I recently accessed my brain, and looked up whether aliens exist.
The answer is that aliens do exist, but human beings will never come into contact with them.
The Brainster and I felt that this was fairly interesting, and decided to elaborate with the following explanation.
|Just one example of an alien babe you will not be doing.|
The processes that led to reproducing organisms (‘life’) on earth were fairly remarkable, but by all accounts the universe is quite large.
At last count there are about 300 sextillion (believe it or not I didn’t make up that number! It’s 3 with 23 zeros after it) stars in the universe, and most stars have planets orbiting them.
Not all planets are capable of creating or even sustaining life, but if just 1 in every 100 billion planets has the right conditions to create life, that could leave us with more than 3 trillion viable planets in the universe.
If you consider that that our sun has about 8 planets and at least 20 moons, the number of planets in the universe might be 10 times as high as the number of stars.
In any case, there’s a butt-load of systems out there and it’s very likely that some of them have life forms.
However, the likelihood that humans will make contact with another species of intelligent, alien life is, in my humble opinion, exceptionally slim.
The first problem is attitude.
|If you think aliens look like this, you are a moron.|
As a species, over many years, we have come to accept that an alien probably won’t speak English.
Some of us have even been able to make the mental leap that aliens are not likely to look exactly like a human with large eyes and Michael Jackson's nose.
Take moss; the kind that grows on rocks.
Humans and moss come from the same planet, they live in the same environment, breathe the same air, live off very similar nutrients. They’re made of almost exactly the same materials and have very similar blueprints, yet we tend to think of ourselves as massively different to moss.
It was only within the last 200 years that humans have been able to accept that we’re actually part of the animal kingdom.
An alien won’t live in our environment, breathe our air or eat our food. It probably won’t be constructed from a base of carbon by a DNA blueprint.
So we can reasonably expect that the minute differences between humans and moss will be as nothing compared to the vast differences between ourselves and alien life.
It’s easy to ridicule outdated perceptions that ‘little green men’ are the most outrageous alien life we can expect from the universe, but there may be other ways in which we are just as impaired (the technical term is chauvinistic) in our understanding.
|Why are these aliens just standing around?|
As far as I know, everyone who believes in the existence of aliens automatically makes the assumption that aliens will wish to make some kind of contact with us.
We cannot seem to imagine a universe where we aren’t the coolest kids on the block.
This is what I disagree with.
Humans look for aliens because we want to understand and have knowledge of the universe, but is this a natural condition of intelligent life?
Can we expect aliens to act in this way?
We want to know things so that we can feel like we’re in control, because we fear the unknown.
For millennia our ancestors have gained knowledge to help them overcome problems of survival. We thirst for knowledge in order to get fed, get sheltered and get laid. It’s the fear of not being able to meet these needs that drives us towards discovery. But what happens when survival is assured? Or more likely, what happens a thousand generations after all the needs of humanity are automatically met?
Searching for life in the universe requires a lot of effort, and the reason that we undertake it is because of our fear and our malcontent for our current level of power. When intelligent life does not need to fight to survive, it will no longer yearn for greater power. It will no longer need to encapsulate the universe in its understanding before it can stop worrying.
I believe that our current level of curiosity is not an inevitable product of intelligence, and nor is it an end point in the evolution of life on our planet. I think that an advanced form of intelligent life would be more likely to display a contented disinterest in the rest of the universe, than a driving thirst for more knowledge.
But what if there were a species that were keen to make contact with us? The next big problem would be in communication.
We seem to think that our senses are fundamental; that aliens are bound to see, hear, smell, taste or touch. All of our communication between each other is based, at some level, on our senses and the data that they send to our brain.
But even in our own animal kingdom there is a myriad of senses that we have no experience of.
Dolphins, whales and bats visualise by using sonar. Turtles ‘see’ earth’s magnetic field. Snakes see infrared. Bees see ultraviolet light. Fish feel water pressure and some even see with an electrical field.
Those are all examples of animals that are more closely related to us than moss is!
