Catching up takes us to weird topics…
I had a long talk with an old friend today. One of the topics that came up is something I address in my writing. Are humans the only sentient species in the universe? It reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s quote, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Which is an excellent summation of Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox, probability says we are not alone, “But where is everybody?” It’s been 70 years since Fermi’s comment, and there is still no accepted evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.
In my writing, I solve the paradox by imagining what that life may look like. I’ve created a number of civilizations who have visited Earth in the past. In my first published short stories, the Renegade Galaxy series, Humanity is part of a small group of interstellar civilizations in the Milky Way. In my fantasy series, Earth is also connected to alien worlds but has played a mostly minor role in their history.
Is there anybody out there?
In real life, Seti (the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) has yet to find solid proof of alien life. NASA has tantalizing evidence that Mars may have supported life in the past, but has yet to publish anything definitive. I get to bypass reality and speculate, “What if…” in my fiction, but the underlying question remains. Are we alone or not?
The implications are staggering regardless of the answer. Fundamental questions humans have grappled with about why we are here, what our purpose may be, and whether this was all just a big mistake could be answered once and for all. If we’re the center of creation, maybe we are alone. If we’re not, humanity may be more insignificant than we thought. Or so rare as that our sentient nature alone makes us special in the vast void of space.
Maybe it doesn’t matter one way or the other.
Regardless of the answer to Fermi’s question, there is certainty in the stories I tell that we are not alone. Even if we haven’t been visited recently. My biggest practical lesson from either outcome is this: Life goes on. Humans want to live, to thrive, to leave something behind for future generations. Maybe that’s the only purpose we can hold on to with the data we have right now.