Cutting-Edge AI Program “CosmoAgent” Simulates First Contact With Alien Civilizations

Blending artificial intelligence (AI) and speculative cosmology, an international team of researchers has introduced “CosmoAgent,” an innovative AI framework designed to simulate interactions between human and extraterrestrial civilizations. 

This novel approach assesses the feasibility of peaceful coexistence while considering potential risks that could threaten well-intentioned civilizations. 

The study, conducted by a collaboration of scientists from Northwestern University, New York University, Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Georgetown University, offers new insights into the dynamics of interstellar interactions.

“CosmoAgent leverages large language models (LLMs) to simulate complex interactions between human and extraterrestrial civilizations,” the researchers explained. Employing mathematical models and state transition matrices, our approach quantitatively evaluates civilizations’ development trajectories, offering insights into future decision-making at critical points of growth and saturation.” 

In a preprint published on ArXiv, researchers explain that the novel “CosmoAgent” framework draws inspiration from the late Dr. Stephen Hawking’s cautionary advice about trying to haphazardly initiate contact with extraterrestrial species. 

In the latter part of his career, Dr. Hawking became an outspoken critic of attempts to contact intelligent alien life, warning that encountering advanced extraterrestrials could lead to the end of humanity.

“We don’t know much about aliens, but we know about humans,” said Dr. Hawking at a 2015 event. “If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced.” 

“A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

Inspired by Dr. Hawking’s warnings, researchers sought to explore the potential consequences of human policies toward extraterrestrial life and devise strategies to mitigate risks associated with first contact scenarios.

Employing large language models (LLM) to model diverse ethical paradigms, CosmoAgent simulates interactions between entities with distinct moral principles. This approach addresses the Earth-centric bias inherent in current AI designs by incorporating varied cosmologies, ethical codes, and worldviews that might be held by alien civilizations.

CosmoAgent’s simulations allow civilizations to choose between hiding, fighting, or collaborating based on their characteristics and decision-making processes. 

These choices are evaluated in a dynamic environment that examines potential outcomes, including alliances, rivalries, adherence to specific rules or agreements, and responses to unexpected threats or opportunities.

One key aspect of the study is the use of a Multi-Agent System (MAS) framework to model interactions among various civilizations. The framework allows for detailed exploration of different scenarios, such as civilizational alliances or rivalries, the effects of asymmetric information, and the development of novel cultures or technologies.

“Our simulations investigate potential interactions among different civilizations, including alliance formations, competitive relationships, and responses to unknown threats or opportunities,” researchers wrote. “By simulating these interactions, we gain insights into the mysteries of extraterrestrial existence, communication, conflict, and cooperation, potentially uncovering significant behavioral patterns and contributing valuable knowledge on diversity and order in the universe.”

The study addresses several key research questions, including the risks and benefits of human policies toward aliens, by using state transition matrices to simulate development levels and decision-making modes. Additionally, the model examines the management of asymmetric information and the impact of different moral views on civilizational interactions.

For instance, the researchers explored how LLMs handle asymmetric information differences, notably when observational data lags behind the actual development of civilizations. This aspect is crucial for making effective decisions in interstellar exploration and contact efforts.

“Information Asymmetry, particularly the time delay in observational data due to the speed of light, poses a significant challenge in space exploration and the study of extraterrestrial civilizations,” the study noted. “This time lag means that any observed information about extraterrestrial civilizations is inherently outdated, potentially leading to misconceptions about their current states.”

“Our research seeks to understand how to effectively manage and overcome these asymmetric information challenges in future extraterrestrial exploration and contact efforts.”

Researchers designed “CosmoAgent” to pay special attention to the potential “Diversity of morality” between humanity and an alien species. Powered by LLMs, the AI model examines how differing moral views might affect interactions, including recognizing that an alien civilization will likely hold divergent worldviews and ethical beliefs from human beings. 

With the release of CosmoAgent’s code and datasets, researchers hope the model can provide a foundation for future studies and spur further academic investigation into the intriguing outcomes of “first contact” between humans and intelligent extraterrestrials. 

“This study marks a pivotal advancement in computational social science. It shows how we can leverage the latest artificial intelligence technologies, especially LLMs, to mimic complex social phenomena.,” the researchers emphasized. “These models serve as the foundation for multi-agent systems, enabling the creation of detailed and varied behaviors and interactions within civilizations.” 

“This research not only broadens the scope and realism of simulations but also opens a new area for investigation within computational social science: the study of civilizations in the universe.” 

CosmoAgent could also offer astronomers a fresh perspective and tool for exploring and understanding civilizations beyond Earth. By simulating how different civilizations develop and make decisions, the study could aid in forecasting and spotting the distinct characteristics of intelligent alien civilizations. 

Moreover, the study opens a novel platform for philosophical exploration, addressing the existence, communication, conflicts, and collaborations among civilizations in the universe. Through simulations of ethical viewpoints and behavior patterns of diverse cultures, it exposes the moral variety and intricacy within the universe’s civilizations.

As humanity continues to explore the cosmos, the insights gained from CosmoAgent could prove invaluable in shaping our approach to potential encounters with extraterrestrial life, ensuring that we are prepared to navigate the challenges and opportunities of interstellar communication and cooperation.

Finally, by integrating diverse ethical paradigms and simulating interactions between human and alien civilizations, researchers believe their innovative approach can expand our perspective and provide valuable insights for future decision-making and conflict resolution.

“This innovative research provides a new way to understand complex inter-civilizational dynamics, expanding our perspective while pioneering novel strategies for conflict resolution,” researchers concluded. “These strategies are key to avoiding interstellar conflicts and broaden our understanding of inter-civilizational relations.” 

Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the Intelligence Community and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan.  Tim can be reached by email: or through encrypted email: