Friday, June 6, 2014

Fermi Paradox Again

Instapundit points to this article in Popular Mechanics that argues that there could be 100 million planets in the Milky Way hospitable to complex life.  Complex life doesn't necessarily mean technological, which is good, because otherwise Fermi's Paradox continues to haunt us: "Where are they?"  If you believe that life on Earth is just the result of random biochemical processes, there's no reason to think that we are first, or special, or unique in any way at all.  So why hasn't anyone knocked on the door and said, "Hey, Earthlings, want to join our federation?" Or worse, "You look yummy!  We have recipes that will work just fine on your species."

However, XKCD has a funny cartoon explaining the lack of interstellar communication.


  1. ... there's no reason to think that we are first, or special, or unique in any way at all.

    Well, except for the fact that we haven't encountered anyone else.

  2. Maybe FTL drive doesn't exist.

  3. Even if human life is somehow unique in some way, up to and including divine intervention, both the Fermi Paradox and Hanson's "Great Filter" remain of concern. It doesn't really matter whether /we/ came about because of random biological processes: it matters whether it's possible for anyone to come about through random biological processes. We can make at least very basic forms of protolife in the lab without requiring extremely exotic situations, after all.

    On the other hand, the really scary thing about the Fermi Paradox isn't an alien Federation, or even aliens with a "To Serve Man" cookbook. There's a saying in the Singularity community: 'They do not care for you. They do not like you. They do not hate you. But you are made of materials they can use for more important things.' If there's a civilization with a billion years headstart and even slightly different desires than us -- whether because they didn't fall to temptation to Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil, or because they like their chlorophyll-equivalent blue -- the first possible warning looks like a supernova followed by an attack moving a significant fraction of the speed of light.

  4. Jupiterians have been signaling for 1000's of years with their great red spot visual communication system.

    No response.

  5. Once transportation technology advances far enough to create a planet-wide political monopoly, technology grinds to a halt.