A very long time ago in human terms, as much as 300,000 years ago, our planet was visited by an alien race of beings, who found it inhabited not only by by a vast variety of life but also by upright bipeds which were clearly evolving into intelligent, tool-using creatures.
These alien beings had very long lives, 600 to 800 of our years, which were the result of special genetic manipulation in order for them to survive the very long trips from one star system to another.
Just as we are now finding habitable planets of nearby star systems, they did likewise and had the Earth in their sights to visit long before they were able to actually build star ships capable of the voyage.
They took samples of Earth life, including some of our ancestors, of course, put them in deep freeze and went home to report their findings. It wasn’t long after that, that a much larger expedition was sent back here for research, and a base was set up. This was followed over the centuries by more expeditions and more bases. Earth was an incredibly rich source of new varieties of DNA, and genetic manipulation was the primary science of these aliens.
This is because their nature was, and still is, much like our ants, with workers specialized for specific jobs, as these people were an ancient race even back then and had developed into highly specialized physical types for specific functions. As they evolved socially and scientifically, their specialization needs evolved and changed as well, so new genetic specializations were always needed. Such as astronauts who could survive star travel.
The first base was set up on a high plateau in Africa near Lake Victoria, but there were problems from the start. The aliens were just as susceptible to infections and diseases as any other flesh and blood creature, and while most of Earths germs and bacteria didn’t bother them, there were still plenty that did. They’d wiped out virtually all forms of disease among their people centuries before, along with almost all other forms of life on their home planet as well, and the onslaught of our ever-mutating viruses alone was enough to force them to move their bases off-planet.
This was a real good thing for those early humans, since the aliens naturally had hoped to colonize Earth and it became quickly apparent that the only way that could happen would be to develop specialized forms of themselves that were immune to the vast array of infectious bugs, and doing this from remote bases in orbit required first developing the new types and then setting them up on Earth to see if they survived. In the end, it became clear that the best and easiest course was simply to genetically manipulate the existing, native hominids to increase their intelligence and tool-using abilities so they could function as slave workers for the aliens, while the aliens kept a safe and healthy distance.
As a result, Modern Tool-Using Man suddenly appeared on Earth with no apparent ancestors, about 200,000 years ago, capable of art and imagination, and moved out of Africa for no apparent reason, taking up residence anywhere they were able to walk to.
The aliens who were guiding and manipulating our ancestors reported regularly to the Great Minds on their home planet, who then made decisions about the ways and means of using Earth’s hominids, what observations were to be made and so forth. These reports took a long time to relay, since light-year distances had to be traveled each round trip. So changes often occurred in the development of humans that moved ahead of the intentions of the aliens. For instance, we began domesticating other animals even as we were being domesticated ourselves, and we began building better quality homes for ourselves than we were taught, and so forth. We were evolving faster than planned.
We were also breeding much faster than planned as a direct result of the improvements we were making in our own lives, and starting to crowd each other. The next thing you knew, we were going to war with each other, granted on a very small scale, but our little wars played hell with the aliens plans for our development and their projects.
Because the aliens are such an ancient race and their evolution has been carefully and deliberately controlled for so very many years, it never occurred to them that our evolution would take off in so many directions at once or be so rapid. Their efforts to insert their own genes into us to make us into them only succeeded in making us smarter and more independent. Our population grew so fast during their 100 year one-way trips home, and then back again, that it became impossible to control us any longer.
The best thing they could do, finally, was to give up the idea of colonizing Earth and instead mine it for minerals and knowledge. It happens to be a fact, as we humans have recently found out, that gold is very rare in the Universe. Gold only forms in supergiant stars, stars so huge that they go nova and explode into gas clouds when they’re still very young. These stars are the only ones that are big enough to transmute hydrogen into all the heavy metals including gold and lead, and when they go nova all that heavy metal becomes gas, which condenses along with all the other elements into planets like Earth. The Earth is a rare type of planet and gold is very useful.
Our solar system used to be a supergiant star, so other planets in our system also have gold. Mining gold on airless planets at subzero temperatures, or where the gravity would flatten a brick, or where the brick would melt, isn’t nearly as much fun as mining gold on the Earth, especially when the very capable hominids will worship the aliens as gods and mine the gold for them.
Very early on, gold became the metal of the gods. Humans have never found any use for it until very recent times, for body decoration, but otherwise it was useless to make tools or weapons out of, because it’s so soft. Since the gods clearly prized it, however, then we did too, as we prized anything that the gods liked. Long after the gods had abandoned most of us to pursue our own courses, we continued to lust after the useless stuff and even fought wars over it. For thousands of years, humans all over the world based their forms of currency and exchange on gold as the highest standard, instead of useful things like iron and copper, food and labor, and we still do.
So this is the way it’s worked out, or did up until about 600 years ago when the last gold-rich, superstitious, worshipful natives were conquered by others more advanced. That’s ended the last source of free gold-mining labor the aliens had, so they’ve had to come up with new methods to keep the flow of gold moving to their home planet.
Now they do their own gold extracting, from our ocean. There are plenty of gold sources underwater, especially considering that the ocean covers 2/3rds of the planet. Meanwhile we can go on having our wars without upsetting their mining efforts. It would be nice for them if we still worshiped them and thought they were gods and angels and so forth, as that certainly made things a lot easier for them, but getting the gold is the primary goal and it was simply a matter of devising new methods.
Science Fiction? Who knows…? This isn’t something that I believe actually happened, it’s just the result of a rambling mind and speculation on why we’re such greedy critters for something that has always been utterly useless to us. As far back as we can determine, gold has always been sacred. If you can come up with a better reason why, I’d really like to hear it.