"We are already disappearing up our own brainstems."

    Paleontology has shown that organic life evolved quickly after the Earth’s surface cooled and became life-hospitable. Given simple life forms, evolution shows progressive trends toward larger bodies, brains, and social complexity. Evolutionary psychology has revealed several credible paths from simpler social minds to human-level creative intelligence. So evolving intelligence seems likely, given a propitious habitat—and astronomers think such habitats are common. Moreover, at least 150 extrasolar planets have been identified in the last few years, suggesting that life-hospitable planets orbit most stars. Yet 40 years of intensive searching for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded nothing: no radio signals, no credible spacecraft sightings, no close encounters of any kind.

    It looks, then, as if we can answer Fermi in two ways. Perhaps our current science over-estimates the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence evolving. Or, perhaps evolved technical intelligence has some deep tendency to be self-limiting, even self-exterminating. After Hiroshima, some suggested that any aliens bright enough to make colonizing space ships would be bright enough to make thermonuclear bombs, and would use them on each other sooner or later. Maybe extraterrestrial intelligence always blows itself up. Indeed, Fermi’s Paradox became, for a while, a cautionary tale about Cold War geopolitics.

    I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

NQSFW source: Uncanny Vulvas

See also

    Evolutionary mismatch, also known as mismatch theory or evolutionary trap, is a concept in evolutionary biology that refers to evolved traits that were once advantageous but became maladaptive due to changes in the environment.


Odder:

There isn't really much holding this article together, just a bunch of pop culture references strung together across a Fermi quote. Some of us are smart enough to figure out that we should eat vegetables sometimes instead of always eating candy, so as a species I think we'll be okay.

Fermi's paradox isn't really a paradox anymore. When Fermi first stated it, we assumed that exploring the planets and stars would be easy, rather than instead being really hard. We did make what seemed like a lot of progress from 1900 to 1970, but we really just had a lot of easily attainable milestones along the way until we got to the moon, and we kinda lost steam when we realized that it's a lot harder to go to Mars than the moon. There's not really much money in sending humans halfway to Mars so any incremental progress that's made on that front is going to be pretty indistinguishable from doing nothing for a few decades even once we get around to doing that. We've got to solve the problem of "Is it even worth doing that" for every exponentially harder milestone. The sci-fi nerd in all of us forgets that sometimes there are other things worth doing than further exploring space. And if it also turns out it's easier to build a Dyson sphere around our own star than it is to send humans to a different one, I predict we won't be going anywhere outside the Kuiper belt for much more than a few million more years.

And to further ruin the paradox: we can't hear any radio signals from civilizations on other planets because they'd be completely garbled and indistinguishable from noise by the time they got to us. We don't have any little green men visiting us at night because the energy cost to travel to another solar system with life is astronomically more than the resources you'd gain in doing so.


posted by wasoxygen: 147 days ago