One of my many responsibilities as a tech visionary is to think bigger than my next Series A investment or money-gushing IPO. Currently, I’m concerned about how NASA’s naiveté in sending the Voyager spacecraft out into deep space just might get us all enslaved by an advanced Alien race.
The Voyager Risk
The Voyager spacecraft has had an incredible journey. It launched in 1977 and soon sent back spectacular photos of Saturn and Jupiter. In 1979, it even had a star turn in the first Star Trek movie, the imaginatively titled: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” About 5 hours into the movie, we learned that the dangerous “V’ger” alien force was earth’s own Voyager spacecraft fused with some alien intelligence,. Then the bald chick had to merge with it to save the universe.
Back in the real world, on August 12, 2012, Voyager became the first man-made object to leave the solar system, and that’s when it transformed from planetary photo tourist to species level extinction threat.
Sending an object out into deep space where it might draw the attention of alien races is a dangerous game. Consider how we treat mice, ants, or bacteria, and that should give you a sense of how an alien race advanced enough to travel to earth might view us.
A Dangerous Message
Voyager’s designers were quite aware that it might be found by other species. In fact, they even included a message with it for just this possibility. Voyager includes a plaque, a map of earth’s location (!!), and cultural artifacts like Shakespeare plays and Mozart concertos. If you don’t believe me, check out the full catalog here.
Maybe this seemed like a good idea in the haze of late 1970s pot smoke wafting through the Voyager program’s home at the Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena. To my mind, we might as well have slapped on a huge bumper sticker reading “Come and Enslave Us” or “We’re an Entertaining Species for your Zoos” or “Our Bodies Can be Used as Batteries”
We can only hope that it tumbles undiscovered into a black whole or that any aliens who find it are more intrigued by listening to classical music than finding new primitive races on which to experiment.
The Right Message – Don’t F**k With Us
While the horse is already out of the galactic barn with Voyager, it’s important to look ahead. Once we finish paying off the financial crisis and grow tired of shoveling more wealth to one percenters like me, we’ll likely have a space program again. So we should be more savvy about what messaging we send along with future spaceships.
We’re going to need some bluffing here. Humans are in that dangerous technology middle zone where we know just enough to send “come and get us” beacons out into space, but not enough to do battle with the alien folk who might show up.
As a service to humanity, I did some thinking around the RIGHT kind of message to send, and I have outlined my thoughts below. I offer this at no charge under a Creative Commons license to governments around the world and private entities such as SpaceX:
- Earthlings are a proud, warrior race – there should be images of weaponry, destruction, and smoldering planets.
- We should include glowing references to our “super weapon” that is the crowning glory of our civilization. This should include a subtle mention of our sophisticated cloaking technology, which explains why this weapon isn’t detectable when advanced aliens scan our planet.
- We should provide a list of the galaxies we have conquered and the alien races we have exterminated. Include pictures of various aliens in detention camps (perhaps leverage District 9 publicity stills here)
- Finally, we lose the Shakespeare and Mozart and instead include cultural artifacts that show what happens to aliens that try to attack us. This would include non-DRM’d video files of: War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Signs, The Avengers, and ET.
I know what you are thinking. Won’t an alien race see through this charade? Or might they just be invigorated by the challenge, re-double their weapons development efforts, and set sail for earth? Maybe. But just like bluffing at a poker table or standing up to a bully, we’re just trying to make the aliens think twice, and possibly seek easier prey than the spunky people of earth. If this doesn’t work, we can always fall back on Plan B: render our planet uninhabitable via self-created catastrophic climate change.