alien (This content is subject to copyright.) (Credit: iStock)
(This content is subject to copyright.)
If you ever looked up at the vast starlit sky and wondered: “Are we alone?” then you are not alone.
About 70 years ago, physicist Enrico Fermi looked up at the sky and asked a similar question: “Where is everybody?”
There are hundreds of billions of stars in the milky way galaxy alone, Fermi counted, and many of them are billions of years older than our sun. Even if a small fraction of these stars have planets around them that appeared to be habitable for life (scientists now think 60 billion planets could fit the bill), that would leave billions of possible worlds in which advanced civilizations could already have flourished, grown, and eventually started exploring the stars.
So, why didn’t the Earthlings heard a peep from these worlds? Where iseveryone? Today, this question is better known as the Fermi paradox. Researchers have suggested many possible answers over the years, ranging from “The aliens are all hiding under water” to “They all died,” “Actually, weare the aliens, and we rode a comet to the Earth a few billion years ago.” [12 Possible Reasons why We Haven’t Found Aliens]
Now, Alexander Berezin, a theoretical physicist at the National Research University of Electronic Technology in Russia, has proposed a new answer to the paradox of Fermi — but he doesn’t think that you’re going to love it. Because, as Berezin the hypothesis is correct, it could mean a future for mankind that the “worse than dying.”
“What if” Berezin wrote in a new paper posted on March 27 to the preprint journal arxiv.org”the first life that reaches the interstellar travel capability necessary to cut off all competition to fuel its own expansion?”
In other words, mankind is the quest for the discovery of intelligent life will be directly responsible for the destruction of that life no more? What if we, unwittingly, the universe of the bad guys?
First in, last out
In the paper, Berezin called this answer to Fermi’s paradox to the “first in, last out” – solution. The understanding of the required narrowing the parameters of what makes “intelligent life” in the first place, Berezin wrote.
For starters, it doesn’t really matter what alien life looks like; it would be a biological organism as the human being, a superintelligent AI, or even a kind of planet-sized hive mind, ” he said.
But it does , how this life behaves, Berezin wrote. In order to be considered as relevant for the paradox of Fermi, the alien life we find is able to grow, to reproduce and in one or other way be detected by the human. That means that our theoretical aliens have to be capable of interstellar travel, or at least of sending messages through interstellar space. (This is the assumption that people do not reach the alien planet first.)
Here is the catch: For a civilization to reach a point where it could effectively communicate about solar energy systems, it would be on a path of unlimited growth and expansion, Berezin wrote. And to walk this path, you’re a step on a much lesser life forms.
“I am not suggesting that a highly advanced civilization would consciously wipe out other life forms,” Berezin wrote. “The most likely is that they simply do not notice, in the same way as a construction crew demolishing an anthill to build real estate, because they have a lack of incentive to protect it.”
For example, a rogue AI’s unlimited drive for growth could lead to the filling of the entire galaxy with clones of himself, “to every solar system into a supercomputer,” Berezin said. Looking for a motive in the AI ‘ s hostile takeover is useless, Berezin said: “the only thing that matters is that it can [do].”
A fate worse than extinction
The bad news for the humans is not that we might have to face off against a power-crazed race of intelligent beings. The bad news is, we could be the race. “We are the first to come to the [interstellar] stage,” Berezin speculated, “and probably will be the last to leave.”
The stop of the man against the accidental deletion of all rival life forms would require a total culture change stimulated by the “forces much stronger than the free will of individuals,” Berezin wrote. Given our species’ impressive talent for expansion, but such forces may be difficult to collect.
Again, this is only a theory. The paper is not yet peer-reviewed by fellow scientists, and even Berezin is rooting against his own conclusions.
“I hope I’m wrong,” Berezin wrote. “The only way to find out is to proceed with the exploration of the universe and the search for extraterrestrial life.”
Originally published on Live Science.