Even 1,000 alien invasions would be better than being all alone in the universe

Our species' long-term survival might ultimately rest on our ability to keep existence interesting, and that could prove impossible unless we find aliens to talk to. Without other intelligent lifeforms around, say theorists, humanity's collective intellect might wither and die.

Considering the recent discovery of the habitable exoplanet Zarmina just twenty light-years away (and the rather more dubious assertions of UFO activity by US military personnel), the possibility of contact with aliens in the near future feels more realistic than ever. But any time the odds of first contact seem to go up, that raises a troubling question - why haven't aliens already found and made contact with us?

There are a bunch of different answers to that question, but a pair of Russian theoreticians have a novel explanation: the aliens might have just died of boredom. Most models for intelligent civilizations assume that such races go on indefinitely, barring catastrophe like a natural disaster or nuclear war. But their model imagined an intelligent species as more like an organism, an entity whose lifespan can be greatly extended but still runs the risk of death due to natural causes.

So what sort of natural causes could finish off an entire species? Their model revealed intelligent species that made contact with aliens lived far longer than the species that didn't. They suggest that, if a species is left all alone forever, it might eventually solve most of its internal problems - like, say, global poverty or an energy shortage - but then it will lack the collective intellectual stimulation to keep the species going.

The pair explain why they believe interstellar contact is so important:

"Possible reason for disappearance of civilizations is the loss of interest to development - the universal cause of death of intellect in the universe can be connected with loss of its basic functions – knowledge functions. We assume, that the unique reason which can prolong a lifetime of the civilization, is the contact to other civilizations. The meeting of civilizations generates the new purposes and objects of knowledge, necessity to use an intellect."

In the absence of alien contact, the theoreticians suggest the species's minds would star to atrophy, no longer striving forward with innovation in science, technology, and culture and increasingly turning to time-wasting diversions that turn the mind to mush. To borrow from Douglas Adams, there is another theory which states that this has already happened.

[Original paper via Discovery News]