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Say an alien species with the capabilities of space travel were to visit a planet like Earth. (or vice-versa)

Given that the "invasion" is so big that any government or army would be able to cover it up, what cultural effects would this visit have on our society, and how would we adapt to the advanced technology?

Assume the alien would visit in the mindset of cooperation, but supporting scientific and economic gains as a primary goal.

Something to consider: The Native Americans were visited by the Europeans, which caused the NA culture and population to diminish greatly. The difference I am proposing is not dissimilar to this event.

I understand there is a question already asked (though in reverse) along these lines, but was closed due to being too broad. I tried making it less broad

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  • $\begingroup$ You ask several questions in this question. Why don't you ask one question? Like "At what era of human advancement would an alien invasion or visitation be less foreign than before?" Even "How would we adapt to the advanced technology?" would be ok, if that was the only question asked. I think if you remove the extra questions, it won't be too broad. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Dec 10 '14 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ Understandable. I'll change it now. $\endgroup$ – Should probably get an account Dec 10 '14 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ Looks better now. Might still be to broad (societal effects questions can be hard to answer), but I'm not going to vote to close it. I'll let others decide. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Dec 10 '14 at 4:48
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    $\begingroup$ You should focus on a specific aspect (or a couple maybe) like the economy, or science. What is the societal impact is very broad. But the cultural impact could be ok ,although the difference between a society and a culture is not always clear. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Dec 10 '14 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ Iain Banks called this an 'Outside Context Problem': "[imagine] you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests." $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 10 '14 at 9:56
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If you look at the history of human civilizations encountering each other for the first time, generally, when one is significantly more advanced than the other, the end result is catastrophic for the civilization with the lower level of technology. Jared Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel is largely about this idea.

If you wanted to do a story where things went pretty smoothly for humans in an alien invasion scenario, what you'd need to rely on is the idea of the psychology of the very-advanced invaders being radically different from anything we see in analogous human conflicts. This is obviously pretty wide open territory to explore. You could make that difference about the aliens' culture, their biology, or just the fact that they've survived long enough to build spaceships capable of traveling so far and thus moved beyond the attitudes of humans.

On the other hand, if you wanted to directly model an invasion story of the history of cultural conquests on Earth (which, by the way, I'd find pretty cool) major factors you'd want to think about are disease, human superstition, opportunistic human behavior, and the tendency of low-tech cultures to profoundly underestimate high tech weapons/technology.

You'd also want to carefully think about what specifically the aliens want on Earth, and how they plan to go about getting it. If you're talking about a small group of alien scientists wanting to take core samples in Antarctica, wise cooperation from Earth governments might minimize the impact of the entire event. If you're talking about a situation that puts aliens in close, prolonged contact with the human population (making use of human labor or evacuating populated areas, for example) then you'd have human resentment and fear combined with poor understanding of alien weaponry, possibly resulting in violent skirmishes with devastatingly one-sided results. Less obviously, think about how complex our economy is and how reliant we are on having existing networks of transport and trade intact. Our alien invaders might not be interested in exterminating us outright, but there's a lot to carelessly mess up in our human ecosystem.

As for the long term, realistically, the Native American analogy you put forward seems like it could make for a plausible story, but do keep in mind that exposure to European diseases was a massive factor in that case; it's far easier for cultures to collapse when they've already had their numbers massively reduced by a sweeping, extremely contagious and deadly virus. Then again, deadly virulent disease being spread on first contact between cultures is the norm, not the exception on Earth, so we might encounter something similar with aliens, depending on their biological similarity to us (or perhaps they're just teeming with deadly infectious nano-bots).

Without an element of disease or warfare dramatically reducing the size of our populations, we'd probably hang onto more of our cultural identities for longer, but in the end, we'd all pretty much break down into predictable groups: those who tried to fight the aliens (dead), those who sought opportunity to use the chaos of the invasion to get ahead (rich), those who sided early and worshipfully with the invaders (depends, but rarely ends well in human history), and those who kept their heads down and quietly adapted (alive but maybe unrecognizable in a few centuries, especially if this is an alien species we're reproductively compatible with).

