There are multiple sentient species in the Milky Way galaxy. Of those, only three are currently known: Humans, Guardians, and Thargoids. Alien life is plentiful in the galaxy, but sentient life is rare.
Life in the Galaxy Edit
David Braben said "If you look at galactic history and life on Earth, as a percentage of time it has taken hundreds of millions of years to evolve and a small number of millions of years to evolve sentient intelligent life. By the 21st century humans are not a space faring race yet. So even by the 34th century it's still a tiny slice of time. You can imagine different populations spotting up and you wonder how long we will last which is slightly depressing, but you know we might go beyond. The point I'm trying to make is the chance of two races that are at the point of being able to interact whilst both are still alive is actually small. This is the basis for the story, because the beauty and interesting thing with things like artifacts and unknown probes is that it creates wonderful speculation and that great feeling of discovery. There's a lot of interesting things in the history of the game such as the Thargoids which are mysterious and very dangerous, that have been in previous games, even interacting with them and then suddenly disappeared. So there are a lot of interesting mysteries such as the alien ships with hyperdiction. In the previous games the Thargoids have been a very powerful race. We don't know whether the sightings are real or manufactured. We don't know how peaceful they are so we have to see how that pans out. This is perhaps the first story where millions people interact with the same story. Where people on all the different platforms are cooperating or competing with each other in the same servers and story. How the story unfolds is determined by how players react and what they do."
Michael Brookes said in the Elite: Dangerous Fiction Diary #1: "Alien life in the galaxy is very plentiful. However, sentient life is very rare. So the various races and types of indigenous that was reported in the original elite are considered a dominant species of their planets, but they aren’t sentient species. As far as humans are concerned they’ve only encountered a small number of sentient species. There was a sentient race on Achenar which the people who later became the Imperials wiped out. There’s the alien artifact that was discovered in the solar system. That’s a mystery although we hope to reveal a little bit more about where that came from in the future. And, of course there’s the Thargoids" 
Known Sentient SpeciesEdit
HumansEditHumans are the most well known species with a robust physiology. They are bipedal mammals and generally strong, fast and agile. They reach physical maturity at around 18 years old. Then they enter the workforce or continue their education for a profession. The average human lifespan is naturally about 79 years, but advanced biotechnology and cybernetics has substantially increased human lifespans. Humans primarily reside in a colonized region colloquially known as "the Bubble", which contains about 19,000 star systems. They originated from the single-star system Sol and the terrestrial planet Earth in the Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way.
As it has been throughout recorded history, mankind is not very prone to agreement over ethical, political, religious, and economic views. It remains this way today in the 34th Century, with the realm of human-colonized space held by numerous groups under various ideals, some benevolent and others not quite as much.
There are three major factions known as galactic superpowers and several Powers in human-colonized space. The Federation is based in Sol and is a representative-electing democracy. The Empire is based from the system of Achenar and is a hereditary monarchy. The Alliance is based from the system of Alioth and is a confederation of independent systems working cooperatively. Powers are powerful individuals or organizations who strive to control inhabited space for their own agendas in Powerplay. Each Power can control a vast amount of systems that is aligned to both major and minor factions. In addition to the three galactic superpowers and the powers, there are also many minor factions. The faction with the highest influence within the system will usually be the controlling faction of that system. System control falls on the faction that owns the controlling station. The government of a system is ruled by a controlling faction and if that faction is an anarchy no laws will apply in the system.
The Thargoids are an insectoid alien species who are said to originate outside of known space, perhaps existing in a parallel universe or spacial dimension. They are very hostile and aggressive and have not been interested in diplomatic relations to date. Not much information has been obtained about Thargoid society or culture. The only known fact is that the society is hive based, with no sense of close family. It is thought that the society is divided into colonies, possibly along the lines of ant colonies. On January 5, 3303, Commander DP Sayre reported the first known encounter with a Thargoid Interceptor, then known only as an "Unknown Ship". These ships were determined to be of Thargoid origin by Professor Palin on June 16, 3303.
The Guardians are an alien species that are presumed to be extinct. David Braben confirmed that 1 to 2 million years ago they went extinct and people are discovering the exact reasons why that happened.
Their ruins were first discovered in the Synuefe XR-H D11-102 system on October 27, 3302 by CMDR XDeath. They used artificial intelligence, neural implants and the monolith network as the heart of the Guardians' society. The monolith network was used for practically all of their society's communication. The formal basis for the Guardians' communication behaviors was visual rather than verbal, a distinction that arose very early in their development. The Guardians' written language consisted of glyphs that evolved from a form of sign language that the Guardians developed while hunting to communicate stealthily.
Indigenous Species of Achenar Edit
The planet Capitol in the Achenar system had alien sentient life. They unintentionally went extinct due to human colonists who brought bacteria to the planet in the middle of the 23rd century. The bacteria were deadly for the indigenous species. There wasn't much appreciation for alien sentient life at the time.
The system of Achenar was chosen for the outdoor world orbiting one of its gas giants, already capable of supporting human life, now known as Capitol. There was already life on the planet and though Duval didn’t know it at the time, one of the few known sentient species watched their landings.
Back then, life was known to be plentiful throughout the galaxy, though it wasn’t appreciated how rare sentient life was. Before long the species was made extinct by the settlers, mainly through imported bacteria. Much later, this extinction would later be used as a pretext for Federal intervention in the system.
Robotic Species Edit
Machine sentience has been banned in Federal, Empire and Alliance space due to it having been proven very dangerous when it was created on a few occasions. AI which imitates humans is less advanced than machine sentience. However, it is believed that one or two AI (sentient machines) have escaped into deep space.
AI Relics can be found in some degraded signal sources. Various shady organizations and remote cults have extreme interest in them which has inflated the value.
“Part of the secret history of the universe is that AI (sentient machine) has been created on a few occasions and they’ve proven to be so dangerous that they’ve basically been banned. AI is one of the few things that the Alliance, independents, Empire and Federation will actively work together against to defeat if they have to. It’s not made public knowledge, because they don’t want people to be actively working on it, but things are kept behind the scenes to make sure such technology never develops. That doesn’t mean of course that it hasn’t. It is believed that maybe one or two have escaped into deep space, but who knows, maybe we should find out.”
Michael Brookes commented "It's not AI that's banned, but machine sentience. You can still have smart computers, but they're not allowed to be self-aware." "Self awareness is a different construct to intelligence. You can have a system making intelligent decisions without being self-aware, although finding a definition of self-awareness or intelligence that everyone agrees with is probably a bigger challenge" "Mimicking humans isn't a greatest test of intelligence in my opinion. Machine intelligence would be of a different order to human thinking."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Interview with David Braben - PAX East 2017 - Elite Dangerous
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6z5OK8J5pg&feature=youtu.be&t=9m34s
- ↑ Galactic News: The Thargoids have Returned
- ↑ https://community.elitedangerous.com/en/galnet/12-JUL-3301
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6z5OK8J5pg&feature=youtu.be&t=8m31s
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/229816-Artificial-Intelligence-Why-is-it-prohibited-in-Elite-Universe/page3