Mankind will undoubtedly be changed if/when we make contact with an alien species. The nature of this change has been explored in various science fiction narratives, and many stories show humanity coming together as a result of first contact.
Sometimes the aliens come in peace, and sometimes they don’t. How do these two scenarios differ, and how does that effect humanity?
When aliens come with a purpose to conquer, you see humans banding together to vanquish the enemy. United in a common purpose, people and countries set aside their petty squabbles. Though these invasion stories are just as much a reflection of our own violent past as they are a speculation about what might happen if aliens come to Earth with hostile intentions, in doing so they showcase the best of us. These stories are also a good excuse to have big explosions, but that’s another matter entirely.
However, what happens when aliens come in peace? According to the future portrayed by Star Trek, the revelation that we aren’t alone unites us in a way never thought possible. War, and famine disappear. (War still exists, but it no longer takes place between different segments of humanity. We all know conflict was still prevalent in Star Trek.) The need for material wealth no longer exists. We see ourselves as one race instead of a multitude of groups. Humanity is also generally accepting of alien cultures. While disagreements happen, humanity as a whole prides itself on having moved beyond prejudice.
Babylon 5 paints a different picture. While the people of Earth have generally come together, there is still homelessness and prejudice. You hear people describe the Marsies with disdain, and there are groups that vehemently distrust alien races. Government corruption ultimately leads to a civil war.
Given humanity’s past, is the Star Trek vision of the future too optimistic, or do you think we could eventually get there? What implications would first contact have for religious belief? For politics? What new avenues would science have to explore? Could we genuinely relate with and find common ground with a species that is vastly different from our own?