Some scientists have suggested that in our anxious search for the answer to the Fermi Paradox –“are we alone in the cosmos”–we’re searching for intelligent, conscious, tool-making beings that have developed a language we’re capable of understanding, we are, in fact, searching for ourselves .
The theoretical physicist Alexander Berezin from the National Research University of Electronic Technology (MIET) proposed an explanation for why we’re seemingly alone in the Universe –what he called in his 2018 paper, the “First in, Last out” solution to the Fermi Paradox –”if the Universe Is teeming with aliens, where Is everybody?”
“No present observations suggest a technologically advanced extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) has spread through the galaxy. However, under commonplace assumptions about galactic civilization formation and expansion, this absence of observation is highly unlikely. This improbability constitutes the Fermi Paradox.
Defining alien life too narrowly
Berezin argued that Fermi’s great question about absence of proof of extraterrestrial life has a trivial solution, requiring no controversial assumptions, which is rarely suggested or discussed. However, that solution would be hard to accept, as it predicts a future for our own civilization that is even worse than extinction.”
Berezin suggests the problem with some proposed solutions to the Fermi Paradox is they define alien life too narrowly.
The specific nature of civilizations arising to interstellar level should not matter. They might be biological organisms like ourselves, rogue AIs that rebelled against their creators or distributed planet-scale minds like those described by Stanislaw Lem in Solaris. We should, therefore, take a broader definition as the starting point. It has been suggested that in order to be classified as life any object should exhibit the following traits: homeostasis, organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, responsiveness and reproduction. For our immediate purposes, this list can be simplified even further.
Berezin says the only parameter we should concern ourselves with – in terms of defining extraterrestrial life – is the physical threshold at which we can observe its existence. “The only variable we can objectively measure is the probability of life becoming detectable from outer space within a certain range from Earth,” Berezin explains. “For simplicity let us call it ‘Parameter A.”
First life that reaches interstellar travel capability
“What if the first life that reaches interstellar travel capability necessarily eradicates all competition to fuel its own expansion?” he hypothesizes. A highly developed extra-terrestrial civilization would consciously wipe out other lifeforms – but perhaps “they simply won’t notice, the same way a construction crew demolishes an anthill to build real estate because they lack incentive to protect it”.
“Assuming the hypothesis above is correct, what does it mean for our future?” Berezin writes. “The only explanation is the invocation of the anthropic principle. We are the first to arrive at the interstellar stage. And, most likely, will be the last to leave.”
Image credit: ESO
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