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Okay, this is going to be a long writeup but bear with me.

The frenetic discussion in


the past few days and the serious questions raised in the community since the
release of Interstellar has finally unlocked that long-forgotten part of my childhood
when science fiction was all but a daily part of my life.
When I was 14-15 years old and most of my friends and peer groups were being
swept up in the Harry Potter mania or the subsequent Chetan Bhagat phase, I was
poring over the works of science fiction greats like Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov
and stalwarts like Carl Sagan. This passion for all things extraterrestrial and science
fiction in fact started with a non-fiction book. When I was 12 years old, I found an
old rattled torn paperback in my grandfathers cupboard. The front cover was
missing and for many years I did not know what the front cover looked like till got
reprinted in 2006, nearly 20-25 years after it was initially published. That book was
Erich von Danikens Chariots of the Gods. Highly revolutionary and controversial
during its release, the book proposed the theory of ancient astronauts who came to
earth and built the earliest forms of civilization that we know today. Of course, a lot
of folks know about this concept these days, mostly from the now-infamous Nat Geo
series on ancient mysteries and the memetic presenter of said show, already
immortalized in the annals of Internet history as the crazy haired guy with his hands
up captioned Aliens. Anyways, I digress, but the reason I emphasize on this is
because back then we did not have internet, in fact, it was unheard of, dial-up was
still atleast a few years away. When I first started reading the book, I had absolutely
no clue what it was about. By the time I finished reading it, I felt like I had been hit
by a bolt of lightning. I had never heard of such concepts before and the way
Daniken presented his book, you never felt any doubt as a reader. One of the best
analogies that I have ever read about the concept of how extraterrestrial beings
would be perceived by an ancient civilization was presented by Daniken in this
book. It stated that since a lot of skepticism is directed at the ancient astronauts
theory because of the lack of hard tangible evidence, the entire experience could be
supplanted to a modern setting without changing the underlying assumption that a
primitive civilizations encounter with a technologically superior advanced
civilization can drastically alter their perceptions of how they view the world. In
plain simple terms, it asked, what if an ancient tribe in Africa who have never been
in contact with the outside world react if one day, out of the blue, a dozen soldiers
arrived in state of the art helicopters spewing amazing amount of firepower all
across the forest. Will they be adjudged by this primitive civilization as Gods? If so,
will the future subsequent generations of this tribe forever hold a distorted view of
the world they exist in. And if so, do we fault the subsequent generations for their
ignorant view. It is an exciting analogy to think of, and it sparked something in me,
the innocent wonder of a 12 year old whose fundamental understanding of how he
perceived the world around him had drastically been shaken and altered.
I preface this article with the above anecdote to provide some background for what
is to follow in the discussion ahead. Rest assured it is important to know where my

passion for science fiction came from to understand why now suddenly 15 years
later I have sat down to write a nearly 2000 word article on the state of our being
and what-not. After I read Chariots of the Gods, I next turned my attention to the
Godfather of modern science fiction, Carl Sagan. I know Arthur C Clarke is widely
regarded as the greatest science fiction writer of our time but it was Carl Sagans
undying love and devotion towards developing modern scientific theories for
extraterrestrial life that guided Arthur C Clarkes grand vision of space opera. Carl
Sagan was one of the first proponents of extraterrestrial life or Panspermia a
theory that states that the presence of organic compounds in extra-terrestrial
planets and geographical formations point to the existence of intelligent lifeforms
and that life on Earth was the result of a deliberate infection, designed by aliens
who had purposely fled mother natures seed to a new home in the sun. This theory
of Panspermia was presented by Francis Crick (of Watson-Crick of DNA fame) and
Leslie Orgel at a conference on Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence,
organized by Carl Sagan and held at the Byuraka Observatory in Soviet Armenia in
1971. This theory which they described as an highly unorthodox proposal and
bold speculation was presented as a plausible scientific hypothesis. Two years
after the conference they published an article in Icarus on 1973. The theory of
Panspermia hence has a very significant effect on how we perceive our place among
the stars. If this theory is correct, then it is possible for human beings to colonize
vast spaces of the galaxy and introduce life-forms into an otherwise barren planet
which has not supported any kind of intelligent lifeform. This theory also lends
credence to the possibility of higher evolved or more technologically advanced lifeforms in the universe. In other words, WE ARE NOT ALONE.
So, having said all that, why is it then that we have still not been able to establish a
reasonable line of communication with an advanced life-form or vice versa, not
been able to observe primitive life forms elsewhere. Before we begin to seriously
delve into this question, a little astronomy lesson. Let's compare our 4.54 billionyear-old Earth to a hypothetical 8 billion-year-old Planet X. If Planet X has a similar
story to Earth, then approximately 3.46 billion years ago planet X was at the same
stage as earth is now, with intelligent life-forms thriving on the planet and at the
same level of technology as we are at this very moment. The technology and
knowledge of a civilization only 1,000 years ahead of us could be as shocking to us
as our world would be to a medieval person. A civilization 1 million years ahead of
us might be as incomprehensible to us as human culture is to chimpanzees. And
Planet X is 3.4 billion years ahead of us...
There's something called The Kardashev Scale, which helps us group intelligent
civilizations into three broad categories by the amount of energy they use:
A Type I Civilization has the ability to use all of the energy on their planet. We're not
quite a Type I Civilization, but we're close (Carl Sagan created a formula for this
scale which puts us at a Type 0.7 Civilization).

