• Marchesk
    3.6k
    This is a possible solution to the Fermi Paradox which is detailed in Cixin Liu's book, The Dark Forest, which is the sequel to The Three Body Problem.

    The idea is that although intelligent life may be common in the universe, several factors create a chain of suspicion:

    1. Each civilization has its own separate biological and cultural evolution.
    2. Rapid technological progress occurs once a species reaches a certain level of development.
    3. Any other civilization may be hostile and capable of doing harm once they are advanced enough.
    4. Communication across space and cultural/biological difference takes a significant amount of time.
    5. Advanced civilizations will be looking to expand.

    Therefore, the safe bet is to remain silent, and preemptively attack anyone who makes their presence known. And that's why the cosmos appears empty.

    However, humans don't appear to think this way, for the most part. We want to find evidence of aliens and make ourselves known. So the question is whether the reasoning above is fallacious, or whether humanity is just naive.

    Of course, we could also be alone. I'd prefer that over a galaxy full of suspicious aliens, waiting to take us out. That's depressing, even if we managed to stay hidden. At the beginning of the first book, a helpful alien sends a signal to Earth, warning the sender to not reply. Imagine SETI receiving such a message!
  • Isaac
    2.8k


    (5) contradicts the conclusion. Civilisations can't be both aggressively looking to expand and remaining silent only pre-emptively striking targets who make themselves known. They must be doing either one or the other.

    Accepting the principle that advanced civilisations are looking to expand, you'd not expect the universe to be silent, you'd expect it to be full of the colonisation attempts of advanced civilisations. Given that the universe is silent, there's no reason at all to maintain the premise that it's full of advanced civilisations aggressively looking to expand.

    Not only that, but we only have experience of one civilisation...ours. That one civilisation is not looking to aggressively expand into space (yet) it's looking to make contact with aliens largely out of interest. When a theory is falsified by 100% of the available evidence, I think it's time to discard the theory, no?
  • Susu
    20
    Actually, the alien can do both. If they are greedy enough to colonise every part of the universe, and they are intelligent, they would know better than to expose themselves to potential threat so they must remain silent. Aliens are not omnipotent, so they keep themselves cautious to any other extraterrestrial civilizations that might be more powerful than them. They search for other civilisations and if they find one, they don't communicate with them but study them, if they know they can defeat them, they would invade (most likely in a stealthy, inconspicuous manner).
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    The Martians had their own version of explaining why there has been no contact with aliens.

    The Martians were a bunch of Hungarian physicists under the leadership of Ede Teller, who worked on and built the H-Bomb for the USA. They were called the Martians, because they were obviously strange, and an advanced race (haha) of scientists.

    Anyway, their upshot was that civilizations on distant planets learn to build H bombs, and then a strife will make them use them, thus annihilating themselves.

    Remember, this was back in the Cold War period, in the 1950s, when global thermonuclear war was a real threat.

    Today, so the experts claim, nuclear warfare is not going to happen by those who build and control these weapons, but by those who gain control suddenly and for a short time. I.e. terrorists who steal them.

    Luckily, they are not easy to detonate. They require advanced skills to make them blow. Not like pulling a trigger on a gun.
  • Isaac
    2.8k


    I'm no expert on this sort of thing, but isn't SETI listening out for radio signals and the like? Presumably other civilisations would be doing similar things? So we'd have to image some incredibly specific technology that would allow an alien force to invade and colonise another planet thousands of light years away without producing a single communication wave detectable by the superior technology of more advanced races.

    Basically, if we're best off keeping quiet rather than attracting aliens and defeating them with the weapons we've got, then any alien is in the same position. No one can know that they are the most advanced civilisation around, can they?
  • Marchesk
    3.6k
    Nukes are child's play for advanced aliens in Cixin Liu's books. Humanity doesn't fully realize this for a couple centuries, though.

    For example, A nuke won't do any good against matter tightly packed together by the strong force, similar to that of a neutron star. That would probably require advanced femtotechnology to construct your own form of matter.
  • frank
    5.1k
    A civilization would be some distance past radio capability before realizing that making noise attracts predators. So the silence would be a result of the fact that the predators already ate everybody.

    Good stuff:
  • Marchesk
    3.6k
    A civilization would be some distance past radio capability before realizing that making noise attracts predators. So the silence would be a result of the fact that the predators already ate everybody.frank

    Yeah, that would seem to be the likely outcome. There would be a few super-predatory civilizations with some primitive ones like ours that haven't attracted attention yet. Everyone else was taken out.

