Are We Alone?

Kirsty asked:

Is humanity alone in the universe?

Is humanity alone? No. Period. As Douglas Adams says, the universe is a really big place. The question is, why haven’t we had contact? Well, you know, I actually don’t think that’s a hard question. First, how long have we been looking? 50 years, max? Second, how could aliens find us, out here on the edge of the galaxy, until we waved at them, which we’ve only been doing for about 100 years, a mere tick of the clock, using a method so primitive that even creatures with our minimal intelligence can employ it (i.e., radio)? Third, and most important, how have we been looking? We’ve been using telescopes, a ridiculous method, and lately, with SETI, some few radio frequencies. Not unreasonable, given that aliens are like us… but why should that be true?

Let’s put this in perspective. Suppose that dogs were trying to signal another species of dog. How would they do it? By barking or howling, right? Would we notice that, as a signal of that type? Would we care? How much smarter, given some theoretical maximal potential for intelligence, are we than dogs? Infinitesimally, I would say. Our brains must fit, badly, inside our heads, folded up, in order to have expanded to the amount they have, which is about all our bodies will take, both in volume and metabolically.

Suppose we found out how to increase head size, or produce more efficient folding, or better, connect ourselves to our computers? Where would our intelligence go then? In the latter case, the practical limits would be… well, I certainly can’t even begin to envision it. Now, given that we could be, let us conservatively say, 100 times more intelligent than now, how would we signal… what indeed would our picture of the universe be, our physics, our electronics? We are not now 100 times smarter than dogs. How would our physics compare with our present idea of physics? Etc. You see my point? To aliens, if they notice us at all, we are, until we can consciously increase our intelligence, merely another species of animal on this planet. So why should they want to contact us, any more than we would want to contact those dogs? And how would we notice or understand it, if they did, any more than dogs could conceive, build, and use a radio set?

That’s one of my theories, I think the most likely one. The next most likely one is this: look at the way computers are going. What if we are able to “scan” our brains totally, convert our neural dynamics into another form, and embody ourselves within a computer (a very large one, of course, and a radically different type from present digital computers, but those are — for the purpose of this discussion — quibbles). I mean, totally move into the computer, as a dynamic pattern in it. And not just ourselves, buteveryone and our civilization… living in a virtual world, having anything we want happen (virtually, of course, but we wouldn’t see any difference), and being immortal (as long as the computer wasn’t hit by a meteor, etc.). Now wouldn’t that be wonderful? Think about it. Anything you wanted, any life, any environment, any physical laws, no risk, no death… as long as you want.

Now, if I were an alien civilization faced with that possibility, vs. living in the cold, hard, limited real universe, hey, why not? So the second theory is that we can’t contact them because when a civilization gets advanced to that stage, they just all move into their computer(s) and live happily ever after, in a virtual heaven of their own design, with the computer protected behind layers of armor and powered by something reasonably perpetual. Sounds good to me, anyway. So that’s my second theory as to why we haven’t and won’t contact them. They’re out there, zillions of them. They’re just living luxuriously in the basement, so to speak, hoping to go unnoticed for as long as possible.

Or it could be a combination of the two above, with extremely advanced virtual civilizations communicating with each other by means unavailable (and incomprehensible) to us, until we get to that point.

Jean Schneider (2009). The question Are We Alone ? in different cultures arXiv: 0905.4132v2

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About bruceleeeowe
An engineering student and independent researcher. I'm researching and studying quantum physics(field theories). Also searching for alien life.

20 Responses to Are We Alone?

  1. dad2059 says:

    It has been said that if such alien quantum/VR civilizations exist, their homes would be at the outer edges of the Galaxy, where the temperatures are nice and cold for their computronium worlds.

    And such cultures would care very little for the likes of us, unless they felt threatened.

    That would not be a good thing!

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      Possibly they may be lurking somewhere in our solar system say pluto or even titan or europa. These are cold enough. It certainly doesn’t give a hardened argument that they are most probably flourishing in distant galaxies. As for their nature it would totally depend on their already well predefined mind programs. For example many of humans are biologically programmed for hostility or non violance.(It may vary if condition changes). Thusly it only talk about articulate speculations, nothing else. May be you are right, dad2059!. More unluckily we haven’t found it yet…

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  3. So you would put golfing affiliate ads on your blog. Heaven Multiverse

  4. amphiox says:

    It still sets a theoretical upper limit on how commonplace these ETIs are.

    Take your first scenario, about the dogs. Although most people aren’t interested in these dogs, and no governments are expending huge amounts of resources on issues concerning them, there ARE some people who ARE trying to study these dogs, communicate with them, figure out what they are trying to say to each other, etc. And there are enough of these people for there to be scientific journals and conferences, and whole commercial ventures, devoted to these dogs. Enough of these people that at least some of these dog packs are aware of the existence of humans. Thus, it would take only a single small group, even possibly one individual (like an alien Jane Goodall), with a personal interest, to initiate contact with us, even if the rest of the aliens consider us to be animals beneath their notice.

