According to new reports, we could wait as much as 1500 years before first contact with aliens. Is there even a point to looking?

Apparently radio signals take ages to cross the vast distances of space and we’ll all be long dead by the time anybody replies, taking “Pls respond” to an entirely new level. Bear in mind that we’re already throwing around a lot of assumptions about what alien life could actually be.

Why are we so eager to find aliens anyway? In 1977 we launched the Voyager interstellar probes, carrying the sum total of human history on a golden record. It included diagrams of our solar system, information about Earth society and instructions on how to play vinyl – virtually everything a conquering civilisation of nasty aliens would want to know. When they get that message and arrive in the far distant future expecting to speak to Jimmy Carter we’ll be easy pickings.

One hell of a limited pressing.
One hell of a limited pressing.

Even that’s a long shot. For all the thousands of years we have been at the ‘pinnacle’ of intelligence on Earth, we haven’t even been able to establish communication with other intelligent, self aware animals on the same planet. Dolphins resemble human intelligence the closest in terms of self awareness, recognition of symbols, metacognition, creation of culture as well as complex social structures. Instead of communicating, we hunt and eat them.

A mixture of fantasy, entitlement, a blend of curiosity and self sabotage means that we are looking for a reflection of ourselves in space. We’ve already narrowed our search to life forms that have the same time perception as us. We dream of building an intergalactic council of races to solve galactic problems whilst exchanging culture because we are lonely.

Feeling cosmically insignificant yet?

But if an alien out there lives for 30,000 earth years, is the size of Jupiter, feeds on gasses from nebulae and sleeps for about a 300 years in one go, communication is going to be a problem. They either have to be organic or mechanical (or more than meets the eye), carbon-based or silicon in a pinch.

The sheer size of the universe, the varying sizes of planets, their constitutions, whether there are gaseous giants, rocky mammoths, whether they revolve around one star, two stars or none means aliens could literally be anything.

We’ve made the assumption that aliens haven’t already communicated. They already could have, but in ways we don’t recognise; through wavelengths we haven’t discovered yet, or in dimensions we can’t perceive. Mathematics is the best way because it underpins every aspect of the universe, but just because somebody understands Pyhtagoras doesn’t mean they have the know-how to communicate with us in a way that makes sense.

Instead of wasting our time indulging in intergalactic narcissism, perhaps we should figure out how to communicate with the other species on our own planet. Then maybe when the shit hits the fan the dolphins won’t abandon us like they did last time.


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