Where aren’t they?

Enrico Fermi once conducted a thought experiment (gedankenexperiment) in which he found that even with only sublight travel technology, it should be possible for the first starfaring civilization able to build more starships at each stop to occupy every habitable niche in the galaxy in only a million years, which is a blink in galactic time. His question is, if this has happened, why aren’t we being visited every day by many of them? The obvious answer is that perhaps we are, but that we are just not seeing most of them.

So perhaps the question to be answered is “Where aren’t they?” By this reasoning they should be everywhere. The Universe may a very crowded place. Forget the vision of the galaxy as a largely empty wilderness or frontier. It is more than likely to be filled, largely with beings having a common biological origin. I call them “exotribes”, or exos, to consider that they may not have a strong connection to a civilization, as such, except what they can carry with them.


The most promising approach to FTL appears to be the Alcubierre-Froning drive. It would enclose the travelers inside a space-time bubble that would glide across a warp in space-time like a surfer on a wave. There would be no motion through space as such, but the bubble would move, which could be at a much higher transport rate (not ”speed”) than light through a vacuum. The bubble would protect occupants from debris and radiation, and would maintain gravity and the ship clock as of the point of departure. Transport termination is by collapsing the bubble. I call such vessels “jumpships”, and their drives “jumpdrives”. They need not use the Alcubierre-Froning technology.

The great challenge is maneuvering thrusting. Hopes are to extract enough energy from the vacuum field, and there are efforts, the so-called “em” drive, has might approach this.

Back in time

A jump is not just transport in space. It is also transport backward in time. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the transport rate is 100 times the speed of light, or 100c, and that the target is 50 light-years distant. That means that from the viewpoint of an outside observer the trip takes only six months. But when it arrives, it will find itself 50 years back in the past. How is that determined? Not by reference to the ship’s onboard clock, which maintains the time at the point of departure, but by reference to a “standard clock”, one of the most convenient of which is a neutron star, which are plentiful in the galaxy, and once created, spinning. They slow down at a more less fixed rate due to loss of mass and spin angular momentum by emitting gravity waves. By measuring the spin rate just before departure, then again after arrival., the travelers can get the amount time they have gone back, which would be 50 years in this example.

When you look at the night sky, you are seeing objects not as they are now, but as they were hundreds, thousands, or perhaps billions of years ago. If you jump that distance, say, 50 light-years, you are also going back 50 years in time, from the perspective of where you left. That also means you cannot return to the time of your departure that way. To return 50 years you just have to wait for 50 years to pass, or engage in accelerative transport, which is hazardous without shielding.

When a jumpdrive bubble forms, it captures the gravity/acceleration at its point of departure. When it arrives and the bubble collapses, the traveler is subject to the gravity/acceleration at the point of arrival. If points of departure and arrival are not chosen carefully, the traveler may find himself in crushing gravity, or flung off into deep space at a high speed. He may even find himself on a collision course with a massive object.

For most voyages it may be unwise for jumpdrive users to venture far, usually not more than 200 light-years. The uncertainties of farther voyages may be too hazardous.

Communications among outworlders is also a problem. If a jumpship traverses 50 light-years, it arrives 50 years in the past of its point of beginning, as seen by observing “clock” stars like rotating neutron stars, whose spin period slows at a steady rate. At that point, -50+δ, it can send a light signal, at the speed of light, back to its home, whose year is set at 0. Which arrives 50 years after the year at which it was sent, from what is now a new outpost. The light signal would arrive home at about 50+δ years at its home, where δ is the increment of time spent preparing the signal. From the standpoint of home, that is close enough to instantaneous. Only 50 years late. If the home then sends instructions, by jumpship, they arrive shortly after, -50+2δ, when the light signal was sent from the new outpost. Not instantaneous, but with more than a 50-year time gap. Not real-time.

To view the future of some world, someone on, say, the homeworld, would have to traverse to some point, say 25 years in the future of the target world, and use telescopes to view the target world. The images could then be sent, say, to the homeworld, which could view the future of the target world from -50 years to – 25 years. Hose images could then be shared with other expeditions, including those to -50 year expeditions. They could see what would happen, but not in time to prevent anything.