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    $\begingroup$ An instance apart from the trend you describe is the Vietnam war, where the less technologically advanced party shamed the more advanced one. This is IMHO the inspiration for the Falling Skies TV series $\endgroup$ – Shivan Dragon Dec 10 '14 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ There are several instances where the less developed culture was victorious: Rome against Germans, Mongols against Chinese, first wave of Muslim conquests against Persia and Bizantine Empire. It is from the Industrial Revolution that Europe gets a decissive upper edge. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Dec 10 '14 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ Belatedly: I agree there are many exceptions, and was aiming only for the general case. Diamond's thesis only addresses very wide technological gaps, which seemed a fair comparison if we're talking about aliens visiting earth, although many of his examples are pre-industrial, including cases where cultures with steel weapons encountered those without and where muskets meant a very small army gained a vast advantage over a large one. The original question mentioned Native American cultures, so particularly I was thinking of the conquest of the Inca and Aztec empires $\endgroup$ – juncofea Dec 20 '14 at 7:26
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Your question is pretty broad as it is now so I will focus on one aspect you mentioned: the economy. I make the assumption that no disease will be transmitted between the species because somehow, the visitors took their precaution.

They came here partly to make business. We represent 7 billions consumers. This is probably not negligible unless they control a bunch of other planets. It represent some good opportunities for both races but they will probably end up with the advantage because they have more money, more resources and are more advanced technology.

As they are here for cooperation, they are unlikely to enslave us but might try to use us as cheap labour. But this might actually be a good thing. Who knows, if the difference of wealth is large enough between the two races, maybe they consider Norway as a poor country! Their entrepreneurs will seek to move jobs from their planet(s) here because it's cheaper. And this could solve all European economic problems.

Their companies will also bring new knowledge and new technologies that will benefit Earth in the long run. Maybe we will eventually surpass them and buy their planet.

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  • $\begingroup$ As long as we don't sell Jupiter for beads. There's a pretty good novel called First Contract I'm thinking of. $\endgroup$ – Zan Lynx Dec 11 '14 at 6:40
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You should read the book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadside_Picnic - deals with exactly this situation: civilization few millions years ahead of us visits earth, spends some 6 months, and leaves. We are left to deal with remnants like insects deal with remnants of a human picnic: fire, empty cans with good food, some poison after oil change, etc. And we have no idea what is going on, because found artifacts do not comply to our underastnding of physics. Those aliens are few millions years ahead of us, you know :-)

Aliens may not even recognize us as worth trying to communicate with. Imagine if we visited our cavemen predecessors 50K years back. How would they make sense of TV? And we have same biology that them. Aliens might have different biology, means of communication etc.

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Each answer here seems to mainly cover one aspect of this question, so I may as well do the same. So, I shall look at the technology.

You may also want to have a look at this question, if you haven't already, as it looks at the development of technology with access to advanced resources.


As many of the answers on that question say, technology wouldn't develop instantly. However, the major difference is that as long as these aliens establish a friendly contact, they may be willing to come back periodically. This would have the advantage of enabling us to get help in building technology from people who already have it and know how it should be done. If the aliens find our atmosphere conducive, they may even be willing to send an engineering contingent to live with us for a while. In simple terms, when we have active help in making new technology instead of static notes from the future, technology would advance faster, especially if the aliens allow us to use their tools.


That's a lot of ifs. Why would the aliens do this for us? Well, as you say, they have come in a mindset for their own gain. Mutual gain is conducive to this: if they give us things, we should be more willing to give them things.

For example, we may have technologies here that they don't. Obviously we can't best them on space travel - after all, they got here not us there - but perhaps our medical science is better or we have a better understanding of the history of the universe. If this is true then we may be able to help them prevent diseases and viruses that are killing their population.

Perhaps a more appealing concept, though, is the possibility of mutual work to solve larger mysteries. Do the aliens have an FTL drive? Time travel? If they do, then we could give them our science on the universe's history, then they could go back in time to verify what we have. Might cause some uproar here on Earth due to conflicts of belief, etc, but there are plenty of discoveries that could be made like this which wouldn't cause such controversy.

