I had some fun with this hashtag, but the underlying idea is pretty important: it wasn’t the case in the distant past so much, but these last couple of centuries our rate of technological advance has been so rapid that time makes aliens of the people of the past quickly. It’s hard to conceive that they’d be so different from us, that we’re so different from them, only two or three centuries separated in time. The language has changed, but not so much we couldn’t understand it. We still run the USA on the basis of the documents they wrote. But the worldviews of people now and then are so different, I wonder if they’d even grasp how we interpret them now, or if we even truly grasp what they meant when they wrote. Certainly we have some clue. Certainly our legal scholars do. But really, one would have to be a historian and a lawyer and an anthropologist and maybe a psychologist and a few other things to really get it.
We have a vague idea of who and what people from a past so far removed from our present in time and technology and ideas were. But it’s a shallow idea, like a US founder might have had of the culture of Beijing at the time. A tissue of stereotype and rumor.
They’re aliens in a very meaningful sense. Or we’ve become aliens to them. The people of the 2300s will be just as alien from our point of view, whether they’re more advanced or the survivors of a civilization-destroying apocalypse.
Even if we never meet extraterrestrials, we walk in the footsteps of aliens every day of our lives.