Ben McGee - Galactic Deep Time, Xenoarchaeology, and the Case for Physical Artifacts as â€œFirst Contactâ€
With respect to the age of the galaxy and the probability of the evolution of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), Enrico Fermi famously asked the question, â€œWhere are they?â€â€”referring to the apparent lack of ETI activity in the galaxy, which the sciences have come to call the Fermi Paradox. In response, some speculate that the overt lack of evidence of ETI implies that Earth is subject to a sort of cosmic quarantine, known as the â€œgalactic zooâ€ hypothesis, which is akin to the famed â€œPrime Directiveâ€ of Star Trek fame. However, we now know that the galaxy is a very threatening place, with regular gammaray bursts, bolide impacts, and orbital perturbations, all serving as potential extinction-level events. With this in mind, it is entirely possible that the Fermi Paradox exists not by design but because natural or self-inflicted extinctions are far more common than we optimistically speculate. In this case, the concept of xenoarchaeology, the scientific study of artifacts of potential alien life and culture, takes on a role of centralized importanceâ€”as it is argued that humanityâ€™s definitive â€œfirst contactâ€ moment will involve evidence of alien life long since perished.
Ben McGee is the Founder and Principal Research Scientist of Astrowright Spaceflight Consulting LLC and the resident scientist on the National Geographic Channelâ€™s reality series, Chasing UFOs.