philosophy science technology

first contact

(I’ve got a week filled with almost a dozen meetings, a sermon to write, a boarder moving in, Tom’s 4th birthday party, and a band practice.  And I’ve got comments on this blog I’ve not had time to respond to yet.  But this post will be short… ;P  )

It’s a very real possibility (or a high probability) that at least some kind of life exists (or has existed – or will exist in the future) other than on earth.  We’ve found evidence of liquid water in the history of Mars and that’s just H20, and just within our solar system.  So it would seem to be hardly a surprise to find some kind of life, plant or animal – or something else? – in other place.

But how likely is intelligent life?

There’s no logical problem with it of course.  S.E.T.I. scans space for signs of intelligence, communication, speech from any ‘others’ out there.

I’m hardly the first to say so, but considering a (conceptual) spectrum-of-intelligence, we ought not assume that we are at the highest end of the spectrum.  However, there is an assumption that I think is reasonable.  It is the assumption that: if we ever do come to know of life that is higher than us on this spectrum-of-intelligence, it would seem less likely that we would discover it (e.g. the movie Prometheus), but that it would discover us (e.g. War of the Worlds or Transformers).

Other possibilities include that it possibly has already discovered us, but would have reason to make itself known to us.  Or possibly they are already trying to make themselves known to us, but our technology or techniques are not suited to pick up on their communication.

As an aside, it is also – at least logically – possible (though we rightly think it unlikely) that more-intelligent-than-us life is hiding out deep in the sea, deep underground, or just behind the sun.  :)

So then, given that we know of no known, reputable communication from other physical life forms (get ready for spam in the comments!?), the options seem to be:

a1) communication is not possible between them and us due to insufficiency of  technology and techniques.
a2) communication is not possible between them and us due to ‘them’ not even existing.
b) communication is not known by us due to our insufficient technology or techniques.
c) communication is not desired by them.

3 replies on “first contact”

To quote yourself, Dale, “just quickly” – it’s a minor point but in Prometheus there was just as much (zero) discovering being done first by humans as there was in War Of The Worlds and Transformers. The tripods, transformers and the space jockeys all knew about humans (the space jockeys even made the humans) before the vice versa.

Just had to nerd out for a moment there >.<

Also, a1 and b seem almost too similar to distinguish.

And on the topic of aliens, probabilities, intelligence levels, etc.

I present this:

Excellent topic and I think you’ve covered the options pretty well. (Great video Ryan; excellent perspective.)

Even if there were two ‘intelligent’ species per galaxy (giving us hundreds of billions of candidates) the chances that they’d ever come into contact with each other is minuscule given the distances and the average life expectancy of any given species.

And what about overlap in time? Could there have been intelligences in our galaxy 6 billion years ago? If they were anything like our ‘intelligence’ it’s quite possible they went extinct because they spent all their resources on cosmetics and weapons without a care for planet-deforming asteroids in spite of all the evidence of past mass extinctions. What about the future? What species will be here in this remote corner of the universe in 6 billion years’ time? Us?

I think we grossly underestimate the problems of the vast distances between likely intelligent species throughout the universe. That creates huge difficulties with communication and makes the likelihood of such contact during the overlap of existence pretty remote.

There is also the very narrow window that civilisations seem to have where the existence is being communicated through their electromagnetic emissions.

Another factor which seems to often be ignored is that very few species last very long. More than 99% of the species that have existed on this planet are now extinct. There have been at least 27 human species – all except one are now extinct and the current species (homo sapiens) has not yet lasted anywhere near as long as some of the others did.

Current trends in our thoughtless effects on our environment suggest that we are very unlikely to break any records in the existence stakes.

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