"Where is Everybody?": Possible Solutions to the Fermi Paradox by Aldrin Gabuya (Part Two)

Could there be advanced civilizations in the universe hidden from plain sight? Could we simply be living inside a giant simulation?

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A conundrum pondered by scientists and often referenced in science fiction, the Fermi Paradox has led to many speculations as to why there seems to be a lack of evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, with the hypotheses varying greatly in plausibility. In this last entry, we tackle four more possibilities.


There are 2 core hypotheses related to this idea:

A. The Zoo Hypothesis

Postulated by John Hall in 1973, this hypothesis suggests that there are alien civilizations out there hiding from us, passively observing our evolution before they decide that they are ready to join us as an extraterrestrial community. Respectful and passive, the aliens prevent themselves from exploring and communicating with us just to watch our progress.

An analogy to this is that our planet is like an exhibit in a zoo, or a fishbowl with us as the creatures living there and being observed before the aliens decide to interact with us using technology they consider as the perfect means for detection and communication.

B. The Sentinel Hypothesis

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Inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Sentinel, this asserts that a sophisticated galactic civilization may reveal itself to new societies only after they reach a certain level of technology. Their technological status could be as primitive as ours, insufficient for interstellar travel and unable to detect other civilizations. It could also be that our two civilizations, human and alien, are both in the process of surveillance, waiting patiently for signals to be noticed and building more equipment.


 ...And We Are All Aliens

The idea might seem strange, but according the the Panspermia hypothesis, life on Earth may have originated elsewhere in the universe and was brought to our home planet through asteroid and meteorite impacts. In other words, the hypothesis suggests that all living organisms on Earth are "seeds" of extraterrestrial life.

It also proposes that the building blocks of life and the earliest living organisms first evolved on other planets, or even comets, asteroids or meteorites. This hypothesis is currently being tested by explorations like the Rosetta mission and the Mars Exploration Rover Program.


The last hypothesis reads like something straight out of science fiction: 

Philosopher Nick Bostrom suggests three propositions, all of which revolve around the idea that advanced civilizations may develop enough computing power to generate "ancestor simulations" - a sort of virtual reality created to house simulated minds which possess consciousness. In other words, he suggests that perhaps the reason we do not see extraterrestrial intelligence is that we are living in a simulation, akin to the Matrix!

He proposes that one of the following may be true:

1. Our species is likely to go extinct before it reaches a "post-human" stage, because we develop technology that eventually leads to our destruction.

2. Technologically mature civilizations converge in such a way that almost none are interested in running a simulation.

3. You may be living in a computer simulation, where the natural laws are the limitations of the simulated reality. Some futurists have also speculated on the Matrioshka Brain, a hypothetical powerful computer system capable of creating a simulation by using a star or a galaxy as its power supply. 

As you can see, finding a good explanation to the Fermi Paradox is a challenging task. Aside from those mentioned, there are many other conceivable solutions that may try to explain this mystery. However, as with the nature of science, we cannot know unless we experiment and explore. The quest for unraveling the secrets of the universe continues. 

Below is an infographic which summarizes some of the widely-known propositions: 

[Photo credit: From Quarks to Quasars website]


1. Bennett, J. & Shostak, S. (2011). Life in the universe. 3rd ed. USA: Pearson Education Inc.
2. Bostrom, N. (2003). Are we living in a computer simulation? The Philosophical Quarterly 53(211): 243-255.
3. Dasty, K. (July 30, 2014). "6 Mind-Bending Solutions to the Fermi Paradox." Retrieved from medium.com.
4. Grant, S. (September 30, 2014). "10 Reasons That We Still Haven't Found Aliens." Retrieved from Listverse.com
5. Gray, R. (August 11, 2015). "Are we all aliens? Support grows for the Panspermia Theory that claims life on Earth may have arrived here from outer space." Retrieved from Daily Mail Online.
6. (n.d.). "Panspermia Theory and the Origin of Life on Earth". Retrieved from http://www.panspermia-theory.com 
7. SETI Institute. (n.d.). "SETI 101". Retrieved from SETI website.
8. Webb, S. (2002). If the universe is teeming with aliens...where is everybody? Fifty solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the problem of extraterrestrial life. (Vol 101). Springer Science & Business Media.

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