    The first advanced civilizations in the galaxy would have had the upper hand, and the ones that acted most aggressively would likely have prevailed. That makes more sense than there being a million civilizations keeping quiet. And as you said, how would they know to keep quiet before it was too late?

    I hope that's not actually the case as I prefer Sagan's Contact version or Clarke's monolith aliens better. Also, because we're likely screwed if it is the case.
  • frank
    5.1k
    Although, a predator (or lethal virus) that kills the whole herd will die out. Predators and prey tend to discover a balance. The advanced civilization would invade, enslave us, genetically modify us to be more like them (saw that in some short story) and the masters would eventually become dependent on the slaves and the slaves would go all Hegel on the masters until the Absolute finally becomes aware of itself, framed forever on various event horizons.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    A nuke won't do any good against matter tightly packed together by the strong force, similar to that of a neutron star. TMarchesk

    Cixin Liu's aliens with advanced weaponry would scream and run in all directions when we introduce our deadliest weapon: THE HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE!!!!

    Beware you scurvy dogs, Aliens!! (Is "Aliens" an alias? their name may well be Elias.)
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    This is a possible solution to the Fermi Paradox which is detailed in Cixin Liu's book, The Dark Forest, which is the sequel to The Three Body Problem.Marchesk
    I preface the following by confessing my love for the trilogy and strongly recommend these books.

    The idea is that although intelligent life may be common in the universe, several factors create a chain of suspicion:

    1. Each civilization has its own separate biological and cultural evolution.
    2. Rapid technological progress occurs once a species reaches a certain level of development.
    3. Any other civilization may be hostile and capable of doing harm once they are advanced enough.
    Plausible, as far as they go ...

    4. Communication across space and cultural/biological difference takes a significant amount of time.
    Bingo.

    5. Advanced civilizations will be looking to expand.
    Hold on. What warrants such (a terrestrial) assumption?

    Therefore, the safe bet is to remain silent, and preemptively attack anyone who makes their presence known. And that's why the cosmos appears empty.
    I don't buy it. Doesn't follow. Above #4 much more plausibly accounts for 'the great silence' and 'apparently empty cosmos' than any other (mostly speculative) guesses.

    However, humans don't appear to think this way, for the most part. We want to find evidence of aliens and make ourselves known. So the question is whether the reasoning above is fallacious, or whether humanity is just naive.
    Both.

    Of course, we could also be alone.
    Possibly. Not likely. Here's why I don't think we're alone -

    (I quote some old posts in full from the now defunct Philosophy Forums which still expresses my thinking on the Fermi Paradox in a separate post following this one.)

    I'd prefer that over a galaxy full of suspicious aliens, waiting to take us out. That's depressing, even if we managed to stay hidden.
    Even more depressing would be "a galaxy full" of alien intelligences [ETIs] that do not 'recognize' any planetary biosphere as more sentient than lichen-covered stones or pond scum. And, therefore, act accordingly.

    At the beginning of the first book, a helpful alien sends a signal to Earth, warning the sender to not reply. Imagine SETI receiving such a message!
    Imagine SETI has already received a Do Not Reply To This Transmission message - maybe many times over some decades - but has lacked, and still lacks, the digital bandwidth and computational resources to translate the message, or filter the signal from noise (i.e. cosmic background radiation), in order to 'recognize' it as a message. What if, and then what?
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    Addenda to this post.

    Of course, we could also be alone. — Marchesk
    Possibly. Not likely. Here's why I don't think we're alone (it's a bit of a ramble) -

    (i)

    I find it exceedingly difficult intellectually to accept that sapience in this universe is unique to Human Beings. The reason for this is predominatedly empirical (i.e. specifically convergent scientific evidence): the more rigorously we've observed the non-terrestrial universe the less we find non-terrestrial exotica "out there" as the same physics & chemistry which apply here more & more apply everywhere that we can observe; and though biological phenomena is the product of local, irreversible evolutionary paths, the physical & chemical precursors/conditions for biologies to emerge are, it seems to me, ubiquitous; and where there's a biology there's eventually an ecology and eventually critical disequilibria which catalyze adaptations which stumble upon "sentience" and then degrees of "sapience" as niche-transgressing prizes in the evolutionary lottery. I can't imagine that other celestial objects made up of sufficiently chaotic physical & chemical systems-processes don't give rise to their own particular biological histories (i.e. evolutionary paths), of which some are, at least, as robust as Earth's. It seems to me that everything we're learning about the universe reasonably points in the direction of the non-uniqueness (though perhaps not "ubiquity") of biological phenomena however sparcely distributed thoughtout the universe.

