The Biggest Present | by Brian Koberlein



3 July 2018

Astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons contemplates the Southern Sky.
ESO/A. Fitzsimmons
Astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons contemplates the Southern Sky.

There’s a current paper that claims we may very effectively be the one civilization within the universe. As Ethan Siegel has identified, the paper is extra hypothesis than science, but it surely has generated numerous buzz within the media, typically with unhappy laments over our lonely destiny. However how unhealthy would it not truly be? Suppose the paper is true, and Earth is the one dwelling planet within the cosmos. A single pale blue dot in a sea of empty darkish. What would that actually imply?

To start with, we wouldn’t have to fret about alien invasions. No massive eyed monsters desirous to have us for supper, no alien shapeshifters making an attempt to exchange authorities leaders, no purple scare from Mars. Human historical past is crammed with violent assaults of 1 civilization towards one other, and so we’ve prolonged our historical past into hypothetical interstellar conflicts. However whereas these tales could make for thrilling tales, they aren’t very lifelike. The power, heavy metals and water obligatory for a civilization like ours are plentiful within the universe, so there’s no motive for aliens to focus on Earth. We’d think about an alien tradition so xenophobic that it tries to extinguish any competitors, however such a species would doubtless self destruct by way of aggressive infighting.

A extra lifelike existential risk may come merely from contact with one other clever species. Think about if we linked with a species 100,000 years extra superior than our personal. One which had solved the challenges of violence and ecological collapse. One that would journey between stars as simply as we take a practice. Humanity could be ceaselessly within the shadow of just about god-like creatures, and our tradition would turn into both a mirrored image of or response to their civilization. In our personal historical past we see languages die, and cultural traditions fade. Would human tradition be consumed by this superior society? What would we now have to supply such a tradition past quaint amusement?

However we actually could possibly be alone. Except and till clear contact is made with one other civilization, we actually are alone. Trying up on the night time sky we see stars we migh go to, planets we are able to sometime name dwelling, and a cosmos filled with potential. We aren’t beholden to different civilizations, and so humanity can forge its personal future. We will turn into one of the best of our hopes or the worst of our nightmares. We will proceed to struggle amongst ourselves, or we are able to acknowledge our frequent heritage as step out into the heavens. Alone within the universe the selection is really and utterly ours. Our triumphs, and our disgrace.

No matter whether or not different civilizations exist, maybe the only option is to attempt as if we’re alone. Rise to fulfill our personal challenges, and attempt to be higher than our previous. And if we do occur to come across one other civilization, humanity can face them not with worry, however as equals.

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