I know, talking about aliens? What??? But I just finished watching the “Fourth Kind” the other day (and thought it was such a pile of BS) and it got me considering something.
I’ve never been a big fan of science fiction or even pseudo-science scenarios that anthropomorphize the behavior and motivations of theoretical ‘alien’ civilizations. There tends to be two major themes: a malevolent alien or a beneficent alien. The notions of alien visitation revolve around either a race that wants to destroy us, rape our planet, eat us, take over our brains or some other heinous abuse or it’s some compassionate race of benevolent beings looking over us like guardian angels. And both scenarios are highly egocentric – to assume that our planet or our civilization would be of significant interest to any advanced civilized race to be worthy of exploitation or admirable enough for philantropy.
It got me to considering what would make us ‘worthy’ of a visitation or first contact. Those with knowledge of the vastness of the universe often hypothesize that even if the chances are rare, the sheer number of stars with potential planets with potential life with potential intelligent life is reasonably good based on just how big the universe is. And based on how old the universe is, if there was an intelligent life out there, they may well have one hell of a headstart on us – like possibly by millions if not billions of years. This got me to pondering (something I’ve already done from time to time) as to the nature of such an intelligent life.
Obviously the kind of intelligence that would fit with a ‘visit to earth’ would likely have to be one that had the ability to span the distances between the stars if not entire galaxies. With a couple mellinia to work out the details, who knows. If nothing else, a being that could live that long could span the distances without even having a need to ‘bend’ space or use other ‘super’ means to do so. Either way, it would be a considerable expense of resources, even for an advanced race with access to many resources, to just ‘pay a visit’.
Another consideration, any such race that had been around a long time would likely have colonized or otherwise spread out to some extent. Without anthropomorphizing the nature of their society itself, it’s not a leap to assume that the maintenance of any technologies to span space would likely require at least some level of organization that a societal/colonial structure would provide to advance the technologies, harvest the resources and create/maintain/support the means to travel the stars.
Now, here’s the twist I realized. The typical scenarios mentioned above deal with either exploiters or helpers. My assertion has always been that any such advanced race would be indifferent to us on either of those grounds. So what would interest such an advanced race in meeting others? What would interest such an advanced race in going anywhere outside their colonies?
Again without anthropomorphizing, one can look at the basic behaviors of life in general. Living things span out to get 1) more places to live, 2) more resources on which to survive, and in the case of intelligent life 3) to learn new things.
So what does our corner of the milky way provide? Is our planet particularly big as a place to live? Relative to other planets just in our own solar system, no – but depending on the conditions of life, maybe. But it’s already occupied! And there aren’t any other planets like it in our solar system. I’d have to imagine there might be many many many other better alternatives out there on which to colonize for new places to live. So scratch #1
Are there a large number of resources here? Water may be of interest, but again, compared to other places in the universe do we have a lot of it? It seems like a lot to us, but would it seem that way to an expansive race when our’s is the sole planet with a lot of liquid water in a teeny little 8 planet solar system?
What about other resources such as minerals? We’ve seen some huge planets surrounding other stars, many more than we have here, planets larger than Jupiter. Even our sun is small in comparison to other stars out there. So scratch #2
Would we know more than a race that had been around for much longer than us and is able to span the stars themselves? Scratch #3
This got me to thinking of what was going on when Columbus set sail. This theory does fall under a bit of anthropomorphic interpretation, but not really. It wouldn’t require a ‘capitalist’ like society to assume that an intelligent race might be interested in new contacts for the purposes of ‘trade’. If for nothing else than having the ability to exchange things they already have for things they might need without the necessity of gathering it and processing it themselves. But extend a little man-like motive to that and you might also consider such a race, if it did have any capitalist tendencies might also be looking for a ‘market’ for their own goods.
When you are talking about the possibilities of an intelligent, colonial, entrepreneurial race that has been around a lot longer than us, we ain’t big enough yet! 6 billion people seems like a lot to us, but to such a elder race, our planets population would likely be akin to a ‘small village’ to us.
If we span out across our own solar system and colonize space itself with orbiting habitations, gain the ability to mine the asteroid belts and harvest energies directly from the sun – now we are starting to at least get a little bit more appealing. The last step is the ability to actually deliver goods – the ability to span the distances of space itself.
So my suggestion to all those looking to the stars for life out there, promote the space program, promote space stations, promote trips to mars, promote space industry. With a thousand years to ten-thousand more years of that we might become a big enough market to be worthy of a stop-over!