Fermi’s Paradox discusses the likelihood of alien civilizations existing in our universe. This article by Tim Urban breaks out some of the possibilities of why we have not detected these other civilizations.
While writing my Worm Hole Earth stories, I have thought about this and came up with a few more possibilities for why we have not detected an alien civilization. Some of these might have been discussed before but they are not in the few articles that I have read on the subject.
- Signal Strength and robustness. How intelligible is a signal from a transmitter 10, 150 or 1000 light years away. I think, theoretically, the signal will not degrade over time, if it goes through empty space. But that is assuming that space is empty over many light years of distance. What if a large body or asteroid field is in between? What about our Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud? Could they filter out most signals? Would a large gamma ray burst or other event be able to blast the signal out of existence? If any of these are possible, then could they not keep signals from reaching us? While we receive lots of signals from space, are they not from stars? I would assume the power of those signals would be much greater than a transmitter. Would our early transmissions, now nearing 100 light years out, be more than a garbled mess? Maybe a story in the there 🙂
- Technological advancements. We have graduated from AM signals to FM to satellite signals in the last 100 years. Nowadays, most of our signal is very low powered WIFI or cellular or passed over landlines. Cable TV, line of sight, etc.. are handling most of our communications. Where will we be in 100 or 200 years with regards to communications methods? Maybe the broadcasting, for all to hear, is a short lived stage of advancement. One would think that communications between stars would not count on light speed. Doesn’t really seem practical, so maybe there are other methods. For us to catch signals like ours, we would need to be listening at the right time in a civilization’s advancement. We have only been listening for 30 or 40 years. Chances of another civilization being in a 200 year technological range of ours within these last 30-40 years plus travel time is pretty miraculous. While fiction, in my Worm Hole Earth universe, we have worm hole travel. All communications and commerce pretty much goes through worm holes. An alien race trying to detect where the Solarian Empire’s planets are, would need to detect energy or heat emissions of the machines, not their communications to one another.
- Machine Explorers. Explore all stars with self-replicating robots. Since we have not seen any, then they must not exist. Well, to have self-replicating machines that would also explore, assumes these systems would have to be very advanced. Here are some reasons I think this might not be the case.
- If a biological race created machines that were smart enough to search systems for materials to replicate, explore the environment and communicate back to the homeworld, then they would have to almost make self-aware machines. If a machine is self-aware, would it follow orders? Would the creators not worry that something could foul the machines “mind” and cause it to go psycho? Would they worry that it might get to a system and build an army of its fellow machines and then return to take out the creators?
- Superior beings find these automated explorers. Would the creators not worry that a more advanced race would be found and would learn how to get back to the homeworld? After all, for the explorer thing to work, it needs to know how to communicate back home. Even on earth today, there are those that worry we might find the wrong folks.
- Economic reasons. We can barely keep a space program funded. What value would there be in having these explorers go out? First, it will be generations or at least a long time before they get to another star. Even at one-third of light speed, it would probably take us 15-20 years to get to our neighbors (assuming we can not start/stop on a dime). Then 4-5 years to get a report back. This might be acceptable for stars in 10-20 light year range but wouldn’t it be better to report back and start building habitats, factories or terraforming of things found there, rather than build more ships and send them out? It would take the creators 20-25 years to get a report on the star system’s make up and make a determination if they want to send a colony to that star. Another 4-5 years to respond back to the explorer to continue on to another star, build copies or build colony infrastructure.
So just some additional things that I considered when working on my Worm Hole Earth stories. Some I plan on incorporating into the stories and others were just for fun.
What do you think?