We don’t know what aliens look like, but we all share similar ideas about them. We all think about them as these four or more- limbed creatures with large heads, huge eyes with either silver or green skin color traveling inside a UFO from outer space. Our ideas are of course derived from the movies, books and TV shows that we have created. Scientists, writers, and visual effects specialists have all contributed to the way we imagine what aliens look like. For now, it remains to be just one of the things we have imagined.
Life Beyond Earth
Researchers have been working hard when it comes to exploring the possibility of life beyond earth. They have tried to find out whether microbial life could exist beyond earth and studied the chemistries and the microscopic structures that could survive on other planets. Astronomers have had their telescope pointed beyond our solar system hoping for a chance to detect any signs of life. They have also designed probes to visit Mars and the habitable moons of our solar system.
Fiction Depictions Of Extraterrestrials
Most scientists focus so much on trying to find new life forms on other planets that they forget to look for complex life forms right here on earth. With the aliens of pop culture hardly looking scientific it is no wonder that we know so little of aliens or if at all extra-terrestrial life exists.
The way we depict extra-terrestrials is influenced by narrative and aesthetics. We also create our own versions of extraterrestrials based on our understanding of life on Earth. It isn’t all just fictional gloss but the creators of Klingons, Lizardmen, Insectoids, humanoids, lupines, and supermen have actually studied the existing life on earth. On another planet with light and air, the life here on earth would have evolved differently. They all evolved on earth because they are useful to the eco-system. They could have evolved differently on another planet without gravity, for example, hence the different depictions of the creatures of the earth as extra-terrestrials.
In Avatar, for example, Cameron created this humanoid alien race that looked taller, thinner and blue. He further created a world around this humanoid race which befits their look, they would have totally looked out of place if they lived in a world that looked like earth. Most animals existing on Avatar’s Pandora are six-limbed except for the Na’vi who only have four limbs.
In Star Trek, some of the aliens are lightly prostheticked humanoids or non-biological which means they are made of rock. Crystal or light. Still, those are components found right here on earth. The inspiration is purely influenced by life and matter on earth. In this case are rock, crystal, and light. That right there is something really alien. However, still, the interest is focused more on the biological alien creatures that everyone loves to imagine.
Still, despite what seems like a plethora of imaginations, we really do not understand what these life forms in other planets are like because none of us have ever met one and took time to study it.
Inventing Our Successors?
We also Imagine Aliens as smarter with advanced machines and technology which makes ours seem of the stone age. According to Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at SETI Institute, we create these alien being from what we are to what we think they are. He further adds that it is a self-centered way of creation and thinks that we are simply inventing our successors of the next centuries.
We also think of these aliens as so far advanced than we are that we are not able to go and find them yet because we lack the technology to create a spaceship to reach their planets. Shostak further says, “If you’re going to say the aliens are what we will become, then the aliens are machines.” Shostak believes that biology is just a face of an evolution of intelligence on Earth and beyond. He also believes that the moment we create a computer with cognitive capability then with time a machine with the cognitive capability of all humans will be in place.
With machine intelligence uninhibited by the slow accidental procession of Darwinian evolution, machines are fully capable of designing their own successors. As Shostak puts it, a baby is no smarter than the babies born a hundred or a thousand years ago. Machines on the hand are smarter with every generation. Each generation of computers is smarter than the previous.
There is no doubt that machines are better compared to biology when it comes to increasing their intelligence and they will fare better in space too. Therefore Science fiction does a great job of creating generation ships and cryostasis for interstellar travel. It is difficult to imagine creatures that could survive interstellar travel and come and colonize another planet. We keep hoping that aliens will come to us with their advanced technology which is why sightings of UFOs are reported frequently and haven’t actually been established as true.
Life on earth still baffles us and it would be difficult for us to comprehend alien intelligence. A lot of life here on earth is still alien to us. Some animals like the lizard are understood biologically but we don’t understand their train of thought or their view of the world. As naturally creative beings with the highest intelligence on earth, it is no surprise that we would start imagining other life forms in other solar systems.