Equity and Democracy: Seeking the Common Good as a Common Ground for Interstellar Communication

  • Yvan DutilEmail author
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


What cultural traits could we possibly share with any extraterrestrial civilization? It could be argued that every civilization has to face the same challenge: How to distribute resources between different tasks and/or individuals. Limitations of resources and conflicting interests are likely to be universal problems. In many cases, no perfect solution exists and cultural tradition plays a role in the choice of the allocation procedure. Being simultaneously universal and culturally oriented, the allocation problem is especially suitable as a topic of discussion between civilizations. Two theories attempt to solve the problem of fair resource distribution: equity theory and social choice theory. Both theories are described within a mathematical framework, which eases their translation into interstellar messages. Equitable sharing procedures and electoral procedures are intellectual tools developed to deal with conflicting individual interests for the best outcome for the group at large. Therefore, both equity and social choice theories are products of civilizations seeking to better manage interactions between individuals with selfish tendencies. In such circumstances, altruism should emerge as a prized quality that would be encouraged by extraterrestrial societies, but that is difficult to achieve at the level of individuals due to natural tendencies for selfishness. Therefore, social choice and equity theories are topics of discussion that should provide common ground for communication with any civilization that is struggling, like we are, to build a fairer society.


Equity theory Social choice theory Fairness Resource distribution Democracy SETI 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.École de technologie supérieureQuébecCanada

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