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Intelligent alien life - could it be the zoo hypothesis or nothing ?

By T.K. Randall
January 7, 2024 · Comment icon 14 comments
Planets and clouds
Could there be other civilizations out there ? Image Credit: Archange1Michael
A new study has highlighted the increasing likelihood that the reality of intelligent alien life can be boiled down to two possibilities.
The question of whether we are alone in the universe remains one of the biggest philosophical conundrums of our time. While it seems almost inconceivable that our civilization is alone in the cosmos, the fact still remains that we have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

The Fermi paradox, which highlights the contradiction between the likely existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the fact that we have still never encountered any, seems to suggest that either there are no aliens out there, or they are so rare that it is unlikely we would ever come across them.

Now according to a new study, the fact that we have yet to discover any conclusive evidence of intelligent alien civilizations suggests that the Fermi paradox may have only two possible answers - the zoo hypothesis or nothing.

The zoo hypothesis is essentially the idea that intelligent alien civilizations are aware of our existence but prefer to keep their distance to allow us to develop on our own. This scenario is similar to the 'prime directive' in Star Trek which forbids the Federation from interfering with pre-warp civilizations.

The alternative, researchers argue, is 'nothing' - or more specifically, the likelihood that intelligent alien life is either non-existent or so extremely rare that we are never likely to encounter it.
The more extrasolar planets we discover and the more we learn about the universe without finding evidence of intelligent aliens, the more likely it is that the answer to the Fermi paradox is one of these two possibilities.

What's more, even the zoo hypothesis will become less likely the further we explore space.

"The longer we do not detect any signs of advanced intelligent life around us, the less likely the zoo hypothesis becomes as an explanation, forcing us to conclude that technological intelligent life is rare in the universe," the researchers wrote.

"It is in this sense that we propose that the solution to the Fermi paradox is the zoo hypothesis or nothing."

The study authors even go so far as to suggest that we may know which of these two options is the answer within as little as 50 years.

Source: IFL Science | Comments (14)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by Cho Jinn 4 months ago
But not so tiny that we can't, breathing heavily, make sweeping conclusions from our creaking chairs in front of the computer!
Comment icon #6 Posted by joc 4 months ago
We might be the only intelligent life in the universe.  Then again, civilizations could be as countless as grains of sand on the beach. It isn't 'unlikely' that we would ever come across them.  It is impossible that we could ever come across them.  As @Portresaid, The Universe is big, really big. At it's current speed of 38,000 mph (17 kilometers per second) would take Voyager 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. 4.37 light years away.  The closest star besides are own sun.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Earl.Of.Trumps 4 months ago
As I have said many times, If we don't find the shortcut some day, we're doomed. We will never go anywhere,  the shortcut is, as Einstein proposed, the wormhole. there are other possibilities too
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hazzard 4 months ago
I think that cryo sleep is as close as we will ever get to star trekking.  And that is nowhere in sight.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Dejarma 4 months ago
the thing is joc, we have no idea what's out there. Advanced alien races (if there are any) may well look at light speed in the way we now look at the horse & cart with regards to travel.. who knows? i don't that's for sure ?
Comment icon #10 Posted by joc 4 months ago
The other thing is though is that the laws of physics are the same anywhere in the universe.  But who knows?  Not me that's for sure! 
Comment icon #11 Posted by esoteric_toad 3 months ago
I agree with you, mostly.  I still feel there are things that we could have fundamentally wrong just as we have in the past. I try to avoid using absolutes when it comes to science because by its very nature our theories are subject to change as we expand our abilities to see further in all directions. What we knew 1000, 500, 100, 20 years ago has change on some level to what we know now. Who knows what we will know in a thousand years, assuming we don't kill ourselves off or nuke ourselves into Stone Age Part 2.
Comment icon #12 Posted by dvd22 3 months ago
What if we already went through Stone Age Part 2 and are heading to Stone Age Part 3?
Comment icon #13 Posted by Hazzard 3 months ago
What if, is always fun.
Comment icon #14 Posted by joc 3 months ago
That's all true...but we know what we know, and we don't build theories on what we don't know...only on what we do know.  I fully expect that such things as new insights with regards to String  Theory will happen in the next 20 or 50 years.    Meanwhile back at the Reality Farm...we still only know what we know.  Which means that you are 100%  correct about not using absolutes.  Because there aren't any really.  Except for what we know...which could mean that we really don't know anything.  Like putting that thing back together on your truck and after it's all together you realize tha... [More]

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