I found this article the other day, and I love talking about the Fermi Paradox because it is very fascinating. For those that are not familiar here is a quick refresher. The Fermi Paradox is the other side of the Drake Equation, which is a mathematical formula that speculates how many intelligent civilizations there are out there. Where the paradox comes into play is that even the most extremely conservative numbers entered into the equation still yield an extraordinarily high number of intelligent civilizations, thus the paradox and begs the question where is everyone. The below article talks about some very unlikely scenarios that could possibly be a solution to the paradox.
I found the article very interesting, so much so that I emailed the writer, who has yet to get back to me, some people!, Anyways I basically asked him why he thought an intelligent species would want to make contact with us. I posted my email to George at the end of this post. If you read my Random Thoughts often it is nothing new and basically sums up all my thoughts on the subject. I felt George was of the mindset that it was a given that the civilization would be programmed like us and want to make contact and explore. I do not necessarily share these sentiments, but that is not want I wanted to talk about today.
One of the 7 solutions was something to the effect that the aliens would not bother with traveling through space because it was so big. While I do not think that is the reason, however I do think that the vacuum of space is a barrier for most if not all living things. Plus this solution also takes into effect that they would want to traverse the infinite dangers of deep space travel simply to make contact. For all we know they could be some xenophobic civilization that is quite content on their home planet. The article also makes mention of this not being an issue because the aliens would be able to transmit their consciousness or large amounts of data, that could be their consciousness, across light-years of space in an instant.
I love this idea, in fact when I read it I thought they stole if from me. About 3 years ago I wrote a story where the highly advanced aliens created android bodies and were able to just beam there consciousness to them across the universe and other dimensions. But in fact it seems to be the brain child of Charles Strouss who is a sifi writer, and I have a few of his novels on my list to read. While I thought I was quite clever when I came up with this idea it has already been done. Dang it, o well, just goes to show that it is near impossible to come up with a truly new and unique idea.
If I am going to be optimistic about this I think it is entirely possible especially if the aliens are some sort of super intelligent A.I. This seems like the easiest way to circumvent the problem of deep space travel no matter the being (flesh or machine). It would no doubt be easier for beings that are mechanical but why waste the resources to build a space ship if you can just transmit your consciousness across the cosmos faster.
Now here comes the pessimistic part. In this whole process we are assuming that the aliens are smarter than us (which I do not have a problem with), so we are also assuming that were able to figure out what consciousness is, which is something we are not even close to figuring out and as smart as we are we are having a hard time even defining it. But again they are smarter than us so let’s assume they figured it out, what’s next? Next would be digitizing their consciousness, basically turn it into some sort of digital code or bits of data. Figuring out what consciousness is is one thing, then figuring out how to digitize it is another, but let’s say they solved both these problems. Lastly they would need a place or an end point to receive their transmitted info. Now you can transmit your consciousness across the universe, but you don’t have any end point to receive it. While I think the space ship is probably a myth as Stross claims I still think there is some practically to it as it could transmit the beings to a planet where they could set up some sort of network where the uploaded consciousness could be received, thus making interstellar travel instant. Perhaps there could be a integral spaceship, probably automated, that could make the trip to a nearby star and once it arrived locates a habitat planet. Once there it sets up a variety of instruments, including a device to make mobile bodies, to receive the consciousness of the beings back on their home planet. I think this is a very real solution and if the above is possible could be easily obtained.
Still I think an even more viable solution would probably be a von Neumann probe, which is a self replicating robot. Technically these things could have and should have colonized at the very least our galaxy by now but they are nowhere to be seen. Think if our voyager probe was a probe that could build things, and lets also say that Jupiter had a rocky surface. It could have landed on Jupiter and made an android body so we could transmit our consciousness to it and walk around the surface of Jupiter in a matter of seconds. Or maybe it is carrying a few of these android bodies with it and drops them off as it passes by certain planets. How amazing would that be? This sceinerio eliminates the dangers of deep space travel for our fragile flesh and blood bodies among so many other space travel problems.
So lest say that aliens solve the mystery of consciousness, then they figure out a way to digitize it and turn it into bits of data, then they send out these probes that colonize the galaxy and some are programmed to create some sort of body or beacon to receive the beamed consciousness. Now we are getting somewhere. The only problem with all this is that there are so many “if’s” and quite a few assumptions that go into this theory, but if you take even the most conservative approach to the Drake Equation there are still hundreds if not thousands of civilizations out there. So even if less than 1% of them can do this that is still 10’s maybe even hundreds of intelligent civilizations.
While this is way fun to think about and I believe there is some validity to this theory, the fact remains that we still have not made contact with anyone out there. I will leave you with a quote from Bill Watterson:
“The surest sign there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is that it hasn’t tried to contact us.”
Below is the email I sent to George
Hello George, I am a big fan of your articles on all things that involve the future and in this case aliens. Recently I read your article titled The 7 least plausible solutions to the Fermi Paradox and I had some questions for you if you don’t mind.
In reading your article, which I found quite interesting, I did feel you assumed that aliens would want to make contact with us. In the article you made mention that if we were to find something it would most likely be in the form of a highly advance super intelligence alien computer of sorts, I also am of this same mindset. However, if these are the aliens that are out there I do not think they would be programmed anything like us flesh and blood beings. I think most would agree we have an inherent yearning to explore, I do not think those same traits would be passed down to a machine of our creation that has had thousands if not millions of years to evolve on its own. So my question is why do you think if there is something out there, and if there is not that is extremely depressing, they would want to make contact with us?
I think we have to assume that they, whatever they are, would be light-years more advanced than us, so what would be their motive in making contact? I do not buy the scenario that they would come to destroy us, that makes little to no sense. Equally as puzzling would be why they would come to talk to us at all, there would be almost nothing we could offer them. I am of the mindset that aliens visiting us would be like a team of scientist visiting a lost tribe in the Amazon. It would do more harm than good, as they are getting along just fine without us. If we were to give them an iPhone they would not have the slightest idea what it is nor how it is used, I think aliens visiting would be very similar. So what would they gain by making contact, and if it was a super intelligent computer I think it would use its superior logic and quickly determine that we had nothing to offer it and move on.
I guess my overall sentiment is that there is almost no reason for a highly advanced alien civilization to make contact with us. I am interesting in hearing your thoughts.