By Zylonius K. Pennyfeather III
BLUF: The primitive species discovered on Earth long ago recently evolved to a quasi-intelligent status and may soon become a malign actor in the galaxy. This memo assesses various options for how to deal with the potential threat posed by Earth.
Background and state of play
The Galactic Coalition has monitored a planet (formerly XZ-2251B, hereinafter “Earth”) capable of sustaining advanced complex life forms. It was long thought that a series of meteor strikes had likely rendered Earth uninhabitable, though reconnaissance probes periodically monitored the progress of surviving life. Analysts were therefore surprised to find that life not only survived but also the significant progress made by a primitive hominid species, which now dominates that planet. After our probes received signals from Earth, they arrived in time to observe the use of advanced weapons technology by some of the inhabitants against others. This species, though in many ways still primitive, made these technological advances despite a lack of civilizational unity. Recent galactic history suggests that these factors will likely lead to one of two outcomes: this species will either use the technology against itself or the species will unify and likely pose a threat to other civilizations in the galaxy.
We assess with confidence that Earth’s inhabitants are skeptical that we exist[i], and remain unaware that reconnaissance drones from the Galactic Coalition monitor them closely. However, recent disclosures by one of Earth’s governments (this species is yet so primitive that it requires significant government) indicate that they are increasingly aware of our existence. (Curiously, they seem to think that we are sending our own life forms in deep space reconnaissance craft, though they themselves increasingly use drone craft.) In accordance with guidance from the Galactic Coalition, there has been no formal contact between our species and theirs.[ii]
There are no indications that this species is prepared to join galactic civilization; they show few signs of advanced culture beyond technology. The likelihood that they will develop interstellar weapons of mass destruction is very real. A decision point approaches.
1. Non-intervention. In this scenario, the Coalition will continue to observe the Earth. We assess that there are three plausible outcomes if this approach is undertaken: they will use their technology to destroy themselves; they will unify and become militant expansionists; or they will unify, become peaceful, and end weapons programs. Nothing in speciesology or galactic history suggests that Earth’s species will spontaneously become peaceful. Therefore, prudence suggests that we must look at the other two possibilities. If the Earth species destroy themselves using their nuclear technology, this is likely to occur in the immediate future and there would be no risk in continuing to observe. However, if they do not either become peaceable or destroy themselves, our delay may leave us with little time to act. We assess that non-intervention, while perhaps most consistent with the vision set forth in the Galactic Declaration of Rights, is least conducive to the long-term security of the galaxy.
2. Partial-intervention. In this scenario, we would intervene in a limited capacity to neutralize their technological progress. This would set Earth back somewhat but would not eliminate the threat from reemerging later. (It might also drive their weapons systems underground, so it is imperative that they believe that the strike originated from another group within the same species on Earth.) This approach would also require significant resources for clandestine inspections, which are costly and already strain on the Coalition’s budget—funds that might be committed to more pressing galactic priorities. This approach may also have the unintended consequence of galvanizing the humans into a single civilization, focused on external threats, if they realize the Coalition is responsible. Such an outcome would lead, after much time and expense, to the option of last resort (see # 3). We assess that partial-intervention is preferable to non-intervention but more risky than neutralizing the threat altogether.
3. Aggressive intervention. The Galactic Coalition’s Doctrine of Preventive Conflict calls for intervention to neutralize the threat when there is a plausible risk (more likely than not) that the species will threaten galactic peace. We asses that aggressive intervention may be warranted, absent some significant signs of peaceful progress on Earth.
Lessons from history
Every interaction we have undertaken with primitive species has contributed to their technological advancement, including advances in weapons technology. Species that have evolved amid hostile conditions frequently survive due to a competitive instinct that inclines them to regard cosmic existence as a violent struggle for survival. Such species often destroy themselves. In the rare instances where they survive and establish peaceful bonds built on trust and interest, they can be peaceable. (There are, of course, galactic cultures that are technologically advanced and unified but that decide never to build weapons of destruction.) However, it may be imprudent and even naïve to assume that the Earth beings will simply adapt into a species that can take its place in the galactic community. It is precisely the violent conditions of evolution and competition that permitted this species to distinguish itself from other Earth species that will make them unable to survive. It is also possible that if we continue to monitor as they advance technologically, that we may find ourselves in a so-called “Garfazolian trap.”[iii]
We have learned in recent history the risks of mollification. If we trust that this species will suddenly trend toward progress and peace, toward coexistence in the universe, and against their own savage instincts, we may pay a dear price.
It is the recommendation that the Galactic Coalition strongly consider the Option 3. While this is the most drastic it is also the only guarantee that Earth will no longer pose a threat to the galaxy.
[i] Many of their experts apparently remain skeptical. Few human scientists challenge consensus. One of their scientists, Galileo, once invited his peers to look through a telescope to confirm one of his findings; they refused but continued to heap scorn on him. The consensus is that they are alone in the universe. This suits our purposes for the time being, but the consensus may change. A more recent Earth scientist, a certain Fermi, believed that the universe ought to be teeming with life and asked where all the civilizations were. He could not apparently understand that we are all very much aware of their existence but were keen not to undertake any intervention (diplomatic or otherwise).
[ii] There are many reasons for this policy, not the least of which is that primitive species often benefit from exposure to the technology of more advanced species, which leads to still more rapid technological growth.
[iii] The “Garfazolian Trap,” wherein conflict between preeminent and rising powers takes on a sense of inevitability (named for the galactic historian Garfazolian, who chronicled the war between Azoloxia-23 and Sendizonika).