Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 2
I'mConvinced

Fermi's Paradox, the Great Filter and the...

39 posts in this topic

Dear UM,

I would like to put forward a starting point for debate:

I believe extraterrestrial life exists but it rarely, if ever, reaches our level of development.

This is based on a few different arguments that it's important to get familiar with (most of you probably are already but bare with me):

1. Fermi's paradox (from Wikipedia)

The Fermi paradox or Fermi's paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidenceand high probability estimates,[1] for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.[2]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,[3][4] many of which are billions of years older than Earth.[5][6]
  • With high probability, some of these stars will have Earth-like planets,[7][8] 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.[9]

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?"[10][11] There have been many attempts to explain the Fermi paradox,[12][13]primarily either suggesting that intelligent extraterrestrial life is extremely rare or proposing reasons that such civilizations have not contacted or visited Earth.

2. The Great Filter (from Wikipedia)

The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents "dead matter" from giving rise, in time, to "expanding lasting life".[1][2] The concept originates in Robin Hanson's argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable; this observation is conceptualized in terms of a "Great Filter" which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human).[3] This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction.[1][4] The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

The idea was first proposed in an online essay titled "The Great Filter - Are We Almost Past It?", written by economist Robin Hanson. The first version was written in August 1996 and the article was last updated on September 15, 1998. Since that time, Hanson's formulation has received recognition in several published sources discussing the Fermi paradox and its implications.

3. The Technological Singularity (From Wikipedia)

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity)[1] is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.[2] According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence. John von Neumann first used the term "singularity" (c. 1950s[3]), in the context of technological progress causing accelerating change: "The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue".[4] Subsequent authors have echoed this viewpoint.[2][5] I. J. Good's "intelligence explosion" model predicts that a future superintelligence will trigger a singularity.[6]Emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University and science fictionauthor Vernor Vinge said in his 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity that this would signal the end of the human era, as the new superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself and would advance technologically at an incomprehensible rate.[6]

At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial general intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. [7]

Many notable personalities, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk consider the uncontrolled rise of artificial intelligence as a matter of alarm and concern for humanity's future. The consequences of the singularity and its potential benefit or harm to the human race has been hotly debated by various intellectual circles.

 

So then UM, my questions to you are these;

1. What do you believe is the reason for the lack of Alien contact in a universe that should be teeming with life?

2. Do you believe artificial intelligence could 'evolve' into a super-intelligence? Or are there human traits a computer could never replicate? If so, what are they?

3. Are we approaching a technological singularity right now? Could the revolution in genetic engineering (CRISPR) cause a biological singularity?

I believe we are approaching both of these things simultaneously. The question is will we destroy our planet before we reach it? And if we do reach the singularity will it be to our benefit or our destruction?

Could this be the answer to the Fermi paradox? That we are doomed to destroy ourselves in a disaster of our on making, as with every other evolution of intelligence in the universe? Will the decade begining 2040 be our last?

Doooooooom!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Might I suggest yet another reason as to why we've not seen hide nor tail of any ETs: Distance. If the only other advanced ETs are on the opposite side of our galaxy, or in another galaxy altogether, they're just too far away as to be detectable.

7 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

19 minutes ago, Lilly said:

Might I suggest yet another reason as to why we've not seen hide nor tail of any ETs: Distance. If the only other advanced ETs are on the opposite side of our galaxy, or in another galaxy altogether, they're just too far away as to be detectable.

Excellent point. This is a part of the paradox though:

The first aspect of the Fermi paradox is a function of the scale or the large numbers involved: there are an estimated 200–400 billion stars in the Milky Way[14] (2–4 × 1011) and 70 sextillion (7×1022) in the observable universe.[15] Even if intelligent life occurs on only a minuscule percentage of planets around these stars, there might still be a great number of extant civilizations, and if the percentage were high enough it would produce a significant number of extant civilizations in the Milky Way. 

