The universe is 13.8 billions years old. The Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and life miraculously came into existence 3.8 billion years ago. Our star and planet are relatively young; scientists have discovered a planet at least 12.7 billion years old. If an older planet had life, a technological extraterrestrial civilization could have left their star system as much as 8.2 billion years ago. Using technology that we know is possible, an alien civilization could have colonized the entire galaxy in as few as 4.5 million years.
The Drake equation attempts to predict the number of technological extraterrestrial civilizations that we could detect. However, most of the variables are not known, so it’s predictions are essentially wild guesses. Some scientists think there could be millions of ETs and even if life is extremely rare, and there are only four civilizations, the chances are they got a billion year head start on us. The question is, where are the aliens? This is known as the Fermi Paradox, which has a bunch of hypotheses that attempt to explain the lack of detectable ETs. One of the hypotheses is called the Zoo Hypothesis and it suggests that the entire galaxy is occupied and the ETs are deliberately hiding. They could have created life on Earth 3.5 billion years ago as a billion year experiment on evolution. We could be an ET’s equivalent to the Nature channel.
In our universe, it’s a technological inevitability that we would develop a virtual world with all 5 senses that is as real as The Matrix. If there is 1 real universe, with 100s of billions of galaxies, each with just 1 intelligent life that develops technology, there could be 100s of billions of virtual worlds in our universe alone. It’s possible that we are in a virtual world already. This could be a simulation of the history of our descendants. They could be running simulations to try and recreate their present and fill in the historical gaps.
It’s also possible aliens already conquered the entire galaxy, and most are living in virtual worlds. It may be that the population of the real world maxed out, that they didn’t have enough raw materials to handle a higher population, so those wishing to survive, moved into virtual worlds. 99% of our galaxy’s population could be virtual citizens. The real world could be maintained by super-intelligent AIs and autonomous self-replicating industries that maintain the supercomputers, recycle and improve industrial efficiency. The real world would only be used for vacation, perhaps pilgrimages and maybe living history, where alien visitors download into real bodies and live as their ancient ancestors had once lived. They may have discovered Earth and made it a preserve and allowed life to develop naturally. Maybe when we develop our own virtual worlds, they will reveal themselves and allow us to connect our virtual world network to theirs. Earth could even be a real world recreation of the founding species. They could have used genetically engineered viruses to recreate lifeforms that were on their original world, guided evolution to recreate humans, recreated historical figures and events, with greater and greater accuracy as we approach their information age. They may even have a Ghandi that looks like our Ghandi. There could even be 1000s of worlds with humans and Ghandis.
For my universe, Fractal Federation colonizes 1400 star systems within 50 lightyears by the year 2600 using self-replicating probes and interstellar mind transfers. I haven’t decided whether I will introduce ETs or not. Fractal Federation banned Active SETI, which broadcasts signals that could be detected by an alien civilization, giving away our position. I don’t believe a civilization will have the same morality just because they are technologically advance. In all likelihood, they are immortal million year olds with nothing better to do.
I created a spreadsheet with the Drake equation and my own equation. My equation, the variables aren’t known, so it’s no more reliable than the Drake equation but it does give you a better idea of the fact that even if life is extremely rare, an alien civilization would have had enough time to colonize the entire galaxy.