I’m not quite halfway through Existence, by David Brin, but I’m enjoying it so much I have to start talking about it now. For one thing, it’s such a change from the Last Chronicles, which was a hard slog with a disappointing ending. (Still worth the journey, though.)
The novel is a standalone, not part of his Uplift Universe, but it apparently can be viewed as a kind of prequel to that reality. However: so far no alien contact, humanity is still on Earth, and computers are not conscious (but AI is very, very good). The year, as far as I can tell, seems to be in the 2040s or 2050s.
At heart, the novel’s theme is the Fermi Paradox; it examines many of the potential Great Filters that might end an intelligent species. But now an alien artifact has been found, a kind of message in a bottle that appears to contain a crowd of alien minds…
Where are all the aliens?
I’ve mentioned the Fermi Paradox here quite a number of times, but I’ve never made it the main topic of a post. Lately I’m becoming more and more convinced our world is facing a Great Filter, and that we may very well be seeing one answer to Mr. Fermi’s interesting paradox.
Which is a response to the Drake Equation, which I have made the topic of a post.
Essentially, the Drake Equation attempts to estimate the number of intelligent space-faring species in a galaxy and, by most accounts, comes up with a number noticeably larger than one. The Fermi Paradox says: Okay Mr. Drake… if so… where are all the aliens?
You may know about the Drake Equation, which is an attempt to quantify the number of intelligent species that evolve in a galaxy. Depending on how you set the parameters, the answer varies from “lots!” to “almost none.” The first answer leads to Fermi’s Paradox: Okay, if there are lots of aliens… where are they? So far we’ve seen no signs (pardon the reference).
If you read science fiction you may also be familiar with the idea of Ancient Alien Ancestors (AAA) who are now long gone leaving only a legend. Sometimes there are The Ancients (now long absent), the current Elder Races (powerful, not always wise, not always kind), and the Younger Races (which Earthlings invariably belong to).
But what if we are those Ancient Ancestors?
The other day I was Wiki Walking and ended up reading about the Rare Earth Hypothesis in reference to the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation. We’ve discovered that most stars in our galaxy appear to have planets of some kind, although ones with human-friendly environments may be quite rare. The presence of a plethora of planets presumably provides a potentially large factor for at least one part of the professor’s pretty problem.
But it’s possible that some of its other factors are extremely small. They may be much smaller than anyone had imagined. They may be so small as to ensure that we are alone in the galaxy.
It’s even possible we are alone — or nearly alone — in the universe!