Abstract Horror (Note-1)

by Xenosystems
Abstract Horror (Note-1)

On twitter @SamoBurja has proposed the silence of the galaxy as an undeveloped horrorist topic. He’s right.

The absence of any signs of alien intelligence was first noted as a problem by Enrico Fermi in 1950. He found the gaping inconsistency between the apparent probability of widespread life in the cosmos and its obvious invisibility provocative to the point of paradox. “Where are they?” he asked. (Responses to this question, well represented in the Wikipedia references, have constituted a significant current of cosmological speculation.)

Among recent thinkers, Nick Bostrom has been especially dogged in pursuing the implications of the Fermi Paradox. Approaching the problem through systematic statistical ontology, he has shown that it suggests a ‘thing’ — a ‘Great Filter’ that at some stage winnows down potential galactic civilizations to negligible quantities. If this filtering does not happen early — due to astro-chemical impediments to the emergence of life — it has to apply later. Consistently, he considers any indications of abundant galactic life to be ominous in the extreme. A Late Great Filter would then still lie ahead (for us). Whatever it is, we would be on our approach to an encounter with it.

With every new exo-planet discovery, the Great Filter becomes darker. A galaxy teeming with life is a horror story. The less there is obstructing our being born, the more there is waiting to kill or ruin us.

If we could clearly envision the calamity that awaited us, it would be an object of terror. Instead, it is a shapeless threat, ‘Outside’ only in the abstract sense (encompassing the negative immensity of everything that we cannot grasp). It could be anywhere, from our genes or ecological dynamics, to the hidden laws of technological evolution, or the hostile vastnesses between the stars. We know only that, in strict proportion to the vitality of the cosmos, the probability of its existence advances towards inevitability, and that for us it means supreme ill.

Ontological density without identifiable form is abstract horror itself. As the Great Filter drifts inexorably, from a challenge that we might imaginably have already overcome, to an encounter we ever more fatalistically expect, horrorism is thickened by statistical-cosmological vindication. The unknown condenses into a shapeless, predatory thing. Through our techno-scientific sensors and calculations, the Shadow mutters to us, and probability insists that we shall meet it soon.

7 responses to “Abstract Horror (Note-1)

  1. I have long felt that we make a fundamental mistake in trying to anthropomorphise life on other planets. Little Green Men. ‘Greys’. The mysterious thing we call ‘life’ will, in my opinion, simply adapt to the circumstances in which it finds itself, and take on forms which are suited to those circumstances. There is no such thing as the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ (except for humans).
    Just because we are such a nosey bunch, there is no reason why other ‘life forms’ should exhibit any desire to communicate with other ‘alien’ life forms. They may not even have sight, which would make it difficult for them to be aware of anything outside their own sphere of existence.
    Suppose cats were the dominant species on Earth. Would they be trying to communicate with distant planets? Would they hell.
    Or, as I believe is more likely, supposing spiders and cockroaches end up being the dominant species on Earth (not mice, as Douglas Adams postulated). Spiders and cockroaches have been around for hundreds of millions of years and are almost indestructible. They are the most successful creatures in evolutionary terms. I reckon they will survive long after we have all become extinct. And they won’t bother their little heads with aliens, will they.

    • Because the universe is so large, and because everything is in such abundant supply, there is no need for conquest or trade, which are the main driving forces behind exploration. This being so, I doubt anyone is much concerned with getting in touch with us.

  2. Mere curiosity?

  3. Although it’s a fascinating subject, I’m sure public cash could be spent on research of more tangible benefit. It’s yet another case of taxpayers being forced to fund other people’s hobbies.

    Or just watch Prometheus, it’ll put you off searching for intelligent alien life, for life…

  4. The first man-made radio signal went out in 1895. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that commercial radio stations started broadcasting. That doesn’t leave a very wide window of opportunity for our RF signals to be picked up and noticed.

    Even if they were noticed and responded to, it would take the same amount of time for the receiver’s to shoot it back to us. That is, if they had the technology.
    Another factor to consider is that radio waves don’t propagate like a laser beam. They tend to spread out and dissipate over distance and time. After a couple of years at light speed, most signals would be blending into the background noise.

    Then consider a race that could receive our transmissions, and decided to pay a visit. Instead of welcoming us into their galactic arms, we could find ourselves on their dinner menu.

    Just some points to ponder…

    • I’ve often wondered whether it would be wise to keep very, very quiet. Imho the stupid gold plaque on the sides of the Voyagers, “saying who and where we are”, was an unforgivable hubristic act on the part of people that ought to have known better, like Carl Sagan (may Peace Be Upon Him as he was a good scientist, otherwise.)