Is humanity a paradox

The Fermi Paradox

Published on 20-03-2020, by Torge Bartscht

The Fermi Paradox deals with the question of why we have not yet found extraterrestrial life. Due to the size of our universe, the very existence of extraterrestrial life forms is very likely. In the last few decades, thanks to our technical progress, the search for extraterrestrial life forms with increasing radius has been unsuccessful. You cannot avoid asking yourself why we have not yet been able to find any forms of life outside of our earth. Find out everything about the Fermi Paradox below.

But where are they all?

Even in the years before the moon landing, mankind was wondering whether it was alone in space. In 1950, the Italian nuclear physicist and Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi asked why we have not yet been able to find any intelligent life forms outside of our earth. The question is said to have arisen during lunch in the American “Los Alamos National Labor”, a center for nuclear research, when Fermi was sitting at a table with some scientific colleagues. During the meal they talked about the newspaper headlines of the time and abstract subjects such as interstellar travel and extraterrestrial life. Fermi finally asked his colleagues: "But where is everybody?" (in German “But where are they all?”), with regard to extraterrestrial life forms. After all, given the age and size of our universe, there should be more intelligent life forms besides humanity. But why, paradoxically, have we not been able to find them so far? The question was later taken up by the American astrophysicist Carl Sagan and listed as a basic thesis in a book he wrote in 1966. This ensured that the Fermi Paradox became increasingly popular.

The Drake equation

Fermi's question was initially met with a laugh by his colleagues. After much thought, however, they realized that Fermi was serious about his question. But what is actually so paradoxical about the fact that we have not yet had any success in the search? This question is often based on the so-called Drake equation.

This equation should allow an approximate calculation to calculate how many perceivable civilizations (N) should be in our universe, with which we could theoretically contact. R * stands for the rate at which stars form per year, fp for the proportion of stars with planets, ne for the number of earth-like planets that could be habitable, fl for the proportion of these planets on which life could form, fi for the proportion of planets where intelligent life could develop, fc for the proportion of intelligent life forms to which we could actually make contact and, last but not least, L, which takes into account how long such a life form could actually exist. However, the Drake equation is controversial because it is subject to the optimism or pessimism of the person applying the equation. The numbers that are put into the equation are estimates at best. This gives you just as diverse a range of answers as the number of experts you consult. For an up-to-date estimate, we looked at a recent study that brought together several versions of the Drake equation. According to this, there is an average probability of 52% that we are alone in our Milky Way and an average probability of 38% that we are alone in our universe.

Speculation as to the great silence

With a 38 percent probability that we are alone in the universe, one can only speculate why we have so far not been able to find any extraterrestrial, intelligent life:

  1. Alien life does not exist and our planet is a unique exception.
  2. In order to actually communicate or even travel within the universe, a certain technology and intelligence will be required. All civilizations may die out, be it due to war or natural disaster, before they can reach this point in their evolution.
  3. Our human race has existed for around 200,000 years, while our earth has been circling the sun for around 4.5 billion years. Our planet may have been visited by extraterrestrial life before humanity could register this or transmit it historically.
  4. Should extraterrestrial life exist, it would be possible that we simply live in an “outskirts” of our universe. Other areas could therefore be more populated and our earth may only be in the periphery.
  5. Another possibility would be, should extraterrestrial life exist that it has developed so far that it is not worth contacting us from their point of view or we are too uninteresting.
  6. Some researchers believe that sending messages into space could be dangerous. What if highly developed extraterrestrial life forms existed and these were already observing our humanity, perhaps silently analyzing us long enough to plan an attack in the future?
  7. We may already be in the midst of extraterrestrial communication, but cannot perceive it due to our primitive level of development. By the way, Edward Snowden also shares this view, who warns that we may not be able to perceive sophisticated encryption techniques of highly developed extraterrestrial life forms.
  8. It is also possible that we are simply looking in the wrong direction. It is possible that extraterrestrial life forms are so completely different from us that we cannot conceptualize them with our minds.

Conclusion

Ultimately, we can only speculate why we haven't found extraterrestrial life yet. There will probably not be an answer to the Fermi paradox in the foreseeable future. Which of the possible answers will ultimately prove to be true remains to be seen at the moment. However, each possibility is fascinating in its own way.

Torge Bartscht

The German and international service market is constantly changing. In order to provide our customers with the best possible information, my colleagues and I regularly publish analyzes of current developments, trends and innovations and report on political events that are relevant to the market. To get in touch with us, you can of course contact us directly via email and telephone or contact us via our social media profiles.