Paper Competition Third Place Winner
Policy Memo: Anticipatory Science Diplomacy as a Governance and Cooperation Mechanism for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life
Keywords: search for extraterrestrial life; anticipatory diplomacy; science diplomacy; emerging space actors
The scientific search for extraterrestrial life mainly consists of looking for evidence of current and past microbial life and intelligent, technology-capable life. The space industry appears to have entered an era of “NewSpace” activities that are no longer conducted exclusively by the traditional state space powers. Instead, emerging space actors, both public and private, have commenced searches for extraterrestrial life. The likelihood of successfully discovering extraterrestrial life only increases when considering an unintentional discovery resulting from the various other space-related activities pursued by NewSpace actors. Unfortunately, the relevant policy landscape is plagued with significant gaps. Anticipatory diplomacy, that is, a model for diplomacy that seeks to act today to address the challenges of the future, might be appropriate for governing those science-related global activities and for encouraging cooperation among varying actors. This policy memo offers the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) suggestions on how to practically implement anticipatory diplomacy in the scientific endeavor of the search for extraterrestrial life by means of four proactive policies: harmonization of pre-discovery measures in national space laws, encouragement of international R&D partnerships among public and private actors, a public registry of activities with the potential to detect extraterrestrial life, and an appropriate interdisciplinary UNCOPUOS Working Group. The overall recommendation is to start with establishing the proposed UNCOPUOS Working Group and then to task it with evaluating if and how to implement the other three proactive policies.
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George Profitiliotis is an Electrical & Computer Engineer with an interdisciplinary MSc in “Environment and Development” offered by the National Technical University of Athens. He holds a Ph.D. from the NTUA on the topic of the ex ante economic valuation of future national Planetary Protection policies for private activities between Earth and Mars. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher within the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law of the NTUA, investigating the pertinence of anticipation to the search for extraterrestrial life, and a Visiting Scholar at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.
I would like to acknowledge the important and helpful comments of the three reviewers that greatly enhanced the quality of this work.
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