Earlier, I wrote that the universe is teeming with life. But if that's correct, then why haven't we seen any aliens on Earth? Why aren't we routinely in contact with Extra-terrestrial life forms? Doesn't it seem like my Teeming Universe runs right into Fermi's paradox?
Enrico Fermi is otherwise known for his work developing the first atomic bomb. His paradox is a formulation of criteria concerning the age, size, likelihood of civilization developing and surviving into a sustainable space-faring colony. Fermi says that by now, all things known, there has been time for aliens to travel far enough to reach earth. The fact that they haven't suggests that they don't exist.
The Drake Equation formalizes Fermi's Paradox, and all approaches to 'solve' it challenge one or more of the assumptions included in the Drake Equation. The discovery of planets orbiting distant suns suddenly allowed for the possiblity of many more life-sustaining planets. If humanity succeeds in developing beyond mutually assured destruction, then the expected lifespan of a civilisation increases and the opportunity for galactic exploration increases.
A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself - think of Zeno's Paradox, where you are rendered incapable of crossing a room because each step is half the remaining distance to the opposite wall. There's nothing contradictory in Fermi's statement. I'm not sure if it even rises to the level of a conundrum. I'd rename it Fermi's Observation.
Observations are filtered through our own expectations of viable technology. There's a variable in the equation for the number of civilisations that emit detectable signals in to space. We have assumed that those signals will be in the radio frequency. It's not a bad assumption. We have been very effective in viewing the universe with radio telescopes, and undoubtedly radio waves are a fundamental characteristic of the universe. Perhaps Fermi assumed that 'detectable signals' were physical artifacts visible on the earth.
In the 17th century, the idea was to dig huge trenches shaped like the pythagorean solids in the Bavarian forest. Filled with pitch and ignited, these were intended as meaningful signals to geometrically inclined Martians. Our radio search will look this way, too, one day.
I'm poking around at the edge of McLuhan to figure out what the next medium is, the medium that has the same relationship to Electronic and Electronic has to Print. When the terrestrial flips from hot to cold. But even that will still be "not the alien". Thats the point. The alien is alien.
Check out this bit from the Squonk Opera show Astrorama. It's guaranteed to entertain, and also hits on an important point. The alien contact experience is so radically different from anything we've ever experienced before that we can't expect to define and probably can't recognize even if we're in the middle of it.
That's the point of space art...to open up the senses of the participants so that they are more likely to see whats really always here, but is too bizarre for words.