OPINION

Is there intelligent life out there?

Trevor Soderstrum

About six months prior to the pandemic, the power of Facebook relaxed its muscles. The event was originally created as a gag. Instead, America found a cause it could rally around. Universal health care? The environment? The ending of racism? No, space aliens! Facebook users were called to band together, go out to the Nevada desert, and storm the military site Area 51 in order to find the extraterrestrial life housed there because “they cannot stop us all.”

Well, yes. Yes, they can. The military has these things called machine guns and tanks. So, stopping a bunch of idiots bum rushing a military installation would not be too difficult.

Trevor Soderstrum

Two million people responded that they would be showing up and another 1.5 million were “interested in the event.” The media went bananas. It became a hot topic on cable news and received international coverage. Civilian leaders issued solemn warnings. Everyone braced for an epic confrontation.

Two small things people forgot.

First, Americans are incredibly lazy. It would have meant going out to a hot desert, sweating, no cell phone reception, and exercise. Half the crowd would have been suffering through the DTs the first moment they could not text or “like” some photo of a cat on Instagram. How can the revolution happen without a selfie to prove it

Second, it is social media. If you believe half the posts on Facebook, you would think your friends are well-adjusted and leading interesting lives. Instead, they are wiping Cheetos dust off their chests as they watch the latest episode of “The Bachelor,” which is what they were most likely doing at the moment. Social media is basically a year round Christmas card. Everybody lies. Nothing on Facebook should ever be taken seriously.

Only 150 people showed up to storm the gates. Granted, that is probably a larger number of people than compose the Nickelback fan club but a disappointing number all the same. Still, I could not help but picture an E.T., Marvin the Martian and a big pumpkin-headed gray alien sitting on the couch going through their Netflix queue, about to binge watch “Stranger Things,” when a bunch of protesters burst in. “You’re free,” they scream. The three aliens look at each other. E.T. says, “You mean, we are free to go out among you people?” “Yes, yes, come on.” They all shake their heads no, say they are just fine, and turn their attention back to the television screen.

Last week “60 Minutes” did a segment on how our military pilots have seen strange objects in the sky that defy the bounds of current technology, UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, a.k.a. UFOs. The Senate Intelligence Committee has ordered the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense to deliver a report on these mysterious sightings by next month. 

The segment filled a lot of people with excitement. Finally, space aliens are being taken seriously. Do I believe in UFOs? Yes, there are things in sky that we cannot explain. There are lights and objects out there that do strange things. Heck, an ex-president, Jimmy Carter, claims to have seen a UFO. That is why we have this thing called science. The vast majority of these events are optical illusions, natural phenomena and misidentification.

Do I believe some of these phenomena are extraterrestrial? Given the Drake Equation, I can accept that there could be other earth-like planets where life exists. The universe is too vast for there not to be.

The tricky thing is: are they visiting us? Their finding us would be like finding a needle in the haystack. Space is like a giant library filled with every complete book that Donald Trump has read, a whole lot of nothing. With our current technology, it would take several lifetimes for us just to escape the Kuiper Belt and Oort cloud that surrounds our solar system. An alien race would have to possess technology that would allow them to move faster than the speed of light, a technology we cannot even fathom. Technology that would easily avoid our radar, cameras and computers.

I am less concerned that there is intelligent life out there than, if somehow, when they got to earth, would they think there is intelligent life here? This last week we watched our fellow Americans pump gas into plastic grocery bags. People hoarded toilet paper and milk. We somehow made a world pandemic political. People are refusing to get vaccinated against something that could kill them. Kids ate Tide detergent pods. Q’Anon. Half the political memes on social media make your brain rot. I have actually heard otherwise rational people argue that our biggest racial problem in America is Black Lives Matter. “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” ran for 20 seasons. We are heating up our planet, our only source of life, like an Easy-Bake Oven.

We are closer to extinction due to our own stupidity than leaving footprints in the stars due to our brilliance. The technology it would take to get here would be magical to us. Before we get excited about the possibilities of Spaceman Spiff, I think we need to prove we are worth the magic.