Where are the alien civilizations?
C. George Boeree
Why haven't we found any signs of "civilizations" when looking out
"Civilization" for us has been around for about 4000 years. The
technologies needed for detecting other civilizations beyond earth
have been around for about 100 years.
How long do we have left? When will civilization die? Will we
destroy ourselves directly (as with nuclear war), or indirectly (as
with environmental collapse)? Will the human race completely
disappear, or is it just civilization that will disappear and the
species continue on a much diminished level? Or will we go on and on
in a manner not too different from today - just more and more
Assuming we continue, in what form will we do so? Will we become
appendages of artificial intelligence, living lives of leisure while
deluding ourselves that we are still the masters of our machines?
That seems a highly likely scenario to me.
We have a lot of fantasies about the future, of which Star Wars and
Star Trek are only the most familiar examples. But these are founded
on the idea that we will expand into space. I have no doubt that we
will establish bases within our own solar system, and perhaps even
around a nearby star. But as far as we know, there is a very
powerful limitation: the speed of light.
I suspect that at some point we will become philosophical about the
issue. What do we want? What is important? Do we devote enormous
energies into expansion of our species? Why? What do the people of
this planet have to gain by sending a few of us to another star? We
will be long dead before anyone actually reaches one of those
earth-like planets, and even longer till we hear back from them.
So perhaps we will turn out focus inward: Let's work at making this
world a better place for those who are here, now. We of course will
have quite some work to do, including figuring out what exactly
constitutes a "better place".
Perhaps it will dawn on us (as it has many in the past) that the
only way to prevent human suffering is to have no more humans. I'm
not talking about blowing ourselves up: that involves creating even
more human suffering, even if the suffering is only brief. I'm
talking about not reproducing.
Of course we have our instincts, although we can clearly get past
that restriction. But we don't even need to intervene with science
and medicine. When we no longer envision a real need for children,
we simply don't reproduce as much. Slaves don't have high birth
rates. Neither do the wealthy.
Now how long will we continue with our optimistic Sci-Fi urges? How
long before we destroy ourselves, or surrender to our machines, or
lose interest in having babies? I give us another 1000 years, but
even if it is much longer, what are the chances that our x number of
years overlaps with the x number of years that some other
civilization has the ability and the interest to attempt to
communicate? Especially at distances where a response to a question
takes a life-time or longer?
Perhaps some species out there is just starting its rise to
civilization and science. Perhaps another has completed theirs and
has destroyed its environment. And another has drifted off into a
Even more likely, how many will miss the opportunity to contact us
by millennia? Add to this line of speculation the fact that other
creatures may be so different from us that communication is
impossible, not useful, or even undesirable.
Or we may just hear from someone. In the meantime, we should tend to
our own little garden.
© Copyright 2015 C. George Boeree