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The Fermi Conspiracy

I just read an excellent three part summary of the Fermi Paradox (2,3) and wanted to share some thoughts. Let me summarize the paradox. Every discovery we make points to an inescapable conclusion: Earth is not special. Therefore the galaxy is probably teeming with life. If this is true, where is everybody? Shouldn't they be listening or broadcasting or filling up every habitable planet in the galaxy? Let me offer some suggestions to be picked apart and ultimately discarded.

First, let's try to extend the "we're not special" paradigm. We assume that E.T. will really try to search out every scrap of life in its neighborhood. For a planet that has never made contact, we feel this is a big priority. But if the galaxy really is teeming with life, any capable civilization would probably get bored with this project. They would spend fewer and fewer resources on it as they got fewer returns. Consider entomologists studying exotic bugs in the Amazon. The bugs might wonder why, if there are more intelligent beings than themselves, these beings have never found them. The answer is, we are a little interested and we do find some, but the resources required to catalog every kind of bug in the Amazon satisfy a law of diminishing return. An exhaustive search takes exponentially more resources and gives only very little extra information. So there's some probability that we're a bug near humans that are still very interested in learning about more bugs, but it's a small one. So it's not that E.T. isn't looking, they're just not looking very hard for something (us) that is nothing special.

A second possibility is that without warp speed and subspace communication, there is some natural maximum characteristic size that a civilization grows to in space. Sci-fi always invents things to make this size bigger for interest sake, but it might be interesting to study the things limiting this characteristic size. For instance, most planets will not be exactly like the ones a civ evolved on, so most resources will go towards long-scale terraforming, rather than continuous rapid expansion. Maybe terraforming is something that can't really be hurried, so it provides a bottleneck. Or maybe slow communication means that no society can maintain enough cohesion to stick to a single long-term goal like continuous expansion. I think there are many unexplored possibilities for bottlenecks.

A third possibility which has no basis in any science I know of, is that gravity waves are where it's at. All advanced civilizations realize that for some reason, gravity waves (or insert other random cutting edge tech) are the way to send messages to other civilizations efficiently. And they assume any advanced civilization has figured this out. And maybe we're close. Maybe we realize in the next hundred years that technology X is where the action is at and no one would waste time with radio waves or whatever we waste time with now. Considering the speed at which we obsolete old technology this seems plausible. I'd love it if the first thing LIGO hears/sees/feels the spacetime distortion of is not two black holes colliding but an intergalactic "Wassup!"

Well, it's always fun to think about these things, but of course we all know the truth: They are already here. Fermi is one of Them and he introduced this so-called paradox to distract us from the truth, that they already walk among us.


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