Are we alone or not? Do potential visitors from outer space bear gifts or mean us harm? Simple questions can have complicated answers. Or not? Observed through gambling lenses, aliens and players may have much in common.
The rabbit hole of existential questions is infinite. The experience of falling through, equally wonderful, puzzling, and conducive, is not so much about the abyss’ depth as it is about the answers.
Where do we come from? Why are we here; what is our purpose? What is the meaning of life? Where are we heading? What happens after death?
The deeper we go down the endless hole as each reply spawns more questions, the less we know.
So, if you reach the answers’ rock-bottom or surface on the other side with a breakthrough, turn on the lights. Please. That way, we can all read your books. And, don’t worry about a thing: We’ll make all arrangements on compound Nobel prices you’ll receive unless someone assassinates you first.
Be it as it may…
Among all those questions, one stands apart: Are we alone in the universe?
Several angles make such inquiry distinctive.
Contrary to others that seek answers in our inner realms, this one focuses on outer domains.
While humanities or religion may help us navigate occasionally ambiguous existential labyrinths, the search for aliens is an extraordinary verifiable scientific quest.
We often shudder to think of what lies within the rabbit hole and consciously put away more in-depth conversations. Yet we like to talk about extraterrestrials, and we’re quite proactive in pursuit of the ultimate answer.
Finally, space exploration outcomes are, at least on paper, considerably simpler to grasp.
We’re either alone or not.
If the former turns out to be the truth, our earthly lives may become kind of bland, albeit only for a while, regardless of disappointment or relief.
(“Spielberg, what gives? And you, Emmerich, what was that Independence Day Hollywood charade all about? This one is on you, H.G. Wells! Whatever. Any plans for sequels? Wait for a second, if there are no aliens, then what are you hiding in Area 51?”)
If humans have company in the universe, it’s 50/50 chance, give or take: Either ETs are advanced species, or we are.
At the risk of stepping into aberration here, the latter seems to be a considerably scarier option.
Meeting Klaatu and Gort without actually shooting at them first doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. But to possess their powers & prowess and to represent the race with a proven track of record of colonization, arriving from the planet that blew a million square kilometers ozone hole in its upper atmosphere, is indeed frightening thought — and a bit of history repeating.
Fine, We’re Not Alone: Let’s Play
Of course, there’s also a tinny possibility that aliens and humans are remarkably similar, living comparable lives, at least to a certain extent.
(“Hi there, welcome to Latest Cosmos Bonuses. Sorry to see you come a bit late to enjoy NetEnt’s Aliens slots, rated 4.4 by our interstellar community, but we’re positive you’ll find one for your liking in our extensive directory. Your spaceship will undock in a couple of hours. We wish you a pleasant voyage through the Milky Way. Our next stop is planet Earth.”)
However, if we take decades-long scientific observations into account, especially those in this century, we realize there’s only one viable answer to this existential question.
In all likelihood, aliens are out there as advanced species; we just haven’t met them yet.
Any other notion may sound like an insanely presumptuous one.
At this point…
Naysayers are ready to hit the comments section if they already haven’t closed the tab.
Mothers around the world give us a stern look: “You have no right to scare my teenager in his formative years! Show me your proof so I can discredit it ad hominem!”
(Respectfully, ma’am, your son shouldn’t be even visiting the affiliate website, for gambling is 18+ pastime, but, since you’re already here, please continue reading for references.)
As expected, hard-core military officials glance over available tactical forces and strategic arsenal, nukes included, as they evaluate risks of meeting advanced civilization with unknown intentions and debate on a shot across the bow.
At the same time, progressives launch a barrage of questions about aliens’ physical appearance or abilities, and what can we learn from them. Curiosity has killed many cats thus far, sure, but an open mind still represents the essence of progress.
The most prudent ones check their mobile devices, wondering who’s got the Predator’s phone number. For all we know, he’s the only badass who can take down Xenomorph as Ellen Ripley grew old. Let’s bring him up to speed, just in case.
On the other hand…
Our usual suspects, Poker John & Blackjack Johanna, have no such distractions or inhibitions.
Instead, they ponder the ETs’ gambling inclinations, games they play, the most reputable galactic jurisdictions, outlook of their casinos, contents of Terms & Conditions.
The couple sync calendars and make time, looking forward to a few table hands with aliens and getting to know each other better.
(See, gamblers know a little secret: If you want to learn more about one’s character, you need to observe how he or she handles the game and outcomes. It’s similar to watching someone drive and behave in traffic: You can learn a lot about his or her temperament in doing so.)
Luckily for John and Johanna, according to the latest study by scientists from the University of Nottingham published in The Astrophysical Journal — a peer-reviewed scientific magazine of astronomy, established in 1895 — there may be a minimum of thirty-six Earth-like intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.
Any resemblance to roulette numbers is purely coincidental.
Looking For Alien Gamblers
The estimation is relatively conservative, based on the assumption that extraterrestrials develop and evolve in the same way humans do, using the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.
(Editor’s note: What are we doing now, tongue pushups? Also, if you pull out the Drake equation as a probabilistic argument, I’m calling in my neighbor with a Ph.D. in astrophysics to help me get through.)
To establish the premise of time…
The Milky Way is 13.51 billion years old. Our Solar System formed 4.57 billion years ago; Earth came to be 28 million years later. Ninety-seven percent of stars in our galaxy are older than five billion years.
Humans are adolescents in this timeline.
