In a universe that is practically infinite, it would be extremely egocentric of anyone to suggest that life on earth represents the only intelligent life in the universe. Many people, researchers included, pose the argument that in all these years of technological prosperity of the human civilization, no sign of life has been found in outer space despite the best efforts of organizations like SETI. This problem is further propounded with Drake’s Equation.
The Drake equation estimates, roughly, how many planets may be inhabited by intelligent life. It seeks to quantify the question, “Are we alone?” So far, the conclusion of the equation is that with so many habitable planets out there, it is astonishing that no contact has been established with extraterrestrial life in all of human history. Therefore, one must conclude that there is no intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe.
There is one problem with the Drake Equation. The equation overestimates the human being’s competency in collecting data from space. Scientists, despite their admirable persistence and best efforts, have only been able to explore an infinitesimally small volume of the universe. The conclusion that humans have not discovered aliens yet means there are no aliens is analogous to the someone scooping up the ocean water in a glass and saying there are no whales in the ocean because none are swimming in their glass.
With the recent discovery of the exoplanet system TRAPPIST – 1, the odds of finding life on other planets have never been higher. The question now arises about how one should contact an alien civilization if and when the presence of intelligent life has been established. The book by NASA titled ‘Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication’ focuses on this scenario. It would be difficult to determine whether the aliens are peaceful or barbaric; whether they are conquerors or explorers; whether they relish human meat or not.
The “Hollywood scientist” Neil Degrasse Tyson posits that the human body is made up of the same matter that is abundant in the universe and it is unlikely that intelligent life did not come into existence on other planets. When coming in contact with such a civilization, the very first impediment is to find a common “language.” One can reasonably assume that aliens do not speak the tongue of humans. They might not use sound as their method of communication at all. The book by NASA tackles this issue and proposes some ways in which human beings could communicate with the aliens.
The question of whether or not we are alone is as old as time itself. The question should now be restated as whether or not we are going to ever come in contact with an alien civilization. And if we do, would we have found in them an ally or a foe?