“The planet is the cradle of intelligence, but it is impossible to live forever in the cradle.” — Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Most answers to the Fermi Paradox fall on a spectrum of horrifying to boring. This is not all that unexpected, since we humans tend to either think that there isn’t any intelligent extraterrestrial life (or else that it can’t feasibly reach Earth) or that it represents some sort of threat. The Zoo Hypothesis, which really is one of the least terrible of the negative possibilities, lead to all sorts of grotesque and frightening possibilities in an earlier post.
However, every once in a while, there is an optimistic answer to Enrico Fermi’s question of ‘Where is everybody?’: that intelligent and advanced aliens are just leaving us alone so we can find our own place in the universe. They don’t want to cause panic or strip us of our chance for individual advancement. This research-based study delves into an early space-based philosophy in the
Soviet Union that says
humans and aliens might just get along, after all.
(This might mean no alien invasion novels, but it also means no alien invasion, and I’m all for that.)
There was, however, a whole branch of science fiction/philosophical thought called Russian Cosmism in the late 19th century and early 20th century that sought to connect humans with the cosmos at large. The tone of this school of thought was positive: space was a frontier in which people could seek and attain something like perfection. Tsiolkovsky put his particular spin on this, thinking that intelligent life would be everywhere in the universe and that, initially, these intelligent societies went into space and pulled less advanced peoples into their way of life (which is cool, for all that Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End – read a review here -- alternately subscribes to and condemns the concept).
These aliens would no doubt be aware of humans on Earth, and we could certainly use a hand up. This poses two challenges that Tsiolokovksy answered in “The Planets are Occupied by Living Beings,” and “Natural Principles:” one, that we haven’t found them, and, two, that humans would become, however advanced, another homogeneous branch of intergalactic civilization.
We haven’t found these aliens, Tsiolkovsky wrote, because our technology is pretty primitive and because our probable reaction to aliens far more advanced than ourselves is likely to be equally primitive. To this end, aliens are hiding until they know our reaction won’t be some sort of international societal collapse or war and until we have sufficient technology to find them or travel the galaxy – something that would hopefully coincide.
Aliens haven’t adopted us, Tsiolkovksy also wrote, because they don’t want society to stagnate, regardless of how seemingly perfect it might be. Like in Turtledove’s short story The Road Not Taken (in which pretty much everyone has gravity-based technology and so kind of stagnated, but humans didn’t so we came up with nuclear weapons), societies technologically evolve differently, and the universe might lose something if everyone conforms to the same intergalactic societal paths. I’m not sure if this argument is worth all the suffering on Earth that some alien foster parents couldn’t have hypothetically gotten rid of, but, according to Russian Cosmism and Tsiolkovsky, a lot of more advanced people do think so, so...
In “Natural Principles,” he wrote:
Why don’t the beings of happy planets deign to come down to us? Why don’t they pity us, and replace us with higher beings, destroying us so that we can then arise in their perfect image?…If they didn’t expect anything of a high level from us, then they wouldn’t have tormented us for so long. Apparently, there is hope that something worthwhile will develop from us. They know better. We doubt, but they know. We can bring a new and wonderful stream of life that will renew and supplement their already perfected life.
As far as theories that both answer Fermi’s Paradox and don’t excessively creep me out, this one does pretty well. I’m fond of the idea that aliens are benevolent, advanced, and not about to blow up Earth for anyone’s good. This also poses a lot of interesting philosophical questions on a more micro-level on Earth, like the United States’ trend of remodeling regions in the name of democracy (I’m going to assume that this is actually the motive just to probe this question), advancement versus traditional culture, individuality versus community, and how we should present ourselves to hypothetical aliens out there.
This is some pretty heavy stuff, and Russian Cosmism is all about a kind of blissful societal improvement through space travel. I like it.
Any opinions about Russian Cosmism? Tsiolkovsky’s writings and his ideas about why aliens haven’t contacted us yet? If you want to spread some space-utopia love, be sure to recommend this post on StumbleUpon---one click and extraterrestrials lose a little negative creep factor.
Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.