This image was marked with a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
This image was marked with a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

The Fermi Paradox, And The Great Filter

An answer to the emptiness in our universe.

Most, if not all, of the people reading this article are probably aware of tons of evidence pointing to the fact that there may be other sentient life, or life in general, out in the universe. There are hundreds of billions of stars contained in the universe, a lot of these could be Earth-like planets, and if these planets are indeed typical, then it should be likely that intelligent life could have developed before or after ourselves. So, why is there no decisive evidence pointing towards alien life, if this is so? “Where is everybody?”, as Enrico Fermi had put it. This is the basis of the Fermi Paradox, which encompasses the fact that there is little to no conclusive evidence for alien life’s existence.

'Where is Everybody?', or 'Why am I so Lonely?': Fermi's Paradox / the Drake Equation, Logocentrism and Gabriel Garcial Marquez
“‘Where is Everybody?’, or ‘Why am I so Lonely?’: Fermi’s Paradox / the Drake Equation, Logocentrism and Gabriel Garcial Marquez” by timtak is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

One of the main theories regarding the Fermi Paradox is known as the Great Filter. To get a basic concept of what the Great Filter essentially is, it’s some sort of “filter”, or barrier that life needs to gradually pass through. The more filters we pass, the more dangerous these filters begin to get, until we eventually either, likely, go extinct, or somehow reach true success as a civilization. These filters range from climate change to even nuclear war, and these “barriers”, many believe, could be the reason intelligent life is uncommon. If an intelligent civilization was somehow halted from growing by a cataclysmic filter, then it would make sense why we’re such an oddity in the universe.

From the NASA media library.

Thus, this theory leaves us with two options. Either A, we’re ahead of the majority of our filters, or B, we’re behind most of our upcoming filters. Exploring Option A, this would mean that we’ve more or less succeeded as an intelligent civilization. With only a few more filters ahead of ourselves, the human race can rest assured that we are, for the most part, safe from Armageddon. As soon as we pass our final filters, we’ll have acquired unification, and perhaps even colonized the galaxy. However, the more likely option, B, is rather tragic. With humans being behind most of our filters, the future is uncertain. Certain extinction could be a certain possibility, and the human race fades to dust as a difficult filter ends up wiping out civilization as we know it.

Alien art
This image was marked with a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

To be frank, the only real way of confirming the Great Filters’ existences is the confirmation that the only alien life we can find is nonintelligent. This would be a very clear sign that something is wrong, that something is stopping organisms from progressing into more sapient stages. However, if we fail to discover any real life outside of our little blue Earth in the Universe, this will disconfirm the existence of the Great Filter, as we would be the first, and only, intelligent civilization in the universe. However, in this instance, we must tread more carefully in our planet; as the only bastion of life within the universe, we would need to work hard to maintain our ecosystem, and to preserve the life and environments that bring life to the planet we call home. In any case, the future is uncertain. Alone or not, science will eventually find an answer to the age-old question.

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The Fermi Paradox

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