“Contact”, the Hollywoodian adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel of the same name, was one of my favourites movies in my chilldhood. The feeling the movie used to give me, and still does when I watch it, was really amazing. The idea of receiving a message from another civilisation from another place in the universe was something I always wondered if it would happen before or after I depart from this life. And it happens in the movie – mind blowing!
They added a hint of politics to the plot, a slight touch of drama that makes you feel tense and angry at how unfair our society can be. In the other hand, spoiler alert, in the end everything seems to work out and Dr. Ellie finally manages to meet the aliens and their civilisation.
The raw concept of civilisation is quite interesting, it’s the the stage of human social development and organisation which is considered most advanced. I sometimes confuse civilisation with humanity. Humanity is the human species in general but we often use this term to refer to all our history as a species, or to everything that has ever happened on this planet since “smart” animals started walking around.
Neymar is the most expensive footballer in history. Juno spacecraft is the fastest man-made object ever created. Bitcoin is the biggest bubble in history.
We hear this kind of information all time. We tend to, inadvertently, think that every achievement one does in the current society is the further one has ever got to. But how come can we be so sure of that? Apart from the fact I am a big fan of Usain Bolt, I myself tend to avoid saying he’s the fastest human ever. If you consider only the modern society, maybe yes. But wait, do you really think no one ever ran faster than that speed? It’s very unlikely that someone ever managed to run 100 meters into less than 9.58 seconds, but as the old saying goes never say never.
Modern humans are a recent thing on this planet, we are the last minute result of evolution. The first earlier apes are here for something around 10 million years, only 0.2% of the time this planet was created.
What if there were another “civilizations” before ours? And when I say “ours” I mean the whole thing including modern society, Ancient Egypt, Mayans and Incas. What if the natural result of evolution is self-destruction? Everything happens in a cycle, life is a cycle, a year is a cycle, some Physicists say the universe can be a cycle as well, starting with a Big Ban, and dying with a Big Crunch.
In the book The Life Cycle of Civilizations, by Stephen Blaha, it’s mentioned that their theory suggests mankind has a built-in four generation social periodicity. this periodicity does not appear to be related to weather cycles or environmental factors in the current epoch. It appears to be an inherent part of mankind’s social makeup, which means that not only us as animals live a cyclic life, but our society is also based on a cycle.
There’s a contradiction between two different ideas I have about the world we live. The first is that nature is perfect, I used to say that nature is my god. Nature is the environment as a whole, an entity that controls everything else, which means evolution would have to tend to be perfect too. Natural selection would always tend to work out some way and a better future would always be possible. Based on this thought, this very moment we are living now is the most developed moment ever in history, and tomorrow will be better than today. We would potentially find alternatives for the global warming and develop technologies to reduce the usage of natural resources such as water to a healthy level.
The second idea is a bit more pessimistic, it’s that everything seems to die, to end, to decline at some point, the most beautiful flower will be organic compost one day. When I try to bring both theories together, I end up getting more confused. If evolution is perfect, we would necessarily have to master our self-destructive tendencies and survive for billion-year timescales. But unfortunately, it seems that it doesn’t matter how technologically advanced we get, we will for sure have a bad end.
The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates for the existence of extraterrestrial civilisations. Some hypothetical explanations of this paradox, is that technological civilisations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or spaceflight technology. Possible means of annihilation are many, including war, accidental environmental contamination or damage, resource depletion, climate change, or poorly designed artificial intelligence.
What if this is how nature would deal when things go out of control? It’s obviously a good way of dealing with things are too bad or too wrong: destroy everything and restart. The day things reach that level in our society we will all die and nature will take care of restarting things and a new civilisation will naturally born after a while.
Another hypothesis is that an intelligent species beyond a certain point of technological capability will destroy other intelligent species as they appear. The idea that something, or someone, might be destroying intelligent life in the universe has been explored in the scientific literature. A species might undertake such extermination out of expansionist motives, paranoia, or aggression. In 1981, cosmologist Edward Harrison argued that such behaviour would be an act of prudence: an intelligent species that has overcome its own self-destructive tendencies might view any other species bent on galactic expansion as a threat. It has also been suggested that a successful alien species would be a super-predator, as are humans.
We are super-predators but in the other hand such fragile animals, one would instantly die in a car crash. Not only individually but also as a species. You only need a single deadly virus epidemic to kill all of us in a really short amount of time. To be honest, it’s very easy to happen.
There’s an amazing documentary produced by History Channel, Life after People, that explored what Earth might be like if the human race were suddenly to disappear. Forests and animals would take over cities and if I’m not wrong, after a few million years, the only trail that we were here would be the flag left in the Moon in 1969.
My point is that this planet only need a few millions years to restart, so what if there were another “us” before us. What if there were another civilisations, perhaps even more advanced that ours, cycles of mankind, civilisations that come out from nothing, develop themselves to a peak point, with high advanced technology tools, visit other planets, and then die and become nothing again.
What if we have a base in Jupiter? What if our species were planted here by our ancestors?
When I was a kid I used to read lots of Julio Verne’s books. One of my favourites was Journey to the Center of the Earth, a book about some scientists who went to the centre of the planet via a volcano. In the book they find animals and even lakes and forests deep into the caves. They even found out that some other humans had been there before. The feeling that there could be another civilisation living under our feet was mind-blowing for a young Thyago.
Ps, bonus points if you recognised the main image at the top of the post, 🙂