[Fermi Paradox] Earth should have already been visited by an extraterrestrial civilization
The Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability (such as some optimistic estimates for the Drake equation).
Fermi, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1938, and while he was involved in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in the United States, had lunch with several of his friends and colleagues (Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller and Herbert York). During the meal, he comes to ask where the aliens are, and poses the principle of the paradox that bears his name. This paradox consists in wondering why mankind has, until now, found no trace of extraterrestrial civilizations, when the Sun is younger than many stars in our galaxy. According to Fermi, more advanced civilizations should have appeared among the older planetary systems and left traces visible from Earth, such as radio waves. Fermi's paradox can be expressed in the form of a question:
"If there were extraterrestrial civilizations, their representatives would already be here. Where are they now?"
The question of Fermi - raised before him by Constantin Tsiolkovsky - was rediscovered by Carl Sagan in 1966, then explicitly formulated by the engineer David Viewing in 1975. In the same year, Michael H. Hart formulated several hypotheses aimed at resolving the paradox, classified into four categories:
- it may be that the probability of the appearance of a technologically advanced civilization is very low, so that a universe the size of ours is necessary for it to have a chance of occurring once (but much less likely twice) ;
- it is possible that extraterrestrials exist but for some reason interstellar communication and travel is either impossible or not considered desirable;
- life may exist elsewhere, but in places that make it difficult to detect - for example, in oceans protected by a layer of ice, organized around hydrothermal vents;
- finally, it may be that extraterrestrials exist and visit us but in a way that is undetectable with current technology.
For some authors, the paradox is not a paradox; for others, it is a dilemma or a problem of logic; for others, it is based on an anthropocentrism, i.e. a reasoning that apprehends reality through the only human perspective, the narrowness of this reasoning would prevent the question of extraterrestrial life from being resolved. Specialized literature, as well as science fiction, philosophy and religious thought, have since then known a profusion of essays exploring possible solutions to the paradox. The way of approaching it has thus evolved; statistical tools (such as Drake's equation) have attempted to put it in a scientific form. Other approaches (such as the theory of evolution, ecology or computer simulation) have broadened the basis for reflection. But there is still no consensus on the solution to the problem.
We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computors, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.
The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.
It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.
Social media has given everyone a virtual megaphone to broadcast every thought, along with the means to filter out any contrary view [...] The result is a creeping sense of isolation and emptiness, which leads people to swipe, tap, and click all the more. Digital distraction keeps the mind occupied but does little to nurture it, much less cultivate depth of feeling, which requires the resonance of another’s voice within our very bones and psyches.
Chris Hadfield, reassuring a five-year-old who was worried about the Voyager satellite, a space probe launched by NASA in 1977, the most distant man-made object from Earth still operating after 42 years.
Voyager is so happy, because it’s the bravest satellite of all. It has gone the furthest. And it’s not lonely, because it’s talking to us. It phones home. And it tells us all about the wonderful things that it’s seeing. …There’s a whole universe to explore, and it’s just leaving our Solar System right now. It’s very brave and very lucky to be doing what it’s doing, so it’s not going to get lost. It’s traveled further than anything we’ve ever built has traveled before. It’s actually showing us the way. …
It might have been safer for it to just stay home, and stay inside a building, but then it would have been sad forever, because it never would have done its purpose. It never would have discovered things. It’s all a wonderful story of great discovery and success, and it couldn’t have happened if Voyager hadn’t been brave…
It’s not really the fact that everything always has a start and an end, it’s what happens in the middle that counts. What do you while you’re alive? What do you do while you’re laughing? And I think we’re doing exactly what makes Voyager joyful and as happy as it could be.
Think about the fact that you’re a little bit like Voyager. In that you’re going to go see the world, and you’re going to call your mom on the phone and tell her about the wonderful things that you see. … You wouldn’t want to spend your whole life hiding under your bed and never seeing anything in your whole life, you want to be able to do what makes you happy and joyful and learn about things to discover. You might be the person that discovers something really important for everybody else on the world, but you can never discover that if you just hide and only do things that are safe. So think about yourself a little bit like Voyager. What makes you laugh? It’s not just staying, hiding underneath your bed safely at home
Magic's just science that we don't understand yet.