If real Intelligent aliens are watching us perhaps they are laughing at us (or doing whatever aliens do instead of laughing) because they are so different from the way we imagine them. In this article we risk giving amusement to the aliens and try and work out/imagine what they may be like.
Do aliens exist?
Nobody has yet proved that intelligent aliens exist. There are serious scientists at Edinburgh University who think there may be thousands of extraterrestrial civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy alone. Most serious scientists would probably say we don’t know enough to start making an estimate yet.
Of course, even given pessimistic models of the Drake equation, there's only one civilization capable of radio contact in the galaxy at the present time--us. That doesn't mean there isn't intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, or intelligent life that isn't capable of radio contact. Or, for that matter, intelligent life that was capable of radio contact but has lost that technology or has gone extinct.
What are they like?
Our current knowledge of astrobiology is nonexistant, so all we can do is speculate whether life can exist and, if so, what forms it will take. There are generally two modes of thought: searching for what is most likely, or searching for plausible options. A central focus of thought is what will another intelligent, technological civilization be like. Note that such speculation does not mean that such a civilization is likely, only that given that one develops, it is interesting to contemplate what will its characteristics, and the characteristics of its members, be like.
A leading line of thought of contemporary astrobiology is that extraterrestrial life will be very similar to our own's in many ways, especially as higher and higher levels of organization are considered. This is because the processes that give rise to life are emergent processes like evolution and game theory that will operate regardless of the subtratum, and also because physics greatly limits the variety of viable options. To pursue discussion along these lines, you might want to take a look at our ETI Scenario I page. For further discussion, see below.
Aliens are probably warm blooded
If intelligent aliens exist they are probably warm blooded. There are two reasons.
- The complex brain chemistry that an intelligent organism needs is more likely to be possible if the brain is at a constant temperature.
- Warm blooded animals need more food than cold blooded animals. They spend more time looking for food. Warm blooded animals need to use their brains to find food. They also need their brains to avoid predators while they are exposed looking for food. Simply being warm blooded creates the evolutionary pressure that can lead to intelligence evolving.
Note: The octopuses and other Cephalopods of earth seem to be as intelligent as mammals but cold blooded. This may be too much of a generalisation.
Solitary Aliens with an advanced technology
Intelligence could theoretically evolve among aliens that live solitary lives and dislike mixing or cooperating with their kind. Among such aliens less intelligent individuals could not get help from more intelligent or more experienced fellow aliens the way humans get help and advice from experts. Those who cannot find solutions to their problems die or fail to reproduce.
One might think that this would cause a steadily increasing intelligence, to the point where single aliens could build spaceships, but there are several reasons why this would not work.
Firstly, evolution simply doesn't work that way. An organism only has to be good enough to reproduce, not the best. While evolution can cause a steady increase in a trait--for instance, bright colors in male birds of many species--that doesn't equate to developing some sort of superintelligence, because intelligence is harder to measure and thus isn't as easily subject to selective pressures.
Secondly, many of the technologies we developed are a way to solve problems that arose due to our social inclinations. Communications were invented so we could keep in touch with each other. A major use of transportation is so we can visit each other. Writing was developed not only so we could record information for later use but also so other people could use it.
Lastly, aliens would not have an infinite life span. Even if their intelligence was effectively unlimited, having to discover everything by themselves with no input from others would take extremely long amounts of time.
Cooperative Aliens with an advanced technology
Cooperative Aliens would not need to be as intelligent as solitary aliens. If aliens progress as humans do and each generation builds on what previous generations developed they must have some capacity to interact and cooperate together. They must also educate their young. There can be selective pressure for steadily increasing intelligence among cooperative aliens if more intelligent individuals become leaders more easily, also if more intelligent individuals are valued members of the community and are attractive sexual partners.
Would aliens want to help us?
That’s an important question and we cannot find out the answer. If we ever encounter superior aliens the future of humanity could depend on whether they want to help us or to harm us.
Question: How have humans with stronger technology treated other human groups with weaker technology?
Answer: Sometimes we helped them, other times we enslaved them or launched genocidal war.
If aliens are like us they could do either. If aliens are not like us we cannot begin to work out what they will do. Fortunately the earth probably will not be very useful to aliens. Aliens will probably prefer to live in space stations where they can duplicate conditions of their home planet more effectively. If we ever meet aliens how they treat us might depend on whether they evolved from animals like the gentle, cooperative Bonobo or the aggressive, bullying Common Chimpanzee. Again trying to guess how our alien contacts might have evolved to that extent is impossible though bonobo-like aliens are less likely to destroy themselves before they have a chance to meet us.
Would intelligent aliens be able to read and write?
