I just watched an interesting Sci-Fi film,”Annihilation”, brought to us by the same director who made “Ex Machina”. Its a big-budget, beautifully acted and photographed movie starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, and Oscar Isaac.
I won’t tell you too much about the film for fear of inadvertently releasing too many spoilers, in fact, the only reason I’m bringing it up here is that it gives us an alternative speculation on space-faring alien life, a new look at a genetic prosthesis/artifact life-form reminiscent of the Protomolecule in “The Expanse”. At least, that’s one interpretation of the Macguffin in this movie, I confess there may be others, just as valid. “Annihilation” never makes it too clear exactly just what the protagonists are up against, and even the government scientists who are trying to make sense of the creeping horror (which they have nicknamed “The Shimmer”) that is gradually taking over a remote coastal Southern wilderness and slowly expanding into the surrounding countryside. Is it an alien life-form, an extrasolar bio-weapon. a religious phenomenon, a new force of nature? They haven’t a clue and are the first to admit it. Another recent literary variation of this theme was the Russian novel “Roadside Picnic”, which examines an illicit contraband trade in baffling artifacts (presumably just trash) left by mysterious (and invisible) alien visitors.
The theme is interesting to me personally because I have lately come to believe that if there are alien intelligences sharing the galaxy with us, it is highly unlikely that they will be so biologically and culturally similar to us that they will conveniently emerge as bug-eyed humanoids from silver spaceships, or transmit prime number sequences using Waterhole microwave frequencies. I suspect any culture capable of crossing interstellar distances would probably not be even recognizable to primitives like us as tool-making water/carbon-based creatures. We are more likely to make contact with their robots and machines, busy on unfathomable missions of their own, and their artifacts will appear more like meteorological or biological events to us than as little green men with spaceships or radio telescopes. The visitors may not recognize us as sentient either, or even care that much whether we are or not. When we set foot on Mars we may be curious about the local soil microbes, buts its not too likely we’ll be eager to communicate with them.
At any rate, its useful to see fictional alternatives to the more traditional SETI encounter and alien contact fantasies. We have no idea what THEY will be like, but I think its safe to say they will be nothing like what we expect. The universe is not just stranger than we think, its stranger than we CAN think.