Among the multitudes of science fiction stories I tend to read (there's something absolutely fascinating about how people imagine even the most improbable future), about half of them contain alien cultures.
As far as I can tell, there's actually been a recent trend towards *not* having aliens in popular sci-fi. Shows like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica paint the portrait of a largely empty universe for us humans to putter around in.
Given the fact that we have yet to locate another star with a planet, let alone much of anything resembling a solar system, it doesn't seem so far fetched to assume that Earth is pretty much alone (and, the little environmentalist nudges me, it's one more reason we shouldn't be so eager to destroy it).
But the other half of science fiction is filled with alien races of all kinds, shapes, and...customs. If you've ever read any of the Star Wars novels, they're full of little greeting ceremonials, traditions, and trappings of "alien" culture spread throughout the universe. Most often, it turns out that aliens have some sort of hierarchical, feudal (but harmonious) society, and, generally speaking, the human race is always the most ass-backwards disorganized jumble of the bunch.
In other words, alien societies are always extremely well structured.
So we've imagined all the possibilities (through countless novels, movies, and shows) of running into organized alien life. But I wonder what would happen if we ran into an alien race at right about our level of technological know-how and right about our level of political disorganization.
I mean...if we made "alien contact" right now, there'd be no "human embassy." There'd be one for each state that can muster it up. There'd be delegates from all sorts of nations trying to leverage alien contact into some sort of political one-up back at home.
What if we met an alien race that was exactly the same?