What if by alien standards we are really cute?
And I don’t mean like attractive cute, I mean like baby otter cute. What if the stumble upon us and go “ohhhhh my god!!! Oh my god!!!! I’m dying this is- look at it! Look at them!!! Oh my god!!!”
We usually imagine having to come up with some Devils trade or unholy arrangement to get tech and trade with aliens, but the instant they see us the aliens immediately set out into conservation efforts. They’re like “their habitat is becoming harsh and unlivable for them! We have to save them!” And everyone just puts a picture of us next to this information and they all agree “Look at them! We have to save them!!” We become like the panda mascots of intergalactic conservation efforts.
Simultaneously, our main export is just streams, videos, holograms, and photos of us. Aliens lose their composure completely over videos of us sneezing or yawning or eating pop tarts or playing video games or taking care of our kids.
There are lines of aliens who would LOVE to have a human in their home or on their ship. It’s a little condescending (we’re not sure if we’re guests or well treated exotic pets) but still a good opportunity, and any human who wants can go to space at any time basically for free or even for profit, and the aliens will go out of their way to give you anything you ask for.
There are obvious downsides. We struggle to be taken seriously. While it’s usually shut down pretty quickly, every once in a while some alien group sees the demand for us and tries to start an illegal trade. But at the same time, it’s neat that somewhere out there is an alien (or usually a LOT of aliens) that would love you unconditionally, find every flaw and idiosyncrasy endearing, be worried about you and do anything they could to make you safe and happy. They work hard to make our planet and our personal lives better and don’t ask for anything in return. They just do it because they decided we are important and worth saving just for existing. It’s an odd relationship, and we’re not always sure what to make of it, but honestly it goes a lot better than we worried alien contact would.