The Fermi Paradox -- Where is everybody?

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Fermi paradox - Wikipedia

The Fermi paradox or Fermi's paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence and high probability estimates, e.g., those given by the Drake equation, for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The basic points of the argument, made by physicists Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) and Michael H. Hart (born 1932), are:

  • There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to the Sun, many of which are billions of years older than Earth.
  • With high probability, some of these stars will have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some might develop intelligent life.
  • Some of these civilizations might develop interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now.
  • Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in a few million years.
According to this line of reasoning, the Earth should have already been visited by extraterrestrial aliens. In an informal conversation, Fermi noted no convincing evidence of this, leading him to ask, "Where is everybody?" There have been many attempts to explain the Fermi paradox, primarily either suggesting that intelligent extraterrestrial life is extremely rare or proposing reasons that such civilizations have not contacted or visited Earth.



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What do you guys think the answer to the paradox is? I have a lot of solutions in mind. Perhaps meaningful interstellar travel is basically impossible via the laws of physics. Perhaps alien law prohibits contact with developing world's. Or perhaps it prohibits contact with substandard species (humans have a lot of problems, we are basically destroying our own planet and each other).

You guys are a smart bunch, I think this thread could generate some great ideas. I'm open to humorous ideas too.
 

Tolan

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I don't think an interstellar species would have any reason to contact earth, if they're even aware that we're here
 

Void

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Best article I've ever read on this subject, and it was linked by someone here. The Fermi Paradox - Wait But Why

I think that honestly it is just the distances and time frames involved more than anything. Even if someone could go a thousand times the speed of light, it would take them about 200 years to cross our galaxy without stopping to actually look at anything. And if someone were looking, they'd probably look in the center of the galaxy first and not BFE where we live. We're the backwoods yokels of the galaxy compared to the city slickers in the core.

On top of that, even if someone did find this planet, the chances of them finding it during the "reign of man" is pretty slim. I mean, maybe if they saw dinosaurs and shit they put a pin in their map and left a note to check back later, but if you combine distance with actual time of intelligent life being present on a planet, the chances of random meetings has to be magnitudes upon magnitudes of unlikely.

This doesn't even get into how rare it actually is to find a planet that fits all the criteria that ours does, which for all we know is all required to support life. Maybe not, but since the building blocks of RNA/DNA are supposedly floating around in space (I read that somewhere, I hope it is correct without going to find sources), you could hypothesize that maybe the vast majority of life out there isn't too dissimilar from us, and needs a perfect planet too. That drastically limits the number of planets. Sure, you should still have millions of viable planets even with the tiniest of chance, but think about how far away most of those millions are going to be. I honestly think distance and time is the biggest factor. You could draw a million 100 light year dots on the milky way and still not come anywhere close to overlapping. Shit is just unfathomably huge. We literally can't comprehend it.
 

Comrade Araysar

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i think that advanced societies are just basically flashes in the galactic time index. 13.7 billion years is age of universe, 4.5 billion is age of earth, human civilization that existed beyond grunts and H&G lifestyle is what, 10,000 year old? and the likelihood of us making it another 10,000 years is probably pretty slim

if you're not there in the right place and right time, you'll miss it.
 
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mkopec

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Yeah, time and distance. And were only one big asteroid or comet away from annihilating our little minuscule time frame of ~100K years of existence. Couple that with the rarity of having actual intelligent life, well you can see its a daunting task to find a few that overlap never mind the sheer distances that set us apart.

Maybe life like us is not rare, maybe life and the cosmos leans to create intelligence that can actually get to know itself. Stillim sure it hast o be pretty rare to get a species like us going that any of a billion little nuances along the way could of made us cease to exist.
 
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wormie

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i think that advanced societies are just basically flashes in the galactic time index. 13.7 billion years is age of universe, 4.5 billion is age of earth, human civilization that existed beyond grunts and H&G lifestyle is what, 10,000 year old? and the likelihood of us making it another 10,000 years is probably pretty slim

if you're not there in the right place and right time, you'll miss it.
In our universe. Inflation allows for infinite universes. If that theory is correct, there must be a place out there with long spanning civilizations.
 
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Comrade Araysar

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Yeah, time and distance. And were only one big asteroid or comet away from annihilating our little minuscule time frame of ~100K years of existence. Couple that with the rarity of having actual intelligent life, well you can see its a daunting task to find a few that overlap never mind the sheer distances that set us apart.

Maybe life like us is not rare, maybe life and the cosmos leans to create intelligence that can actually get to know itself. Stillim sure it hast o be pretty rare to get a species like us going that any of a billion little nuances along the way could of made us cease to exist.

