The physicist Enrico Fermi once said “Where is everybody?” – specifically asking why, if the universe is filled with civilizations, we have yet to confirm or even detect their presence in any reliable fashion.
I’ve given the ‘Fermi Paradox’ a lot of thought over the last few years, and ironically the best answer I can come up with owes more to Star Trek than to astrophysics.
In the eighth Star Trek movie, First Contact, the human race is first contacted by another spacefaring civilization when we are finally at the point of developing faster-than-light (FTL) travel (in this case, warp drive). Indeed, until we have such a thing, any kind of cultural intercourse we could have with any extraterrestrial civilization would be one-sided. The ability to venture forth into the black in search of new horizons and new life is a necessary step to becoming part of any interplanetary community.
On a deeper level, it seems to me that the ability to build such a wonder would require a unification of purpose between the various races of humankind, since no single nation is likely to have the resources to build and operate a space station and interstellar vehicles by itself. Thus far, we have yet to advance sufficiently as to effect such unification. We engage in petty squabbles over post-tribal god-images, we scrape and claw at each other over abstract numbers which provide a mass illusion of wealth, we divide ourselves against each other over ideological differences which would be dwarfed by our unity of reason if only we allowed ourselves to see the latter.
Were you a member of a hypothetical alien race, would you look upon us as a species worthy of moving into the neighborhood?
In all likelihood, the first impulse we would experience upon contact with intelligent extraterrestrials would be to try to destroy them out of fear.
Is it any wonder that we have heard nothing?