Tuesday 26 January 2010

Greetings Earthling, bring me to your leader?

SETI nets, gold-plated audio-visual discs on the Voyager spacecrafts, the Allen Telescope Array...these are all examples of our fascination with the question of whether we are alone in this universe, or if there are others, be they like or unlike us. Even more fascinating to me is the question: if there are others, will we ever meet them?

Without wanting to sound like a UFO conspiracy theorist, I do have a...theory about this. My theory is that we won't. Ever. This is not to say that there is no other life in the universe. Such a presumption would be more than a little arrogant. Nor is it to say that extraterrestrials will never visit Earth. It's just that when they do, we won't know about it. At least, not until it is too late.

Any alien race that makes it this far is advanced. Very advanced. So advanced, in fact, that we would need to make enormous advancements in science just to measure how much more advanced. What happens when they visit, depends on how their advancements have shaped their society.

If they have become a predominantly technological race, they will see our planet as simply a gigantic piece of ore, to be mined for its metal rich core. Indeed, they might be so focused on the geological properties of Earth that they won't even notice that it harbours sentient life. And by the time we realize that that shadow blocking out the sun isn't a solar eclipse, we will already be well on our way to being made into prefab.

If, on the other hand, their society is one that favours learning and exploration above cold technological considerations, then it depends on their demeanor whether we'll go the prefab way, or survive to squabble another day. That the aliens' astronomically superior state of enlightenment means that they will be utterly disgusted by the mess we have been making of our petty lives on this miserable blue-green speck of a planet is without question. The question is, what will they do about it?

If their motto is sacrifice a few for the good of the many, then we are toast. In order to rid the universe of this embarrassment, they will fire their planet killer gun on us, and make sure that no trace of our existence remains.

Alternatively, if they are pacifist, compassionate, or just lazy, they will simply tiptoe away and mark this bit of space as empty, uninteresting, or if they really want to make a point, as here be dragons.

Be visited by aliens? Perhaps. Meet them? Not in a million years. Or two.



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