As Christopher Conselice, lead researcher, points out: “There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth.”
(Editor’s note: Did he say ‘should’? Very well, I’m sending an email to the Predator.)
John and Johanna have plenty of cultures to draft players from and, say, play a Texas Hold’em poker game.
After all, it’s fair to assume that, being advanced and all, aliens should visit us, not the other way around. Thus the couple would enjoy the advantage of home turf and a well-known game, as we temporarily meander from science to select the proper actors.
Other than Jar Jar Binks, Jabba the Hutt, or Chewbacca, J&J could pick up the Neebles, coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking characters in MiB, or Vogons, intergalactic highway construction race from The Hitchhiker’s Guide.
Then, there are Alfs, Groots, Audreys, or Megaminds, and let’s not forget Neytiri, highly-distracting bluish Na’vi from the Omaticaya clan.
(“I want her at the table!” John exclaims, thrilled. “Sure, honey, and I want Aknot, the leader of Mangalores, in his human form,” Johanna replies, instantly ending John’s tendencies for space flirting.)
Strictly from the poker face perspective, the ideal table lineup would include Edgar the Bug, Pennywise, several shapeshifters, the Fourth Kind alien, and a few slobbering Xenomorphs.
John and Johanna would be so pissing their pants that extraterrestrials wouldn’t stand a chance in reading the couple’s visage on cards they have.
But, since gambling is all about fun, we’ll stick to more appealing options.
(Editor’s note: Well, if you find Jabba the Hutt to be ‘appealing,’ that’s okay. We all have our preferences. I don’t judge.)
Flop, Turn, River, Skills Are Irrelevant
Of course, we have no idea how those aliens could look. Thus we’ll let your imagination put the final touches.
(That said, casting of the dealer is not negotiable — the Predator. Security first; beware opportune moments even when they bear gifts, true to the mantra of responsible gambling.)
Whatever you opt for, note that John and Johanna would have every right to hope for Yoda’s guidance and wise advice, not to mention the Force, in their intergalactic game.
Because the challenge of gambling with aliens is not in their outlook, it’s in their abilities.
Soon after, say, a few Heptapods sit down with our protagonists and begin to play, the absurd of the whole endeavor becomes clear.
To John and Johanna’s dismay, their opponents exist in a four-dimensional world, at minimum.
We’re talking about advanced species that very well may have access to infinite time, considered spatially: They use it as a physical dimension to move through.
The couple, trapped in 3D reality, is incapacitated to perceive this axis.
When John moves chips across the table, Johanna, looking down from above, sees circles in rectangle or, in the side view, chips’ edges clattering on the baize — in real-time only.
Aliens might observe all sides of any shape, from every angle, at different points in the past, present, and future simultaneously.
They see everything, just as one sees all dishes at a smorgasbord — including cards in the deck.
When you add the fifth dimension, quite possibly mastered by our visitors — gravity and electromagnetism, in addition to relativity and quantum entanglement, unite to create fundamental forces in multiple universes.
Suddenly, playing with the green guys in the environment of Kaluza-Klein theory becomes even more ludicrous.
Contrary to our sequential experiences based on causality and free will — moment by moment — aliens might perceive entire events at once, inclusively, in their totality. They understand the outcomes beforehand, eliminating any bias.
It doesn’t matter how potent is the couple’s flop. Or what awaits John in the fourth street. Or how decisively Johanna handles the river. Or what’s the level of their skills, and how often they practice playing poker.
Aliens’ comprehension of the end-game is most likely absolute, in advance, at the beginning.
In fact, with powers to tame the time, bend the space, and make the future look like memory, to paraphrase Vonnegut, aliens might not gamble at all.
What’s the point of playing when there are no chances nor choices, no winners or losers, nothing but the consequences known well before the first hand has been dealt.
Zero fun there.
Fathom the Alien Within
And, while they would probably politely accept John and Johanna’s invitation — otherwise, all those Generals and gung-ho apprentices would turn out to be right — ETs might find such a game to be extraordinarily uneventful.
(At this juncture, the Predator is super-vexed, near the boiling point of his contempt. I came here to defile some creatures or to dismember someone as a death-dealing warrior only to see you peace-loving gambling liberals delve into the wine-sipping elaborations on poker skills in the universe! At least write that I’m now throwing worse tantrum than any stubborn husky on YouTube so that I can tear apart the author.)
Just maybe, aliens gamble so incomprehensively that, at our level of cognizance, we’d brain-fry on the spot.
Although one cannot conceive the inconceivable, in an earnest effort, we could envision the green guys…
(Editor’s note: All right, word-limit police here. Please pull over, step away from the keyboard, and keep your hands where I can see them.)
One thing remains, though.
Maybe extraterrestrials haven’t sat down to play with John and Johanna just out of courtesy.
Maybe they did so because gambling is the universal language of expectations, skills, preparations, tactfulness, curiosity, intelligence, dreams & responsibility, acceptance, maturity, self-improvement, and opportunities yet to be revealed to humans.
Maybe they even wanted to gift the couple with answers on a few existential questions.
Or, perhaps, aliens did it because they were just like us once upon a time: Rough-hewn diamonds on the cusp of transcending conventional boundaries.
If that’s the case, it may explain why we go down the rabbit hole, again and again, no matter where it may lead us: The knowledge within is ours to harvest and may enable us to achieve the next level of consciousness — on our gambling, in our lives, about our planet, of life beyond our limitations.