Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where are the Aliens?

Some people would like to know why there are no obvious aliens hanging around Earth.  Perhaps the best way to answer this would be to ask an alien why he isn’t visiting Earth.  Poof!  The thought experiment begins and you are standing on Alienum I, some tens of light years from Earth, in a local bar in the largest city on the planet.  The alien standing next to you seems friendly, so you ask him: “How come you aren’t visiting Earth?” in the local idiom, which you learned prior to starting the thought experiment. 

He seems willing to answer.  “Why would I want to do that?”  Not exactly the answer you had been expecting.  “Earth’s an off-limits zoo” or “Too much radiation in extrasolar space” or “Takes too long” would have resolved it once and for all.  But this guy answered with a question.  Prepping for the thought experiment hadn’t included thinking up answers to questions the alien might ask, so you have to improvise.  “It’s a beautiful place to see” is your first mumble.  “Oh, we have much better fantasy worlds to see in the local theaters, and they cost 0.000001% as much to see, and the tours are better.”  Not being one to give up easily, you try “You could experience human art.”  “Look, we’ve been around for a million years, and we have done every art thing possible.  I guarantee you’ve got nothing new.”  A little bead of sweat breaks out on your forehead.  This is getting tough.  “You could learn all about human history.”  “We have better fictional histories than anything you could have done in reality.  Do you know how much can be written in a million years?”  “But this is a real society you could learn about.”  “What good would it do me to know about it.  Useless information – a waste of time.  Couldn’t possibly be as interesting as our city’s Tri-sense vid of the year.” 

Desperation was setting in.  All the trouble to set up the thought experiment and you were blowing it.  “Are you a businessman?  You could set up trade with Earth.”  “We already have everything we need or want, and have had for the last nine hundred thousand years.  Earth has absolutely nothing we would want.”  Try some altruism.  “You could help humans with some advanced technology.”  Another failure comes back as he answers with another question:  “Why would we care about what happens to humans?  You only show up here in thought experiments and they don’t count for anything.”  You don’t really know any answer to this.  You don’t want to suggest he could rob us blind, as someone who already has everything he wants doesn’t need to steal anything.  Admittedly, humans don’t make very appealing pets, and the aliens probably already have perfectly designed pets, if they wanted any.  Time to hit the OFF switch on the thought experiment.

Poof!  Back on Earth you have the answer.  There’s no point to coming here for any culture advanced enough to be able to. 

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