The cosmic paradigm is an inevitability. It is what we'll have when parochialism finally gives way to an objective view of the universe—when it's normal to speak with the perspective of other times and other places. Only with a cosmic paradigm will humans be capable of relating to intelligent extraterrestrial life. Only when reason dominates superstition, when empathy marginalizes prejudice, and when understanding trumps xenophobia, will we be able to know our place in the cosmos and thus communicate meaningfully with others in it.
The cosmic paradigm will bear witness to pioneers of civilization, men and women who leave behind the comfort and security of a terrestrial existence for a chance to start again, to build new lives, to develop new cultures. They will stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, but they won't be followers—for a follower will find little respite in the austere cosmos. Images of these visionaries will remain in the back of our minds, lodged inextricably, no matter how hard we try to forget them. We'll talk to each other as if they're not out there, but we'll know. We'll know they are out there fighting for humanity, armed with the best science, the purest creativity, and the strongest willpower. They will be battling the toughest environments ever treaded by man. Some of them will make it out there. Others won't. All will be heroes.
We may never find alien intelligence. But if we were to scour the universe and find none, many eons from now, would we regret the journey?