This is something that came up in one of my podcasts today. There was the question of whether or not we should be sending signals out into space looking for other intelligent life. The rationale against us sending out signals is that we don’t know if our receiver would be friend or foe.
A few points to why this fear is likely unfounded. The first is that any warrior nation would likely have wiped itself out before it went interstellar. Look at humanity. We routinely hamper our own scientific advances for petty and childish reasons. It’s not unreasonable to believe that we’ll be slow to move into space. I’m not saying this pessimistically but more just that people live a long time and people in power don’t tend to be very progressive.
Second point, imagine if we are as rare as we appear to be. Not life in general, that is likely plentiful, but intelligent life. We stand as one great organism in the middle of a great dark. A desert of a place where there seems to be no other life. Imagine being in this state for years, decades, millennia. You begin to wonder “Am I alone?” and then in the distance you see a face. This face isn’t angry, but smiling, it’s waving at you frantically, excited to see that you too exist.
How would you react? Would you immediately try to kill this new acquaintance? It seems unlikely. All of known human history we have been well aware of the fact that there are other humans around us, we bring them with us when we travel. I’m not saying that makes killing “easier” but I do think that it makes meeting foreign peoples in ancient human history non-analogous.
If humanity finds a face out in the universe. Tangible. It’ll likely be non-violent. If it is violent, it’ll be unlikely to be space fairing (and thus inconsequential). I could see crossed wires, but I do think it is almost cosmically unlikely that we’ll find ourselves warring with any alien species until long after we’ve known them. Once both groups have integrated enough to allow them to be ubiquitous.
And even then the pluses will outweigh the negatives in my opinion. And even that assumption of war is simply because I can’t even fathom the excitement and mind opening effect of an alien intelligent life.