When stories are told of alien life, we mean intelligent alien life usually. Some distant cosmic cousin that can talk to us and inspires technological inspiration or biological horror. But underneath the surface of many “intelligent alien” stories, the aliens are, for the most part, just as human as we are.
I think it would be more accurate to say that humans seek not “intelligent alien life,” but rather “compatible intelligent life.” That is to say, other humans. All life is intelligent. From a single cell ameba to a towering oak tree. Every life form has evolved an intelligence that fits its way of survival. Humans seek to find aliens, but rather than any kind of alien, I feel humans are looking for themselves among the stars.
All human language has evolved on Earth, no matter how distant or isolated, there is usually some means of translation. But how would we translate an alien language? What if the aliens we contact have no eyes? Or ears? What if they only speak through sent or through bioluminescence? In short, what if they are so fundamentally different from life on Earth, that we do not see them as life at all? Enter, the Compatibility Problem.
This thought experiment is all to lead up to the book review of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s work, “Children of Time.” A thrilling sci-fi adventure across thousands of years. The last humans in existence come across an ancient terraformed planet, a jewel of green in the endless void of space. Only to find that it already has inhabitants. Spiders. More than just that, but intelligent spiders. But will the two beings see each others intelligence? Or will they destroy themselves? Read this thrilling story that stretch’s the boundaries of the imagination as to what it is to be alive, intelligent, and human.
Note: the YouTube video below is how I discovered this book. The creator (Hello Future Me/Tim) presents the ideas in a compelling manner, of both science and story telling. Enjoy the thought experiment, the book, and the video. And be prepared to have your world turned upside down in the best way.