Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The idea that technological civilizations almost universally snuff themselves has become understandably fashionable among those convinced the Fermi Paradox qualifies as a genuine conundrum. If I chose to play along, I'd argue that the sort of full-immersion VR technology represented in the above "commercial" would pose at least as great a threat to emerging civilizations, neatly accounting for the alleged absence of ET visitors.

(Personally, I don't think Enrico Fermi ever intended his eponymous "paradox" to be taken literally; I think he was posing a thought experiment -- but I could be mistaken. If anyone knows more about Fermi's famous question, leave a comment.)

(Video found at Sentient Developments.)


Chris Wren said...

I think Fermi would be aghast at the seriousness with which his lunchtime (yes, he did come up with it on his lunch break) thought experiment is taken so seriously today. He certainly NEVER would have meant for it to have become the "proof" that it's presented as in some quarters.

Mostly its the Strong Anthropists who tout the Fermi Paradox as proof that we MUST be alone in the universe. Since the universe, they argue, is the way it is because of US observing it, and requiring reality to conform to specific parameters compatible with our physiology. Once you start getting into the possibility that the universe is an amalgam generated by billions of species observing it at the same time, they get confused and simplify the problem by eliminating the other observers.

Anyway, Fermi's famous paradox was just as you described. A simple, interesting thought experiment, never meant to be taken as a proof of anything.

Mac said...

I spoke at a symposium with UFO researcher and former nuclear physicist Stan Friedman in late '06. Friedman, who'd seen Fermi speak and hold him in high regard, was adamant that Fermi's "paradox" was as you describe: never intended to be a damning "rule."

To me, the FP is interesting because it would seem to rule out human-like visitors (or broadcasters). But then again, who *really* expects ETs to be essentially human anyway?

Taken literally, the FP is little more than a cosmic cop-out.

intense said...


"This theory was (jokingly) suggested to Fermi himself by his fellow physicist, Leo Szilard, who suggested that 'they are already among us - but they call themselves Hungarians'."

For further speculation, history, links, and data about the Fermi Paradox, see: or just use Google--there are 68,900 references there. Good luck with that...

One interesting link is how the question was raised in the first place, from a historical point of view:

My take? We're not yet, if we ever will be, significant enough to contact directly. Or, that "they" may already be "here," and to initiate other than very subtle, rare, deniable contact would be inherently disruptive and destructive to our sense of free will if they were to make themselves known in an overt manner; i.e., we're not ready.

Or, that they are neo-con Republicans, and we are doomed. 8^}

The question in inherently speculative and thus currently unanswerable. I wouldn't waste too much time trying to figure it out, as it is unknowable at this time. I have this on the authority of the 'others', and no, they are not humanoid in any conceivable way.

If they showed themselves as they actually are, it would blow your mind. More like a form of trans-dimensional "energy" which can make itself appear to us as we might expect them to, or not, for our own safety and sanity. And so we don't become nagging co-dependent slackers asking for help all the time. That's not how the cosmic game is played--we are required to evolutionarily "Pass GO" before we are allowed to collect the proverbial $200, monopolistically speaking. It's for our own good, but they are tricky little bastards. Of course, that's all speculation, too. Or is it? Heh!

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