By Kyle B. Stiff
I’m going to use what we know about the world to lay out some plausibly safe speculations about aliens. Sounds crazy, I know, but we know enough now to make a few assumptions.
And I’m going to keep it from being boring by throwing a lot of stuff about Gandalf in there, too. You see, I recently came to the realization that we need someone exactly like Gandalf to go over the “alien situation” for everybody.
What is the alien situation? There are two facets: The first is that people who look into this sort of thing understand that some pretty crazy stuff has been happening in terms of sightings and the possibility of disclosure, and the second is that people who don’t look into this stuff still think that drunk hillbillies are seeing swamp gas and flocks of birds, reporting them as UFOs, and then limp-wristed hippies with double-digit IQs get excited, drop a few hits of acid, and then channel Commander Jesus Christ from Ashtar Galactic Command who commands them to create a retarded New Age website that has midi music playing in the background. In other words, “normal” folk think the issue of aliens is a nonissue. The fact of the matter is quite different. We actually need to be prepared to handle the alien issue because it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Okay, so where the hell does Gandalf, some old dude with a beard from Tolkien’s Nerd Bible, come into this? He comes into it because he’s a personality type. Here are some important points on the Gandalf personality type.
Gandalf is wise. He’s constantly working over some riddle or problem in his mind, and while he travels the world and talks to others to find clues, he never lets anyone do his thinking for him.
Gandalf is not image conscious. He looks like a huge weirdo wearing yesterday’s fashion, and only kids and other wise men can see past his appearance. If someone who is terrified of being laughed at laughs at him, it’s no big deal to Gandalf.
Gandalf is militant. This is a point that’s easy to miss about Gandalf. A lot of people assume that great wisdom goes hand in hand with passivity; the general idea is that a wise man would never get into a fight because he would be the “bigger man” and walk away. But Gandalf knows that peacetime is only a thin and delicate construct. He knows that there is an Enemy that good men have to strive against. Gandalf constantly goes from place to place seeing how the plans of the Enemy can be found out and thwarted. Gandalf doesn’t give a foot-long shit about football stats or reality TV or the President’s dog. He cares only about stopping an Enemy that normal men can’t even see until it’s too late.
But don’t worry guys – we’ve already got our Gandalf. It’s me. I’ve been staring at the fire and smoking my pipe and ruminating on this stuff so you don’t have to. I’m going to lay it all out for you like Gandalf. But first, I’ve got to remove a few assumptions from your current paradigm. There are a lot of fashionable and seemingly rational ideas floating around; I’ve heard them time and again, and they simply have no basis in reality.
Assumption One: The chances that life evolved on Earth were so slim that it’s possible that life didn’t develop elsewhere in the universe, much less intelligent life.
Gandalf Says: Sounds reasonable, right? The thing is, there’s an assumption behind this assumption, and it’s the idea that life itself is an accident. When I was a kid, I was told by some redneck teacher that lightning struck some water, and this somehow formed the first primeval goo which developed into living sludge. I bought it at the time, but a lot of people have since realized how absurd this is (how does lightning hitting water produce anything more than steam, much less something as complicated as DNA?), so now they’re starting to say that life formed through natural chemical processes. This can’t be replicated in a lab, but if you want a quick answer, that’s the one they give. Of course, it’s total hogwash. The only thing we can say for certain about complex life is that it’s here; beyond that, we don’t know why or how it got here.
The idea that life is an accident is more like a philosophical postulate than a solid, provable idea. It looks respectable, but it sits in the same camp as the idea that life was created in six days by a pissed-off desert god.
So we know that life happened. The only safe assumption that we can draw from that is that nature must want life. We have gravity in this corner of the universe; they also have it on the other side of the galaxy; in fact, the same laws of physics work everywhere that we can see, so as crazy as it sounds, it’s fairly safe to assume that the same law that produced life here must have produced it elsewhere. Much like hydrogen and rocks and vacuum and stars, life is common. That’s something we just have to deal with.
Assumption Two: Even if there is intelligent life out there, space is so vast that travel between star systems is impossible. Even communication between other civilizations would take thousands or millions of years.
Gandalf Says: This plausible-sounding notion is a direct translation of, “I feel emotionally uncomfortable with the idea of intelligent non-terrestrial life, and frankly, I don’t want to deal with it.” That’s a little more honest, but it’s also pretty thoughtless. So Andromeda is pretty far from our own star system, right? It would take thousands of years at the speed of light to get there, correct?
Well, how are we getting there? Are we walking? It would, of course, take one gazillion years to travel between Earth and Andromeda if we hoof it. Are we riding a bike or driving a car? Sounds equally retarded, but we’ve already cut our travel time by a lot if we use those means. An advanced spaceship going just shy of the speed of light would even further reduce the travel time, though it would still be prohibitively time-consuming.
