This forward-focused issue of luckbox is brimming with expert advice calculated to help readers place their bets on what will unfold in the future—but at what odds? Have no fear. As luck would have it, Vice magazine columnist Mike Pearl steps up to compute the probability of outlier events in his book, The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans—And Other (Im)Possible Phenomena.
Expanding upon his popular Vice column—How Scared Should I Be?—Pearl assigns a probability to each of 19 specific Black Swan events. The list, each covered in a chapter of the book, includes The Day Humans Become Immortal, The Day a Real Jurassic Park Opens and The Day Nuclear Bombs Kill Us All.
The event detailed in an especially compelling chapter, The Day Humans Get a Confirmed Signal From Intelligent Extraterrestrials, has an 80% probability of occurring in this century, according to Pearl. He backs up that forecast with solid research from NASA, Princeton University and the UK’s University of Nottingham. Researchers at those institutions estimate the universe has two trillion galaxies—more than enough to produce intelligent life more than once.
“Probabilistically speaking, it’s pretty insane to believe that there aren’t aliens,” Pearl writes. “A reasonable updated estimate might show there are actually hundreds of billions of habitable planets, but let’s be conservative and say there are one hundred billion habitable planets…there are probably aliens.”
That’s good news for Area 51 freaks, but Pearl warns of the risks of intergalactic conversation. “The trouble with responding is, quite simply, that the aliens might murder us if they found out we were here. By telling them that we exist, we’d be telling them we have the resources necessary to foster life, and they might reasonably want something of ours—be it water, air or the minerals in our spinal fluid.”
Can’t we all just get along?