Where are all the aliens? Video about the Fermi Paradox


“As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe.
Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?”


(Non caffeinated meta woo incoming)

I’ve often wondered if we are asking the wrong question. Not, why are there no aliens, but why are there no aliens like us.

We can’t explain why our complex Grey matter gives rise to consciousness, and our tools for measuring it are crude at best. Why can’t other complex systems give way to something we might not regard as human life, but still has fundamental aspects like preservation, determination, forethought, etc?

There are aliens, but the ones we would recognize are a billion light years away, and we are surrounded by ones we can’t even comprehend (…yet :D)


Or perhaps the most likely answer is yes, we are living in a simulation. Which begs the question… What are the cheat codes?


My theory:

  1. There is no “warp drive”. Everyone is going to be stuck at the same, slow, maximum speed. Thus the “foot print” isn’t going to be as large as something like Star Trek.

  2. They are using communications that we can’t pick up. We only started using radio waves to communicate for less than 200 years. I personally think we will perfect communication via quantum entanglement, which means a net work of communication devices could be set up to communicate between each other instantly anywhere in the universe. But it also means that communication wouldn’t be leeched out where we can pick it up. So even if they did start with say radio waves, there is probably only a few short centuries of it’s use before they used something better and something we can’t pick up.

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I’ve always thought that the argument about how quickly the universe would be colonized with a civilization capable of building the kind of colony ships necessary was a bit flawed. There’s a lot more to planetary colonization than simply building ships able to sustain a large enough population for a long enough time… at the very least there would be a question of collecting the resources necessary to build each of these ships, and there would likely be an extended ramp-up period in each new colony. Each location sending out a new ship would also need to have reached a point where it not only had the necessary resources available, but it also made sense to blast those resources out into space and (likely) never see them again.

Your (2) contradicts your (1).

If you can send instantaneous messages, then those messages can be about configurations of matter, and it seems at least extremely likely that with the right tools you can scan (perhaps destructively) and build arbitrary configurations of atoms. This would allow you to re-assemble people at either end of the communication system. So really (1) would only limit the expansion rate of a civilization. And unless technological civilizations do tend to destroy themselves, we should expect most to have evolved long before we did (wider window of time) and hence be rather large.


The problem with ‘paradoxes’ like this, is that they assume all life evolves to intelligent sentience, when we have clear evidence from our own situation that this is not the case. Life got by just fine for many millions of years without knowing or wondering what those twinkly lights in the sky were. Millions of years, millions of species, and so far only one has managed to attain this feat, very likely by extremely rare and coincidental circumstances.
Life throughout the Universe, I believe, must be common. Intelligent life must be so much rarer, more scattered and subject to the same laws of physics as the rest of us. Hence the silence.

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it does not assume this, it just assumes that it’s probable, and the evidence that it’s probable is us.

It may be an absurdly rare occurrence, but with the sheer size of the means it’s quite probably to have occurred on billions of worlds.

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  • Super Intelligence and a redefinition of the requirements for interaction with physical space and associated abandonment of behaviors related to genetic-vehicular culture.

  • We may have just invented warp drive without a theory to describe how it works. If so, it’s probably not that difficult, is very repeatable by any form of life entrained within the same dimensional-energy dynamic and accessing distant regions of the universe is relatively trivial. Therefor we are just relatively blind and/or not looking for the right kind of phenomena to identify such travelers. But really, see 1st point, who the hell wants to haul around giant homunculus lumps of arcane biology?

  • We are the aliens, panspermia is the most energy efficient method of distributing self-perpetuating systems. Throw in some different types of fungi likely to hyper-activate commonly emergent neurology. But see first point, this would really just be a boot-strapping first stage deployment to seed various distant locales with computationally self-perpetuating systems of memory.

In conclusion, we are relatively blind, stupid and tied to ridiculously childish notions inherent to the pupal, biological stage of self organising, emergent systems that happen to have stuck to the gravity wells of one of the universes cozy corners and once we improve our sensory perception and ability to think, it’s likely that we will recognise life all around us.

We may also be living in a hologram, a simulation, may be capable of time travel and temporal self-interdiction, are our own gods, are our own aliens, are a runaway cancer with shoes, all of the above, none of the above etc etc, THE UNIVERSE IS FUCKING WEIRD

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I think the assumption that it’s probable, is different to the assumption it’s likely. If it were likely, then at least one other species on earth would have attained it. That it occurred just once means that it can happen, but it’s not very likely to. And the occurrences where it does happen are so very spaced apart that any contact of any sort is unlikely.

He sits back with a snifter of scotch in a deep brown leather wingback chair, lifts his meerschaum pipe to his lips and takes a lusty pull. A twinkle appears in his left, blue eye, and gently scratches the head of his sleeping Labrador to his right.

“Tell me more, good sir”, he says with a dry levity.

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I believe at this point one is supposed to say something along the lines of “We have discussed this enough, let’s have a cup of mushroom tea,” but I might just be stuck on the efficacy of fungus as a inter-galactic transmission medium.

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Hey, can I get a custom title of, " The Troll in Tweed"?

Fungus would make an excellent transmission medium. If we don’t find at least come amino acids on mars or Europa, that is the nail in the coffin–we are approaching the problem in the wrong way.

He sits back and straintens his posture in the ancient, stiff, but intimidating chair. After a light and uncomfortable chuckle, he removes his glasses and stares to the ceiling, as if gazing at the heavans.

“Well, we have work to do, don’t we.”

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  1. Beautifully made video.

  2. Is the German “kurzgesagt” actually in use in the English language?

  3. For more on the “great filter” and other far out shit see this post: http://boingboing.net/2015/01/23/the-road-to-superintelligen.html

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I dunno, they do tend to just emerge out of the galactic medium and that whole self-assembly thing seems a little too convenient for my liking. Any wave-front of biological expansion is likely to be quickly over-taken by a technologically enlightened front of the same species, swallowing it figuratively and literally.

As much as I’d like a go at dragging the meat-body out into the stars, I reckon it’ll be the venture of some seriously dedicated otaku of biological nostalgia. “Hehe, my vehicle is made of meat, hehe and it’s vehicle is made of metal, LOL. We’re soooo crazy, look! I’m waving my, uh, arm at you in a symbolic gesture of greeting. This is soooo trippy man!”

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As he rises from his chair, his shoulders slouch. The light levity on his face is replaced by one of stale sadness. He pulls a linen kerchief from his pocket and lightly wipes his brow.

“Must we tell them the truth?”

" NO "

(Did I just get infected with the Darmok virus?)

Actually, some other species on Earth were very close to attaining it… chimps, pigs, for example.

So why didn’t they become intelligent tool-users?

We got there first.

No other species had a chance, once we were in charge - because suddenly changes in intelligence aren’t nearly as important as “who fills an ecological niche that doesn’t compete with humans”.

So the reason we only have one example on Earth could well be because that one biases the sample. The other examples we have are not independent.


I think you are greatly underestimating the amount of planets capable of supporting life in the known universe.

On a cosmic scale a Million-to-one chances happens all the time.

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