I want to believe. But maybe I shouldn’t want to, as finding alien life – of The X-Files type, or even something much more basic, such as single-celled life-forms – could be a signal that our extinction is inevitable.
If you’re a little confused, let me explain. In contemplating the Fermi Paradox (if alien civilisations are common, why have we not been contacted), some researchers have suggested that there is a ‘Great Filter’ which acts as a barrier, stopping life from reaching the level of complexity needed to explore the galaxy (and contact others).
The Great Filter could be ‘behind’ us – that is, while intelligent life was ‘filtered out’ on nearly all other planets, here on Earth we survived it, and are perhaps the only lifeform capable of galactic exploration – or it could still be in our future, waiting for us (e.g. advanced technology that allows us to destroy ourselves), and all the other life similar to us throughout the galaxy.
As such, one of the counter-intuitive results of the Great Filter idea is that the more likely it is that life is abundant and able to evolve to a level similar to our current civilisation, the more likely the filter is still ahead of us, and that we will one day be annihilated.
If that short explanation hurts your brain, be sure to check out the animated video below which explains the concepts in greater detail (with some wonderful illustrations).