F*** Fermi – I Never Liked A Paradox Anyway

Fuck FermiI get questioned a lot on whether or not I believe the stuff I write in my weekly wonders. Mostly, I just like writing controversial or thought provoking stuff. But primarily, I research it cause it inspires my own stories.

But, one thing I don’t mind admitting, is that I am 100% certain we are not alone.

You can’t tell me in that infinite void we call the universe, no one else climbed out of the primordial slime. No chance. I mean, does anyone actually believe that any more?!

But then, if there’s life out there… where the hell is it?

And that’s the question Fermi tries to answer with his paradox.

The Fermi paradox, according to Wiki, tries to solve the contradiction between the fact that space is infinite, and therefore the likelihood of there being life out there, is high. Yet, there is a lack of evidence for higher civilisations, (or at least a lack of accepted evidence).

Fermi asked just that.

If space is infinite, then the probability of other life is high, so why have we not encountered any other life forms?

Image curtsey of creative commons

Image curtsey of creative commons

To be fair, it’s a good question. He continues to add that our sun is average, in an average galaxy, that even at the slow pace of interstellar travel, our galaxy could be crossed in less than a million years. If it can be crossed in less than a million years, and the universe is over 13 BILLION years old, someone must have been able to cover the distance by now.
Fermi also reasoned that every star system ought to have been colonised and under the command of a species within 10 million years (SETI)…this is where he starts to lose me, didn’t it take at least 4 million years for us to crawl out of the primordial sludge, stop scratching our arses and start using our frontal cortexes?

Now, this is complicated, so I found a youtube video that explains it very simply, in just 6 minutes, watch it.

To summarise the video, it explains that there are three stages to life:

Type 1 – a civilisation that can use all resources on its planet

Type 2 – a civilisation that can use all the resources of its home star

Type 3 – a civilisation that can use all the resources of its entire galaxy (this would be god like to us)

It also highlights the concept of filters – a kind of barrier that life faces whilst trying to survive which is extremely hard to over come. The reasoning for it – the fact that we haven’t seen any other life, therefore, there must be something ‘a filter’ preventing us from surviving or travelling or…. etc etc.

It then gives three reasons why we may not have seen life so far:

1. Maybe these filters exist and we have passed them, if so maybe we are the first civilisation to exist, the rest are behind us and trying to pass the filters.

2. Maybe we are behind other civilisations and the filters are ahead of us and we    don’t know yet if we will survive them, or worse, we reach a filter that no life has yet been able to pass.

3. Maybe there is a type 3 civilisation out there that is watching us ready to extinguish us when we reach a certain level, or maybe they will welcome us. Or maybe, we are going to be that type 3 civilisation.

If you check out the Wiki page, there are a dozen or more reasons why we haven’t found life: we’re not listening correctly, we haven’t existed long enough, its too resource expensive to travel through space, extinction by natural disasters, everyone is listening instead of transmitting, Earth is purposely isolated – kept in a cage like a zoo, they are here, and we don’t know or worse, they are here and we do know but society doesn’t.

The problem with this paradox, is that either way, we’re fucked. If we DO discover life out there, then it means the filters we have passed are easier to pass than those we have coming. Meaning, whatever filter is next, or the one after that, will likely kill us.

*gulp*

Here’s another article with 11 weird answers to the fermi paradox.

What does this mean for writing? Well it’s a wicked cool hypothesis to base a sci-fi or fantasy story on. Right now, I have all kinds of ideas churning round my head. Here’s some questions that are giving me story ideas:

  • What does (or could) a filter look like?  
  • What happens when we get there? Could I set a story right at the point civilisation reaches a filter?
  • How do we fight it or battle past it?
  • Do we survive? What happens if we DO survive? What would life look like?
  • What if we met other species battling the same filter? What if they were the filter?

Finally, there is a TEDx talk from Rob Hanson that discusses this:

Did this spark inspiration for you? What do you think of the Fermi Paradox? Do you think there’s life out there? Let me know in the comments below.

