Posts Tagged ‘The Great Filter’

In 1950 physicist Enrico Fermi asked the now-famous and largely rhetorical question: “Where is everybody?” Meaning that since the Universe is so old and so vast that somewhere somebody should have already been tooling around the place checking on the neighbors. But why haven’t we seen them? His question became known as the Fermi Paradox, and scientists have since been trying to offer some explanations in answer to his question.

One of the more popular ideas – and the one that makes the most sense to me – is called The Great Filter. It boils down to the supposition that the vast majority of possible intelligent life forms all come to the same specific point in their evolution, and fail miserably to get past it. Tim Urban of WaitButWhy has a lovely explanation of both the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter here. Our arrogance argues that we’ve already passed the Great Filter because we’re just so special, and therefore will be the first über-race in the galaxy. I’m in the camp that thinks we’ve a long ways to go before hitting that barrier, and will be just one amongst millions that will vanish unnoticed because we can’t seem to get our heads out of our asses.

Yes, we’re idiots. We spend our days fighting over petty bullshit instead of working in unison toward the greater good. Islamic fundamentalists are destroying the world’s history (“An Ancient Temple in Palmyra Is Destroyed”), Christian fundamentalists want to rid the world of gays (“Lawyer In California Proposes Killing Gays…”), whites still think blacks aren’t equal (“AP poll: U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks”), and men continue to treat women like property (“Woman: Person or Property?”). This all leads me to also support one of the other theories of why we haven’t been noticeably visited (George Dvorsky has collected some of the more interesting ones here): we’ve been quarantined.

Yep, we HAVE been visited, and found to be so immensely corrosive and dangerous, they cordoned us off and set up warning buoys: DO NOT ENTER – DESTRUCTIVE STUPIDITY AHEAD.

We have seven billion people on this rock, and the technology and economies to feed and house every one of them, and yet we refuse because of some perverted notion about US versus THEM that really just boils down to selfishness. Why should the Haves help the Have Nots when the latter are just lazy moochers and not contributing anything to the greater good? That’s what we all want to think, right? But how are we to learn who can contribute when we deny them the opportunity to even try?

And the real problem with that US versus THEM thinking, is that our technology and economies can also fuel the ultimate destruction of our entire species. Don’t like THEM? Bomb the hell out of THEM. Or maybe a designer virus that will wipe out their food supply. Or we can poison their children into sterility. Or just shut off their water and watch them dry up and blow away.

US might think they can get away with doing that kind of stuff to THEM, but it’s never so simple. This planet is one giant bio-organism: US and THEM are merely pieces of the whole, so anything unleashed against one will eventually swing back and kick the other in the balls. And don’t bother wearing a cup; Karma’s got a mean backhand.

This is why we can’t have nice things. Like membership in a galactic federation of planets. Or peace on Earth. We’re all a bunch of backwoods Idjuts who can’t see past our own noses. If the Milky Way Galaxy was a city, and Earth was a house, we’re the ignorant hillbillies living in the sticks.

you-are-herePicture from: http://pics-about.space/you-are-here-milky-way-galaxy?p=3#

Off the beaten path, neighbors more than a stone’s throw away, and no fenced yards, Earth is to interstellar travel what Chernobyl is to vacation resorts. Add the fact we’re one phone call away from nuclear winter, it’s no wonder we haven’t been included on the intergalactic invitation list.

One of my greatest worries since we’ve started our forays into space is what we will do if we actually discover life elsewhere. Human history isn’t particularly supportive of an egalitarian approach. We stomp our way into new lands, force the indigenous life to comport to our will, and rape it all for everything we can get. Not exactly a friendly introduction. And since we can’t even get along with ourselves, how are we supposed to get along with aliens?

We humans think we are the pinnacles of evolution, but we’ve only been around in our current form for about 200,000 years. The dinosaurs existed for millions of years before they were snuffed out, with amphibians and insects lopping about the planet millions more. Our existence is but a drop in the bucket by comparison. Maybe that just means we need a few million more years of incubation before we’ll really figure things out. Sure is a long time to wait when the answers seem so obvious.

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