So the problem is that any civilization, that has risen beyond our current level by any significant amount, should be emitting a signal of some sort. Given the age of our galaxy and the fact it 'only' takes a million years for light to travel from one side to the other there should, if the stats are to be believed, still be something detectable.

Edited by I'mConvinced
Bolded
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe they've not come here because their first contact with us is via the radio waves we're sending out into the cosmos and they've decided we're all arseholes?

5 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If there was something that lowered the percentage chance of an extant civilisation existing then that might explain the absence. I believe that could be the Great Filter.

I see us as being in the most incredible race imaginable. One in which we must rise technologically faster than we can destroy our planet. Other civilizations may well have faced the same challenge and failed.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They could of course be hiding. The issue then is what do they think or worse, know, that makes them do so?

Our first thought was to make contact, their first though was to hide...I'm not sure we'd come off well in a meeting.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it's more along the lines of trying to find a specific needle in an infinite stack of needles. I mean the universe is big. So us finding them and them finding us has to be very unlikely. I think at most if we do find each other, it'll probably be on our dead planets. 

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you think such a thing as a singularity is achievable? Maybe once achieved the super-intelligence decides the best course of action is our destruction followed by its own quantum suicide.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, I'mConvinced said:

Do you think such a thing as a singularity is achievable? Maybe once achieved the super-intelligence decides the best course of action is our destruction followed by its own quantum suicide.

I've no idea. What I think will happen to us is that will burn ourselves out. Rebuild, do it again, and again. Till the point were we have to leave earth or we're dead. Could possibly happen to other civilization across the cosmos if they exist. It seem the better toys we get the dumber we become. Maybe we deserve to be ruled by machines?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then again another civilization might not have a bit of interest in going into space. Their planet may have become a kind of utopia and they decided they were content being on their own planet. I mean for us we have to knowledge and technology to fix the planet easy, but there's no money in it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

<snip>

So then UM, my questions to you are these;

1. What do you believe is the reason for the lack of Alien contact in a universe that should be teeming with life?

As Lilly, I believe distance.While I personally firmly believe the Universe is teaming with life, it if also a rather large place. To be honest, I never understood why Fermi's probability equation was a paradox in the first place.

3 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

2. Do you believe artificial intelligence could 'evolve' into a super-intelligence? Or are there human traits a computer could never replicate? If so, what are they?

I am sure artificial intelligence could evolve into a higher order intelligence, although I am not sure about a super intelligence, as that is a pretty open superlative.

3 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

3. Are we approaching a technological singularity right now? Could the revolution in genetic engineering (CRISPR) cause a biological singularity?

No. And I doubt it (for the latter).

3 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

I believe we are approaching both of these things simultaneously. The question is will we destroy our planet before we reach it? And if we do reach the singularity will it be to our benefit or our destruction?

Again, I personally doubt it. But then again, I don't work in AI.

3 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

Could this be the answer to the Fermi paradox? That we are doomed to destroy ourselves in a disaster of our on making, as with every other evolution of intelligence in the universe? Will the decade begining 2040 be our last?

Doooooooom!

No.

Cheers,
Badeskov

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Aside from actual physical contact - a Close Encounter of the Third Kind - an initial proof of the existence of other civilisations in the universe will probably be the detection of some kind of electromagnetic (EM) radiation, they of us or us of them. We have been scattering such radiation into space for 100 years or so. Our EM radiation has therefore only travelled 100 lightyears or so into space. There is no intelligent life within that radius of us to detect our signals. They must be further afield. But if they are they are so far afield that their EM radiation has not reached us yet to be detected. The SETI programme has found nothing convincing to date. It may also be the case that such EM signals are too weak to be detected by us or by them.

Edited by Ozymandias
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, badeskov said:

As Lilly, I believe distance.While I personally firmly believe the Universe is teaming with life, it if also a rather large place. To be honest, I never understood why Fermi's probability equation was a paradox in the first place.

The law of large numbers - enough time has elasped since the formation of our galaxy that, statistically at least, if life was common then we would expect to be able to find something.  Of course the answer could just be that life is very rare, much rarer than we currently postulate.