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66 comments

  1. Great post – really thought-provoking.

    I suspect that the following is the case, but will check out the filter links too:

    We are not alone
    But space is really, really big
    So we might as well be…

    😊

  2. Great post, Sacha! Thanks a lot. I always thought there’s a type 3 civilisation and it is among us, but maybe vibrates at different frequency so we can’t see them 😊

  3. If they are not finding when they look out into space, perhaps they should start looking inward. Worlds within worlds or the veils that have been talked about for centuries that keep us from other worlds or universes. It boggled my mind that they think the universe is just dead space, I just dont think this true, they are just not looking in the correct way. I dunno Sacha, I need more coffee. A great post thank you.

    1. Ooh like different dimensions? Yeah I think that’s a great idea to ponder on. I suspect there are plenty of theories covering that too ill give it some thought. It boggles my mind too that it’s just dead space I don’t want to believe it.

    1. Agreed. There’s that whole panspermia theory too that says life spreads through the universe planet by planet because of microbes on meteorites no idea if it holds any weight but it’s an interesting thought.

  4. Interesting with the filters. Also, I’ve wondered about that being watched theory. Humans can come off as fairly violent, short-sighted, fearful, and plain dangerous. We don’t even get along with each other, so an alien species might see us as something to avoid. Maybe they’re just waiting for us to either evolve or wipe ourselves out, but they have some defenses to keep us in our own solar system. We just haven’t run into them yet because we’ve unwittingly stayed within our borders.

    Something I thought about while reading this is how we put human goals on these non-human species. We expect them to either conquer or come in peace, but to at least show some curiosity toward Earth. What if there are aliens out there who simply have no interest in us and are going about their business where we can’t see them?

    1. Yeah, like the whole Black Knight big brother thing I wrote about a while back. It’s conceivable if a little bit of a stretch. I definitely think some things are covered up. I strongly suspect we have discovered life but for whatever reason it hasn’t come to light yet. Interesting you say about keeping us in our own solar system. There’s the whole caged animal theory, bit like the dome from flat Earth. all these things seem to have connections one way or another anyway.

      AGREEEEEEED. We do put human goals on them and I think thats wrong. They could be so far beyond our capability that we don’t even understand their concept of life. But you’re right. We could be ants to them, and not many people pay attention to ants!

      1. Maybe the life isn’t worth mentioning like it’s bacteria. Honestly, I think we’d stumble onto something small before we find anything big because the big ones can be smart enough to avoid us. Excellent point on the ants thing. They have complicated colonies and are only stupid by human standards. Definitely thing aliens would look at us that way.

        1. Well, quite frankly, I am gobsmacked they didn’t announce it at the same time as saying they found water on Mars, I mean, if they are able to determine that there’s minerals in the water then surely they can tell if there are microbes. I mean FFS what water DOESN’T have something in it?!

          1. Honestly, I’d keep it a secret. Last thing we want is to announce that we found alien life and then we see a bootleg rocket full of rednecks hurtling through space to shoot it for a trophy. 😀

  5. I always thought Fermi over simplistic. If the posit is there are infinite universes then there are infinite versions and scenarios including one where one rationale race never meets anyone else. I go to Tescos often and can I find strawberry jam? Everyone else can just not me. Doesn’t mean there never is strawberry jam in Tescos. I think it’s to do with the light spectrum. We see only part of the spectrum – dogs can see a different part and so on. So what if alien life forms inhabit a part of the light spectrum we can’t see – ditto hearing? They might be waving and screaming at us right now and we’d no more see them than the tosser who walked into me this morning while reading his phone and spilt coffee into my boots – I nearly sent him into a different part of the space time continuum with a firm kick up his paradox.

    1. Well, fuck me Geoffle. I never thought I’d see the day you actually engaged properly with one of these posts. AND YOU blew me away. What a bloody good idea – I had never thought of the light spectrum thing. That’s a cracking idea for a horror story – you can’t see the monster cause its light spectrum is different. *shudder* The hearing thing is a good point too…. supposedly, grey aliens (yes I know, try not to melt down) can’t communicate very well with us, because they don’t speak, they communicate by telepathy. *shrugs* who knows if they are even real though, let alone how they communicate.

      kick up his paradox…. proper inhaled my squash reading that! nearly choked!!! you do make me chuckle <3

      1. I think there’s a lot in the parallel universes and being somewhere on the spectrum has a lot to it. Imagine if a scientist finds a way of seeng what’s there? Could blow his mind. Off you go and write it dear thing!