Each journey back in time makes some changes. Each of those changes creates a branch of the timeline, which I call a “diaverse”. Diaverses can be few and similar. They can be very different. They can also reconverge, in points that share different pasts and the same future. Too many jumps can create a plethora of conflicting timelines, that may sometimes need to be repaired to reduce the confusion. There may be exotribes that can move between diaverses, what I call interdiaversal transport. Perhaps making “repairs” to them.


Some reported conversations with exos show they seemed to have reverence for what might be translated as “creators”, with no information what they might be.

In our future it seems likely that some of us will genetically engineer some of the more promising Earth species, like bonobos, octopi, parrots, ravens, dolphins, or some reptilians like geckos to have human-level intelligence, then seed them on suitable planets we might find. Their descendants might now be visiting us, seeking their origins. This could explain why they don’t disclose themselves. Their creators may be us, and they may not want to disturb their own creation.


People seem fond of imagining every exo ship is a voyage of discovery representing a “civilization” much like our own, a large society with many members, perhaps occupying many planets. There may be such societies, but it is unlikely any visiting ship “represents” any of them. Ships may originate that way, but it is likely they are long cut off from their origination world. They may carry their “culture” with them, but that can be done in holographic records, a small one of which could carry everything notable about them. They might try to send signals back to their origin, with no way to know if they had been received, or whether there was anyone to receive them. They would themselves be an outpost, a detached colony, that might stop at a suitable location, or proceed onward. If one stopped, it would likely be at a site with enough resources to sustain them until it was time to move on. The most likely such locations would be planemos, rocky planets, perhaps with a hot core, not bound to any one star. Hey would burrow into it and extract energy from the core.

That is why I call exo visitors “exotribes”, because they do not represent vast civilizations.

Pileup in the past

If each jump generates another (nested) diaverse, and the number of jumpers are always growing, it would seem that the diaverses would pile up at the center (origin) of the Universe, at which point one might expect them all to converge at once, and trigger another Big Bang. Instead of one Universe stemming from one Big Bang, There could be countless number of new universes being created every moment, each expanding toward infinity. Each new universe would clean the slate of diaverses, and begin generating many more. Exos, including us, may be continually driving the creation of new universes.


When we search the stars of our galaxy, what are we looking for? Mostly Earth-like worlds with dry land masses, abundant fresh water, mild climates, moderate daily and seasonal weather changes, Earthlike gravity, fertile soil, and not too unfriendly natives. In other words, a frontier like that of North America in the 19th century. When we contemplate settling Mars we dream of terraforming it so we can walk around on its surface without protective suits. Leaving aside the unlikelihood of finding such a world, would we really want to settle its surface the way we settled North America? The answer is probably not. On Mars we plan building habitats under ground, protected from environmental hazards, with a life support system that does not depend on surface conditions. Should we plan to do anything else wherever we go? No.

It is likely those are the same choices any visiting exos would have been making for a long time. Surface living is not that desirable, even if available. Surfaces might be pretty to look at, and local lifeforms might be interesting to study, but that is a matter of esthetics or curiosity, not economics, and it is likely exos would be making economic decisions.

The persistent question concerning exos is what do they want from us or from our world? It is too easy to assume they are like us, with our ambitions and values. Apparently they are not. If they were we would have grounds to worry. Our treatment of other peoples on lands we visit has too often not been admirable. It can’t be energy or minerals, which are widely available at many places from which it can be more conveniently extracted. About the only thing that might be found here would be miniature black holes, but we have no evidence of their existence or their presence nearby.

It seems unlikely that they would need our world for food, unless they enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the taste of fresh game. If they wanted our bodies, we would notice that. No, it seems more likely they would collect some essence of us, perhaps what we call “souls”.

There has long been speculation concerning whether we, or some of us, carry a soul that could survive death. There are reports of remembering past lives, or of having “near death experiences.” But what could a “soul” be? Intelligence seems to be carried by the neural nets of the brain, perhaps enhanced by quantum entanglement, because intelligence seems to propagate genetically. But if the brain is the orchestra, perhaps performances of it can be preserved like sheet music, or a hologram of performances. This might be transferred from vessel to vessel as what the Vedics called akashik records.

