WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
Sometimes I think the universe is full of life and
sometimes I don’t. In either case, the idea is quite
—Arthur C. Clarke
I began this book by telling you that we live in a universe that contains worlds beyond imagination, and I have now spent nine chapters explaining why it seems likely that many of those worlds should be inhabited, some with beings like us. I have also explained why—although I consider it at least remotely possible that some UFOs could indeed be spacecraft from distant worlds—most claims of alien visitation do not make sense once you realize how advanced such aliens would have to be. But if civilizations really are as common as it seems they ought to be, shouldn’t we by now have some real evidence of their existence? Or, as it was simply put in 1950 by the Nobel-prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi, during a conversation with other scientists who were speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence, “So where is everybody?”
This seemingly innocent question, which has come to be called the Fermi paradox, turns out to be surprisingly difficult to answer. Moreover, the deeper we look into the issues that underlie the question, the more profound its implications become. This question will therefore be the topic of this final chapter, but let me tell you now where we’ll end up: I intend to show you that, if and when we learn the answer to the “Where is everybody?” question, it will cause the most dramatic shift in the status of our human species that has ever occurred in history.
I realize that this must sound outlandish, which is why I’ve told you where we’re headed in advance. After all, if I want you to believe me, not only do I have to make my case, but I must do so in such a way that you don’t reach the end and say “no way.” So that’s why I’ve prepared you up front, and also why I name-dropped a Nobel prize winner: Fermi was not being glib; he, too, recognized the deep implications of the question that he