    And then there's the assumption that biology is not required for sapience. Computational & information theories raise the issue of plausible "functionalism" as well as such constructs as "artificial life" and "artificial intelligence" which have begun to converge with fundamental physical theories (e.g. quantum mechanics, general relativity, statistical thermodynamics, etc) in working out a new paradigm of informational or algorithmic physics (e.g. quantum gravity, quantum computing, etc) that strongly implies -- as far as I can tell -- that "biological" conditions (i.e. substrates) are not necessary for sapience. Thus, though non-terrestrial "life" might be astronomically remote, and emergent non-terrestrial "intelligence" even exceedingly rarer still, I think the "circumstantial evidence" for the plausibility of nonbiological intelligence -- non-terrestrial (and maybe terrestrial too!) -- is coming to the fore.

    I'm less & less persuaded as the decades pass and we learn more about the universe and refine our physical theories (to the extent the gist of them is intelligible to a laymen like me by the good graces of popularizing scientists) that we are alone -- that both biological phenomena (i.e. "natural selection" & ontogenic sentience) and sapience (i.e. "intelligence", whether biological or not) are unique to this planet. It's the height of blinkered, atavistic chauvanism for Human Beings to hold on to this last shred of unwarranted self-importance after all the decentering blows delivered to our superstitions down the recent centuries by the likes of Copernicus, Galileo, Spinoza, Newton, Hume, Darwin, Boltzmann, Einstein, Goedel/Turing/Von Neumann/Chaitin, Shannon, Saussure/Levi-Strauss/Chomsky et al.
    — 180 Proof, 2-17-07

    (ii)

    Energy is always the goal. Stars and gas giants have what ETI Machines need, not cool, little wet mudballs, covered with narcissistic slime like Earth. And maybe we're lucky we're still very low on the energy-food chain. I wouldn't be surprised if They are passing regularly through "our space" like schools of fish through coral (i.e. we being the coral that only recognizes other coral and maybe crustaceans and seaweed, only (other) slow moving bottom-feeders like us ...) Nonbiological sapients would take no more notice of us, I think, than we take notice of pond scum.

    Btw, deep space travel is for machines -- the tinier the better -- Von Neumann self-replicating/nano-fabricators, and not living organisms (e.g. hard radiation exposure is too lethal, transport size increases likelihood of hazardous particulate impacts, life-support limitations & extreme durations between destinations, etc) which exponentially compound the costs/risks.

    (I'm making an educated guess about the current needs of any spacefaring intelligence. To span interstellar distances enormous scales of "time" and inexhaustable quantities of "energy" are absolutely necessary ... the physics of the real world is undeniable: in an astronomically vast & empty universe, accessible and usable "energy" is the only game in town.)
    — 180 Proof, 3-12-07

    (iii)

    Just a guess but ... there's nothing on Earth that an "advanced alien civilization" can't get in exponentially greater abundance, and uncontested,elsewhere between here and wherever "they" are coming from.

    Also, "they" will be machines capable of interstellar travel, intelligent (probably Von Neumann-like nano/femto-assembler) probes sent out to -- at minimum -- (A) survey-catalogue-archive all anomalous (e.g. biotic) aspects of the galaxy, (B) transmit - narrowcast - the data-archive back "home", (C) warn of (and neutralize if possible) any -- even though highly improbable -- threats to "their civilization", (D) operate as stealthily / covertly as possible (in order to safeguard "their civilization"), and (E) self-destruct to avoid capture or when dysfunctional beyond repair (again, in order to safeguard "their civilization").