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I would suggest reading the short story "Flashes", by Robert J. Sawyer. It's about modern humans coming into contact with incredibly advanced aliens communicating via radio. In it, the protagonist is put out of work because of information sent from the aliens which void his line of research. Many others are put out of work/research as well. Because some researchers have had their entire lifes study disproven overnight, there is a string of suicides in the academic world. Also in the academic world, students no longer attend school because entire fields of study are being re-written on a nearly daily basis. The governments try to control the spread of the information, but because the information is sent via radio waves, anyone can listen in. A group of people reportedly sent them a message asking them to stop, but because there is a 23(or so, I don't quite remember) light year distance, they could only possibly stop 46 years from then. The group asked them to stop because they were sending all forms of knowledge; from music to space travel to weapons. At the end of the short story, the Canadian CN tower is bombed by a group of terrorists from an anti-matter bomb, whose schematics came in the previous evening.

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  • $\begingroup$ Leon, you should summarise the content of the book. You can't expect every visitor to buy and read that book, can you? $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jul 21 '15 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry - I've edited to update with details suggested. I've just created an account and I'm still learning the ropes. $\endgroup$ – Leon Jul 21 '15 at 16:21
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Those advanced aliens are already here, friend. Though friendly aliens do exist, it is hostile aliens which are in control here. The friendly aliens, due to agreements between their civilizations and those of the hostile aliens, are unable to interfere or offer us any substantial type of assistance.

There is not going to be an alien invasion, an alien invasion has already occurred. They are not going to take control of this planet from us, they have already taken it.

If you look at a dollar bill, where the eagle with outstretched wings is located, there is actually the profile of a Grey alien--the classic ET--cleverly hidden there. It's mouth and chin are covered by a hanging flag. The circle of stars above the eagle is in the center of its forehead, where the "third eye" or pineal gland is located, indicating that these beings are pure telepaths. There is a banner above each wing of the eagle. The bottom edge of the banners define the top edge of the Grey's eyes. This portrait is obviously not easy to see, it has been cleverly concealed. But when you remove the overlying symbols it is impossible to miss.

Ask yourself: Is it likely that a liberal black Democrat would either order or allow chemtrails to be sprayed? Chemtrails contain nano-viruses, other disease vectors, insect DNA which has literally been weaponized to allow it to combine with human DNA when the chemtrail material is breathed in or contacts the skin, and many other harmful or deadly things. People have literally had wood lice hatch underneath their skin and erupt through it. This is not difficult to confirm, if one searches for it on the internet. Does Obama seem like the type who is likely to approve of or order this kind of assault on our own people? Is a liberal black Democrat your first suspect for someone who would sign Presidential orders which allow the military to take complete control of the country and declare martial law whenever they are ordered to? Or to continue deliberately killing the dollar and guaranteeing a catastrophic crash of the economy followed by a depression, rather than balancing the budget? Or to do everything in his power to goad Russia and China into a war with us? Only someone who hates America would do any of those things. Only someone who hates...humanity. If you happen to live near Washington, D.C., pick up an infrared-capable camera and take some photographs of the area just above the White House and see what shows up on the photographs.

We do not run the show here on Earth and we haven't for a very long time. Martial law is on its way in, and so is a drastic population reduction--genocide. Who would want such a thing? Only those who fully intend to be the planet's new owners...and they are not human.

Ask yourself how a group of black people could migrate north out of Africa 80,000 years ago and, by the process of natural, unrelated genetic mutation alone, "evolve" into Chinese, Swedes, Eskimos, Polynesians and every other racial group we see today. According to evolutionary doctrine, such a change would require a far longer time than that. Yet we are told that is exactly what happened. It's not. We are a long-term science project, carried out by aliens. Why do you think so many of the reported alien races look so very similar to humans? They don't--we look similar to THEM, because their DNA was used to genetically engineer us long ago.

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