However, worrying about the universal “speed limit” in our paradigm for space travel will only be an issue if we took every physicist we have and chucked them into a wood chipper. We’ve only been at the business of making advanced technology for a couple of hundred years, but those eggheads are already talking about Star Trek type stuff that we just haven’t had the time to incorporate into practical technologies. Unless we hunt down all our physicists and murder them, then space travel will most likely occur using super-advanced ships burning something a little better than carbon-juice. Give us a few years and we’re going to be hopping in and out of dimensions or shortening the distance by others methods – because that’s what technology is about, shortening distance.
How can we make that assumption? We can safely do so because science isn’t about guys in lab coats slowly and incrementally making iPhones slightly better year after year. Science, when done right, is about finding crazy guys like Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein and Francis Crick and somehow making their crazy ideas pay off with material benefits. Guys like that work through intuitive leaps and bounds beyond the norm; rational, methodical types in lab coats – that is, stereotypical scientists – only follow in their wake.
Assumption Three: Any violent species would destroy itself before it discovered FTL (faster than light) travel. So even if there is intelligent life out there, it would be benign.
Gandalf Says: It sounds nice, but what is this assumption based on? It certainly isn’t based on observation. So far we know of one intelligent species, and that species happens to be aggressive and warlike (sometimes). It has not yet destroyed itself. Even in the wild, predators do well as long as they can find prey.
Seems more likely that we should say, “Out of all the intelligent species we have dealt with, whether aggressive or benign, none has ever destroyed themselves. Though they constantly skirt around dangerous situations, they seem quite capable of long-term survival.”
You see? It’s a fantasy. Nothing more.
Assumption Four: An advanced species is going to be too rational to make trouble with us.
Gandalf Says: It would be nice to meet the equivalent of Vulcans or Tolkien elves, but that assumption about rationality being a product of “progress” has got to go. I know we like to think of ourselves as rational beings (individually, I mean), but that’s simply not the case. Each of us is driven by irrational urges that we cover up with a gloss of reason. Your lifestyle only appears rational to you because you lack the ability to step outside of yourself and see the wild, whirling rush of utter strangeness that is you, and other people only appear utterly strange to you because you haven’t taken a step back and tried to understand their complex and irrational motivations. There’s no reason to believe that human beings, if given a hundred or a thousand years of development, will be cold and methodical and objective and dreamless.
Hyper-rationality is a form of posturing. It’s a fad, a fashion that we wear. Only will and passion have any sort of real grip on living, breathing things. Chances are good that other intelligent beings will also be driven by deep and complex passions that they themselves will have difficulty putting into words.
Let’s interrupt ourselves and look at what we’ve got so far.
So far, it looks pretty likely that the universe, and probably even our galaxy, is chock full of advanced, intelligent life. And not all of those intelligent species are peace-loving pushovers. In fact, there is probably quite a bit of conflict going on out there… a “war in the heavens” if you will.
Assumption Five: Why haven’t we seen them yet? We’ve been scanning the skies for years. Surely SETI would have picked up some galactic radio transmissions by now!
Gandalf Says: As long as we’re scanning for radio signals among the distant stars, we might as well be scanning for primitive cooking fires, or maybe even letters being passed from hand to hand. Sending data using radio waves has been a staple on Earth for a few years, but we’re already switching over to far better methods of data transmission. Any civilization that has the means of traveling vast distances isn’t going to bother using the technological equivalent of cupping their hands around their mouth and shouting to be heard across the room.
Also, if we use some of our much safer assumptions that we established, there’s a pretty good chance that distant civilizations aren’t all at peace with one another. If there’s a long, slow cold war going on, then no species is going to broadcast the position of its homeworld or colonies. In fact, they would do everything in their power to hold those cards as close to the table as possible.
Now, why did I mention a “long, slow cold war”? If there are aggressive and intelligent species out there, then why don’t we see huge intragalactic wars between fleets of awesome looking ships? I’m assuming the other species are engaged in a cold war because their weapons are simply too powerful to engage in frequent hot conflicts. Our own nuclear arsenals are so devastating that first-world countries no longer even engage in warfare with one another; we do it only through third-world countries that have resources we want. It makes for interesting movies to speculate on what would happen if America or England went to war with Russia or China, but unless some kind of radical change happens in our world, we’re never going to see anything like that happen. Our weapons are so powerful that cities can be wiped out in an instant. Even a psychopathic saber-rattler sitting behind a fancy desk would fear something like that.
For any advanced species, it’s pretty safe to assume that they have planet-busting weapons. The easiest way to do it would be to corral a few asteroids and redirect their course, but a more advanced species might even be able to create a bomb that ignites all breathable atmosphere within reach, or turns rock into molten slag on contact. A powerful and advanced species, even one that hates war and conflict, would have to stockpile such weapons if it doesn’t want to put any of its colonies in danger by looking weak in front of more aggressive species.
