So should we be worried about them coming down here and getting all rowdy?
I love alien invasion movies and books every bit as much as the next nerd, but here are the four reasons why I think I will never have to go grab an m-16 and fend off hordes of little green men.
1. They can’t find us
We’ve been searching the skies for decades through the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project, and we’ve only been able to analyze tiny pin-pricks of sky for signals. Perhaps a more advanced species would have more efficient ways to search, but considering that there are likely millions of planets within our galaxy and that we’ve been broadcasting for a scant century (barely enough time to reach a third of the way to Canopus, the second brightest star in our sky), I think it’s safe to say that finding us would be like finding a needle in an asteroid belt.
2. Lack of Aggression
Stephen Hawking famously said that we would probably be in trouble if we made contact with extraterrestrials. In order for a species to survive, he reasoned, they must be aggressive.
That makes sense, but if a species is too aggressive they will never rise above their own wars to develop advanced technology. Look at us: if we were even a smidge more belligerent we would have nuked ourselves decades ago. In fact, we probably never would have developed the bomb because we would have been too busy slaughtering our neighboring tribes with.
Frankly, I don’t know where Klingons got their star ships. If you’re that concerned with war, you’re not going to worry about warp.
In fact, we are now much less violent as a species than we were a thousand years ago, or even a hundred. We have made an active attempt to weed out violence by policing ourselves and punishing those who disrupt. At the same time, we reward collaboration and organization now more than ever.
Essentially, we are domesticating ourselves. It’s the only way we can live with each other, and it’s reasonable to think that extraterrestrials would need to do the same in order to form more complex cultures.
3. Not Profitable
Even if they could find us and were aggressive, what do we have that isn’t available elsewhere in the galaxy without the extreme long-distance freight charges and the nuisance of suppressing the natives? There is far lower-hanging fruit out there for them to pluck.
4. The “Starblazers” Scenario
If there are aliens who want to wipe us out, why on earth would they face us? If you’re swatting a dangerous wasp, you don’t do it with your bare hand: you do it from across the room with a swatter or maybe nerve-toxin bug spray. You have no incentive to play fair, and neither would aliens.
All our invasion stories follow the tradition of military tactics we humans practiced for centuries, but it doesn’t follow that advanced extraterrestrials would do the same.
Remember the Gamilons from Star Blazers? They sought to irradiate the Earth because in one fell swoop it would wipe out humanity and also make the planet hospitable for them. Kind of an Extra-Terraforming project. Too bad they didn’t see the Wave Motion gun coming…
If advanced aliens wanted to wipe us out, their best play would be to park in a high orbit and change our environment until it was inhospitable to human life (and perhaps to all other terrestrial life as well).
No fuss, no muss, and no dog fighting with F-22s.
There’s no point to be afraid because there’s nothing we’d be able to do about it.
Alternatively, they could just wait for us to do it ourselves. Global climate change is our un-terraforming project that would play right into their hands. This should terrify us, and it’s not because of aliens.
In a cartoon strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Waterson said it best: “Sometimes I think the surest sign of intelligent life in the universe is that they never come here.” I suspect he was right.