“Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry sky that humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent,” writes Liu Cixin, China’s foremost philosopher of first contact and author of the Three Body Problem. “But perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit.”
One such encounter occurred during the 19th century, Liu observed, “when the ‘Middle Kingdom’ of China, around which all of Asia had once revolved, looked out to sea and saw the ships of Europe’s seafaring empires, whose ensuing invasion triggered a loss in status for China comparable to the fall of Rome.”
No civilization, Liu Cixin told The Atlantic’s Ross Anderson, should ever announce its presence to the cosmos. Any other civilization that learns of its existence will perceive it as a threat to expand—as all civilizations do, eliminating their competitors until they encounter one with superior technology and are themselves eliminated. This grim cosmic outlook, Liu says, is called “dark-forest theory,” because it conceives of every civilization in the universe as a hunter hiding in a moonless woodland, listening for the first rustlings of a rival.
Liu told Ross that “he doubts the dish will find one. In a dark-forest cosmos like the one he imagines, no civilization would ever send a beacon unless it were a ‘death monument,’ a powerful broadcast announcing the sender’s impending extinction. If a civilization were about to be invaded by another, or incinerated by a gamma-ray burst, or killed off by some other natural cause, it might use the last of its energy reserves to beam out a dying cry to the most life-friendly planets in its vicinity.”
Liu told Ross that he’s hesitant to make connections between his books and the real world, but said that his work is influenced by the history of Earth’s civilizations, “especially the encounters between more technologically advanced civilizations and the original settlers of a place.”
The “appearance of this Other” might be imminent, Liu warns, and that it might result in our extinction.
The Daily Galaxy, Jessica Campbell, via The Atlantic