The Contact Paradox is all about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the various issues surrounding it: how are we searching? What are we looking for? Do we expect to find anything? Should we send out signals to help ET find us? How? Why haven’t we found anybody else yet? Are we looking in the right place? Etc, etc, etc. It’s mostly a good exploration of the options, though as always I find myself totally frustrated by the assumptions made on either side of the debate. As I’ve written before elsewhere, I don’t think we have enough data to speculate from. We have one dataset, Earth, and that’s all.
Not that this is the book’s fault; part of SETI is figuring out whether there is other life in the universe or not, and this stuff has to be thought out to know what we’re looking for. The book just discusses the arguments and tries to be reasonably balanced about it… it’s just that I find most of the arguments lacking, or rather, I find that they come to premature conclusions and that people’s attitudes tend to harden on their preferred end of the spectrum.
What I did really enjoy about the book is being reminded about how amazing the universe is — and how much we do understand about it. The stuff we know or can theorise about is mind-boggling in the best way.
This is popular science, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it’s shot through with references to popular science fiction, and even discusses the point of view of various science fiction writers. I couldn’t help but notice they were all dudes, though, and that in all the references to all kinds of science fiction, not one female author was named. Sigh and eyeroll. I’m sure there are dozens of excuses for that on the part of the author, and I’m not really interested in hearing them.
Though in terms of fiction that he could’ve referred to, I thought the author really missed a trick in not referring to the Mass Effect games, which have their own answer to Fermi’s paradox and the Great Filter.