That's assuming we're that far behind other alien species in our Galaxy. Currently, astrophysics believes our sun is a third generation star. With
an expected lifespan of 17 billion years, that may appear to leave quite a bit of time for other intelligent life to develop...On the surface.
First, we have to address why it is believed Sol, our star, is a third generation star. The first stars in our current model of the galaxy were
composed completely of helium and hydrogen. They were all
giants, and all very short lived. Because they are composed of such light materials,
they have to be extraordinarily massive before causing the fission reaction that begins a star's ultimate demise. They detonate, becoming, possibly,
black holes or neutron stars, or possibly reacting in a different way due to their makeup.
Most importantly, though, there isn't the time, nor the material, to form any planets. First generation is stellar exclusively.
Next, we have second generation. When the first generation detonated, they created heavier elements. There was lithium, Beryllium, possibly even
carbon, though these are still in very small amounts. There are still no heavy metals introduced into the universe, at least not in a significant
At this point, the stars created from first generation material are more stable, but still have a significantly shorter lifespan due to instability.
While there is no current example of a first generation star that we're aware of or have detected, the second generation stars, it is expected, were
what we would consider red giants and red super giants. Due to the shortened lifespan and volatile nature of the stars, it is not likely any life,
other than possibly bacteria, could have come about. This is because of the extreme changing conditions caused by a rapidly expanding and condensing
star. If you figure our planet moving a few thousand miles closer to the sun causes such climate change as summer and winter, imagine what tens of
thousands or hundreds of thousands of miles over the span of tens of millions of years would do to a climate.
At the end of those stars, we get stars far more diverse, such as our sun and, generally, our galaxy. Heavy metals and elements are created in the
destruction of second generation stars and we get a lot
of iron, carbon (interestingly enough, what all elements are moving towards through
decay...'Nother subject, though
), and even uranium and such heavy, short lived elements. Now we have planets and stability.
It is at this point life can pass the bacteria phase of development using our current evolutionary model, assuming it's the norm. This means that we
are in existence in the first possible generation of stars capable of supporting intelligent life.
Now the question is, how many stars support planets capable of generating intelligent life, how long it took for that life to develop into societies,
quickly a species becomes dominant through its intelligence (if you'll recall, it is suspected Neanderthal was smarter than cro-magnon, our supposed
ancestor, but cro-magnon, due to the war like nature, dominated the planet) how long would it take to develop FTL travel, typically, how long it would
take to make first contact, how long it would take to create an interstellar government, how long it would take to create an interstellar union
between other races capable of FTL travel who have established their own interstellar governments, how long it would take for that body to stumble
upon enough planets containing intelligent life that they would create a "Prime Directive", and how long it would take for rogue factions to abandon
If science has it right, we are on the leading edge of what the universe will be capable of, so far as supporting intelligent life. If we're behind
other races, it's not by a significant amount of time, I would conclude.
Then there's this proposition: what if we play the role of the Vulcans? We're one of the first, if not the first, race to develop FTL travel. It may
sound arrogant, but some race in this generation of stars, if it's possible, has to be first. Why not a war-like, creative, intuitive race such as