If we’re not the universe’s first planet-spanning civilization, says physicist Adam Frank, “that means there are likely to be rules for how the fate of a young civilization like our own progresses.” Our Anthropocene civilization is just the current stage of Earth’s ongoing evolutionary experiments.

Our pale blue dot is just one of ten billion trillion planets in the universe, and it’s highly likely that many of those planets hosted technologically advanced alien civilizations. And like the human species, each of those civilizations must have faced the same knife-edge challenge of civilization-driven climate change.

How common is the Anthropocene? asks Frank. “How often do civilizations trigger climate change on their planets? And, most important, how easy is it for a civilization to make it through its Anthropocene bottleneck?”

It’s time to take the existence of aliens—by which we really mean exo-civilizations—seriously. Everything that has been learned in the astrobiological revolutions of the last few decades, writes Frank in Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, “now allows us to see just how improbable it is for us to be the only project of civilization in cosmic history. That realization tells us that if we ask the right kinds of questions, the ones backed by the hard numbers of the new exoplanet discoveries, we can begin making out the contours of a science of exo-civilizations that’s relevant to our own crisis on Earth.”

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