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After Contact [Hardcover]

Albert A. Harrison
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 21 1997
Albert Harrison examines in detail the psychological, sociological, political, and cultural dimensions of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. By so doing, he firmly establishes that the behavioral and social sciences are as integral to the search as are the physical and biological sciences that have dominated the field up to now. This book offers a useful conceptual framework for rational discussion of extraterrestrial life forms, and provides a detailed analysis of likely human reactions to the detection of extraterrestrial life. Among the many examples that Harrison develops are: how psychological, social, and cultural factors shape people's views about the likelihood of intelligent extraterrestrials and the value of undertaking the search; how our understanding of life on Earth provides a useful framework for thinking about life elsewhere in our galaxy; how historical precedents give us a basis for forecasting human response to "contact"; how agencies such as the CIA inadvertently strengthen the impression of "government cover-up"; and why there is little risk that we will run afoul of an "evil empire." Harrison sketches our responses to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence as individuals, as nations, and as humanity, and concludes that we have good reason for cautious optimism about the progress of the search and the aftermath of contact.

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"Thought-provoking...A social and cultural road map to help readers grapple with the possibility that humans are not alone in the universe." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
I am both pleased and impressed with Harrison's book, After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life. Commonly efforts to deal with topics like the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial life are either one-dimensional, or they are so general and watered down that they lack substance. In contrast, Harrison's book is a very well written and authoritative review of issues surrounding possible contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Further, while Harrison's primary expertise is in the area of psychology, he does a fine job of dealing with the possible technological and sociological consequences of such contact. Indeed, as well as including well reasoned and provocative speculations on future possibilities, the book provides an excellent review of some of the best scholarship in this area, including much that has been derived from isolation and small group studies.
One of the blurbs on the book jacket observes that it is a valuable contribution to the field and a very good read. I second that assessment, and would recommend it both to professionals, and to any intelligent interested party.
Douglas Raybeck Hamilton College
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book to get your brain buzzing! April 13 1999
By A Customer
Everyone who has ever glanced at the starry sky on a clear night has wondered if other, alien eyes were staring back from far across the Galaxy. After thinking about that many people develop an interest in SETI, and take a trip to a real or online bookstore in search of further information. Many, perhaps most of the SETI books they find there concentrate on the actual search hardware and its history, past SETI searches, SETI personalities and the chances of eventual success. Most of the books are content to finish neatly, with an optimistic message and a declaration of how wonderful the detection of an alien signal would be. AFTER CONTACT is different: as its title suggests it looks at what will happen *after* that momentous day. After working steadily through our preconceptions about ETs and examining the psychological aspects of SETI - the book is very heavy on psychology in places, and although some sections are very "challenging" they provide invaluable insights into our collective hopes and fears for finding life Out There - it explores the possible nature of aliens, and considers the immense difficulties two - literally - alien civilisations would come up against when trying to communicate. But the most impressive section of the book examines what impact Contact could have on Mankind, its effect on our technology, military, poliical structures, religions and civilisation as a whole. This section is very hard to drag yourself away from and demands to be read in one sitting... and then again, immediately, because your head is so full of ideas it's impossible to sit still! Basically, AFTER CONTACT is a book for people who have already accepted the existence of ETs, and who want to know what will actually happen when there's enough proof to convince everyone else. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't like it. April 5 1999
By A Customer
The entire first third of the book was IMHO a waste of paper. The author attempts to describe the rationale and basis for SETI but it is done so superficially that it essentially boils down to "some people with Ph.Ds think it would be a good idea".
There is an entire chapter devoted to discrediting UFOs which seemed strangely out of place. I suppose the author is afraid of being lumped in with that crowd and wanted to make sure that didn't happen.
The rest of the book is better, although I still can't help but feel that the entire book boils down to:
If aliens aren't much like us then we can't predict what they are going to be like, thus I will assume that they are at least something like us. Except maybe they'll have four arms instead of two -- but they'll still be capitalist democracies.
His rationale for why they should be democratic was totally unconvincing. Explanations for why they should bother to look for us or share any information with us are essentially nonexistent (he more or less defines the problem away, "we will call 'intelligent life' anything which is looking for other life in the universe").
I gave this 3 stars but it really deserves only 2 1/2 ... I was feeling generous today.
[BTW, I AM pro-SETI in general, I just thought this book was overall a weak piece of work.]
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AFTER CONTACT: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life Albert A. Harrison, Ph.D. Plenum Trade, 1997
Most people have become comfortable with the notion that there may be intelligent extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the universe. Even the conservative astronomer Carl Sagan calculated that it was mathematically probable that such life must exist. Sagan's book Contact, later made into the 1997 movie of the same name, postulated that a life form could contact humans here on earth. The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute employs people using radio telescopes to explore the heavens for signs of intelligent life. Recently the National Air and Space Administration created the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NABI) to consider the development of ET life forms. NABI examines the possibility from the standpoint of materials and conditions necessary to support life. They also consider the implications of the origin of life and question whether ! ! life is a cosmic imperative.
In After Contact Professor Al Harrison of the University of California-Davis thoughtfully takes the obvious next step. In pragmatic detail he examines the human consequences of contact with such an intelligent extraterrestrial entity. Except for fictional accounts, no one previously has explored as comprehensively the many ramifications such contact would pose for those of us who live in what we believe to be technologically advanced societies. Just what would happen if we learned that we were not at the top of the evolutionary pyramid?
Harrison first lays out the background information surrounding current search methodologies used by SETI and their radio-telescopic efforts to listen for signs of life.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Where did God go?
I read this book simply for pleasure. I am a science teacher by eduaction so why not get a few fresh ideas about exo-biology. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2002 by "garboy"
4.0 out of 5 stars STOP! FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP!
A very good book but....consider this: Two workers are about to begin bulldozing. They notice a couple of ant hills. One comments,"Gee, they're clever little guys. Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by "bezstran"
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating Book!
Professor Harrison's treatment of this topic was excellent and the book was really fun to read! As a psychology student I really enjoyed this book, not because I'm a fan of SciFi,... Read more
Published on June 28 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Not Both?
No book review, merely a reply:
SETI research these days is supported almost entirely by private funds, companies and individuals. If Mr. Read more
Published on June 11 2000 by Mike Wilson
1.0 out of 5 stars Why SETI? Why Not STI?
If even 1% of the budget spent on SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) was redirected to cetacean, primate or elephant research, we'd already be talking to alien... Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2000 by Robert Carlberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Best SETI book I've yet read
The reviews below say it all. If you wonder how we may react to the discovery of extraterrestrial life--especially intelligent life--there is no better place to start looking for... Read more
Published on April 27 1999 by RJH
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights about AFTER contact, and BEFORE too.
This book is truly unique. Within the social sciences, this is the only recent book to present a comprehensive picture of the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence... Read more
Published on April 6 1999 by Allen Tough
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