as yet more foreign traders. On the other hand, Afghans understood what the Brits were about in the 19th century. Living on the same planet helps with understanding. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 14:58
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Space colonialism

Yeah, sadly what you are describing: coming on in a position of strenght and imposing your rule on another civilisation to integrate it in your own empire. it is space colonialism and there is no way around it.

there is a very low likelyhood that there wouldn't be any kind of anti alien/integration movement, simply by what you are asking humand to give up.

And you are not talking about what the alien want from earth, but it will influence how quickly people want to flip you off. if you just siphon ressources and not give anything back, you won't be able to do that peacfully.

how to mitigate the anger?

first thing that need to go if you ever want a semblance of peace is to give the governor post to a human or an institution. do something akin to europe where each state keep. if you federalise all of earth into one system you are bound to have an unified protest movement. if you let each state autnomous you have less power, but at least it will be much more peacful.

how to get the goods out

take a book from the cargo cult and negociate in human term in the same kind of moral term. so far, human are in a capitalistic society. therefore if all or at least most of your deal are done in a capitalist framwork, you will have a much easier time implementing new thing. If you impose a new kind of society/framwork, it might be better for you in the long term, but it will cause a lot of friction.

the weapon question

Is your millitary unable to deal with 21st century weaponry? let's suppose nuke are the only system that truly bother you, but most of the modern military equipement are extremly underwhelming against your forces. A lot of state will be EXTREMLY worried by your demand and they won't like throwing their weapon away and if you ask them to do so they will think they can chalenge you.

where as imposing yourself as a peace enforcer that can essencially smite belligerant from one or both side with ease is a much better solution: you guarantee peace (at least for those who side with you) and spell doom for those that disturb peace it is an easy way to buy support also, as it could give you a veniere of legitimacy when you slap some dissident. With a long enough framwork and some bilateral deal you will see most military get mostly disbanded. (just look at europe & nato menber, a lot of state far from russia are more and more rellying on other for their defenses.) for the nuke it will take longuer but taking them by force would not look good.

Culture war

Take another page from hollywood. the american media machine is an extremly effective propaganda tool on the global scale, but now imagine if you had the budget of a star empire! spend a lot of money to translate all of your big moovie and flood earth with media that will help spreanding the message about how cool you are.

if your own citizen & other alien races come to earth you need to be very careful about their shown wealth: if they start to see all of those fancy alien rich as possible while they themself are far from uplifted, you will quickly have thing to answer for. to keep peace you will have to insure that all of the denizen of earth have a standard of life similar to those of the empire, even if not citizen per say

In conclusion

of course, all of this is if you ACTUALLY want peace and collaboration. if you want a cheap colony, you can have it, but it is never peacfull for long.

the contradiction of colonialism is alway rising sadly: when you are integrated in an empire, you will rightly want the same standard of living as mainland citizen because you wille ventually know what they have, and therefore you will cost most more and more.

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Perhaps the route used by the aliens from Arthur C Clarke's a childhood's end would work.

The aliens (the Overlords) remained high up dozens of miles above the Earth and did not show themselves except by radio transmissions and discussion with a few diplomats (not face to face). They used and developed the apparatus of the United Nations to impose their will slowly over time.

Some of the technologies they used:

A device that enabled the aliens to communicate directly with anyone on Earth with no obvious external signs they are doing so. To the recipient it felt like they were hearing voices in their head. These voices might appear as subtle whispers or the voice of god. They might play on key aspects of the recipients personality and emotional make up. They might make gentle suggestions, provide reassurance or make threats or just produce incessant noise. They might affect anyone in a powerful position and might occur frequently, occasionally or not at all. And the existence of this means of coercion was never mentioned.

Such a device could have a very powerful effect. No tyrant would want to admit to hearing voices or to the fact that they couldn't sleep at night due to hearing the same message from their grandmother repeated over and over about cabbages. No military force would be effective if senior commanders became deranged or decided to attack friendly forces or surrender or retreat.

Another technology employed was a polarizing field that could be deployed anywhere around the world over a large area that reduced sunlight to a feeble twilight. This could be used to target particularly difficult countries as a demonstration of force and to sap popular support.

Nuclear weapons were used against the Overlords ships on one occasion. Missiles were launched and appeared to hit the Overlords ship, but there was no explosion or sign of damage they just disappeared. The Overlords simply ignored the attack as if nothing had happened.

Attempts to block the media could be thwarted allowing a greater access to truthful information as well as subtle alien propaganda and direction. Over many decades humanity was guided away from warfare into a more prosperous and settled world.

Everything was working very nicely until... but I won't spoil the story.

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    $\begingroup$ Every few years I re-read it. As I get older, that book gets better and better. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 1:04
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They only need to convince people in charge and don't upset status quo

There is no need to convince all humans to join the empire, just cut a deal with politicians and billionaires, they have more than enough experience and influence to do the rest, just leave them in power and give them some new toys; longer lives, new tech, maybe some exclusive trade contracts. It's cheap and easy.

On the other hand, if aliens would interfere with earth's politics i.e. upset status quo, especially by changing people in power...well. They would be shown as enemies and war would break out.

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One State at a time. Begin with the autocratic states. Demand a surrender, directly from the leaders. If they refuse, destroy the leader, publicly. Brutally. Remotely. Then demand a surrender from the new leader.

Anybody that fires on them, missiles or guns or so much as throwing a rock, destroy them. If it is done by subterfuge, exact a price on the adults in the area.

Prove your superiority. You want a peaceful transition, but resistance is futile, if you humans would rather turn your little part of the world into a smoking ruin, so be it. There are other worlds. There are more of us on the way.

WMD's should be easy for them to detect.

Stand down. We are not colonists, we need nothing from you. You will join civilization, or cease to exist. That is your choice.

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It is not going to work

There are basically two approaches. Hands-off and Hands-on.

Hands-off

Like Shas' and o.m.'s answers.

The aliens have absolute power over space. But humanity rules the ground.

The problem is humanity is not going to demilitarize or otherwise obey the overlords without a fight. They can dress it up as nicely as they want, we know a colonization attempt when we see one, and we want none of it.

Hands-on

Like Amadeus' answer.

The aliens land and brutally kills anybody who looks at them funny. Or has weapons. Or sticks that looks like weapons from a certain angle. Or uniforms. Or vaguely similar clothing.

Well, that works. For a while. But it doesn't end. There will always be more rebels. And any humans who are appointed rulers by the invaders will be called collaborators and targeted even harder by the rebels.

Apart from never reaching the "peaceful" point asked for, the whole affair will also be a economic disaster for the invaders. Invasion is hideously expensive.

Those exports they were expecting? It turns out that when one in a million boxes contains high explosive it cuts badly into their profit margins.

At some point, an alien accountant will point out that it would be vastly cheaper to just kill off our whole species.

But don't listen to me!

This is not my story. It is yours. Feel free to write a story where it works. But you should at least give a nod to these problems. Don't pretend that it is easy.

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  • $\begingroup$ i second this. my response is mostly based on history (and some could argue a bit preachy) if for the purpose of your story you need the process to go smoothly, you can make it happen, because you could make the point that most human would for quite a while be eager to deal with alien even at a loss simply because they are not aware of how bad of a deal they get. it could take GENERATION before realisation set in, and even then if standard of living across the world are decent enough, you might prevent any mass uprising. $\endgroup$
    – shas
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 16:31

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