According to a hard-steps model of advanced life timing, humans seem puzzlingly early. We offer an explanation: an early deadline is set by ‘grabby’ civilizations (GC), who expand rapidly, never die alone, change the appearance of the volumes they control, and who are not born within other GC volumes. If we might soon become grabby, then today is near a sample origin date of such a GC. A selection effect explains why we don’t see them even though they probably control over a third of the universe now. Each parameter in our three parameter model can be estimated to within roughly a factor of four, allowing principled predictions of GC origins, spacing, appearance, and durations till we see or meet them.