Extraterrestrial life/Intelligent aliens
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 proved (yet?) that intelligent aliens exist. There are serious scientists at Edinburgh University who think there may be thousands of extra terrestrial civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy alone. Most serious scientists would probably say we don’t know enough to start making an estimate yet.
What are they like?
Our current knowledge of Astrobiogy 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 ETI Scenario I.
For further discussion, see below.
Aliens are probably warm blooded
If intelligent aliens exist they are probably warm blooded. There are 2 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. Therefore Natural selection could lead to steadily increasing intelligence to an extent we humans cannot imagine.
It is theoretically possible aliens could evolve that are so enormously intelligent that one single individual can develop an advanced technology without any help at all. (That’s a metaphor since aliens may not have hands.) We cannot begin to imagine what such a godlike alien would be like. Perhaps God exists. Perhaps God is such an alien. Even godlike aliens will see that they can achieve more together than separately.
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.
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 better. 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 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.
Why hasn't SETI found anything?
- Perhaps there are no aliens.
- Perhaps the nearest aliens are too far away.
- 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 we need to be patient. SETI has been running for less than half a century and that's a tiny part of the lifespan of a planet or of a successful civilization.
- Our society has become quieter as technology has advanced. For instance most television used to be broadcast while now it is cable based which does not emit radiation outside of Earth to the extent broadcast did. Perhaps other civilizations close to us never developed broadcast technology in which case we would not pick up any electromagnetic radiation eminations.
Wikipedia on SETI
This is also at Intelligent aliens where I wrote most but not all.