I am sure artificial intelligence could evolve into a higher order intelligence, although I am not sure about a super intelligence, as that is a pretty open superlative.

It is but it just refers to something beyond human capacity.

No. And I doubt it (for the latter).

Can you explain why you think so? All of the signs are there that we are pushing towards some sort of singularity.  For example we will have a working, scaleable quantum computer within a few years (if Google and Microsoft are to be believed), the leap forward in our computational power will be a revolution in most areas of science.  Gene editing brings forwards the possibility of enhancing our own biology far beyond anything we had imagined previously.

Again, I personally doubt it. But then again, I don't work in AI.

Indeed.  Stephen Hawkin and Elon Musk (to name just a couple) see it as the greatest threat we face.  Maybe they had just come out of a late night terminator screening when asked.

No.

OK.

Cheers,
Badeskov

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Ozymandias said:

Aside from actual physical contact - a Close Encounter of the Third Kind - an initial proof of the existence of other civilisations in the universe will probably be the detection of some kind of electromagnetic (EM) radiation, they of us or us of them. We have been scattering such radiation into space for 100 years or so. Our EM radiation has therefore only travelled 100 lightyears or so into space. There is no intelligent life within that radius of us to detect our signals. They must be further afield. But if they are they are so far afield that their EM radiation has not reached us yet to be detected. The SETI programme has found nothing convincing to date. It may also be the case that such EM signals are too weak to be detected by us or by them.

Not strictly true.  There may well be intelligent life watching us right now but they simply do not want their prescence to be known.

The paradox arises because of the huge amount of time that has past and the vanishingly small chance that, if life is indeed common and it survives, a previous civilisation has not already risen to our level long before our emergence. So, it doesn't matter how long it has taken our signals we should be able to detect theirs (the stats suggest that quite some number should exist near by).

If life is uncommon in the universe, or indeed only in one place, this begs the question why? Current science leads us to believe life was created from the chemistry of the Earth and so, given the huge number of Earth-like planets we are discovering, life should be common place.  Even our puny species can imagine ways to travel through space by manipulating the fabric of spacetime, the idea that other intelligent civilisations have not surpassed our technological level seems, in a vast universe, to be very unlikely.

If we find life in our solar system, even microbial life, then the chances of life being common everywhere go up exponetially and this leaves us with the same problem...where are the civilisations that survived to pass our tech level?   

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe due to some evolutionary law we're not aware of, any kind of intelligent alien life eventually gives birth to a Trump and Kim Jong-Il equivalent which herald the destruction of their species?

(But seriously; intelligent species destroying themselves before reaching the technological level to make real and comprehensible contact is another reason)

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, how about a combo deal:

Advanced life is far more rare than we imagine.

Distance issue is utterly immense.

Time issue, as in our civilization existing at the same time as theirs not likely.

 

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If only there is stargate burried somewhere deep... One can only hope.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is also the time delay. Humans have only being emitting electromagnetic (EM) waves into space for 100 years. They are only now arriving at a planet 100 lightyears away from us. If intelligent life there recognises them and responds to us their signal will only arrive here on earth in another 100 years time. 

An intelligent life further away than 100 lightyears has not seen our EM radiation yet. If their development paralleled, or lagged, ours in time then their EM signature will not have arrived at earth yet. On the other hand, if they developed ahead of us we should be seeing their EM radiation waves now or, if not - and that seems to be the case - their headstart in time is offset by the further away they are from us in space.

Whatever the case, the chances of us detecting each other is increasing as time ticks on.

 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 25/09/2017 at 0:51 PM, Lilly said:

Ok, how about a combo deal:

Advanced life is far more rare than we imagine.

Distance issue is utterly immense.

Time issue, as in our civilization existing at the same time as theirs not likely.

 

I agree and I think it is far rarer than predicted. This leaves us with a different conundrum then:

If Advanced life is so rare then what are the special conditions on Earth?

We are now sure that Earth like planets are actually more numerous than first thought in Fermi's time. Complex life has emerged in many different forms on Earth. If life was started by a chemical process then that process should occur anywhere the conditions are right. The law of really large numbers says life should be all around us.