    Now take your second scenario. It would only work if ALL advanced ETIs were alike in this particular. Even if 99.9999999% of all ETIs computerize themselves, even if only one single ETI did not, that single ETI is the one we would eventually detect and communicate with. How reasonable is it to assume that ETIs are so culturally uniform? Look at the diversity among human cultures and remember that we are all the same species, one the same kind of primitive brain, and note too that as computational power increases (in brains), the potential for diversity in responses also increases, exponentially.

    So the fact that we have detected no one else so far sets a upper bound on the likelihood and number of potential ETIs out there, because if the ETIs were more likely to exist, or more common, then we WOULD have detected something by now.

    Our current understanding is probably too primitive to figure out exactly what this upper bound actually is, in real numbers. We know it must be greater than zero (because we are here), and given how short a time we have searched, and how limited our means of searching have been, and how blinkered our detection capabilities currently are, the number might be very high indeed, but the number will drop the longer we search without finding anything.

    Even if the number is very high, we could still be functionally alone, due to the vastness of the universe. If, for example, the average is 1 civilization per galaxy, there would be trillions of civilizations in the universe, but the chances that any two of these civilizations will ever have the opportunity to have meaningful contact with one another would be remote. For example, if humans are the only civilization in the Milky Way, and there was another civilization in Andromeda, it would take us millions of years to develop the technology and amass the resources necessary to establish any kind of two-way communication with them. Thus both we, and they, would have to survive for the requisite millions and millions of years, as a bare minimum condition, for ever getting the chance to talk to each other.

    Or, alternately, we could presume the existence of an alien civilization in Alpha Centauri, the closest star. If they were radio capable, but had gone extinct as recently as the early 1900s, we would not have detected them, and will not detect them, until we obtain the ability and will to actually mount a physical expedition to search for archeological remains.

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      I’m agree with your argues. Yet there are many explanation which explains sustainability solution to paradox. Just take the examples of whales , dolphins and apes. We’ve just started to studying these creatures and we found that these are sufficiently intelligent. There may be intelligent species but we’ve problems with detecting their intelligence. The second comes with detection of aliens. May be aliens are very remote in physical appearance say based on electromagnetic communication or even plasma based. Most of the complications comes with our search for et intelligent through radio signals. There is one more scenario that eti may be detecting it as cosmic background nothing else and same thing applies to us. Yep, eti may be radically different to us say we are just microbe sized compared to them. These galactic superbeings can’t detect us even we may be existing within us. Just For example a intelligent microbe want to detect advanced et civilization and human exists as an advanced civilization. Now big question is that what would be the probability that very advanced eti[microbe] would detects us? Almost zero…… at least with radio signals….. Most of chemical reactions within us will be like galactic interposes for them. More on this I’ve already have here
      now what do you think, amphiox?

  5. Of course we’re not alone. This planet is teeming with life.

    As for the utility of the human brain, well it’s quite limited. In most cases the best most brain owners achieve is the appearance of being smart. This is usually sufficient as it can often fool members of the opposite sex – having a sense of humour is a good start 🙂

    Other than for mating there hasn’t been a need to be genuinely smart for tens of thousands of years as there hasn’t been another species we’ve had to compete with since the extinction of Neanderthals. We only have to be as smart, or stupid, as the next man.

    Good luck trying to out-think any alien that has successfully competed with another intelligent species; but my money is on the alien.


  6. Theron says:

    Your post raises a point about our future. Can an artificial intelligence become self aware, sentient in the sense that we are? And can our brains be linked to machines in a way that allows information to be transferred? If the answer to either of these is yes, and especially if the answer to both is yes, then we are in for a radical revolution beyond the scale even of figuring out how to farm.

  7. Bruceleeeowe says:

    The self aware AI has doubtful possibility. To make one self aware and artificially intelligent it need trillions of programs and millions of master program(that could reprogram the artificial mind according to situation as a mind typicaly do). It doesn’t seem feasible self aware policebots petroling in NY, at least to this century. May be you are right if all it set to happen desperately.

  8. Mark Louis says:


    [….]How reasonable is it to assume that ETI are so culturaly uniform? Look at the diversity among human cultures and remember are all the same species , one the same line of primitive brain, and note too……..if ETI were more likely to exist, or more common then we would have detected something by now. […..]

    Even we are having much cultural diversity among same and one human species, most are having same thought and that is that ETI exist. I seldome came across folks who believe ETI exist based on DRAKE equation. Communication through radio signals with some fixed frequency and waiting for reply from ETI under condition of light speed limit seems stupidity.
    We know microbes like viruses and bacterias are existing but could we ever able to detect their intelligence and communicate with them? Anyway another case scenario with more rhetoric idea?

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      You’ve burnt another thought provoking idea here, Mark! We still don’t say viruses as full living thing. It is both dead and alive. Saying that they own some kind of sentience or intelligence, seems quite falling idea from modern biological perceptive. Just before 1980’s we haven’t even recognized whales, octopuses , dolphins or apes having some kind intelligence. But today ideas are not that were in 1980’s. May be possible that future researches show bacterias , viruses and all microbes and insects are unexpectedly rich intelligent. Totally depending on our future researches.

  9. This brings me to an idea:…

  10. Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

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