A scene from ‘The Visit.’
If aliens landed in Central Park tomorrow, how would humankind respond? Would we point every tank and gun squarely on the spacecraft? Or would we offer a more neighborly greeting? What questions would we ask these extraterrestrials? And what would we tell them about us? The Visit, a documentary by Danish director Michael Madsen, presents a hypothetical scenario: Aliens have arrived on earth and we know nothing of their intentions, only that they are here. Madsen asks experts from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (this is a real office that exists at the UN), and other scientists, ethicists, government officials, and public relations personnel to explain how they would respond to this event. The result is a step-by-step guide for dealing with humanity’s first-ever encounter with intelligent life from space.
I recently spoke with Madsen about getting scientists to agree to play pretend, what discovering intelligent life would really mean for humankind, and about choosing the ideal spokesperson for humanity.