  6. I do not believe we are alone either and buy into the argument that we either aren’t communicating properly or they just aren’t all that interested in reaching out. If you think about it, either point requires that a) they developed language or communication method similar enough to our own that they recognize what we are broadcasting as communication b) that they developed the same desire to know and explore their universe. When you think about it, this is really conceited thinking on our part. We aren’t looking for signs of life out there. We are looking for signs of us out there.

    1. I agree there’s a lot of ego in all these arguments. And I love that sentiment too: we aren’t looking for signs or life were looking for signs of us. I think that’s a key point. We’re a rather arrogant bunch. And exactly there’s that whole rumour that the Greys are mute because their communication tech has developed way beyond speech and they communicate telepathically. So we’re never going to pick that up if that’s the case!

  7. Right up my alley, Sacha. Another thing that complicates the musing is that we often tend to visualize aliens as created in our image, as “human-ish.” If one believes that the universe was seeded, then this would be possible with some evolutionary variation perhaps. Biologically this doesn’t pan out that well when we study DNA and recognize our shared ancestry with other planetary species. So, perhaps the aliens are capable of projecting a human form – not that hard if they understand the connection between vision and light.

    What I think is more probable is that the aliens don’t resemble us at all and we can’t relate to them in the slightest. Planetary variations, even subtle ones, would have a huge evolutionary impact. They may have no desire or need for planetary travel (that’s a human construct). They may be here already as sentient viruses. Or they may show up, but vibrate at a different wavelength that our eyes can see. Or they may look like snot. Ha ha. Who knows. It sure is fun to think about… and you got me thinking! 🙂

    1. Yes, agreed about the whole in our image thing. I think that comes from the fact that carbon is the easiest and most abundant base for life to take. Silicon is the next easiest base for life forms to take. Cant remember where I read that. You’re not the first to posit the fact they may not inhabit the same wave lengths as us. I think theres something in that. Its a good story idea too. Glad I got you thinking.

  8. I love that deep-thinking science gets you as inspired as deep-thinking history does for me. On that level I can totally relate. My mind tends to get confused on the theories (the way others tell me dates and events confuse them). I think, why are civilizations based only on consumption? Haven’t we seen “sustainable” cultures like Native Americans who were advanced socially, philosophically and yet used their vast resources wisely before the hoards descended for purpose of extraction. And then there is the “they are out there” idea. It’s compelling enough to say they probably are, but it’s too out there for me to worry about death because I’m more likely to get ripped to shreds this spring by a grizzly. After all, one nearly ripped of the leg of my dog last year and a neighboring town had a monster of a hungry bear take out the garage door last week when the things are supposed to be hibernating — the big garage door, not the side one. So I worry more about grizzlies. And then this reason for why we have not yet encountered other forms of life makes me chuckle: “everyone is listening instead of transmitting.” Really? Because the lifeforms I know transmit way more than they ever listen! But I love that you love these ideas and I’m so drawn to read about their manifestations in your writing.

    1. Ha, you explain this so brilliantly. I really struggle to remember and assimilate timelines. drives me nuts because I like timelines and like to know what order things are in. But theories…. theories I can assimilate quick sharp.

      OMG. SERIOUSLY?????? Cannot believe the grizzlies are getting that close to you. That is proper terrifying those kinds of things seem so remote and like an alien concept to me, cannot imagine how crap I’d be if I actually got confronted with a situation like that.

      Agree on the transmitting thing, but maybe were transmitting in ways that don’t cross with each other. haha, they always end up in my writing some how.

  9. These kind of thoughts are my kind of thoughts. I love day dreaming about such things for hours. Here’s what I believe:

    There is definitely life out there all over the universe. I actually believe that life is a natural consequence of the evolution of the universe. The universe was just hydrogen gas clouds at one point. A very simple and unorganized state. But now it’s made up of galaxies and stars and planets and asteroids and what not. This is a higher state of organization. The problem is that everything in the universe follows the second law of thermodynamics which states that every system moves from higher states of order to lower states of order because of entropy. But this is not happening in the universe. Life too moves towards higher states of order and we call it evolution. So the universe can also be said to be evolving and biological evolution is only a part of it.

