The Social Contract between Aliens and Humans

The situation, in which the aliens, who have colonized virtually the entire galaxy, appear to be friendly, seems unbelievable. The best example is the fate of the native population of Americas after the arrival of European conquistadors. However, if the aliens are friendly, indeed, and they have no desire to destroy or enslave the population of Earth, the social contract theory seems to be the most appropriate in dealing with aliens. In the situation mentioned above, only two types of relations are possible: relations of domination and subordination or relations of cooperation and mutual assistance. This paper discusses the second options of these relations and explains why the social contract theory is more appropriate than other theories.

First of all, no matter how friendly the aliens are, they are more developed than human beings, at least in terms of technology. Therefore, they represent an apparent threat to Earth and its inhabitants. In this situation, representatives of Earth government (if any) cannot take the position of force or any privileged position. The best possible option is to offer the aliens a certain contract, according to which the humans will obtain certain privileges of political order as the cost of certain freedoms. This is the main principle of the social contract theory. At this point, it is crucial to convince the aliens, that it is the best option for both of the species.

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The theory of the social contract established the basic principle in an essential historical idea that a legitimate authority should derive on the basis of the consent of those who are governed. Therefore, the starting position for the most of these theories lies in a heuristic study of conditions of human existence, which are absent in any organized social systems, which are usually referred to as the natural state. In these circumstances, a person’s actions are associated only with his personal power, limited conscience, absent opposition. This starting position is used by various conventional theorists of the social contract in an attempt to explain why rational self-interest of man dictates him to give up freedom voluntarily, which belongs to everyone in a natural state, to take advantage of political order.

According to Thomas Hobbes, without political power life would be dangerous, brutish and short. The same concerns humans and aliens relations. Without the certain form of political power both species would be in a status, where everyone has unrestricted natural freedoms, which assume the right for everything, including the freedom for harming everyone. It would lead to an endless “war of all against all” (bellum omnium contra omnes). In order to avoid this implication, free people and aliens establish a free political society, that is, the civil society through the social contract, in which everyone benefits from the civil rights instead of subordination to the civil code, or political power.

The social contract and the civil rights obtained through it are neither natural rights, nor do they last forever. Rather, the agreement itself is a way to achieve the result, which is positive for everyone, and, in accordance with some philosophers, for instance, Locke or Rousseau, it will be legal until it presents common interest (“general will”, according to Rousseau). Therefore, when the contract reveals some drawbacks, it will be discussed and concluded again to change the regulations, using such means as elections or legislative body. Locke, for example, proved that there is a right to revolt in the case when such contract can lead to dictatorship.

When someone wants to violate the civil rights established by the obligations of the social contract, for example, committing a crime or giving up one’s rights, the rest of society will protect itself from the actions of these individuals. Being a member of society assumes taking responsibility to obey the rules, awareness of the threat of punishment for violating them. Thus, the society exists by mutual coercion and mutual agreement.

The social contract between humans and aliens will be an event when people and aliens come together and give up their “natural rights” (though we do not know what aliens consider as “natural rights”) so that both parties can exist. For an example, aliens would waive the right to kill humans, in the event that humans offer the same thing. This will lead to the creation of a society, and in the future, it will lead even to a common state or a sovereign entity, which will protect the resulting new laws governing social interaction. Thus, the society will no longer be in a state of anarchy.


We know from history that the states, which were not formed on the basis of the social contract, were anarchic. Just like every person in the natural state was entirely free, and thus was directed by personal interest in the absence of laws, the states also acted in their own interests and were at odds with each other. All states were in conflict because there was no sovereign above (i.e., more powerful party) capable to enforce the social contract among the states. However, there are aliens, who are more powerful than humans, and can enforce the social contract.

The social contract is not a document that should be signed by representatives of all stakeholders, as well as all interested persons. Such a document cannot be created, in principle, as its volume would be infinite and precise execution impossible. It seems probable that the basis for a new social contract, which is essential for humans, will be a constant negotiation process. If the dialogue between alien and human society becomes permanent and fruitful, then both species will appear in the universal society, which will match the interests of all people and aliens, their institutions and organizations. A set of mutually acceptable rules of the game is the main result of the social contract. These rules, of course, should always be adjusted, but this adjustment should occur only by means of the dialogue between the parties concerned.

The guidelines of these rules and regulations must be based on the principles of law, mutual trust and shared responsibility, transparency and accountability, as well as the overall vision of Earth’s prospects as a modern developed democratic (or not, it does not matter in the context of aliens/humans relations) planet with a free economy, which is globally competitive (in the whole of galaxy). If, in the result of common efforts, the rules and regulations are adopted and implemented, a new social contract will enter into force, and Earth will remain the planet inhabited by people.

Under the given circumstances (alien invasion), the concept of the social contract preserves only its core, namely, achieving of a social order that would satisfy everybody, or at least the majority. What we need, is efficient mechanisms of coordination of aliens and humans, especially, their institutions. It is difficult to argue this assumption; the only question is how these mechanisms should be implemented.

To convince the aliens of the fact that humans will obey the rules of a newly concluded agreement, we can quote the dialogue “Crito”, written by Plato, which is the Greek version of the theory of the social contract. In the dialogue, Socrates refused to escape from prison, although it would save his life. Socrates argues that as long as he voluntarily stayed in Athens for all his life, while he had an opportunity to find another place, he accepted the provisions of a social contract, assuming the burden that he cannot break these laws, even when they contradict his own interests. Similarly, humans and aliens should abide by the rules of the contract, even if the interests of one of the parties would be different from interests of another party. Any other theory, like ethical egoism, will lead to destruction of humanity, for interests of humans and aliens cannot coincide.