Reading and writing was an important stage in human development. Literacy was easily as important as metal smelting or the invention of the wheel. Once people could read and write what a community knew could be recorded permanently and far less was forgotten. In pre-literate societies what the community knows is limited by what people remember and when old people die what they have not passed on dies with them.
In humans there is a specific part of the brain that deals with reading and writing.
Major lesions in the left parieto-occipital area can make someone unable to read and/or write while leaving their spoken-language abilities intact. In contrast, lesions in auditory associative areas such as Wernicke’s area will prevent someone both from understanding spoken language and from reading. 
It may be a puzzle why this evolved as literacy has not existed during most of human evolution. Possibly the parieto-occipital area enabled our pre-literate ancestors to understand gestures or other visual communications before the human larynx and full speech evolved.
If aliens evolved differently they may not have any part of their brains (if they have them) or whatver else they use for thinking corresponding to the parieto-occipital area. In that case developing reading and writing may be very much more difficult or impossible for them. Perhaps small numbers of exceptionally talented alien scribes would be literate and the written language would be much simpler than for example English spelling is. It is also quite possible that aliens would be stuck at the pre-literate level of civilization until they have evolved to be much more intelligent than we are.
What might aliens look like?
Aliens could look wildly different than anything found on Earth. Unless we can know the conditions under which they would live speculating what they look like will be difficult, even impossible. If we assume that they live under conditions similar to ours, we can achieve a rough idea:
- Aliens would require manual dexterity in order to produce and use tools. Our society developed as it did today due to the ability to use tools.
- Aliens would need a form of communication, although not necessarily a mouth. They might have appendages simply for using a sign language or they may have passed the oral communication phase altogether and merely communicate by writing (this is, of course, assuming mechanically-based telepathy is unachievable)--though this last would be vastly less useful than oral communication, as writing requires materials on hand, a steady writing surface, and is difficult for multiple people to view at a time. Possible organic modes of electromagnetic communication (radio, light waves) would not be out of the question either.
- Limbs are required for maximum efficiency. While there is no set number of limbs that is optimal, a distinctive set for walking that is distinguishable from the set used for producing and using tools (see above) to optimise productivity of a civilisation (think about not being able to walk while using your hands).
Could a flying saucer be an efficient design for an alien spacecraft?
A disk or cylinder could be a very efficient shape for a spacecraft if aliens from planets with different gravities want to travel together. Flying saucer sightings frequently involve something rotating. If this is real centrifugal power would have a similar effect to gravity but the force would be different at different distances from the centre. Therefore different aliens that evolved on different planets or moons with different gravities could all have homes somewhere in a flying saucer where the simulated gravity fits them. If a flying saucer picked up humans somewhere in the craft would be an area that simulates the gravity of the Earth. What about flying saucers with a hub in the centre? Perhaps that’s imaginary. Perhaps the hub is for some alien machinery that we don’t understand. Areas in the disk where the simulated gravity doesn't suit any of the travellers could be used for storage and sections could be cleared if new aliens are discovered who need that level of simulated gravity.
To simulate gravity a rotating disk would probably need to be very big, say at least a hundred metres in diameter. A smaller, faster rotating disk could also simulate gravity but there would be significantly different gravity in different parts of the same room. Depending on the physiology of the aliens this could cause problems. The above can explain very large flying saucers or flying saucers in the sky where the real size is impossbile to estimate. Smaller flying saucers might need a different explanation.
None of this shows that flying saucers are real but it shows that flying saucers are possible.
Why hasn't SETI found anything?
Also see: Fermi Paradox
- Perhaps there are no aliens.
- Perhaps the nearest aliens are too far away.
- Perhaps intelligent life forms that can travel to Earth from distant stars would be so advanced that they would not bother to eat our brains or do the other things depicted in Hollywood first contact scenarios.
- Perhaps the aliens don't want to talk to us.
- Perhaps the aliens are talking to us and we don't understand what they're saying.
- Perhaps the aliens are talking to us and we are looking in the wrong direction.
- Perhaps intelligent life quickly develops past the stage where it would produce radio signals that we could detect.
- Perhaps we need to be patient. SETI has been running for less than half a century and that's a miniscule part of the lifespan of a planet or of a successful civilization.
9. Perhaps aliens didnt develope technology thats uses radio signals.It could be too simple or they just never made it,it doesnt mean they couldn't be more or less intelligent than us though.
10. In order for SETI to find aliens, we (us and them) must overlap both spacially and temporally. In the life of the universe there could be hundreds of thousands of intelligent civilizations, but as it would be very unlikely for two to overlap, from every perspective it would appear that they were alone.
Wikipedia on SETI
- Galaxy has 'billions of Earths'
- Dr David Clarke discusses new MOD UFO release 20/Oct/08 This is connected with the British Government.
- Ministry of Defence releases further UFO files Also the UK government
- UFO Files from U.S. Government agencies