With Project Phoenix now under way, it seems timely to ponder the philosophical consequences that would follow from the successful detection of some form of alien signal or messaige. What, exactly, would it mean for human beings to discover that they are not the only sentient beings in the universe? Would we be exhilarated or dismayed? Thrilled or scared? Inspired or demoralized?
A popular belief is that the sense of shock that would follow the sudden announcement of such a discovery would be so great that human society might disintegrate. In science-fiction stories governments are usually portrayed as conspirators, attempting to hush up the discovery because it is considered dangerous for ordinary people to know about it. Usually the scientists who stumble on the alien signal are put under guard and instructed not to say anything in case panic should ensue. In the real-life case of the discovery of pulsars, one wonders to what