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Joining the Galaxy-Wide Union
by Allen Tough, Ph.D., University of Toronto
email tough @ ieti.org

It began on February 18th, 2007, in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Just after supper, a SETI League member glanced at her computer and noticed that her backyard dish had picked up an anomalous radio signal. Following the established protocol, she notified the SETI League's central office in the eastern United States, where it was still morning. The executive director asked two other members to check this signal, and soon received confirmation that it was truly artificial and came from several light-years away.

That signal turned out to be a simple monotone, in effect, and never did yield any additional information. But it did bring renewed attention and promises of vastly increased funding to the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

That turned out to be unnecessary, however, because this first confirmed discovery of alien intelligence also triggered a response from Glip. Glip is a super-smart, super-knowledgeable probe who has been monitoring human society since 1954, after traveling for 132 Earth-years from her planet Ysptil to ours. After homing in on our human telecommunications and learning our languages, Glip assessed our readiness for contact with her. We were not ready: contact would be too disruptive. And anyhow, we were doing well on our own and did not need contact. So Glip waited.

She knew that she would initiate contact within a few decades, but had not yet decided which threshold or event would indicate the appropriate time. She decided that the most likely possibilities were the creation of a popular worldwide web of computers (because this would make her communications to humankind so easy), or human detection of some extraterrestrial intelligence from somewhere else in the galaxy. As it turned out, the first of these two events that actually occurred was the rapid increas in the World Wide Web's popularity in 1995-1996. But at that time Glip found humanity rather quarrelsome and pugnacious, with too little interest in matters beyond the confines of Earth, and she decided to wait a little longer.

The second event to occur was that Australian discovery in February 2007. Although humanity was still rather quarrelsome and pugnacious, Glip foresaw little chance of improvement without her intervention. This moment seemed as good as any to say hello to humankind.

For the past ten years, Glip had been closely monitoring a Web-based invitation to contact from an enthusiastic group of people involved in the SETI field, the annual CONTACT conference, and the field of futures studies. Now she contacted this group for help in organizing her debut and in communicating her mission to the media and to politicians. Cooperation between this group and Glip was effective and harmonious, except for one disagreement that marred the relationship. Glip was adamant that she would reveal knowledge about only one topic or field each year. She called the group "a gang of greedy kids in a candy store" because they were clamoring for immediate revelation of her entire vast storehouse of galactic knowledge. They did agree that the World Wide Web was the best foundation for each year's revelation, however, since people around the world could access the new knowledge just as readily as journalists and scholars could.

Her topic for February 2008 was the dark side of nanotechnology. Humanity had already made excellent progress toward atom-by-atom manufacturing, of course, but Glip was concerned with the consequences of unrestrained use of this new technology for warfare, rebellion, and crime. The United Nations accepted and implemented several of her suggestions, but balked at the need for intensive local inspections in every country of the world. After a lethal nanofog was used to kill 1,530,000 people during the Baxter Rebellion eight years later, however, the UN changed its mind.

Glip's topic for 2042 was the range of solutions that various cultures in the universe have adopted when faced with their local equivalent of the question, "Whither the concept of humanity and civilization?" The concepts of humanity and human civilization worked fine until the addition of super intelligent computers and robots, along with the various space settlements spreading through the solar system, pointed up the need for a more inclusive term for the totality. A new name was needed to encompass the entire array of intelligences and cultures throughout the solar system. As a result of that year's dialogue, the more inclusive term Solar Culture (usually abbreviated SolCul) was adopted.

In February 2107, to mark the hundredth anniversary of her dialogue with humankind, Glip chose "The State of the Future: An Assessment of Science and Technology" as her topic. After much internal turmoil during the first hundred years of dialogue with Glip, humanity's science, philosophy, religions, worldview, and technology had integrated the major insights from the galactic storehouse of knowledge. Now was the time to focus on the remaining gaps in that galactic knowledge base. Most of those gaps related to the meaning and purpose of the universe, the appropriate goals of intelligence and knowledge throughout the galaxy, and how to choose and achieve the best ultimate end for the universe.

In February, 2207, ceremonies were held in all the settlements throughout the solar system to mark the 200-year anniversary of the first contact. Even more important, this ceremony marked the official beginning of Solar Culture's membership in the Galaxy-Wide Union of Intelligence and Knowledge. This is a union of all advanced civilizations, all other forms of intelligence (biological, machine, or some synthesis of the two), and all of the automated Encyclopedia Galactica knowledge bases in the Milky Way Galaxy. When a culture joins this union, the Encyclopedia Galactica Cooperative Knowledge Base is made available to the new member, who in turn is invited to add knowledge to it.

The Federation uses a two-stage membership process. Step 1: A super-intelligent probe is sent to covertly assess the civilization's readiness and suitability for membership. Step 2: The civilization must (a) eliminate all weapons, (b) achieve harmony with the biosphere of its home planet and any other body on which it has settlements, and (c) reach a stage in science and philosophy at which it has clear potential to add to the galaxy's storehouse of knowledge. The probe (in this case, Glip) is free to offer guidance and knowledge to aid the efforts to satisfy these three criteria. The 200 years that SolCul took to achieve these criteria was within the norm for the galaxy; some cultures never did succeed. Membership in the Galaxy-Wide Union of Intelligence and Knowledge brought two other major benefits to SolCul. First, the embargo on travel outside the solar system was lifted. (The Union imposed this embargo on all fledgling civilizations throughout the galaxy until they became members of the Union.) SolCul had achieved rapid interplanetary travel by this time, of course, and had permeated the solar system. Now it was free to travel further. Second, following its usual procedure, the Union had forbidden all other cultures in the galaxy from having any sort of communication with SolCul, since the Union was entrusting all educational efforts to Glip. This restriction was now lifted.

These two changes allowed Solar Culture's forays into interstellar regions to flourish over the next few centuries, along with its various forms of communication with diverse alien cultures.

By 2954, Solar Culture had spread to many parts of the galaxy. The word "solar" now indicated its origin, not its current location. In 2954, all of SolCul held "Reflective Celebrations" to celebrate 1000 years since Glip reached the planet Earth and to reflect on the deep transformations in SolCul since that time. The highlights of both the celebrations and the reflections were the three galactic projects that SolCul had chosen for its cooperation with other cultures in the galaxy. These three projects were (a) composing a galactic "symphart" that combined the best symphonic music and fluid three-dimensional art from various parts of the galaxy into one masterpiece; (b) creating appropriate unsolved questions to suggest for consideration by Matrioshka Brain, the most intelligent computer in the galaxy; and (c) serving on the Standing Committee to Avoid the Ultimate Death of the Universe.

The purpose of a long-term scenario is to stimulate and expand our thinking about alternative futures. This scenario attempts to outline one particular possibility for how our relationship with extraterrestrial intelligence might unfold over the next thousand years This scenario was published on the CD-Rom (Appendix C) accompanying State of the Future at the Millennium, edited by Jerome C. Glenn and Theodore J. Gordon, published in 2000 by the Millennium Project, American Council for the United Nations University.

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