Fermi’s Paradox

Where are all the alien species? Why can’t we detect them?

If there are space-faring civilisations, they have to be social. Solitary animals, passing on skills to their offspring, might not even learn to make flint axes, leave alone smelt iron. Ironwork requires specialisation. Even reaching the moon involved more than 300,000 people. Rocket science is not particularly complicated, unlike brain surgery; rocket engineering is extremely complex.

They also have to be altruistic. We are destroying the environment because enough people care more about their own short term gains. We may destroy our species, or even our biosphere, before we have been transmitting radio waves for two hundred years. From the start of life to the end of intelligence takes perhaps 3.8bn years, and two hundred is a tiny part of that. Alternatively, we are increasingly transmitting information by cable rather than broadcast, so we may stop emitting radio waves because of improving technology.

This is not certainty. The Singularity, in transhumanism, is the moment when intelligent machines start to program themselves, and their intelligence starts to increase exponentially. Possibly before the biosphere is destroyed, such machines will have been created, operating automated plant to reproduce. With unfettered neoliberalism, they could inherit paranoid selfishness from their creators, and seek to destroy any other civilisation which they would perceive as a threat.

However, I hope that the spacefaring civilisation would see the galaxy as a place of abundance rather than scarce resources needing conquest to avoid competition. We would certainly not be slaves in mines, as any civilisation which could travel through space could mine with automation more efficiently.

I hope that we have two things they might want to preserve. We have our culture. If we were contacted by a more advanced civilisation, our culture might become a pale imitation of theirs. They want us to develop without contamination, to benefit from our unique way of seeing the universe, and relating to one another. We have our genetic diversity. Considering that bacteria are as different from archaea as eukaryotes are, possibly there are unique genetic solutions on Earth, never seen elsewhere.

Though as humans are destroying the biosphere’s genetic diversity, they might want to conquer us in order to preserve it.

Intelligent life may not be common. If it evolves in aquatic species, it will not lead to technology, leave alone space travel. Life here may need the Moon, which keeps our axial tilt stable: Mars’ axial tilt varies from 0° to 60°, which could cause climate change too rapid for species to adapt, preventing complex evolution. Life may need Jupiter, whose gravity captures rocks like the Chicxulub impactor, or we would have had more mass extinctions from such impacts.

They have not come yet.

And now what shall become of us without aliens?
These people were in sooth some sort of settlement

Interloper at home

Everyone who experiences themself as a woman is welcome. So I went over for a chat, and am now on the constituency party women’s forum Facebook page.

And looking up at her, beside her friend in the “I am a Feminist” t-shirt I felt like an interloper. What do I have in common with these women? It is just nervousness, but I am wondering what it could be, a shared experience of upbringing, unwanted sexual attention or even a female body that locks me out, makes me Other. The trans are welcome thing is policy, not these women’s choice.

It is just nervousness but it feels real.

A few days later, to the Tate. In the Members’ room I hear two men talking of what makes you the same person as you were years ago and what if you could be uploaded to a computer. They are transhumanists drinking Schiehallion lager- drinking rather than climbing or dancing- and I say I think of myself as a process, rather than a being. I do not understand object oriented ontology, but I like the idea of no hierarchy of objects- no order of importance between quarks, individuals, biosphere. Transhumanists are individualistic, and he says the culture is. They go on to Fermi’s paradox. I say aliens are likely to be social. It is worthwhile passing on how to make a flint axe, or smelt iron, only in a social species. If they have developed space travel and not wiped themselves out they will be collaborative. If they have not destroyed themselves with weapons or climate change, they will be altruistic.

He tells me that does not follow. Just because it has happened with us that we are co-operative, does not mean aliens will be.

We are sharing ideas, but also competing. I tell them how interesting it has been talking, and go to the Farrelnissa Zeid exhibition.

She was married to an Iraqi Prince, who served as an ambassador till the revolution, when he took a rented flat. Aged 57 she cooked a meal for herself for the first time.

It is quiet. Which of these huge canvases is “My Hell”? I ask the security guard, who asks another worker. She has graduated from art school, like most people here. The security guard goes round the room looking at the captions, slightly embarrassing me, as I could do that myself. Rose and I follow at a more leisurely pace. I only asked as it is named on the introduction.

She wants to know what I think of the last room, so we walk through. The Princess’s style changed dramatically. I love those oblongs of resin, with things embedded- they seem so fragile.

What are you working on now? This is a personal question, don’t answer if you don’t want to. She is doing embroidery, of Lisa Minelli as Eva Peron. Lisa wanted the role but never played it. Eva had cancer, but still went campaigning- she had a thing made so she could lean but appear to stand. It is about stories we tell about ourselves and others- Eva’s ability to stand, Lisa’s about Eva, Rose’s about Lisa and mine about the picture. All untrue. It is taking her years.

Oh the sunshine is glorious! Outside is a work of art, that word repeated. I ask a woman to take my picture in it, and she is happy to.

To the pub. I get a pint and look quizzically at the front step. The door is narrow. Can Efrat get in,  in her motorised wheelchair? An Irishman asks if I would like to sit with him. He calls me “Darling.” I say I am waiting for a female friend. I go off to blog. Well, it’s a nice enough place to sit, and the live music is good. He goes to the toilet, and says to me, “Your friend not here yet?” No, she isn’t.

Efrat wanted to come here because it had an open mic, and she wanted to sing. Actually the blues band did not like her song so did not let her, and played boringly but at huge volume. Rather than talking, we typed on my phone. She was born in Beersheba, and though her English is good it is slow for her. We got onto whether people could live in peace in a state of anarchy, when it was time for me to leave for my train. She wore a ballgown decorated with classic tattoo designs which she bought in Camden.

I fit well enough, and know which sex I prefer.


That nervousness with women could be my pansy sexuality, the soft male deferential with women, wanting to attract the strong woman. It might even work! This couplet I find extremely sexy:

Boys are like rules they were made to be broken,
girls are like guns you better run when they’re smoking