I use a book I'm reading as an example of the more general issue. There are minor spoilers here.
In John Sanford's Saturn Run, near-future American astronomers get lucky when their instruments just happen to be pointing in the right direction, and they detect alien activity near Saturn. The government gets involved, immediately locks the information down, and rushes to get people there first. The pressure is on because the Chinese have an edge.
When the detection is first made, no one even mentions the possibility of being open about it, which strikes me as unlikely. The pros seem to be something like
- Good will
- Meeting the aliens as a united body
- Leaving a very positive legacy
- Getting the international community involved, which should help keep everyone honest, I would think
- Any new tech to be had probably won't help much across a billion miles if you get bombed to dust for cheating in the meantime
- Someone might cheat anyway.
- If it goes bad, history frowns on the ones in charge.
Pros for being paranoid:
- If everything goes well, you get a decisive geopolitical advantage
- You piss people off and increase the risk of global war.
- The tech will eventually leak anyway -- if not due to spying, then because an Assange or Snowden thinks it's ethically wrong to keep the playing field uneven.
- History frowns on the ones in charge because they acted like jerks.
Question: What's wrong with my analysis?