Where is everybody?

Canadian musician Grimes was a podcast guest a few weeks ago on Lex Fridman, who started his conversations a few years ago as a researcher at MIT focused on artificial intelligence and now regularly invites a range of interesting personalities from other disciplines.

If you don’t know Grimes, or only as the mother of two children of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, you should still check her out. In the podcast, she offered some interesting insights, not only into her music and her work, but also around technology and life in general. She said herself that her own fans might think the exact opposite about technology than she does. She unhesitatingly refers to herself as “Homo Technicus” and talks about her fascination with technology and the possibilities of where it will take humanity.

Nobody here?

One statement made me sit up and take notice when it came to the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent life. In 1950, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where are they all?” during a discussion on UFO sightings. The Fermi paradox, named after him, if there were intelligent life on other planets, why haven’t we had any contact with them so far, has occupied many other researchers ever since.

The American astronomer Francis Drake then developed the Drake equation, which is supposed to estimate life in the universe. Parameters are included in the equation that take into account the number of solar systems, the planets in a solar system, the probability of simple and intelligent life, and several other factors.

The universe as a party

Others compared the universe to a party that begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 4 a.m., for example. Whereby in the cosmic sense 6pm is to be equated with the big bang and four o’clock with the appearance of humans. Thereby the first intelligent life would have appeared at 7:27pm for two seconds at the party. Others then at 7:43pm for half a second. They came, nobody was there, and then they left. Where ‘gone’ here means, this civilization went out.

There may have been a lot of partygoers already there, but many didn’t even meet because everyone showed up at a different time.

Speculations as to why we always “miss each other” abound. From the improbability of multicellular life forms, to the difficulty of interstellar travel, to the pessimistic view that civilizations that can develop technologies that become increasingly potent will eventually use them to extinguish themselves. Consider humanity and its possession of nuclear weapons.

The responsibility

Grimes, however, brought a different perspective to things, saying what if we were actually the first intelligent life form in the 14.7 billion years since the Big Bang? Wouldn’t that be a – in her words – “sacred moment” that we would be witnessing? And wouldn’t we humans have been entrusted with an extraordinarily great responsibility? By whomsoever…

If that would be so, then we appear nevertheless rather like a small child, who stumbles around and has constantly the atomic button in reach, or a rope, at which we already pull and make our planet uninhabitable. That would be a responsibility which seemed to be set too high for our spiritual state of maturity.

And there we come back to Grime’s statement that she refers to herself as a “Homo Technicus.” Perhaps this merging of humans with their technologies is actually the chance for us not only to survive our own technologies, but also to first become biologically fit to distribute intelligent life throughout the universe.

The “Where is everybody?” becomes a “We’re bringing you all!” And that starts in the coming years with the moon and Mars.

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