The first notion that we need to contend with is the enormous span of time that has come before human civilization. Human civilization has been around, at most, for around 10,000 years. The human species, homo sapiens, has been around for around 200,000 years. These are very long periods of time, but are insignificant when compared to the fact that the Earth itself is 4.6 billion years old. The universe is about three times older, clocking 13.7 billion years so far.
For all of Earth’s existence, the human species have only been walking around on it for 0.004% of the time. Yet in that tiny tiny sliver of time, be have ascended from mere animals into a global technological civilization. In fact the vast majority of this progress has only taken place within the past few centuries.
It is reasonable to believe alien civilizations will follow a similar pattern. Very soon after evolving, an alien civilization will develop technology and likely head for the stars. The thing to remember is that the point in time when this alien civilization evolves is essentially random. If you pick a random point anywhere during the history of the universe, you will likely end up picking a point billions of years in the past. In fact, the odds are greater than 99% that you will pick a point further than 100 million years in the past. If aliens have evolved on some other planet at some point, they have already vastly surpassed our capabilities, assuming they don’t destroy themselves in the process.
Next Chapter: Travel