Can such records persist without a vessel, the way sheet music can? If so then perhaps what exos are collecting are records of memories, feelings, or characters we call souls. Clearly they are some kind of artifact. They might play them for entertainment, or use them as money to buy things they want. The noble souls of more spiritually advanced beings, might have a higher value. On the other hand, so might the sordid souls of evil beings. Evil can be more entertaining. Our tribe could certainly provide plenty of each.

Exo conformity

Reports from alleged contactees indicate the behavior of exos is extremely regular, either because they are under tight control, or because their design prevents them from deviating from a norm. There are no criminals, no cheaters, no miscreants, no psychological deviants, no eccentrics. But also no comedians, no creative artists. They are much like social insects, which are generally siblings, acting in concert not under central control, but as emergent behavior of a swarm, responding to ques from nearby individuals, but not centrally directed. Such conformity can be a strength for an army, but not for individuals operating independently, or taking leadership roles not assigned by the group as a whole. For us diversity of talent is strength, for theirs perhaps a weakness.

They seem to have more in common with social insects than with human Terrans.

There is also a view that other civilizations will be millions or billions of years more advanced than our own, as though the rapid progress that has been made over the last century could be extended indefinitely. That is unlikely. Scientific and technological progress is like mining. There is only so much to find, and when it is, progress will not move far ahead, but settle on more accessible things, like biology or history. Such progress is an investment, made in the expectation of a return. That is also true of progress in individual intellectual development. We imagine exos to be superior to ourselves, in every way. In fact many humans today may be as intellectually gifted as any exo.

So forget “Type I”, “Type II”, or “type III” civilizations. There probably are none. There may be no return on that kind of investment. No Dyson spheres.

In the movie Forbidden Planet the inhabitants, the Krell, made a stupid mistake that a human college student would not make, of not testing a new technology before putting it into widespread use. (Humans sometimes make such mistakes, so it can’t all be blamed on one stupid civilization.)

So the best of the exos may not be advanced far beyond the most advanced humans.

This may also be the result of exo groups being so small. It may take many more before creative individuals or comedians become manifest.


One of the most disturbing aspects of reports of contact with exos is the way they can control our minds, making us their puppets, for their purposes.

For their purposes.

Of what avail is the technology of starflight without the technology to resist mind control? Is there one master exotribe that rules them all? Or are some able to maintain their independence? We want to be one of those. Else it is all for naught.

We also do not want humans to have the technology of mind control over other humans. Independence is for everyone.

Do some exos see us as a threat, because of our warlike ways? Enough of a threat to resist our venturing into the galaxy? Those warlike ways can also be a force for liberation, which may be the greatest threat of all.

Space Force

Proposed by President Donald Trump to become a new service branch, alongside the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Mission, dominate Earth: Nuclear missiles (mow restricted by treaty), kinetic projectiles (not restricted), beam weapons, reconnaissance (Might absorb National Reconnaissance Office).

Mission: External threats: Asteroids and comets, exo invasion.

Mission: R&D: Get supervision of advanced research, especially top secret special access projects TSSAPs) , gradually disclose results.


The issue of FTL taking travelers back in time has been addressed by theoreticians like Alcubierre, but none of them seem to have thought through the matter from the viewpoint of travelers.


  1. 1. Alcubierre-Froning drive. One way to move faster than light.

  2. “Diaverse”, from the Greek, diakládosis (διακλάδωσης) in which the prefix diaklád- emphasizes its branching structure. “Verse” comes the Latin “universum”, which is mixing linguistic roots.

  3. EM drive. And here. NASA testing this concept, based on extracting energy from the quantum vacuum. Also see TR-3B, speculated to be in service since the 1990s, using an electrogravitic drive.

  4. Kinetic bombardment. First proposed by science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, and known by different names such as Project Thor, involves bombarding Earth with non-nuclear, non-steered ballistic projectiles about the size of a telephone pole, composed of a heavy material like tungsten, which on impact would produce about as much damage as a nuclear blast, but without the radiation or stigma of using “nukes”. It would be effective at destroying deep installations such as the Iranian nuclear base of Fordow, southeast of Tehran.
    The method, using meteorites, was used in a science fiction movie, This Island Earth, about bombardment of a planet, Metaluna, by a race called the Zagons. Defense was done with an “ionization layer”, until the projectiles broke through an incinerated Metaluna. Also in the movie was an example of a mutant slave who turned on its masters as destruction was imminent