The Fermi Paradox questions that where are the aliens if the universe is full of them. According to the Dark Forest theory, we should hope we never find them.
There are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and potentially 100 billion planets. Our Galaxy would be teaming up with the alien civilizations if even a small fraction of those planets harbored life, and even if only a pitiful scattering of those planets had intelligent lifeforms, some of them would have been looking for us humans.
The Drake equation, which converts the preceding elements into variables, can be used to calculate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations the galaxy should have. When you plug them into the calculation, you get a number of civilizations in our cosmic neighborhood of at least 20. When you consider this, the fact that we have yet to discover any other life in the universe is almost shocking.
The Fermi Paradox is the seeming contradiction between how many advanced civilizations should be in space and the lack of evidence for any. Over the last few decades, it has spawned a slew of explanations and proposed answers.
Many of the proposed solutions target one of the Drake equation’s variables, attempting to reduce the alleged number of civilizations in order to make it more plausible that we have yet to meet anyone.
Some argue that life begins infrequently, while others argue that intellect growth is the bottleneck, and yet others argue that most civilizations would last just a brief time before exploding or, conversely, never manage to build the radio.
A Solution which sound terrifying than the others
The Dark Forest theory proposes that aliens are keeping silent on purpose, which explains why we have not heard from them. The finest explanation is found in Liu Cixin’s science fiction novel “The Dark Forest”. The plot of the novel, which is the second in a series, revolves around how to engage with potentially hostile alien species.
The following is how the argument is laid forth in the novel:
- All life desires to stay alive.
- There is no way to know if other lifeforms can or will destroy you if given a chance.
- Lacking assurances, the safest option for any species is to annihilate other life forms before they have a chance to do the same.
Because all other lifeforms in the novel are risk-averse and prepared to go to any length to save themselves, every contact is risky, as the contacted race will almost certainly wipe out whoever was foolish enough to give away their position. As a result, all civilizations strive to conceal themselves in radio silence.
The reasoning behind the paranoia is explained in this paragraph from the novel:
The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds another life—another hunter, angel, or a demon, a delicate infant to tottering old man, a fairy or demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them.
The concept is based on applied game theory and is similar to the prisoner’s dilemma.
Is there a non-literary solution to this problem? Is it merely a fantastic concept or something more?
Scientist David Brin proposed it as a possible answer to the dearth of radio evidence for alien life. The underlying notion remains the same, even though the form he describes uses robotic probes to kill off civilizations other than the one that developed it. He explains why this method is appealing for scientific purposes but disturbing for existential reasons in this excerpt:
“It is consistent with all of the facts and philosophical principles described in the first part of this article. There is no need to struggle to suppress the elements of the Drake equation in order to explain the Great Silence, nor need we suggest that no ETIS anywhere would bear the cost of interstellar travel. It need only happen once for the results of this scenario to become the equilibrium condition in the Galaxy. We would not have detected extraterrestrial radio traffic- nor would any ETIS have ever settled on Earth- because all were killed shortly after discovering radio.”
He then tells us that I Love Lucy broadcasts are circling the universe, ready to reveal our location and sense of humor to anyone who can pick them up.
Is Dark forest theory plausible?
The dark forest theory has the advantage of changing only one of the Drake equation’s variables, the one that is most open to interpretation. It does not necessitate making broad assumptions about the behavior of all alien civilizations; a single sophisticated race acting in this manner would be enough to generate the observed scenario.
This would also explain why, despite having the ability to detect ordinary alien radio broadcasts for over a century, we are unable to find any. Another civilization would be likely to send out radio messages aimed for us into space, just as we have done.
Another explanation is that the other civilizations are so afraid of being discovered that they deliberately avoid sending out any radio evidence of their existence. It does presume that other species have a risk aversion level and thinking process comparable to ours, or that there is a one civilization out there that annihilates anybody who threatens them. This a huge assumption to make.
What Makes this Theory Dark?
For almost a century, we have been screaming our existence to the universe. Any aliens within a 100 light-year radius of us would be bombarded with radio transmissions from our way. We might have a problem if we had a purpose to keep aliens from knowing about us, as Stephen Hawking believed.
Why have not the aliens contacted us yet? If this theory is right, they are deliberately hiding in space because they are afraid of death. Should we, too, cease to advertise presence to the universe? Or, alternatively, would alien life be a little nicer than we have been in the past?
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