Why should we believe that we will have any comprehension of the senses, let alone the thought processes, of alien life?
In fact humans are fantastically inept at interspecies communication. Whales and humans are so closely related that they’re both mammals. Whales are intelligent and use vocal language to communicate, yet how many of us can speak Whale?
We are remarkably uninterested in communicating with species less intelligent than our own, yet we believe that a highly developed alien species is going to be super-keen to have a chat with us. There are probably intelligences out there that make our intellects look like that of an ant. How many times a day do you attempt to pass your knowledge onto an ant?
And you’re often pretty close to an ant.
Aliens coming to earth to pass on their wisdom would be like me walking across the Sahara in order to communicate with an ant mound.
People just aren’t into that sort of thing, so I see no reason why aliens should be.
In fact, why should aliens need to use senses in the first place?
If humans developed their mental presence, rather than focusing entirely on their physical presence, they could get to the point where their minds could create a perfectly functioning dreamworld. Perhaps they would be interconnected, perhaps they wouldn’t need to be. They could get rid of the clumsy, inefficient human body and live forever in their thoughts.
Why should an alien bother with the hassle of interstellar travel when it could access a universe in its own mind? The very idea that aliens would require any sort of physical presence might be completely misguided.
Okay, so it’s unlikely that we’d be able to understand any alien communication, and even more unlikely that they would attempt communication in the first place, but what if they were inclined and we could understand them?
The last problem is time.
The universe is about 13 billion years old. The earth is about 4 billion years old. Humans are about 200,000 years old. And only in the last 4000 years or so have we been interested in communicating with aliens.
It’s wrong to imagine that the human race has reached the end of its development. No eco system or species could stop developing unless it reached an unbelievable level of balance and contentment, and the first thing that this would exclude is any interest in alien life. After all, how could you stop changing whilst continuing to search the heavens for new and exciting things? Humanity a hundred generations from now will be unrecognisably different from the lives we currently lead, and there’s no indication that we, let alone our curiosity would continue on forever.
Say we survive and continue to care about space exploration for the next 8000 years. That’s a pretty optimistic extent of time, particularly as the robots (with or without the human brain being involved) are already poised to take the reigns.
Say, also, that there’s an identical species of humans somewhere in our galaxy, and not only that, but our worlds are so close together that they are within 1% of our galaxy.
|I'd be sad too if I looked exaclty like a human with a small neck.|
The first problem is that we’d probably miss each other. If we live out the next 8000 years that would still mean that we’ve only been searching for aliens for 0.0003% of the history of our planet, and 0.00009% of the history of the universe.
Even if their society lasted a million years, the chances that our lifetimes would coincide are similar to the chances that you will give me $10,000. (Just try and prove me wrong.)
But what if we did happen to hear from them tomorrow?
1% of the galaxy is at least 500 light years across (see previous post for what a light year is, or just google it, you dork). So if we received a transmission today we could broadcast one back tomorrow, then 500 years later they’ll actually receive that transmission. If they immediately reply, then that’ll be another 500 years to get the pleasantries out of the road. By the time we got a dialogue going our 8000 years will be well over. If they set out to reach us as soon as they got our message then that’s still an absolute minimum round trip of 1000 years.
Humanity 1000 years from now will be so different that they might as well be aliens to us at this point.
Even in the best circumstances, communicating across the vastness of space would be like stretching a single conversation over the course of your life. You’d start out with a gurgle, mention Ninja Turtles, then boobs, then government equities, then couches, then young people on your lawn, then you die.
Even if the responses were unbelievably interesting, it’s easier just to talk to whatever dork you happen to live next to.
So that’s my thoughts on aliens; there’s probably a bunch of them out there but there’s too much time and space in the way and they probably couldn’t give a toss about us anyway.
If you’re interested in this stuff you should look out for books by Carl Sagan, Arthur C Clark, Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking and Isaac Asimov.
You don’t need to read them; just put them in your house. Their presence will make you feel wise.