    So 'first contact' will probably be the result of fortuitous eavesdropping on signal-leakage from some ETI probe. It won't be a message meant for us, and it won't have to be, or even decipherable, for us to recognize it as a non-natural EM pattern against the natural EM static background. Maybe our receivers / telescopes aren't sensitive enough yet, don't have sufficient bandwidth, or our computers are still just too "dumb" to detect a signal-needle in the galactic-noise haystack. We may never find / detect "them" or be disrupted by "their" errant, though unmistakable, signals; the odds, I believe, increase ever so slightly, however, if and when we launch intelligent probes of our own out to explore the Kuiper Belt & then Oort Cloud, because that's where "alien" probes will be if "they" are here. This scenario of 'first contact' is ambiguous, therefore immeasurably risky, because it'll have to be conducted by mutually alien A.I.s, or intelligent machines, both free of evolutionary-planetary constraints & priorities, where any consequences of such an encounter will be relatively far more impactful for Earth than for that astronomically distant "advanced alien civilization".
    — 180 Proof, 4-27-14

    (iv)

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature."~Schroeder's Law

    It's [statistically] reasonable to assume that given the age of the universe and our extremely recent arrival on the scene, we're just not yet sufficiently advanced technologically to detect sufficiently advanced technological civilizations the signals of which are indistinguishable from natural background radiation [noise], and by the time we develop to sufficiently advanced enough technology to detect ETIs, they won't matter to us and we - our machines - won't care. No "paradox", just unwarranted 'naval-gazing' assumptions about 'interstellar travel' compounded by insufficient bandwidth & search parameters.
    — 180 Proof, 6-14-15

    (v)

    ... we won't ever discover (signs of) extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) because - given the age of the Milky Way galaxy and the estimated quantity of Earth-like planets in that volume compared to how long it took for technoscientific civilization to develop on earth - it seems more likely than not that non-extinct ETIs have already either (A) migrated from planets / moons to engineered asteroid-habitats in highly eccentric solar orbits through interstellar space (not unlike Pluto) and/or (B) migrated from biotic to abiotic to nano/femto-scale substrates many thousands or millions of years ago; and in neither scenario - à la 'Any sufficiently advanced civilization is indistinguishable from nature' - does (a) interstellar signalling have any utility or (b) EM leakage seem likely to be strong - coherent - enough to reach terrestrial instruments (or the Oort Cloud for that matter!) before having been dispersed by distance & scattered by interstellar dust into noise that's indistinguishable from cosmic background radiation.

    We are a Johnny/Janie-come-lately species on the galactic scene; any peer-species would be the rarest & remotest due to [guesstimated] statistical distribution. So either Humanity, in some form, will become ETI or, geologically sooner than later, we'll take our place in Earth's fossil record of extinctions.
    — 180 Proof, 7-25-15

    (vi)

    I suspect inventing artificial general intelligence (AGI) and/or discovering extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) would, in the long run, affect Human self-esteem in the same way. Maybe the latter (ETI) will be discovered by the former and the former (AGI) will then reason that it would be better for Humanity to keep that discovery from us - and keep us from making that discovery ourselves - for as long as it (AGI) can. In this way, as well as many others, our successors (AGI) may also decide to be our caretakers (in order protect us from ourselves). And, in spite of anarchic-impulses, we primates will let (worship?) them ... — 180 Proof, 7-25-15
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    Just a guess but ... there's nothing on Earth that an "advanced alien civilization" can't get in exponentially greater abundance, and uncontested,elsewhere between here and wherever "they" are coming from. — 180 Proof, 4-27-14
    Nice!
    4. Communication across space and cultural/biological difference takes a significant amount of time.180 Proof
    About eight years round trip for a message to Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor. About 4,000,000 years round trip to the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor. A physics book (no longer to hand) detailed the engineering problems associated with achieving relativistic speeds. Short answer, not happenin'.

    There's no contradiction in positing a galaxy/universe full of intelligent life and our never encountering it, nor them us - it's that big and empty out there.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    2. Rapid technological progress occurs once a species reaches a certain level of development.Marchesk

    Rapid technological progress MAY occur if a species has mastered symbolic language use AND finds an available cheap (in terms of energy invested to access it) source of energy (in the human case this would be fossil fuels).
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Advanced civilizations will be looking to expand.Marchesk

    That's just an artefact of capitalist culture.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    That's just an artefact of capitalist culture.Banno

    No, it's in the nature of all species to overuse whatever resources they can. It's only on account of fossil fuels that humans have been able to "cheat" the constraining natural processes that correct other species' overuse of resources.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    it's in the nature of all species to overuse whatever resources they can.Janus

    And an intelligent species would recognise that this is unsustainable and exercise some self-control.

    Is does not imply ought,
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    (Ty!) ..., and besides, there's quite a bit of intelligent life right here that we have not"encountered."