A Type II Civilization can harness all of the energy of their host star. Our feeble Type
I brains can hardly imagine how someone would do this, but we've tried our best,
imagining things like a Dyson Sphere.
A Type III Civilization blows the other two away, accessing power comparable to that
of the entire Milky Way galaxy.
If this level of advancement sounds hard to believe, remember Planet X above and
their 3.4 billion years of further development. If a civilization on Planet X were
similar to ours and were able to survive all the way to Type III level, the natural
thought is that they'd probably have mastered inter-stellar travel by now, possibly
even colonizing the entire galaxy.

One hypothesis as to how galactic colonization could happen is by creating


machinery that can travel to other planets, spend 500 years or so self-replicating
using the raw materials on their new planet, and then send two replicas off to do
the same thing. Even without traveling anywhere near the speed of light, this
process would colonize the whole galaxy in 3.75 million years, a relative blink of an
eye when talking in the scale of billions of years.
Continuing to speculate, if 1% of intelligent life survives long enough to become a
potentially galaxy-colonizing Type III Civilization, our calculations above suggest that
there should be at least 1,000 Type III Civilizations in our galaxy alone -- and given
the power of such a civilization, their presence would likely be pretty noticeable.
And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we're visited by no one.
So where is everybody?
Welcome to the Fermi Paradox.
The Fermi paradox (or Fermi's paradox) is the apparent contradiction between high
estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and
humanity's lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations. According to this
line of thinking, the Earth should already have been colonized, or at least visited.
But no convincing evidence of this exists. Furthermore, no confirmed signs of
intelligence (see Empirical resolution attempts) elsewhere have yet been spotted in
our galaxy or (to the extent it would be detectable) elsewhere in the observable
universe.
In taking a look at some of the most-discussed possible explanations for the Fermi
Paradox, let's divide them into two broad categories -- those explanations which
assume that there's no sign of Type II and Type III Civilizations because there are
none of them out there, and those which assume they're out there and we're not
seeing or hearing anything for other reasons:

Explanation Group 1: There are no signs of higher (Type II and III) civilizations
because there are no higher civilizations in existence. The proponents of this group
attribute this to something called The Great Filter theory. The Great Filter theory
says that at some point from pre-life to Type III intelligence, there's a wall that all or
nearly all attempts at life hit. There's some stage in that long evolutionary process
that is extremely unlikely or impossible for life to get beyond. That stage is The
Great Filter.
If this theory is true, the big question is, Where in the timeline does the Great Filter
occur?
It turns out that when it comes to the fate of humankind, this question is very
important. Depending on where The Great Filter occurs, we're left with three
possible realities: We're rare, we're first, or we're fucked.
1. We're Rare (The Great Filter is Behind Us)

One hope we have is that The Great Filter is behind us -- we managed to surpass it,
which would mean it's extremely rare for life to make it to our level of intelligence.
2. We're the First
For Group 1 Thinkers, if the Great Filter is not behind us, the one hope we have is
that conditions in the universe are just recently, for the first time since the Big
Bang, reaching a place that would allow intelligent life to develop. In that case, we
and many other species may be on our way to super-intelligence, and it simply
hasn't happened yet. We happen to be here at the right time to become one of the
first super-intelligent civilizations.
3. We're Fucked (The Great Filter is Ahead of Us)
If we're neither rare nor early, Group 1 thinkers conclude that The Great Filter must
be in our future. This would suggest that life regularly evolves to where we are, but
that something prevents life from going much further and reaching high intelligence
in almost all cases -- and we're unlikely to be an exception.
Explanation Group 2: Type II and III intelligent civilizations are out there -- and there
are logical reasons why we might not have heard from them.
Group 2 explanations get rid of any notion that we're rare or special or the first at
anything -- on the contrary, they believe in the Mediocrity Principle, whose starting
point is that there is nothing unusual or rare about our galaxy, solar system, planet,
or level of intelligence, until evidence proves otherwise. They're also much less
quick to assume that the lack of evidence of higher intelligence beings is evidence

of their nonexistence -- emphasizing the fact that our search for signals stretches
only about 100 light years away from us (0.1 percent across the galaxy).
Having discussed all this, lets come back to our original point on why I even
decided to discuss this in the first place. A lot of the comments today were about if
the 5th dimensional beings were human beings or simply an extra-terrestrial life
form. If all we have read so far is true, here is my take on it. If we are to believe that
it is the work of an extra-terrestrial ethereal life form, then my best explanation here
is that this is a civilization which suffered the same catastrophic calamity befalling
earth in the films narrative but survived and hence placed the wormhole to help
another sentient race ie., us humans. If what we have read about the We are the
First theory is true, then as per the Great Filter, it is us who have made the quantum
leap by somehow surviving the catastrophic calamity on earth and evolved over a
million years to become the same sentient beings who leverage space time to save
the remaining people back on earth.

Parijat Ghosh
11/11/14