Five More Reasons Aliens Avoid Planet Earth
I once remarked to Fred Pohl that if FTL is possible and if it facilitates (as the math says) time travel, then the scarcity of extraterrestrial visitors suggests that not only is Earth not interesting for aliens of the current era, but it’s also not interesting for aliens of any era.
Pohl said it was the most depressing thing he had ever heard. I am happy to have enriched his life.
The idea that Earth just isn’t worth bothering with may strike us as counter-intuitive. However, our perspective is heavily skewed by the fact that we come from Earth. Aliens may have good reason not to care about the planet. In 2021, I discussed five reasons why aliens might not have visited us. Here are five more reasons.
The simplest reason aliens might not visit us is that they don’t exist. Earth’s fossil record suggests that life arose as soon as it could. This seems to imply that life could be common. However, our view is biased because in order for us to observe, we must exist, no matter how improbable the chain of events leading to our existence. Perhaps our world is a cosmic exception and life is extremely rare.
In Frank M. Robinson’s 1991 Generation Ship Saga The darkness beyond the stars, the Astron has spent thousands of years methodically examining the star systems closest to the solar system. Many of the worlds the Astron has visited appear to have all the prerequisites necessary for life. None have life. This places the Astron in a dilemma: advance through an inhospitable galaxy until the ancient ship ceases to function, or abandon its search and return to the only planet known to have life: Earth.
The second-simplest explanation for the lack of extraterrestrial visitors is that star theft is impossible. The distances are too great, the energies required too great, and there are no shortcuts to facilitate the plot. Aliens don’t visit us because they can’t visit us.
The 1974 short story by David McDaniel Prognosis: terminal touches on that. As the protagonist artist strives to find a viable niche in life despite the disruptive technologies offered by the world of tomorrow! – okay, the world of two years ago now, but that was the world of tomorrow in 1974 – humans are picking up signals from a doomed alien civilization. Unable to flee their dying world, the aliens simply shouted to the entire galaxy that they had existed. The implication is that humans would be better off valuing the world they have, rather than counting on being able to migrate to a hypothetical Earth 2.
Alternatively, the reason could simply be that we live in an old-fashioned part of the Galaxy. Perhaps truly advanced civilizations prefer the abundant resources offered by the galactic core. Alternatively, it could be that only the intergalactic depths offer the peace and quiet preferred by the ancients of the universe. Or it could be that the solar system is on the wrong side of the track for some other reason.
In 1954 by Poul Anderson brain wave, the Earth has been situated for some sixty million years in a vast field which attenuates intelligence. While the novel takes the position that evolution (lack of extraordinary events like the release of a vast field of intelligence damping after sixty-five million years immersed in it) does not select far superior intelligence to that of present-day humans, it seems reasonable to assume that all of the hypothetical star-species would have learned to avoid our vicinity, lest their starship crews become as incapable of complex thought as a human or a rabbit.
Perhaps the problem is that certain aspects of Earth itself or humans in general are actively repellent to our galactic neighbors. It is not that our world is neglected as much as avoided. Maybe aliens don’t like classical music. Perhaps they are wary of the eldritch horrors that plague our world (of which humans are oblivious). Maybe a map of our continents spells out an obscene word in alien writing. We may never know because aliens are unlikely to tell us.
In 1977 by Jody Scott pretend to be human, Earth is home to humans, which any Galactician could tell you are a collection of gullible, neurotic, and voraciously carnivorous primates. To put it mildly, humans are unattractive, except perhaps to beings who fantasize about being eaten by barbarians. Add to that Satan’s apparent infestation on Earth, and you can see why sane aliens stay away from Earth. Too bad for the protagonist that she is not one of those sensible extraterrestrials.
Last, and most depressing: perhaps mortality provides the explanation. The average lifespan of advanced civilizations could be very short. The same tools that would allow cultures to travel from star to star also allow them to destroy themselves as soon as their self-control breaks down. It could be that each new assortment of Starfarers finds itself alone in a galaxy filled with the relics of civilizations long gone.
This seems to be the case in Andre Norton’s Galactic Wreckage. By the time Americans and Russians take interest in space, the so-called Baldies have long since disappeared from the galactic scene, leaving only ruins for humans to dig up. Only the development of time travel allows modern humans to interact directly with the Baldies, which humans would have been well advised to avoid.
You probably have your own favorite explanations. Feel free to discuss it in the comments.
In the words of the TexasAndroid Wikipedia editor, prolific and vivacious literary critic Darwin Award Nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability”. Her work has been published in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on her own websites, Reviews of James Nicoll and Aurora finalist Young people read the old SFF (where he is assisted by the editor Karen Lofstrom and internet user Adrienne L. Travis). He’s a four-time finalist for the Hugo Best Fan Writer Award, is eligible to be nominated again this year, and is surprisingly fiery.