ExtraterrestrialsThe Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations. As Enrico Fermi asked if the Universe is condusive to intelligent life, “Where is everybody?”

A new answer proposed by Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge and Perimeter Institute, is that extraterrestial life sufficiently advanced to be capable of interstellar travel or communication must be rare, since otherwise we would have seen evidence of it by now. This in turn is sometimes taken as indirect evidence for the improbability of life evolving at all in our universe.

“Intelligent species might reasonably worry about the possible dangers of self-advertisement and hence incline towards discretion” — the “Undetectability Conjecture,” put forth by Beatriz Gato-Rivera, a theoretical physicist at the Instituto de Fisica Fundamental (previously Instituto de Matematicas y Fisica Fundamental) of the CSIC (Spanish Scientific Research Council) in Madrid. According to Gato-Rivera, we may find ourselves in a universe in which there exist intelligent technological civilizations but they have chosen to be undetectable, camouflaging themselves mainly for security reasons (because advanced civilizations could also be aggressive).

“Evolutionary selection, acting on a cosmic scale,” Kent adds. “tends to extinguish species which conspicuously advertise themselves and their habitats.”

“It often seems, Kent concludes, “to be implicitly assumed, and sometimes is explicitly argued, that colonising or otherwise exploiting the resources of other planets and other solar systems will solve our problems when the Earth’s resources can no longer sustain our consumption. It might perhaps be worth contemplating more seriously the possibility that there may be limits to the territory we can safely colonise and to the resources we can safely exploit, and to consider whether and how it might be possible to evolve towards a way of living that can be sustained (almost) indefinitely on the resources of (say) our solar system alone.”

In another take on the “Fermi Paradox,” Stephen Hawking asks In his famous lecture on Life in the Universe: “What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy?”

If the argument about the time scale for the appearance of life on Earth is correct, Hawking says “there ought to be many other stars, whose planets have life on them. Some of these stellar systems could have formed 5 billion years before the Earth. So why is the galaxy not crawling with self-designing mechanical or biological life forms?”

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