Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hypothesis - "They're here!"

Following on from my last posting "Are we alone in the Universe?" (please read that firstly) - let us now examine the hypothesis that intelligent life from other parts of the Universe have in the past or in the present been showing up on our doorstep on Earth. It is one of the two simplest explanations for the Fermi Paradox - and from logic very often the simplest explanations are the correct ones (refer to Occam's Razor)! Note: the other simple explanation of course would be that there is no intelligent life out there capable of contacting us.

So let's deal with the hypothesis that there is extra-terrestrial intelligent life which is already here. How come we don't know that they are here or have been here? Why would they not try to communicate with us? There seems to be only two possible simple general answers to the above:

A. The intelligent life does not want us to know they are here.

B. The intelligent life is in contact with us but we do not properly realize it.

The proposition in A seems a little weak. Why would the life form be here and not want to communicate with us? Are they just studying us, or afraid of our aggression? It just doesn't seem to add up for an advanced life form to behave this way. It is not likely to be the way we ourselves would behave if we encountered an intelligent race. Historically we would be more likely to give them a lot of trouble in fact!

Let us look at B. If aliens are in contact with us already the first thing to note is that they do not appear to be trying or succeeding in harming us. This would seem compatible with a very advanced intelligent life form. But why do we not realize that super-advanced creatures are in contact with us? This is a very difficult question. We need to perhaps examine evidence of unexplained phenomena on Earth related loosely to other extra-terrestrial life forms.

The obvious place to start is in the whole UFO phenomena. A huge proportion of sightings and encounters seem to be complete rubbish. If there are physical spacecraft and beings which in the present or in the past have visited the Earth then we have never been able to scientifically prove their existence. Also, if they are in such physical form - then why not just come clean and communicate with us properly. Nevertheless, it does remain possible that some kind of relatively advanced alien creatures have made some limited attempts to physically study or communicate with us. It just seems that their efforts have at the very least been unconvincing.

The next thing to examine is what we might refer to as the whole spiritual world. There is huge anecdotal evidence from us humans of all types of spiritual phenomena - from experiences of what we call God to simpler paranormal events. Is it possible that with very advanced knowledge of the nature of matter and energy that we could in the future transcend our existence into some other format? We are discovering more and more about subatomic particles and the fabric of matter and energy and perhaps we will discover other startling things which we can control in the future. Is it possible that we can become immortal in the future by becoming what we might loosely today call pure spirits? Maybe it's already happening without us properly understanding it.

The other thing to keep an open mind on is that spiritual existence may not have a strong relationship with physical space and time as we see it. So in other words these aliens may not relate directly in their advanced state to any physical part of the Universe. They may never even have existed as physical bodies as we are or they may have learned how to transcend and then have no meaning in terms of physical location.

The Universe is physically so vast that it would seem to take a massive and fundamental breakthrough in the nature of a being's existence in order to communicate throughout the Universe. The physical Universe is effectively impossible to explore on any sensible scale by planet-based physical creatures that depend on resources of the planet to stay alive.

From the above brief thought process it could be speculated that alien intelligence is more likely to be communicating with our minds or souls/spirits than actually physically appearing in front of us. We can live with the idea of "mind" perhaps but the concept of a soul or spirit in a proper scientific sense is still very advanced for us to work with. However in my opinion we need to start thinking of advanced alien civilizations communicating with us in ways related to this. In a massive physical Universe it is the only way I can see that can make sense of a positive answer to the Fermi Paradox.

To take my "They're here!" hypothesis much further is tempting but of course extremely speculative. One could start to argue that what we would call God is actually a very advanced spiritual life form that is trying to communicate and help us. I want to resist going much further with this as we are now really moving the wagon wheels deep into the Injun territory of non sequitur!

It is difficult to analyze this subject objectively in a detailed way, we don't seem to have the tools and indeed it's not even a faculty of regular science. However, it is time that we started to merge humanity's diverse and large pools of knowledge in physical sciences, philosophy, logic, religion and even the paranormal into a new form of super-science. This super-science may be fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and the nature of life everywhere in the Universe. Without doubt it could be the most important subject we ever study.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Are we alone in the Universe?

A big subject - are we alone in the universe in terms of intelligent life?

It seems that there is a great uniformity about the universe. The trillions of stars are all made of the same stuff as our Sun and operate the same way - nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium. Stars throughout the universe are clustered into galaxies similar to our Milky Way. We are rapidly discovering in the last decade that stars often have planets orbiting around them.

Within our own solar system there are signs that liquid water once existed on the surface of Mars. There is evidence that basic life forms are common to develop even in tough conditions. It may be that animal life can develop in many cases also.

The really tough question is how common is it for intelligent life forms like humanity to develop and to survive. There is the famous Fermi paradox which questions that if other intelligent creatures exist then why have they not already contacted us. This is a very fair question given the timescale and sheer size of the universe. Then there is the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) work which has not produced any startling results in decades of scanning the skies for radio transmissions.

So, are we the only intelligent creatures in the universe or at least in our own galaxy? Oceans of analysis and comment has been written on this subject and there are so many parameters and variables at play.

Here are some comments of my own:

1. Intelligent life, even in our own form, may not develop well enough to communicate long distances through space. There could be many civilizations that never get beyond crude farming or maybe the equivalent of our medieval history. The exploitation of electricity and in particular radio transmission is quite a major leap as it is an invisible and somewhat abstract technology to both understand and to exploit. It is this technology that allows us to attempt to put our mark on the universe. It is conceivable that this leap in technology is never made in many reasonably intelligent races in the universe. Hence they can neither consider traveling or communicating in space and therefore are undetectable to us.

2. Let us assume that there is a civilization that reaches our own level of technology. It is a fair comment to make that when a race reaches our 20th century level of technology that the basics exist to accelerate technological progress at a rapid rate. It is reasonable to assume that the spectacular technological progress we have made in the 20th century will continue at a high pace in the 21st century and beyond. What will we be like in say 1000 years from today - which is a mere microsecond in the timescale of the universe? Will we be so advanced that we have figured out how to travel huge distances in space rapidly, casually and economically? Would we be advanced enough to detect and reach other intelligent life forms? So assuming it is possible to exploit technology in a way we don't even understand yet - it brings back the Fermi Paradox. Why haven't other civilizations developed the same way and not already reached us? Here are a few thoughts of my own:

2.1 There is of course the possibility that there are very few or no examples of super-intelligent life in the Universe. This could be deducted if very advanced animal life was very rare (see my comments in 1. above) or a block in advancement takes place though regular extinctions - meteor impacts and other natural disasters or indeed self destruction through WMD wars.

2.2 A rather tantalizing direction in relation to the Fermi Paradox would be to raise the hypothesis that super intelligent life has already contacted us and is maybe here already! Given all the logical deductions emanating from the uniformity, timescale and massive size of the Universe then it is reasonable to put forward a hypothesis that other intelligent life has detected us or has been visiting us . Maybe we are so wrapped up in what we consider our super-efficient 21st century technologies that we haven't even got the sensory capacity to detect what is all around us. We are so busy searching using our visual and radio communications tools and maybe we are as blind as bats. We could be like a person who spends hours looking for his hat - only to discover it is on his head! I'm going to post a separate analysis into my "They're here!" hypothesis as it is a very interesting and completely plausible subject.