I think life is pretty common in the universe. intelligent life is rare. but the scales of distance and time just make it extremely unlikely for us to discover each other
 
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Cad

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I think life is pretty common in the universe. intelligent life is rare. but the scales of distance and time just make it extremely unlikely for us to discover each other

It is quite possible that the laws of physics will prevent any large scale traversing of the stars, making galaxy-spanning civilizations impossible. Through generation ships a determined race could *infest* portions of the galaxy but not act as one.
 

Comrade Araysar

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It is quite possible that the laws of physics will prevent any large scale traversing of the stars, making galaxy-spanning civilizations impossible. Through generation ships a determined race could *infest* portions of the galaxy but not act as one.

Yeah, I dont see 99% of "space-faring" sentient civilizations ever leaving their home system, let alone colonizing new star systems. I'd expect most of them to die from either self inflicted calamities or cataclysmic events before figuring out warp drives.
 
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Tuco

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The great filter and fermi paradox is a really cool concept.

I prefer to think that God only/first created life on earth and he created the universe with physics that allow his children would be able to proliferate across the universe using increasingly advanced technology.

I mean come on, why make all this bullshit if the players can't experience it up close? It's only common sense, guys.
 

Comrade Araysar

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The great filter and fermi paradox is a really cool concept.

I prefer to think that God only/first created life on earth and he created the universe with physics that allow his children would be able to proliferate across the universe using increasingly advanced technology.

I mean come on, why make all this bullshit if the players can't experience it up close? It's only common sense, guys.

all those other galaxies are just DLCs waiting to be unlocked with prayers
 

ShakyJake

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It is quite possible that the laws of physics will prevent any large scale traversing of the stars, making galaxy-spanning civilizations impossible. Through generation ships a determined race could *infest* portions of the galaxy but not act as one.
I don't know, what if you have a very low-energy species? Their perception of time could be sufficiently slow that traversing the stars would seem, perhaps, like hours or days whereas for us it's millennia. Obviously this form of life would be impossible for us to communicate with. But I think that's the crux of the problem with the fermiparadox. It makes the assumption that life would be similar to us (although I guess that's all we'd care about anyway).
 
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Zaara

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Everyone already stated it, but people who whine about the paradox's conclusion ('So where are they, then, those billions of planets with life?') are fundamentally incapable of processing the space and time between us and everything else in the universe. The average human brain is by and large unable to parse the size of our solar system, much less the size of our galaxy. 'Light year' as a unit of measurement means nothing to average Joe. Humankind is still at the point where people can pay for anti-Darwinism Christian billboards on the side of freeways, and the belief that God made all of space and time for a single blue speck of life that is supposedly floating, alone and unique, in an otherwise unknowable and dark void of infinity.

Humankind simply doesn't have it in it to travel to the stars and propagate itself beyond Earth. It is too fragile, too short-lived, too mammalian. Earth may be past middle-age in terms of its ultimate lifespan, but we are most certainly not going to survive long enough to see the death of the only habitable rock we know to exist. There is a small chance, however, we learn unequivocally that there is other intelligent life out there-- and if it does happen, it'll probably be an accident, or something we cannot say with exact certainty to be made by a sentient race. Hell, it might have already happened already. Problem with things like the Wow! signal and European manuscripts detailing celestial firefights between floating chariots? Limits of knowledge, understanding, and the remove of time. We can no sooner say Wow! was a earth-sourced signal reflecting off space dust than we can say those peasants were suffering under some grand religious mass hysteria. If we've found our evidence or seen our proof, humanity scarcely perceived it for what it actually was. And short of little green men walking out of a saucer onto the White House lawn, whatever evidence and proof we discover from now will probably not be enough.
 

Cad

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I don't know, what if you have a very low-energy species? Their perception of time could be sufficiently slow that traversing the stars would seem, perhaps, like hours or days whereas for us it's millennia. Obviously this form of life would be impossible for us to communicate with. But I think that's the crux of the problem with the fermiparadox. It makes the assumption that life would be similar to us (although I guess that's all we'd care about anyway).

How would such a species outperform a higher energy species in order to evolve?
 
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mkopec

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Humankind simply doesn't have it in it to travel to the stars and propagate itself beyond Earth. It is too fragile, too short-lived, too mammalian. Earth may be past middle-age in terms of its ultimate lifespan, but we are most certainly not going to survive long enough to see the death of the only habitable rock we know to exist.

Meh, gene manipulation can solve all of this. We could theoretically make a space fairing human. And even on a generational ship like cad proposed, whose to say that humans themselves would not quickly evolve.