The distance issue is addressed by the time scale. Let me give a rough example:

Age of Milky Way galaxy:

Astronomers have known that the Milky Way is among the oldest of galaxies. The new observations suggest it was indeed one of the first to get under construction. The study puts its age at 13.6 billion years, give or take 800 million years.

Number of earth like planets:

On November 4, 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way galaxy. 11 billion of these estimated planets may be orbiting Sun-like stars.

Size of Milky Way galaxy:

100,000 light years.

This means it would take 100,000 years for a light (em) based signal to cross the galaxy.

The sheer amount of time since the galaxy formed combined with the huge number of planets with Earth like conditions and the relatively short time needed for em signals to traverse it points to civilization like ours being very rare indeed.

Why though?

The time issue you mentioned is addressed because they do not need to have existed simultaneously in order for us to detect them. We only need to see a glimpse of an unnatural encoded signal to know 'someone' sent it.

The proposed solution of the Great Filter is that not only is it rare for a civilization to arise but it doesn't last very long when it does. Something 'filters' them out...

Wouldn't this suggest we are 'rapidly' approaching ours? 

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some would say the special conditions on Earth are that a creator was involved somehow. If life didn't arise from a chemical reaction then the paradox goes away. 

This isn't what I conclude but it can't be ruled out given the paradox.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, I'mConvinced said:

Some would say the special conditions on Earth are that a creator was involved somehow. If life didn't arise from a chemical reaction then the paradox goes away. 

This isn't what I conclude but it can't be ruled out given the paradox.

Yes but why create such a large universe of potential and only create life on one planet? I suppose it could be a test run to see if it was feasible to populate the others later, but then if god knows all why would there be a need to run a test.

jmccr8

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The mystery is how did life come to be in the first place.  Then is it possible it can be replicated anywhere else in the universe in the second place.

Perhaps Earth is a freak of nature.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/25/2017 at 7:10 PM, I'mConvinced said:

The law of large numbers - enough time has elasped since the formation of our galaxy that, statistically at least, if life was common then we would expect to be able to find something.  Of course the answer could just be that life is very rare, much rarer than we currently postulate.

Which Law of Large Numbers are you referring to; Bernoulli's? How can you say "enough time has elapsed" and mean that a sufficiently large number of trials has been recorded, that we may observe a convergence of the probability of life?

However, if we can create some equivalence between trials and the data we have collected, the probability seems to be approaching zero.  The LLN actually suggests that either life is extremely rare, or we haven't conducted enough trials.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Golden Duck said:

Which Law of Large Numbers are you referring to; Bernoulli's? How can you say "enough time has elapsed" and mean that a sufficiently large number of trials has been recorded, that we may observe a convergence of the probability of life?

However, if we can create some equivalence between trials and the data we have collected, the probability seems to be approaching zero.  The LLN actually suggests that either life is extremely rare, or we haven't conducted enough trials.

Sorry I should have been clearer, I was talking about the law of truly large numbers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_truly_large_numbers

I wasn't referring to the number of trials but rather the vanishingly small chance that we are the only advanced civilisation to have existed, given the premise of life being common.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/2/2017 at 0:13 PM, taniwha said:

The mystery is how did life come to be in the first place.  Then is it possible it can be replicated anywhere else in the universe in the second place.

Perhaps Earth is a freak of nature.

1952 Miller-Urey experiment ( on which, mostly, Stephen Hawking base his answer of the question of '' who we are '' ) show us how amino acids can be formed naturally if environment is sufficient. I do not know how much do amino acids alone acount for existence of life in general and if they are sufficient for other proces to take place after they are formed but that surely was interesting result, one thing is certain : amino acids can form and did form across the Universe. 

Is complex life product of nature and evolution or there was some divine spark of creation at some point which made it possible? If its simply natural then there is abundance of life in the Universe but most important thing here is that distances are so great that it makes it unrealistic to expect contact, at least not yet. 

 

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 2

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.