    The filter that most civilizations have to pass is to develop a logical group intelligence that keeps up with their technological development. Maybe this hasn’t happened yet anywhere in the universe. The universe is pretty young for a universe. Humans are developing technologies at a fast rate and we are about to consume all the resources of the earth but we haven’t developed enough intelligence as a group. As a group we are still cavemen. Just look at the US presidential candidates, like Trump, and you’ll know. Oil money buys politicians to continue to go against 99.99% of scientists and say that global warming isn’t caused by humans and so we don’t have to do anything about it. That’s pretty darn stupid if you think about it.

    We are at this first filter and we might not be able to survive through it.

    I’m working on a fantasy series in which eventually humans will develop Artificial Intelligence machines. These machines will then debate that they are the next evolutionary life form. They are made up of matter and energy like us. We eat food, they charge their batteries. They will develop consciousness as it is nothing but an emergent property of life. They will be inorganic life while all of us are organic life. They’ll debate that only inorganic life can spread across the galaxy. They don’t require oxygen. They just need solar energy. They can survive on any planet. They can use material that is heat and cold resistant depending on how close they are to the sun. They’ll then kill most of humanity for it’s destructive nature and build zoos to keep a few specimens alive on earth while they travel to other planets. They’ll be the type 2 civilization.

    That’s just some ideas from my fantasy series. But it is also what I do believe to be true. I don’t know if we’ll be able to develop such inorganic life before we hit the first filter and die out. It seems a pessimistic view but a higher intelligence will argue that we feel it’s pessimistic only because of our lower intelligence which creates our ego and we think that “we” and “I” are important concepts. It doesn’t matter which species or life form populates the universe. The universe’s journey is the only journey that matters. And we don’t have to be a part of it.

    1. Hi Eddy, sorry once again it has taken so long to reply to you. I love your thoughts. What an interesting thought that the universe is alive too. I mean, according to the entropy and states theory, that makes total sense. It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around though, as its not something I had ever considered before.

      I agree about the resources, and to be honest, I suspect it is probably too late, I think we have gone past the event horizon, and are tipping slowly into whatever catastrophe is coming, whether its an ice age to get rid of all the carbon and restore the earth back to non warmed state or what, but were technically over due one of them anyway. But I think you’re right about the intelligence, we don’t work as a community, and pool our intelligence, and thats why we fight over resources instead of uniting and using them appropriately.

      Ironic that they kill off humanity for their destructive nature…. the act of killing off humanity is destructive in itself, so maybe this intelligence race isn’t all its cracked up to be. I always think thats ironic, in these ‘AI’ stories. That we assume they would (because they are better than us, want to kill us off) but doesn’t enlightenment call for peace? I’d be interested to see a story that worked on the premise they tried to change us, not kill us. Hey, maybe I’ll have to write it in fact, it might even fit with what I am working on now!

      Thanks again for such thought provoking comments

      1. The AI machines will kill us for being destructive just as we destroy the virus that is trying to destroy our body. In my fantasy series they resort to destroying most of humanity only after no other option is left.

        1. Interesting. I like how different your viewpoint is, and how assured you are of it. I take it you don’t believe in meliorism? I will be interested to read your stories. 😀

      2. No, I believe that progress is possible but in my fantasy series there isn’t enough time for humanity to progress to a level where it stops being self destructive. The technological progress is too fast and the moral and intellectual progress as a group is too slow. Kind of like if Lions could learn how to use hunting rifles, they would probably kill all the game that roamed into their territory and then starve.

        By the way I think this is also the case for humanity in real life.

        1. You’re such a fascinating person Eddy. So glad we met. 😀

          Although, I don’t think you hold much hope for humanity?! :s….. I think I will hold on to my meliorism though… just for a bit longer :p

  10. That’s what I like about you, Sacha: you ask such intriguing questions. Curiouser and curioser. No doubt you’ll get a few good stories out of these ones.

    1. lol, thanks Norah 🙂 I think that my life purpose is to ask questions. I am not sure I will ever get any answers, but I definitely have a knack for asking the bizarre, or maybe thinking the bizarre, or maybe I am just weird! lollll. It’s true though. I love the what if game, and I think its the only thing that will ever help us to grow as a race.

  11. I think Aliens have already been to Planet Earth and that some are still here amongst us. We just can’t see them because they have a protective coat which only allows us to see them as Human.

    However, I also believe that we live in a parallel universe and that when we pass on we actually come back as the same person born on the same date and lead the same life. Those living the future may have already discovered other life forms. I don’t think we’ll ever see that happening.

