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ET Discovery Could Happen Within 10 Years: World Economic Forum

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The ongoing search for Earth-like planets is closing in on the probability that life exists outside of our home planet. | PHL UPR Arecibo, ESA/Hubble, NASA

The discovery of alien life or Earth-like planets and the implications to the world was a crucial item on the agenda at the annual World Economic Forum, or WEF, in Davos, Switzerland.

World business leaders and prominent politicians gathered to discuss issues or risks that the world may have to confront in the next decade.

So how did ETs become part of the mix?

In conjunction with the international science journal, Nature, the WEF came up with five "X Factor" items which it refers to as "unheralded dangers that sneak up on us."

One of those risk issues that Earth and its inhabitants may soon face is "the possible social consequences of contact with alien life," according to Nature.

Watch NASA's Kepler spacecraft's discovery of Earth-sized planets

The WEF Global Risks report for 2013 states that "Given the pace of space exploration, it is increasingly conceivable that we may discover the existence of alien life or other planets that could support human life. ... In 10 years' time, we may have evidence not only that Earth is not unique, but also that life exists elsewhere in the universe."

A primary reason why astronomers and astro-biologists are leaning in this direction is because of the tremendous success of NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

"It was only in 1995 that we first found evidence that other stars also have planets orbiting them. Now, thousands of 'exoplanets' revolving around distant stars have been detected. NASA's Kepler mission to identify Earth-sized planets...has been operating for only three years and has already turned up thousands of candidates, including one the size of Earth," according to the WEF report.

The risk factor of all of this comes with the long-term psychological and philosophical implications that will accompany the discovery of alien life.

"It will suggest that life is as natural and as ubiquitous a part of the universe as the stars and galaxies," the report continued. "The discovery of even simple life would fuel speculation about the existence of other intelligent beings and challenge many assumptions that underpin human philosophy and religion."

The Voice of Russia notes that the WEF team "urges the global elite to prepare themselves and their nations for such a discovery. The scientists suggest that new funding and new brain power will be needed to overcome the challenges that humanity will face as a result of its encounter with an extraterrestrial civilization."

In case you were wondering, the other "X Factor" risk items considered by the WEF were:
  • Runaway Climate Change
  • Significant Cognitive Enhancement
  • Rogue Deployment of Geoengineering
  • Costs of Living Longer

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Filed by Lee Speigel