Perhaps that is how it will also go for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. There’ll be some initial oddities, some curiosities that aren’t quite the things we planned for. A dull carrier wave signal for instance. Over time more evidence will show up, until eventually it’s clear that there are lots of species out there, puttering around in their own little neighborhoods and doing nothing truly extraordinary, because those possibilities were, in the end, more the product of our lively imaginations than anything that the universe compels life towards.

Of course, I’m being a little facetious, the first discovery of life of any kind elsewhere in the universe would be shocking and world-changing, and technological life would rank at the very top of the shock-o-meter. But shock passes, and we also have no way of knowing exactly how this would play out. Rumors and preliminary findings have a way of dulling surprises, no matter what’s at stake.

Eventually it might all just be a bit of a relief. We’ll neither be alone, nor surrounded by anything particularly extraordinary. Copernican mediocrity will be somewhat restored, and we can go back to worrying about everything else that can go wrong on our speck of rock and water as it sails through the cosmos.