Where are the alien civilizations?

C. George Boeree

Why haven't we found any signs of "civilizations" when looking out into space?

"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 technology? Or...

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 self-absorbed disinterest.

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