ET - Where Are You?
The fact that life arose nearly as soon as it possibly could have on Earth suggests but doesn't prove that life is likely to arise on suitable planets. Experimental biophysics and biochemistry seem to be converging on an explanation of how life arose one Earth, but large - enormous - uncertainties remain. Much of this uncertainty could be removed if we were to find other life in the Solar System, on Mars, say, or Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. Detection of a telltale sign of life on an exoplanet - one outside the solar system - for example, an oxygen atmosphere, would also be decisive.
What about the evolution of life intelligent enough to produce complex technological civilization? It happened on Earth, but it took hella long time, at least three and a half billion years from the origin of life. We know a little about why it took so long. It required several steps: the invention of photosynthesis, the production of an oxygen abundant atmosphere, the development of multicellularity, escape from the ocean to land, the development of something like hands and fingers, mastery of fire, and the development of big brains that could make detailed plans. Once all those were achieved, technological civilization followed in a cosmic instant - about 50,000 years.
Could there be other paths? Maybe, but the brains, something like hands, and fire seem crucial.
Some of final factors in the Drake Equation ask questions like how long can an advanced civilization last. Here we have only one example, and indications are not especially promising.