You have probably heard of the so-called Fermi paradox. Namely, in 1950 Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi considered the intriguing question of why alien civilizations were not visiting Earth, or at least why we had no trace of their visits in the past, given the enormous time span since the birth of our galaxy to the present.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, said on its website: "Fermi realized that any civilization with a modest amount of rocket technology and an immodest amount of imperial incentive could rapidly colonize the entire galaxy. Within ten million years, every star system could be brought under the wing of empire. Ten million years may sound long, but in fact, it's quite short compared with the age of the galaxy, which is roughly ten thousand million years. Colonization of the Milky Way should be a quick exercise."
Where Are They?
So, at least officially, there have been no signs of any extraterrestrial civilizations yet, neither here on earth, nor in the outer space. Why? Is there anybody out there at all?
Given the huge number of potentially habitable planets in our Milky Way galaxy (at least 300 billion), and vast time spans from the probable emergence of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy to this day, various types of extraterrestrials have surely been visiting our planet.
Here are several possible answers to this conundrum:
Possible Alien Forms
Let us examine the intriguing question about probable forms of extraterrestrial intelligent life.
First, the idea of panspermia can give us some clues to this problem. If interstellar panspermia is real, then it is quite possible that there are many species out there similar to our own, with a humanoid shape, even human-like characteristics. If the life-coding molecule, the DNA, is common among many solar systems thanks to panspermia, then the similarities are possible, but still not certain.
Yet, a kind of humanoid shape of intelligent (self-conscious) alien beings may be quite expected or at least frequent among many types of extraterrestrials. If similar evolutionary forces are in place on other planets, then the being should have a vertically oriented shape of its body with eyes and other sensory receptors on its top, because this provides the advantage of spotting any danger in time. In order to quickly process all the data from the sensory inputs, the brain or its analogous data-processing center must be near these organs. Therefore, the creatures will probably have some sort of head with a brain, eyes, ears, and other sensory receptors. The entity also needs a few limbs to manipulate precisely the environment and legs to be mobile.
However, the size and physical appearance of extraterrestrials may still be completely different from ours, which depends on the gravity of the planet and many other factors. The lower the gravity, the taller the critters may be. For instance, if there were any intelligent life forms on Mars in ancient times, they could have been very tall and slim.
Some extraterrestrials may exist in purely energetic form. Whether they evolved directly into energetic forms (something like plasma beings) or transitioned from their initial biological form into the energetic one, such beings possibly do not need technologically advanced vessels for interstellar travel. As a darker side of this story, there are some reports that some entities of this kind are indeed present here on Earth and, what's worse, they frequently attach to people’s aura or mind, in order to conduct some “scientific research.”
The environment in which they live can also be water, a completely different atmosphere, or even a vacuum. This difference would significantly impede any meaningful interactions between us and them.
Instead of carbon, their biological base may be silicon, arsenic, sulfur, or even some metals, which also could imply a completely different temperature range of a suitable environment. They can also be inorganic entities, say plasma or even microscopic beings on the surface of neutron stars.
Various machine civilizations may also exist. The transition from initial biological forms to far more advanced machine bodies seems very probable, even for our own species at some point in the future. Alternatively, a machine civilization may emerge as a rebellious movement of artificial intelligence against its creators (which can happen to us, too).
Infections caused by unknown alien microorganisms are surely a big problem. As soon as you stepped onto another inhabited planet, you may be contaminated with a vast range of microscopic entities. Unknown to our immune system, they may pose a huge threat to our organisms. Of course, many extraterrestrials are dealing with the same problem on our planet.
Alien Mental Process
Extraterrestrial beings may not communicate using sound at all. Their means of information exchange might be light or other electromagnetic signals, chemicals, or even telepathy.
The alien mindset can be totally different. Do they have a thinking process that is comparable to ours? Do they have emotions? If passing of their subjective time differs drastically from ours, that means the pace of their thought process is different as well. Nevertheless, their mental processes may be completely incompatible with ours, which could hinder any useful interaction.
Aliens may have different forms of consciousness, too. Like us, they may be individuals, with distinct, individual minds. On the other hand, similar to insect swarms and ant colonies here on Earth, they could form collective minds. There could be various types of consciousness in between these two extremes.
The enormous time span since the creation of the universe gives a great chance that other intelligent species had already been visiting Earth many times in the past. What happened to them? If they were developing technology, they probably had already transitioned to machine civilizations or even moved their consciousness into an energy form, and possibly even at the subatomic level.
If they have not developed technology, they would probably have directed their development toward spiritual realms, so they may have experienced collective enlightenment or a complete transition to higher plans of existence.
Whether technologically developed or not, it is likely that these ancient civilizations have long since found a way to completely move into another form of existence, another universe with even more suitable physical laws or a higher spatial dimension.
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The question is also what are the roles of dark matter and dark energy? Is there only one type of dark matter particles? If this kind of matter consists of several types of particles, there may be whole worlds made of it, invisible to us completely. So, are there beings made of dark matter, or even dark energy? Is that the origin of “higher planes” – the so-called “Astral” or “Mental” plane? We do not know. We can only speculate here.
An Imaginary Example
Imagine a totally different alien civilization visiting Earth in ancient times. Their biology is silicon-based; they breathe methane atmosphere, much thinner than ours. The average temperature of their environment is minus 150°C. Their space ships are, of course, adapted to these living conditions. As they inhabit a small planet with significantly less gravity pull, their bodies are very tall, around 10 meters in size. From our point of view, their bodies move extremely slow.
Due to the thin atmosphere, they did not develop communication by sound, or any other atmospheric pressure-wave transmission. They interact by exchanging complex patterns of chemical and electromagnetic signals (like light, but outside of the frequency range visible to us). Their thinking process is very, very slow. Communication as well. If we were trying to talk with them, we would have to wait several hours to get a one-sentence response. This makes them vulnerable during the interactions with potentially aggressive species, so they leave the communication to their highly developed artificial intelligence on probes.
However, let us imagine that their civilization emerged 2 billion years ago. Due to the slow pace of their thinking process and overall mobility, they needed an additional 1 billion years to develop technology to reach other stars. In the next several hundred million years, they had been slowly exploring the Milky Way galaxy, spreading around it in all directions. They were encountering many species, most of them very different than their own, having troubles and even wars with some, developing great alliances with others while ignoring the majority of them simply due to big differences. They even managed to reach several other galaxies, including Andromeda.
When their scientific ship visited our solar system 300 million years ago, they were more interested in Titan (the Saturn’s moon) than in Earth because of its natural environment. To their disappointment, Titan was lifeless, but they left some automatic probes there. On the other side, although Earth was extremely hot to their standards, they were amazed by the variety and complexity of life here. As our planet was too hot, gravity and atmospheric pressure too high, they sent probes on the surface and studied many animal and plant species, including the first dinosaurs.
After a few hundred years (which could be, say, a few weeks in our understanding of time), they simply moved on. Maybe they will visit Earth again in a few hundred million years again. Until then, they will be busy with exploring myriads of other worlds.
How many other explorers visited Earth in these 4.5 billion years of its existence? Hundreds, thousands of diverse species, maybe even much more. And in this geologically tiny time span of only a few thousand years of our civilization’s existence and historical records, this number might be much, much smaller. And only a few of them are similar to us enough to be able to communicate. But they are hidden and waiting the right moment to reveal their presence. It is obvious even to us that we are not mature yet.
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