Mathieu Guerin

This conversation is closed.

Do you believe that humanity is special?

The Drake equation has been modulated upon by brilliant minds to offer the best chance for humans to anticipate the existence of life elsewhere in the known universe. Taking into mind that time is a huge factor and that this "extraterrestrial life" may develop long before or after our consciousness, do you believe it is possible (why/why not?) and how do you figure that such a discovery would change the world that we inhabit?

  • thumb
    Jun 24 2011: In the grand scheme of things, humanity isn't special. But for humanity's own petty reason of survival, humanity is special.
  • Jun 21 2011: here are my thoughts :)
  • thumb
    Jun 21 2011: I am not an exobiologist, but as far as I know, we can assume many habitable planets in our galaxy already, the necessary elements for life as we know it are abundant and amino acids can be found in comets. On the other side, objections like the Fermi paradox can't be easily dismissed.

    Personally, such a discovery would not surprise, but nevertheless excite me. If it should be even intelligent life, concern would additionally come into play since encounters between differently developed civilizations on Earth usually ended violently. But apart from that, it wouldn't really affect my life since the distances would probably be vast.

    On the other side, many humans are incredibly vain characters, and they could hardly stomach lost uniqueness and superiority. They already have a hard time accepting "human" abilities on animals, so if we encountered a far more developed civilization, their worldview would implode. Unless they integrate this information in their existing beliefs...
    • thumb
      Jun 22 2011:

      I'm not sure if you knew of this mission, but I feel lucky to live in this age because of it (among many other things of course).

      The thing is, like you said, distances would be vast. The probabilities of finding intelligent life are minute enough, without adding a factor to calculate the probabilities of intelligent life being able to physically come and shake your hand! So we probably wouldn't get abrasive proof of extra-terrestrial life any more than we have of evolution. It would be up to the individual to do their own research and convert to whatever model of reality works best for them.

      My concerns lie mostly with the widening intellectual gap between atheists and christians (forms of religion or spirituality that are not in such dire contrast with science such as Buddhism or Hinduism do not seem such a violent threat to me). If someone is so unyielding in their philosophy to blindly deny empirical evidence regarding such subject matter as the existence and extinction of the dinosaurs, evolution, or the age of the planet, then the discovery of unearthly life would entrench them even deeper into their world. I think if there was to be another world war, it would be triggered by such an issue and by these groups.
  • thumb
    Jul 4 2011: Hi Matthieu Guerin
    Yes. I believe humanity is special.
    The Drake equation points out the high probability of intelligent life out there, but when we listen for the ET parties: silence. It seems we are much more likely to ruin our own planet than to have some aliens come and take it from us.
    So, yeah, we're special. And I think we had better get to work on sustaining our own survival. OK, I admit, I'm still going to go see Steven's movie "Cowboys and Aliens!"
  • Jul 1 2011: As long as we exist, We will see ourselves as specials the supposed "dominant" species. And if we regard all of humanity as one single organism, its probably rather arrogant, rather self-destructive, self-centered but probably has enough reason to consider itself as special. How many other life forms, extraterrestrial or otherwise do you see participating on these TED forums? :)
  • thumb
    Jun 22 2011: Whoa! No, I didn't know of that mission. Thanks for the link :) From my childhood days I wistfully wished that I had been born in a later time, but then I saw this great scene in Star Trek VIII:
    Lily Sloane: "I envy you... the world you're going to."
    Captain Jean-Luc Picard:" I envy *you*... taking these first steps into a new frontier."
    This changed my mind completely. Yes, we may not be the seafarers, adventurers, explorers one can find in hopelessly glorifying movies, but in several aspects we are pioneers ourselves. Can you imagine how the intro of the new Star Trek Enterprise series blew me away? Combined with Steve Jablonsky's track "My Name Is Lincoln" it becomes one of the greatest video clips know to me: . I especially like 0:45 because it shows that not only the daring pilots, divers and astronauts are part of this endeavor, but also the many people behind them. Which in a sense even includes the fans and amateurs who voice their support :)

    Yes, even if we found intelligent life (or intelligent life found us), I don't expect to meet them. Which can be positive or negative, depending on whether both would embrace each other peacefully or rather commit a genocide. So I am not exactly jealous of the generation that will finally make contact, because I don't know whether they will be blessed or doomed ;)

    The issues you named don't have a direct impact on the own life, so there is no selection pressure. People can simply believe what grants them emotional and social advantages. This isn't restricted to religion, superstition and esotericism, but does just as well apply to political ideologies. Wars are usually triggered by leaders who expect a gain from it and the chance to enjoy it. Only very few of them are willing to die for the cause, so they aren't nearly as deluded as one may think. Their corruption makes them predictable, if you want...
  • thumb
    Jun 22 2011: The drake equation does not try to answer whether or not there is extraterrestrial life, but rather how likely is it that intelligent life exists. This is a necessary distinction. We know that even here on Earth, Darwinian evolution does not favor intelligence. Eyes have evolved more times than intelligence. It is very likely that life exists elsewhere in the universe, and maybe in our own "backyard." We still may find microbial life on mars (trapped underground in ice, caves, etc), and on some moons (Europa for example).

    If we discover life elsewhere in our solar system it will be in the news until then next politician gets caught in a scandal, or a celebrity tweets some offensive statement.

    The discovery of intelligent life would be a different story all together. Too many possibilities to speculate. But again, this is highly unlikely to occur.
  • thumb
    Jun 20 2011: I absolutely believe in extra-terrestrial life and I don't expect to have proof in my lifetime. However in the hypothetical advent of proof, many people would deny the proof as with the concept of evolution. Many very intelligent minds, however, would depart on a tangential journey together which would eventually lead to the realization of the most nefarious components of mankind that humanity is but a spec of luck upon the great dice of science.

    What then becomes of the meaning of energy, property and sustainability?
    • Jun 20 2011: I think it would be rather hard to deny but not impossible to deny proof of extra-terrestrial life with photographic or physical evidence.

      Regardless the existence would unite some people and divide others. It seems as if every topic has this affect.

      I would hope that with the proof of alien life, humanity would be more motivated to invest in the exploration of space.
    • Jun 20 2011: I don't think there is anything desperately unique about our situation. We're in orbit around a fairly average star in a fairly average galaxy. Life has developed here, and I don't see why this would not happen in most planets in our situation (of which there are probably hundreds of thousands if not millions within our own galaxy). I think there is a good chance that life has started more than once within our own solar system. Sentience and an intelligence that can consider these matters might be rarer, although as far as we know there is a 100% success rate of life resulting in intelligence (that being us).

      I think it would be highly presumptious of us to assume that we are the only ones out there. That said I don't think we'll contact alien intelligences for some time yet, and if so it is likely to besome form of post-singularity machine intelligence, due to the distances involved.