Consider a primitive tribe living a Neolithic existence on an island. They have a fairly advanced culture and have fine pottery and weaving skills and they grow crops to feed their population and us nets and fish traps and are very healthy. They’ve begun experimenting with metallurgy in the form of gold and silver jewellery as well as tin and lead and some others to make alloys.
For some reason they haven’t dabbled much in making rafts and dugouts. The weather keeps them from being to see far off across the moving waters to see what is beyond.
What is beyond? There is a city. The island is in the mouth of a large misty river and surrounding the island is a metropolis of a modern city. They do not wish to intrude on the islanders idilic life although they have conquered land, sea, and air. But now, the craftsmen of the island are on the verge of being able to create rafts and dugouts.
They are a proud and curious people who will want to explore the unknown. How will they react to discovering that essentially they are just “reinventing the wheel”? While their dugouts might take them off the island it might take them days to reach land for the currents are strong and treacherous and the dugouts and rafts are very simple. The people of the city can travel the distance in minutes. They have craft that can hover quietly over the island, hidden in the clouds or just off the coast, observing the native islanders.
The island and the city are fictitious. I am not going to answer why the islanders haven’t discovered water craft yet or why they haven’t see aircraft over the island. Nor am I going into why the “civilized” people haven’t intervened.
What I want to consider is the islander point of view. All of a sudden they discover that all the possible land beyond their horizon, all the dreamed of “other islands” which are open and free to explore are occupied by people much more advanced by them. In a sense they are a curiosity. Not quite denizens of some zoo, some anthropological experiment, or the butt of some joke. They are more the subject of guided or misguided kindness to allow them to learn and discover the world for themselves. I won’t say it is for spiritual reason, or cultural, but just in this little thought experiment that it “is”.
How would they feel on their discovery of their place on the cultural-technological ladder?
How would We feel?
We live on this Island Earth in our Solar Archipelago. We might be visited by “beings” with much more advanced technology than we have. They may know “physics” “chemistry” “biology” far more advanced than ours allowing for engineering and technology far beyond what we can create or perhaps imagine… or only can now imagine.
Considering this, what then is important? I mean in the long term. The hard sciences might nearly become a hobby after we reach a certain level because once we reach out to the stars we will have access to other hard science knowledge and after some education perhaps be at a point to advance what is there… if we can comprehend it. Or perhaps we might be advanced to be able to comprehend it.
On the other hand, perhaps what we should concentrate on are the spiritual and social aspects of society — the things that perhaps make us unique. I would suggest concentrating on the positive side of the spectrum. I think concentrating on the arts and culture, and perhaps heritage to keep our identity solid and our own. I think that working to make our society robust and resilient enough to withstand discovering such a big change in our position in the universe would be in order as well.
These things might be very important, but it might also be still important to get us to a position to get to the stars, or prove our potential to do so, or to get to a position to do so…
Of course some might say that would signal a time to close the preserve?