Why The First Directive.
Gene Roddenberry in 1966 created one of the most popular science fiction television series, which still arouses enthusiasm and attracts an incredible audience and an astonishing number of fans around the world.
I’m talking about Star Trek. The saga includes five television series and 13 movies and seems to have no end, in fact it was announced a new television series that will appear in 2017.
There are no other cinematographic phenomena of this genre that have obtained such a success. Characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Captain J.T. Kirk (William Shatner) are now legends, as well as their spaceship the Enterprise.
In the world of Star Trek, while humanity is on the verge of self-destruction, as a result of a Third World War with the use of nuclear weapons, the scientist Zefran Cochrane, taking advantage of a military missile launch system, effectively completes the first test of a spacecraft equipped with a warp propulsion device, i.e. a propulsion capable to reach a speed higher than that of light. This experiment is detected by an alien civilization, the Vulcans which, according to the First Directive of the United Federation of Planets to which they belong, send representatives to execute the “First Contact” (year 2063).
In particular, according to this rule, also called “Prime Directive”, civilizations capable to reach the warp speed, and thus to accomplish the interstellar travel, can relate with other civilizations only if the latter have already developed the same propulsion technology. The aim of this logic is to preserve the natural evolution of societies without causing interference that may result in irreparable damages to the detriment of the most primitive civilizations.
This law, even if presented in a sci-fi context, it is not illogical.
Spacefaring Civilizations are pacifists.
Obviously Star Trek is a commercial merchandise and thus the plot responds to marketable dynamics, hence the inclusion of interplanetary conflicts. This is clearly unrealistic. In fact, as shown by Robert Zubrin, a former NASA engineer and founder of The Mars Society, if in the near universe was in place some kind of star wars, our telescopes would be able to detect it.
Actually, the development of the interstellar travel requires significant cultural assumptions and the availability of huge resources, that only a society globally cohesive and morally “clean” could support.
Some predict (and among them there is also some eminent scientist) that if the aliens were able to come to Earth, they might be dangerous, as they may travel into space from planet to planet to plunder the worlds of their resources. On the contrary, the universe is rich of each resource, especially of those necessary to life forms. For example, water (that often in science fiction movies is the cause of alien invasions, for instance “Independence Day” directed by Roland Emmerich – 1996 and “Oblivion” directed by Joseph Kosinski – 2013) is very abundant, as may be found in significant amounts in comets, asteroids and planets, as confirmed by the findings of many probes such as Cassini, New Horizons and Rosetta.
Moreover, space exploration is very expensive and only civilizations that have overcome the lust for power and for possession of material goods can deal with it.
I’m talking about civilizations that have triumphed on the risk of self-destruction and to ensure its own survival. Therefore, in order to be safe from global natural disasters, such as the explosion of a super volcano or the impact of a celestial body, they have reached the full cohesion, overcoming the social and cultural divisions, and they have joined together to realize self-sustaining space habitats.
In this context, it is logical to assume that these civilizations only sustain cultural relations with civilization cognitively and technologically similar (something like the movie “Contact” directed by Robert Zemeckis – 1997). So, nothing to do with what happened on Earth in the year 1492.
Key words: First Directive – Prime Directive – Extraterrestrial Civilizations – Fermi Paradox – Star Trek – Roddenberry – Spock – Kirk – Zefran Cochrane – Interstellar – Space Habitat.
For further insights, the topic is presented in the book: Extraterrestrial Civilizations and The First Directive – A possible solution to the Fermi Paradox.