That's the position of a new study published to the arXiv database.
The authors looked at a range of factors presumed to influence the development of intelligent life, such as the prevalence of sun-like stars harboring Earth-like planets; the frequency of deadly, radiation-blasting supernovas; the probability of and time necessary for intelligent life to evolve if conditions are right; and the possible tendency of advanced civilizations to destroy themselves.
Modeling the evolution of the Milky Way over time with those factors in mind, they found that the probability of life emerging based on known factors peaked about 13,000 light-years from the galactic center and 8 billion years after the galaxy formed. Earth, by comparison, is about 25,000 light-years from the galactic center, and human civilization arose on the planet's surface about 13.5 billion years after the Milky Way formed (though simple life emerged soon after the planet formed.)
In other words, we're likely a frontier civilization in terms of galactic geography and relative latecomers to the self-aware Milky Way inhabitant scene.
Read the rest of the article on LiveScience.
Image: European Space Agency