The Implications of Being Alone

Someone once said, I forget who, that “we are either alone or we are not, both options are equally terrifying.” I’d like to propose a corollary to that, while they may be equally terrifying, the implications of both, especially when taking into regard the Great Filter hypothesis, are markedly different from each other.

If we are alone that’s arguably good, but still terrifying, news, because it means we have past the Great Filter that so many other would be civilizations have failed to pass through, we essentially have the entire universe to ourselves, and will not only survive, but thrive, perhaps even become as gods, but the implications of what it means to be alone are still vast. I dare not explore them.

If we are *not* alone, that’s bad, and still terrifying, news, because it means we have *not* passed the Great Filter, then, and we don’t have the universe to ourselves. It means that the path to a toolmaking and spacefaring civilization is an easy one, and that the Great Filter lies beyond the point at which life arises.

If we discover extraterrestrial microbes, that’s bad news, if we discover complex extraterrestrial life that’s even worse news, if we discover extraterrestrial toolmaking intelligences that’s a death sentence for ourselves and them.

Let us pray we do not discover alien life any time soon, however, the likelihood of alien life existing is, as a recent study showed, statistically inevitable, so we may be doomed after all.

How Did Life Begin? New Study Reveals Life in the Universe Could Be Common

Explaining the Great Filter

http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/greatfilter.html

The cited paper describes the hypothesis of “The Great Filter,” a
proposed explanation to Fermi’s Paradox, and the explanation I find the
most compelling. According to a hypothesis there is a Filter causing
potential civilizations to never attain interstellar colonization, but
where exactly this Filter lies is unknown.

If the Filter lies past us, if say, the Filter is the chance for life to originate then we’ve long
since past the Filter and have nothing to worry about, but if life is
common in the universe (this is the reason why some scientists dread
discovering alien life on Mars and Europa) then we haven’t reached the
Filter yet, and therefore have reason to fear.

In line with this hypothesis any positive result we get from SETI would be bad news, for
it means that since life is common, especially intelligent life, that
the Filter therefore lies ahead of us, and any negative results we get
from SETI are good news, for the Filter is long behind us.

Given the likelihood that we are not alone in the universe, what this means is that we have reason to fear for our future, and given that we are currently bombarding ourselves with a number of different threats (nuclear Armageddon and global warming being the two foremost threats we are currently subjecting ourselves to), the Great Filter may not lay that far off in our future.