As with the search for the Holy Grail, my fascination with the quest for extra-terrestrial life lies more in the mystery and the moral-religious rationales that are engaged—the quest itself—rather than the result. I seriously doubt that there is any ET life, or that is so distant and unavailable as to render it non-existent. People who believe, however, become so absorbed by its reality that most of what they do revolves around the idea. The grail created, and continues to create supporters and promoters everywhere, often redefining its nature to fit everyone’s failure to find it—likewise with extra terrestrial life. And here, Clarke gives us a touch of such life, only to whet our appetite for its existence, and far enough away to make us salivate at its nature. Once we see it exists, that they are superior, that they have a plan, we are left to mull. The appeal to me lies in thinking how such a thing would be greeted in real life.
It will be greeted like on the book. Maybe with terror too. If something could just dismiss us like that, then they wouldn't bat an eyelid(if they have them) or care if we were in front of their hyperspace multiparticle cannon.