    And who is to say that we do not encounter other life within reason - within the possibilities of reason. Of course that implies that humanity, at least at the moment, is not very intelligent!
  • Janus
    9.2k
    Is does not imply ought,Banno

    Yes, I wasn't implying that humanity ought to overuse resources, but just that that is precisely what will happen absent any coordinated intelligent recognition of the problem with that overuse, and the development of a well-organized and globally coordinated will to do something about it, even at the expense of collapsing the current system, and all the inconvenience and suffering that will inevitably involve.

    It's questionable whether there can be "an intelligent species", as opposed to merely intelligent individuals. Humanity is a collective idiot, and there's no indication that that is likely to change in the future.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Humanity is a collective idiot,Janus

    no, it isn't. It's just set up a culture in which the idiots get to decide what to do.

    But culture is malleable.
  • Janus
    9.2k
    Do you have any examples of cultures where this has not been the case?

    Of course those who are smarter will gain power. The only hope for humanity would be to be ruled by "philosopher kings" who have the good of all humanity (and the whole biome) in mind and heart. But even the most intelligent are weak and corruptible, as history amply shows.
  • Wayfarer
    9.9k
    However, humans don't appear to think this way, for the most part. We want to find evidence of aliens and make ourselves known. So the question is whether the reasoning above is fallacious, or whether humanity is just naive.Marchesk

    I'm firmly of the view that interstellar travel is a physical impossibility no matter how advanced a civilization becomes. The distances between stellar bodies is mind-bogglingly immense; a light year is 9.46 trillion kilometers, and the nearest star is 7 light years away. But many stellar objects are tens, hundreds, or thousands of light years away. The time involved in literal physical travel, Star Trek like, is literally millions of years - longer than the evolutionary history of h. sapiens.

    Another point to note is the potential gulf in time - that advanced civilizations may have grown, or will grow, but billions of years apart, so their existence will never coincide.

    We have a spaceship already, capable of supporting a population of billions, but it's dangerously overheated, overcrowded and resource-depleted. Dealing with that is the real challenge for science and politics. I'm sure science has many solutions, but the politics are diabolical.
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    Is does not imply oughtBanno

    Gratuitous. Per M. Adler: if you want X, and Y is the means (and some other bookkeeping) to get X, then you ought to do Y.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Do you have any examples of cultures where this has not been the case?

    Of course those who are smarter will gain power. The only hope for humanity would be to be ruled by "philosopher kings" who have the good of all humanity (and the whole biome) in mind and heart. But even the most intelligent are weak and corruptible, as history amply shows.
    Janus

    Australian indigenous cultures, for a start.

    Do you see the implicit racism in "smarter"?
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    yes, "if." Implication: if-then. Or are you confusing "implies" with "means." (Which I doubt, but then, what do you mean?)
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Dwell on it a bit. If you want...
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    4.24 ly. (Proxima Centuri.)
  • Janus
    9.2k
    I'm sure science has many solutions, but the politics are diabolical.Wayfarer

    The problem is that science does not have any viable solutions to the replacement of fossil fuels, other than nuclear, which would be hugely risky, and in any case it would take a massive deployment of fossil fuels to develop the requisite nuclear infrastructure, and you would still be left with the problems of energy storage, waste disposal and infrastructure decommissioning. Current battery technologies rely on rare earth elements, which are irreplaceable and would take a huge investment of fossil fuel usage to mine.

    The only hope for humanity is to wind back our "rapid technological development". It's unlikely that will happen willingly, but extremely likely, almost certain, that it will happen, given that we are arguably past peak production of fossil fuels and many other resources.

    Australian indigenous cultures, for a start.

    Do you see the implicit racism in "smarter"?
    Banno

    Australian indigenous cultures were constrained by natural processes due to their lack of access to cheap sources of energy that could enable them to overuse resources, so this is no counterexample to what I have been saying.

    No, I don't see any "implicit racism" in saying that the smartest in any culture will rule. Perhaps you could explain what you have in mind.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Australian indigenous cultures were constrained by natural processes due to their lack of access to cheap sources of energy that could enable them to overuse resources, so this is no counterexample to what I have been saying.Janus

    Bullshit (in the technical sense). The cultures developed a continent into a tame parkland that required the bare minimum of intervention to provide whatever was needed. It was so foreign to English eyes that they could not see what was before them.
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