In fact, if they’re similar to us, then they might do all their fighting through third-world planets and third-world species sitting on valuable resources. Uh oh… that means us!
Assumption Six: Wait a minute – who says they would be anything like us? Human evolution was a long and winding road that could have branched in radically different directions at any point along the way. If there are other intelligent species, they would probably be so different from us that interaction would be impossible.
Gandalf Says: This sounds reasonable, but like the very first assumption, it’s a fantasy. It is solidly based on the idea that life is an accident, a series of chemical mishaps that resulted in something unique, complicated, and utterly pointless. This is a philosophical belief, not a hard truth that can be tested and verified.
It’s true that intelligent life may come in a variety of forms. Dolphins are a good example of a species that uses an incredibly complicated language, and looking into the weird network out of which mushrooms grow makes for an interesting case that they’re highly advanced “clean karma” super-beings (as posited by Terence McKenna).
Then again, since the laws of physics are the same everywhere on this dimension of reality, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that life grows similarly everywhere, but perhaps with slight variations. If we’re going to assume that gravity has not been tweaked and edited on each and every planet, then why would the “rule of life” be altogether different and endlessly varied?
Assumption Seven: This is getting morbid. Thankfully, there’s nothing on Earth that an advanced species would ever want. They would most likely pass us by.
Gandalf Says: This assumption is based purely on emotion; it’s a hyper-rational translation of, “I’m uncomfortable with the thought of alien invasion, but my self-esteem is so low that I can only hope that an alien species will care as little about my existence as I do.”
Unfortunately, any sufficiently mature species has to tend to its own garden – which means putting a wall around that garden and having a gate or chokepoint through which they can monitor anything coming in from the outside. We can’t remain children forever, not if we hope to deal with outsiders as equals rather than subordinates.
There is plenty of awesome stuff to be found on planet Earth that an advanced species can use. There’s gold, which has a number of uses outside of bling culture. Liquid water has all kinds of nutty properties we’re only beginning to look into. Earth has a huge population that could be harvested for slave labor, and anyone coming here to snatch a few slaves could even depend on the majority of the population to never look into strange cases of missing persons due to their deep-seated fear of being laughed at when they point at the sky and cry wolf.
And that’s just the stuff that’s easy to believe. If it’s true that there are subtle forms of energy that we don’t yet understand, then there could even be outsiders (trans-dimensional outsiders, even!) who harvest the energy given off by consciousness itself. The old myths of gods fighting over their flock of believers among one another no longer seem so outlandish when considered from that perspective.
Assumption Eight, the Final Assumption: Any species capable of travelling the vast distances of space would be so powerful that there’s nothing we could do against them.
Gandalf Says: Have you no backbone? Even if you’re a hyper-rational post-modernite who believes in evolution-by-accident, are you going to tell me that your ancestors fought their way through a thousand generations to produce you just so you could give up?! What about your Spartan roots, your samurai ancestors, your warmongering heritage?! Surely two hundred thousand years of endless battles wasn’t all for nothing!
Also, your faith in the power of technology is commendable (some might even say religious in its intensity!), but since when was technology the sole deciding factor in any war? Did the Vietnamese send the Americans running with their tails between their legs by producing better weapons and body armor? No, not by a long shot. How did the Zulu tribesmen completely stomp the British imperialists? Did they invent a spear-chucking machinegun and radar that detected when “tea time” was on so they could tell when the enemy was vulnerable?
Hell no, absolutely not. Having good gear can help out in a battle, but wars are won by people who want to win them. They’re won by determined motherfuckers who would rather die than submit. They don’t start crying and whining over a string of lost battles no matter how dire the odds appear. Instead, they dig in and bide their time and watch the Enemy and wait for that one battle, that final battle, that they can win. In fact, if the Enemy is sufficiently civilized, then all you have to do is wound them to the point where they become uncomfortable. You don’t have to chase them to their homeworld and incinerate them, you just have to make them commit enough resources toward killing you that their board of directors realizes that their profit margin is becoming less profitable and more marginal with each passing day. If he’s a coward looking for an easy fight – and let’s face it, what bloodthirsty hawk doesn’t want an easy fight? – then he’ll back down as soon as the going gets tough.
I know, it makes sense to try to stop me there. A war between technologies from slightly different eras is one thing, but if they’re sufficiently advanced, won’t they just run over us if they really want to?
Not necessarily. If you live in a village with ten people in it, losing one person is a freaking disaster. You’ve lost a valuable hunter or farmer or warrior or shaman, and things are going to look bleak all of a sudden. A birth is something to celebrate; you’ve got another hand on deck! But eventually you reach a point where resources start looking scarce. We’ve got seven billion humans on this planet, and people are already getting high and mighty about population reduction. As it is now, if we lose hundreds of soldiers every year in yet another needless war, nobody gives a shit as long as they’re not directly related to them. It’s the same with natural disasters. We get jaded toward the value of life, if life is everywhere.
