SETI is the nonprofit organization in charge of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Ever since 1985, they have been combing the skies looking for ET and tying to anticipate all of the issues that we may encounter as a result of this endeavor. In their research, they look at the problems associated with finding alien life (from the difficulties that we will face because of the amazing distances that will likely separate Earth and alien worlds, to the steps that we must take in order to avoid interstellar conflict).
And SETI just released a free eBook that deals with some of this research.
The book discusses the problems, pitfalls, and advancements that we've made in the quest to communicate with extraterrestrials. This is an important issue. In a 2010 documentary, physicist Stephen Hawking warned that extraterrestrials may be more advanced than us. As such, if they visit Earth, they could exploit or exterminate us (consider the imperialist extermination of Native peoples around the globe).
As he notes, "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." Thus, proper communication with ET is a must. The text is titled Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication, and it was edited by the SETI Director of Interstellar Message Composition, Douglas Vakoch. The aim of the text is to address some of the issues surrounding alien life and alien communication in order to prepare us "for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come."
The text addresses the prerequisites for establishing interstellar communication, issues that may arise as a result of first contact, how we should covey and characterize our cultural values to an alien civilization, and a host of other issues.
Some of the book's chapters include—The Evolution of Extraterrestrials: The Evolutionary Synthesis and Estimates of the Prevalence of Intelligence Beyond Earth; Contact Considerations: A Cross-Cultural Perspective; Speaking for Earth: Projecting Cultural Values Across Deep Space and Time; Learning To Read:Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives; and Mirrors of Our Assumptions: Lessons from an Arthritic Neanderthal.
Since it is nearing the end of Summer in the Northern hemisphere, this is certainly a fantastic text to save for a rainy day. So go prepare yourself for alien contact with this book.