Are we alone in the universe? The question has been debated by stargazers since, well, since we’ve been able to look up and gaze at the stars. Scientists, theologians, and science fiction writers have all pondered whether life exists on one of those distant stars that light up the night sky.
Mathematically, it seems almost certain that life must exist somewhere. Astronomers estimate there are 100-200 billion galaxies in the universe. The Milky Way galaxy alone is home to an estimated 100-400 billion stars, and if we multiply that by the estimated age of the universe (14 billion years), carry the one…and that’s many opportunities for life to sprout up.
In 1950, Italian American physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with colleagues who were discussing the near mathematical certainty that other life must indeed exist in the infinite universe. After a beat, Fermi interrupted the group with a simple question: "Then where is everybody?" That question, now known as Fermi's Paradox, has challenged brilliant thinkers ever since.
If someone else is out there, why can't we hear them? Why would all of them hide from us all this time? It begs the question: Are we alone after all?
Avoiding the Great Filter
“Human civilization over the past 5000+ years, and in particular since 1945, has revealed much of what would surely impede, if not outright arrest, our aspirations to colonize other worlds in the Solar System and beyond,” writes the NASA team in a paper titled “Avoiding the ‘Great Filter.”
“It seems as though nearly every great discovery or invention while pushing back the borders of our technological ignorance, is all too quickly and easily turned to destructive ends. Examples such as splitting the atom, biomedical innovations, and resource extraction and consumption come to mind with disconcerting swiftness.”
They say that if we’re going to avoid the fate that befell civilizations before us, we must work together to identify and solve these problems. “The key to humanity successfully traversing such a universal filter is found in understanding what characteristics the barrier will constrain, identifying those attributes in ourselves and neutralizing them in advance,” they write.
While the outlook is grim, they say all hope is not lost. If we can shed our “immaturity” and unite towards saving our planet, we may make it yet.
Of course, there are still those who believe that advanced civilizations in other galaxies have already contacted us or will one day make contact. Whether or not this is true, the fact remains that our own culture has yet to reach its full potential. We must do all we can to ensure that our mistakes are never repeated—or worse yet, amplified by some unknowable change in the behavior of humanity as a whole.
We must continue to strive for better solutions to complex problems such as climate change, overpopulation, global poverty, and systemic inequality. By working together and applying the lens of science and engineering to solve these daunting challenges, we may find the answers we need to save our species from extinction.
Ultimately, the choice is ours: we can either rise to meet the challenge of a new age or fall victim to the same mistakes that doomed our ancestors. Our future could be bright and hopeful or dark and dismal. It’s time for us as a collective civilization to choose wisely. Let’s ensure we don't become part of the “Great Filter”.
At its core, it's not about what aliens may have done in other galaxies but rather what we do here on Earth – an important lesson that should not be forgotten if humanity is to survive and reach its full potential. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” Let's use this knowledge to ensure a better tomorrow for ourselves and our descendants!
It may sound like an impossible task, but together we can make it happen! By embracing our inner greatness and working towards a common goal, we can create a better world for all – let's make sure that our future is one worth living in!
The “Great Filter” could be just around the corner – let's not let ourselves become part of it. Instead, let's use this opportunity to collectively shape the future of our species by uniting together to solve challenging problems and strive for a brighter tomorrow. Together, we can ensure that the human race is not extinguished before it reaches its full potential. Onward and upward, humanity! The future is ours to create – let's ensure it is worth living in!
What do you think? Are alien civilizations real, and if so, have they already killed themselves off? And if so, how can we avoid that same fate?
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think.