    1. There’s a LOT of talk about them being here. Whether that coat is a shapeshifting ability, or the fact they look mostly like us. There’s a couple of conspiracies I know about:

      1. The Nordic aliens, so aptly named because they look norse, and are infamous for their BRIGHT blue eyes. Supposedly they roam around us.

      2. The reptiles, supposedly infiltrating the powers that be and are running our societies and living underground….. hmmm…. there’s a post in here I think. :p

      You think we repeat the exact same life over and over? or just born on the same date? Interesting. Think you have mentioned that one to me before. Hope the move went well. <3

      1. It was the twisted plot in one of my recent Christmas short stories. In fact, it’s been my most read short story out of all of them. It’s strange, but I am finding that as I get older I am asking myself “have I really been here before?” knowing that often I get that feeling. However, it’s a feeling that I have been here more than once before rather than just once before.

        Yes, the move went very well. Exhausting, but I’m finally back to blogging again from today. 😀

        1. Thats the one. Knew i remembered it for a reason! Like Deja Vu I guess. Most religions have some kind of reincarnation at the root of it. Glad you’re all moved, rest up, bash plannings a coming!

  12. Wow, Scha… you have written the kind of post I love to read ….

    A paradox can be defined ´as a ​situation or ​statement that ​seems ​impossible or is ​difficult to ​understand because it ​contains two ​opposite ​facts or ​characteristics (Source Cambridge Dictionary Online).

    Fermi´s paradox reminded me of Kant´s Antinomies, from `the Critique of Pure Reason´. The antinomies are contradictions which he believed follow necessarily from our attempts to conceive the nature of transcendent reality.

    For example – Kant´s First Antinomy (of Space and Time) is:

    ►Thesis: The world has a beginning in time, and is also limited as regards space.
    ►Anti-thesis: The world has no beginning, and no limits in space; it is infinite as regards both time and space.

    I brought Kant to the table because I think that Fermi´s paradox could be also a antinomian postulate, if we consider also its Anti-thesis as `Space is finite… hence the probability of other life is low (and that´s why we have not encountered any other life forms).

    If we keep it up with Fermi´s paradox or thesis…. I would say that his idea of `filters´is eloquent and could help us understand why we have not encountered life beyond our planet.

    A plausible reason could be that we are not a sufficiently developed civilization, capable of doing so…. Not only considering tecnological infrastructure… but maybe also because of our underdeveloped senses…

    I am a fan of The X-Files and currently watching the 10th season, which has been recently released.
    Most explanations there would point out to conspiracies and secrets… Trust no one, as Mulder would say… The characters of the series would literally say that `the government denies knowledge´ … when in fact they own that knowledge and hide it from people to avoid collective panic, among other stuff…
    have you ever wondered what happened with the scheduled Apollo Missions… why were they suddenly cancelled and there were no further attempts to go back to the moon?

    Thanks so much for sharing…. wishing you a great week ahead. Aquileana 💫

    1. Hey Aquileana, you do like to define things, 😀 Kant is interesting. I think Hawking spent a lot of his career looking at whether or not the beginning was a beginning or not. I think he calls it a singularity. I have read some of his stuff and one theory that seriously blew my mind is his imaginary time theory. I wrote a post about it here: http://sachablack.co.uk/2015/05/20/a-theory-of-connection-1000speak/ it works on the basis of the antithesis of Kants proposal. You might like it.

      YES I have wondered that. There are a lot of things like that, that I find curious. The flat earth proposal says they cancelled them because they realised they couldn’t reach the moon – but thats a whole other can of worms I am not going to open today! Hope you’re having a wonderful week.

  13. There is no way we are the only life in this universe. Ridiculous. It is much to large for people to say they are sure we are alone. Also. Just because a planet couldn’t sustain human life does not mean it can’t be home to other life forms.

        1. Glad you enjoyed it 😀 thanks for reading and watching. I loved the video too. I’m really visual so it helped me to understand the concept. But you’re right, it is a mind boggler this one. So’s imaginary time if you ever came across that? GAH, hurts my head even thinking about it! haha

  14. I have a theory that the universe isn’t infinite; it is simply an internal design trick that someone put up a huge mirror across the galaxy to make it appear bigger. For resale.

    I’m pretty sure Douglas Adams nailed it with his theory in The Hitchhiker’s Guide…

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