Earth boring?

It is reported that Patrick Moore said that aliens would find earth boring and not worth their while. (Maybe the reporter got it wrong, Patrick Moore is not a fool). I am a bit skeptical of this claim. We only have our own solar system so far to look at. Exo planets are discovered regularly now but it is still very difficult, usually it is ones that are very massive or very close to the parent star. These planets can not harbour life and even if it is a goldilock, rocky planet, we can not yet analyse it’s atmosphere at this point. So let’s use our own solar system as an example. Out of 8 (or 10, depending on how you classify them) only earth’s got life. For most of earth’s existence that life was single cell life. Evolution is a slow process and land animals has only been around for a few 100 million years. Intelligent life, us? Only a few hundred thousand years. The life expectancy of us and the aliens must overlap as well for us to have contact with each other. There may be hundreds of trillions of planets out there but looking at our example, I think life, and especially intelligent life, would be worth studying for any alien.

Well, WE find earth interesting and we have lived here all our lives. I find it difficult to believe that aliens would not find it interesting. Except perhaps teenaged aliens.

You assume Aliens find us “intelligent”.

I’m sure they’ll find us intelligent. Intelligence, alas, is no antidote to stupidity. :slight_smile:

Even if they don’t find us intelligent - we study fish, insects and even Americans and find them fascinating. Maybe not so fascinating that last one but still worth figuring them out.

Mostly harmless.

I think this is all a function of a number of variables we can’t account for.

a) How many planets host life?
b) How much life is intelligent?
c) How much intelligent life becomes advanced enough to travel all the way to us, in total?
d) How many starfaring species are there right now? (as opposed to the billions of years before or after the human race).
e) Just how intelligent is a starfaring species compared to us? Do we look like dribbling imbeciles?

There’s a lot of interplay here. If A is high and B is high and D is low, then starfaring species would find us incredibly boring. However if A and/or B are low, then we might be interesting. Assuming of course some kind of universal definition of “interesting”. Do other species even find things “interesting” or “boring” at all?

A species travelling the distances we’re talking about here would probably really have “seen it all” be the time they get around to coming past us. Even if intelligent life is extremely elusive we may just be “ho-hum” to them after a couple of millennia cruising the universe.

EDIT: Moreover, if a lifeform is that advanced when it decides we warrant inquiry, wouldn’t they be able to exhaustively study us in an extremely short timeframe using ultra-sophisticated tools, and then just leave without us even knowing they went past?

Cf. Drake equation. If any aliens out there are even remotely like us — and to venture out into the Great Unknown they would at least have to be sufficiently inquisitive — they would be fascinated by any other life they might find, whether complex and intelligent, or simple and primitive.


Yes, indeed. Imagine what our science would be like if we were only interested in life form as intelligent as us: all of science would then consist of psychology and human physiology. But it doesn’t: we are fascinated by everything from bacteria to whales, and by planets ranging from asteroids to Mars to gas giants to half molten furnaces next door to Alpha Centauri.

Thinking the aliens would find us boring seems to me like an insult - to them, not us.

I think what these learned astronomers had in mind was not so much that our planet is boring, but that we are indeed just a pale blue dot on a cosmic scale. We stem from a civilization where it was believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and that man was the ultimate creation. Perhaps “boring” is not the right word - we are just not all that important. I recently listened to a politician ranting about how the rest of the world stands in awe of South Africa’s democratic elections and thought: right, like SA stands in awe every time there is an election in Denmark. How interested our alien visitors are bound to be, would probably depend on what they are used to. They might find frogs or roses more interesting than humans.

I can imagine a scenario where a life form could start travelling the universe out of self preservation rather than inquisitive nature. In that case we could well prove to be an unnecessary nuisance to be exterminated before the earth is re-appropriated for a new purpose.

Well if’s a self preservation then find a nice red dwarf and build a Dyson sphere and you should be set for the next 10 Billion years.
No need to keep tracking around.

Plenty of water out there if you want to mine it.

If you buy into this scale, that means your aliens are merely a Type II civilization. What about a Type III… which is supposedly the one that can travel interstellar distances, but harvests energy at a galaxy-wide scale.

Sure, that’s another reasonable possibility — in which case our intrepid aliens would find our planet exceedingly interesting for reasons of self-preservation. They’d probably also preserve a comprehensive zoo of Earth’s existing inhabitants for study and perhaps entertainment purposes.


There was a Kurt Vonnegut book–Slaughterhouse 5?–that featured a guy held in an alien zoo. Must read it again.

Novel things are interesting, familiar things are not. The aliens will no doubt agree. So the more unique the earth is compared to other planets, the more interesting the aliens will find it from a scientific POV. Unless, as mentioned above, their interest stem from an agenda … colonizing, abducting rednecks or warning us about the perils of hydraulically fracturing Karoo shale.



The point being that they wouldn’t find our planet boring, not initially anyway, regardless of their motivations for coming here. It takes a considerable interest in things to go off gallivanting through space whatever the impetus for it might be: curiosity or contingency.

As Hermes pointed out, Moore likely meant that any advanced civilization casting its gaze far into its heavens would find our corner of the galaxy unremarkable and rate it low on the scale of probability of harbouring intelligent life, even if they were able to discern from afar the presence of a water-bearing, oxygen-rich planet in the Goldilocks zone orbiting a smallish middle-aged star. But such distant observation is a rather different matter to them happening upon us by accident or by design in their spacecraft, either because they need a new home or because they are merely exploring.

It’s unlikely that the particular arrangement of life on Earth and its various life forms is so much the same throughout the galaxy or universe that it would provoke an alien yawn for its ordinariness. Given the huge variety of life we have here on our home planet, it’s a good deal more probable that the aliens would not have seen anything quite like it anywhere else on their travels. If nothing else, they would still find it transiently interesting though for no other reason than understanding the nature of any potential or unknown threats to them.


Well I see it as two possible options.

  1. Inelegant Aliens wonders if there is life in this galaxy and searches and finds us. Not unlike what we will be doing in the next 100 years.
    We’re looking and at some point we might be sending out self replicating robots to cover the universe in search of life. but even at that we should be able to detect possibility of life on a planet by analyzing the composition of the atmospheres. something we are starting to be able to do now.

  2. The galaxy is teaming with life and nobody is searching for new places because it’s boring. In which case we get to the Fermi paradox.

There is also the possibility that we are happened upon by a group of unruly alien teenagers out on an illicit joyride in a stolen Wormholemobile Mk II. Their interest in our planet will pretty much be restricted to our rich variety of hamburger huts and beer joints.


If the aliens are bored with us then maybe they are like Al - Mr Deity