Regarding the Fermi Paradox
Post from June 7, 2017 (↻ June 5, 2021), filed under Philosophy.
My mostly metaphysical studies have not come so far yet that I want to start sharing the world views that have inspired and then originated in them, but when reading up on the Fermi Paradox (whether by Fermi or a paradox or not) and all the different ideas on why we haven’t yet detected extraterrestrial intelligence, I’ve felt taken aback. Science. Here are three spontaneous, makeshift ideas that I have about the Fermi Paradox.
1. We Have a Misconception of Time and Space
When we, these days (time), look at the physical universe (space), I think we miss that other forms of intelligence could be too small, too big, too fast, or too slow for us to perceive.
What if there are entire civilizations right “in front of us,” smaller than we deem the smallest particles? What if we’re contained in some, perhaps in a single member of another life form? What if each microsecond, entire civilizations rise and perish? What if all of mankind exists during just a glimpse of a sunny Wednesday morning for another intelligence? What if other life forms are simply not physical (just like we aren’t solely physical)?
2. We Have a Misconception of Life
We have really strange ideas about life. Plants don’t seem to have any value whatsoever for us (except for consumption). Animals don’t have value for us, either, and we industrially, violently contain, experiment on, and abuse and kill them. People, fellow human beings, are likewise suppressed, exploited, manipulated, tortured, as well as murdered through capital punishment, dronestrikes, and military aggression. Scientists, meanwhile, seem to think there are no boundaries to their work, and life not only deterministic, random, and worthless but also easy—a mere matter of time—to recreate.
The great misconception, the great misunderstanding that I’m referring to here is that life, magical as it still is, may be everywhere, and first and foremost embedded in consciousness. And that could mean that “extraterrestrial” intelligence is all around us—yet as we’re incapable of recognizing and appreciating consciousness and the magic of life even in plants and animals, we can rather evidently not find it anywhere else.
Though poorly phrased academically speaking, this may well be a key argument against all our efforts around identifying other forms of life.
3. We Face Distortions Through Our Instruments
Your scientists can count their elements, and while they are on the wrong track, they will discover more and more elements until they are ready to go out of their minds. And while they create instruments to deal with smaller and smaller particles, they will see smaller and smaller particles, seemingly without end. As their instruments reach further into the physical universe, they will see further and further, but they will automatically and unconsciously transform what they apparently see into the camouflage patterns with which they are familiar. They will be, and are, prisoners of their tools.
In a way, we can only discover what we are prepared to discover (quickly written down, there’s much depth to this statement). Our physical instruments limit and distort what we can discover, and the solution seems to lie in, again, moving away from just the physical:
It is not a matter of inventing new instruments any longer, but of using the “invisible” ones you have.
❧ I have no doubt that there are other life forms beyond the ones we seem acquainted with in our shared physical realities. I find the subject fascinating to explore and philosophize about. I love the idea that we can make contact through our inner facilities, through our minds. But most interesting to me, still, is how we can get more people to look inward, rather than outward, to free themselves from the boundaries that ironically (and just as interestingly), we have placed on ourselves all by ourselves.
Now, for a bonus question, who says that other intelligences want to be found?
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
On June 14, 2017, 3:14 CEST, P-A said:
As much as I disagree with the palpable “Anti-scientist” spirit in the article, I quite agree with a few thoughts.
Misconception of Time, space, What Life is are common answers to the Fermi paradox. Basically, we don’t know what to look for.
This is one of the most commonly accepted possible answer to the Fermi problem (not really a paradox) by many scientists. That is not really a fun side of the problem, so it doesn’t get published often.
I’ll make a major, major assumption here and look only at Life “as we humans know it”.
Let’s look at general behaviors. Social need driving a lot of our behaviors. Collaboration. Communication. Leading to language and Cities. Let’s assume for a minute that this social needs stays on.
Next in technology advancement. AGI seems inevitable. Whether we merge with it or not.
Brain interfaces seem inevitable too on the long term. whether in 50 years or 500.
From that combination. People raised in a world where communication, thought to thought interface is instant. From youngest age. You start losing a little of your individuality but gain in general consciousness.
Add 5 generations of people growing up like this. 20 generations. 50 generations. You end up with a Hive consciousness. Basically One being. with several bodies. Like our living cells combined make up one human body. AI merging would only accelerate this.
My point: whichever future I look at, I see a road to unified beings. “One” entity. That has no need to communicate with the outside world.
If that is the case, it would be eventually very difficult to detect from the outside.
Combine that with your other ideas. Our current understanding of the Universe “Dimensions” is limited to 4 (including time). Possibly a little more with String theory.
Finding evolved sentient Life with these in mind is a long shot.
Limited to “not too evolved, Life as we know it, in the parameters of our known dimensions”.
Lots of reasons why we won’t find anything soon, but the search is not only about the result, it is about benefiting tremendously from the journey ^___^
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Perhaps my most interesting book: 100 Things I Learned as an Everyday Adventurer (2013). During my time in the States I started trying everything. Everything. Then I noticed that wasn’t only fun, it was also useful. Available at Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.