The Great Filter
The Fermi Paradox creates an interesting dilemma from science. What is the filter that seems to be preventing conclusive evidence of alien civilizations? We have several options:
- Planets capable of supporting life: That might be a deceptive description. What is a planet capable of supporting life. The first indication is that it must have liquid water present. This is certainly necessary but it isn’t sufficient. A better criteria would be the world having sufficiently long time to support life for life to evolve far enough to have intelligent life. Such examples include evolution of magnetic field, and evolution of atmospheric chemistry.
- Probability of life becoming intelligent life: There are some potential hurdles for this that might make this number extremely slow. First off, 99.9% of all species have gone extinct, giving us a probability of a particular species surviving at 0.001. But there may be other biological hurdles to intelligence that are not accounted for in the mere survival of a particular species. An evolutionary line would need to be formed that make it past these biological hurdles, driving the number even lower. Some of these hurdles consist of development of Eucaryotic cells, assembly of multi-cellular organisms, adaptation to planetary changes, and evolution of cognitive mechanisms.
- Probability of intelligent life developing necessary technologies for interstellar communications: This is technological evolution from the first tools to the understanding of radio and electronics. On Earth, humanity has gone over these technological hurdles in various places at various times. The development of technologies is tied to many factors including: availability of materials, cultural norms, economic factors, perceived need, and environmental limitations.
- Lifetime of a civilization: There might be poison pill technologies that end a civilization. In the past, we’ve seen civilizations come and go. Historians have postulated multiple causes for the collapses. In fact, some postulate that certain collapses set back humanity’s technological progress by a couple hundred years or more. Humanity happened to develop the hydrogen bomb about the same time as they developed the means of interstellar communications. The driving question has been: will we survive long enough to make contact? In the video below John Michael Godier discusses the Vulnerable World Hypothesis.
This week’s discord chat
- Week of Apr 16 2023 [16th at 1 PM EDT (6 PM GMT), 19th at 9 PM EDT (20th 2 AM GMT)]
- The Fermi Paradox
Lunar Sourcebook: a Users Guide to the Moon edited by Grant H. Heiken, David T. Vaniman, and Bevan M. French