“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” – Carl Sagan
Or not. In Sagan’s science fiction novel, Contact, he imagined that “they” have been around for a long time, even building a cosmic subway line into our part of the galaxy. So who’s to say that “they” never came to this blue dot and picked up a few apes. What if there were some humans on other worlds besides this one?
That particular “what if” game is my favorite starting point for science fiction and it pushes us towards a fun answer to the Fermi Paradox. What types of science fiction stories can we create if we imagine that Earth has been visited, but those visitors from other worlds are not interested in letting us know that they were here?
If extraterrestrials did make the long journey between the stars and visit Earth then why wouldn’t they make their presence known? We might just as well ask why we do not try to communicate with ants. Would some extraterrestrial being with the power to travel between the stars care about Earthly primates?
Who knows? More importantly, should science fiction fans care about extraterrestrial beings who are not interested in us? I think it is more fun to imagine visitors who do care about us, but who still keep their existence hidden from us.
What if the first extraterrestrial visitor to Earth arrived a billion years ago when the most complex organism on our world was a tiny colony of cells floating in the ocean? Well, if the visitors were from Planet Hollywood then they would have to do something dramatic like bulldoze a continent and build a vacation home. I prefer to imagine visitors who, during their millions of years as space travelers, already have accumulated more vacation homes than they need, and besides, maybe they feel that there is something rare and special about pale blue dots with life.
Maybe creatures who have been traveling between the stars for a hundred million years would be able to think of something more constructive to do than call in the bulldozers and profane a beauty spot like Earth. Of course, the temptation would be great for visitors to do something. Maybe provide a helping hand, nudge a few genomes in new directions. Ah, yes, that is where the fun begins.