So let’s blow up the picture a little bit. Say you’re from an advanced civilization that has dozens of colony worlds and trillions of citizens. If you assume that said civilization is run by psychopaths hungry for resources, just like on Earth, then how well do you think the soldiers are going to be equipped? Do you think they’re going to be carrying the most advanced body armor and weapons?
Probably not. In fact, going to war with an aggressive civilization that wants (or needs) something from you probably means you’re going to be fighting against slaves who don’t even want to be fighting in the first place. They’re going to be carrying hand-me-down gear and fighting in unarmored ships. An aggressive civilization doesn’t care about its individual members. They’re replaceable, just like ships and equipment. That’s one of the hallmarks of a sick society. Outside of special ops forces, those orcs that Sauron and Saruman used weren’t inspired by the vision of a united Middle-Earth and justice handed out by the One Ring. They were fighting because they feared their master’s whip.
The Good News. I’ve been yakking away about the bad guys, those advanced civilizations run by psychopaths. However, whether a civilization is run by psychopaths depends solely on normal people wearing blinders and allowing psychopaths free rein. This is not inevitable. There may be species out there that solved their own psychopath dilemma, just as we will have to do one day, and allowed only benevolent members who don’t crave power to rule over them.
Those civilizations would know evil when they see it. They wouldn’t hunger for resources and power; they would only want their people to shine as brightly as possible. They would create potential, and they would band together in order to protect that potential. For every civilization ruled by a God-Emperor and run by slave labor, there is probably another civilization that trades in art and ideas, and are mature enough to arm their warrior-class with the finest gear available. They probably have laws against enslavement and indoctrination of pre-spaceflight civilizations, and I’m sure they enforce those laws with just enough force to drive the Enemy back into endless night.
All the same, I doubt they’re running around stopping every fire started by the Enemy. Just like everyone else, they have limited resources. They can’t save everyone.
The Problem of Outright War and Stealthy Maneuvering. That’s why we’re most likely in the middle of a galactic cold war. Even if slave-android Grays are abducting humans and probing their butts to solve the Rectum Equation, no one’s going to step in and help because nobody wants to set off a chain reaction of every galactic superpower annihilating homeworlds and colonies with advanced planet-busting weapons. If you’re a member of the Good Guys, you have to earn your place there. Otherwise you’re not worth protecting.
And the Enemy has that fear, too. They don’t want the Good Guys to go on a planet-busting rampage. Of course, they still want (or need) resources, having managed their own like a psychopath manages most of his affairs (that is, poorly). So how can they go about the necessary business of conquest?
They would do it the same way Sauron got to Saruman. They would let him find a palantir (an advanced technology), and then they would infect his mind. You want this because it’s powerful. Imagine what you could do with it! There are others out there who would love to have this. You want to keep it, don’t you? Then you’ll have to fight for it. But you can’t do that with human men and women and graceful elves, oh no, they would only try to take it for themselves. No, you need orcs on your side. Orcs respect power, and fear it. You could control them. You could be powerful!
That’s how the Enemy works. They get into your head and make you afraid (just as they are), then they take advantage of that fear so they can control you. They need you to look and think and act like them in order to control you.
This is exactly why every benevolent and advanced civilization has to pass through the crucible of dealing with its own psychopathic minority. As we are now, if someone looks good in a suit and can say some silly slogan with enough force behind it, people will vote them into power or buy their product. We have enough information to know that psychopathy is a major problem, but we haven’t addressed it yet. We still argue about which form of governance is better even though a resourceful psychopath is more than capable of taking over any form of governance and using it toward his own ends.
Even if Gray aliens aren’t real, even if everyone is either lying or hallucinating about them, they still make for great practice. They’re an excellent springboard in the discussion of what to do about the alien dilemma. The mythology surrounding them concerning their hybridization program, the product of which is something that looks like us but has powers of mental control like them, is actually the only way in which an invasion can occur given the current intragalactic cold war situation. Going along with our ruling psychopaths and their cover-ups, their endless wars for resources, and their fear of being laughed at by discussing this sort of thing in public only plays into their hands.
So fight, human! The invasion has most likely already begun. Sauron the Enemy and his pale servant Saruman will not rest. Neither should you. We’ve got to kick Wormtongue out of Rohan, scour the Shire for heroes, wake the elves from their endless sleep, and overthrow the Stewards from Gondor and put a King in their place. The Alliance of Good Guys is watching us, hoping that we’ll rise to the challenge and throw off our chains. And they won’t bother to help a species that doesn’t first help itself.
Hey readers! If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.