I have been fascinated by SETI since I was a kid. Finding another civilization in the universe will be one of the most significant discoveries in the history of humanity.
More importantly, simply reflecting on it – which SETI invites us to – helps us see ourselves more in perspective.
It helps us de-provincialize ourselves even further. We are one of many planets in this solar system, which is one of billions in this galaxy, which is one of billions on this universe. Now if one in a million planets has life, and one of a million of those has intelligent life , there will be literally millions of civilizations out there. Many far more advanced than ours.
It reminds us of our shared origins. We and everything we have ever seen, touched, tasted, experienced, we have a shared origin and history and we are the universe unfolding and reorganizing itself in always new ways. We are one way for the universe to experience itself.
It reminds us that all humans, animals, plants, water, air and minerals of this living planet are facets of a seamless and dynamics whole.
It helps us find deep appreciation for this living planet, the universe, and our own life as an intimate part of this larger whole. It opens up for a deep sense of belonging, and of awe, gratitude and humility.
One way to deeply see, feel and appreciate this is through science, especially as formulated through the Epic of Evolution or the Great Story. Another is through nature itself. And yet another way is through the wonderful group practices of Joanna Macy.
P.S. The “millions” quote is from Contact and is a poet truth, not a literal one. There may be hundreds of thousands civilizations in our galaxy, or many more, or many fewer. We don’t know.