There’s something that’s been bothering me a bit lately.
It started out as an itch – but has now broken out into a full blown rash.
And I am not talking about my skin!
I am talking about a thought.
A simple thought: Where are they?
Yes – where are they?!
Let me explain: The universe is 13.8 billion years old and the earth is 4.8 billion years old.
Modern Mankind (as we understand it) is 50,000 years old – and recorded history is just 2,000 years old and the last 100 years have been of unprecedented growth. Just think of only the last 20 years. In the last 20 years we’ve had digital cameras, ipads, great advances in medicine, science and technology. We’ve even started launching private missions into space.
The rate of development is exponential. What will the next 50 years, 100 years, 1,000 years, 10,000 years or 1,000,000 million years look like?
Can you imagine – if we make it and have not become extinct, what we will have achieved in a million years time? It boggles the mind! I cannot even fathom and grasp where we will be at. But if we continue at our current pace – the whole world nay the whole galaxy will be our oyster.
But here’s the itch. A million years is NOT a long period of time in the grand scheme of things. What is a million years in 4.8 billion years or in the context of the age of the universe? Nothing! A mere blink of an eye.
So…if intelligent life is present in the universe, and if it has been around for a million years say – where is it?
If life has emerged on other planets, and if on some of those planets it is intelligent life, and if it has been around for say 100,000 years – then surely, its technological advances would have enabled it to explore the wider universe. Where is this life?
Surely – in a million years Mankind will have explored the galaxy. So, assuming we are not the only life in the universe – there MUST be life out there, that has been around for long enough to become super advanced. Advanced enough to ply the unimaginable distances between the stars and galaxies.
But where are they?
We peer up at the skies with our telescopes – and we see no signs of these advanced beings. Why?
Where are they? They should have visited us by now.
What is going on?
I think the explanation lies in the fact that life is highly improbable. The emergence of life on a planet is an event of sheer improbability and luck. But not only that. If you multiply the probability of life emerging on a single planet by the number of planets available – then perhaps this improbability is tamed – so perhaps life is common.
But what kind of life? Intelligent life or simple life?
Perhaps the reason we have not seen any signs of life in the universe yet is because there is life, but it is simple and non-intelligent – so we have no way of seeing or hearing its radio signals or its spaceships.
What is the probability that once life emerges it will become intelligent enough one day – to build rockets and explore other planets?
We don’t know. Perhaps life emerging is highly improbable but possible a few times given the number of planets available – but perhaps the emergence of multi-cellular life is just as improbable as life emerging in the first place. So now you have to multiply two large improbabilities together to get an ever larger improbability. And then even having multi-cellular life emerging is no guarantee of intelligent life emerging. For that you need a complex nervous system, the right kind of brain and the right kind of gene mutations…etc etc (who knows)
It is interesting to ponder that the only life on earth that can build rocket-ships, is us.
So…where are they?
Perhaps they don’t exist. Perhaps human beings are the result of a series of hugely improbable events that happened.
Human beings = (probability of life emerging) x (prob of multi-cellularity) x (prob of complex brains) x (luck)
The existence of us could be a huge fluke of cosmic luck. We might just be alone in the universe. Just us. Nobody else to come and help us and save us from ourselves.
It’s a sobering thought. But if I and you are so unique – then we should revel in that uniqueness. Next time you look in the mirror. Give yourself a wink and congratulate yourself…
For just being alive.
You made it.
And the best bit is…
You know it!