In their early years, humanity was at odds with itself on one simple fact: They are either alone, or they are not. There was no wiggle room. It was black and white, night and day, and there weren't many ways to find out. They spent so many resources to send radio waves into space, hoping for an answer. The deluded developed religions around their fantasies, but faith could not tell science it was wrong under any logical grounds. Entertainment was affected; they wrote books, created video games and directed films, all depicting every possible conclusion to extraterrestrial contact. All were fantasies because there was no proof.
The delusions were there as a feel-good technique. People need human contact to function properly. What happens to somebody when they are isolated for years? They develop more personalities to cope with the loneliness. Somebody who hates other people would go mad if their one wish came true: I want to be alone forever. As much as people hate to admit it, they are dependent upon their society to function. With the advent of cellular phones and the internet, they could stay connected with one another at all times, or as long as their bill was paid on time. They spent a lot of time and effort just to keep these things in working order, when they knew that in the past people didn't need these inventions. Humanity was afraid of loneliness.
Despite how alone they found themselves, they fought. They killed one another over beliefs and ideals, greed and selfishness. Their barbarism motivated them to find better ways to destroy one another. Stones led to swords and swords led to guns. They were unsatisfied and found more efficient ways of self-destruction. Bombs were exploded that were brighter than the sun could ever hope to be. The entire time they were wiping one another's entire cultures out, they would broadcast messages of brotherhood and goodwill towards the stars. The echoes of their own messages bouncing off the surfaces of every surface in the universe would surely bring ascension to their barbaric people.
The people dreamed and the centuries passed. They shook hands with one another with knives behind their backs. They sent men to the moon and were delighted at the possibilities, despite the fact that there was nothing new there that wasn't on Earth. They sent probes to other planets and found nothing but dust and stones, untouched by anyone but all the same as Earth. They were not satisfied, because it did not tell them the answers they sought, and so more time passed. The wars went from the planet's surface and into space. They began terraforming and colonizing the planets they couldn't have dreamed to reach just a few short decades ago. However, with each new planet colonized, their fear grew. It was unspoken, but humanity had a collective thought: "Please let somebody else be here. Anybody."
As their fear grew, so did their unity. In only a few short lifetimes, solar systems became stepping stones to galaxies. The old and new nations brought forth by that age of galactic expansion were at peace and their leaders joined one another with open arms. An enlightened culture became sickened by its own bloody past. Weapons gathered dust as the entire military forces were disbanded and warships miles long were broken down and recycled. Frail flesh and blood gave way to shining metals and alloys to survive every atmosphere. Poverty was eliminated because everybody had enough. Luxuries no longer existed because everyone had them.
The immense satellites that would broadcast so many positive messages into the cosmos became derelict. They became the monuments to the one dream they could not make come true. Humanity had given up hope on ever finding other lifeforms out there. From so many centuries of exploring the universe, there was not a single clue pointing in the direction of others. Every new galaxy they would reach was dead, and so it was until they mapped the edge of their universe. It was an underwhelming inky blackness. No other intelligence existed apart from themselves. The society of geniuses had nothing more to look for. Humanity finally knew what it was to touch the stars, and with it came the old, gnawing sensation they all felt.
We are all alone and our creations mean nothing.
Is Anybody Out There?
"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." -- Arthur C. Clark