Francisco Oliveira, MD
São Paulo, Brazil
This paper describes a possible solution of the Fermi paradox. It explains the Great Silence as an artificial situation under which underdeveloped, morally immature isolated civilizations are kept within because they are considered not ready for integration with more advanced civilizations. Those immature civilizations, of which humanity is just one of probably millions of other cases, if integrated could use the scientific knowledge shared by advanced civilizations to harm themselves, other civilizations or the spatial environment, so they are kept isolated until they reach enough moral development to permit the integration without such dangers. If humankind wants to qualify for integration as soon as possible, to benefit from advanced science and technology, it should make moral progress a priority.
Keywords: Fermi paradox, great silence, SETI, extraterrestrial civilizations, exopolitics.
The Fermi paradox describes the contradiction between the results of the Drake equation, from which we can admit a high probability of thousands, or millions, of extraterrestrial civilizations existing in other stellar system and galaxies, and the fact that we, here on Earth, have not yet discovered any evidence of those civilizations, despite the millions, or billions, of years the ET civilizations could have had to contact us or make their existence known to us. This lack of evidence or contact is also called the "Great Silence".
Skeptical analysis usually takes the Great Silence and the Fermi paradox as bases for the hypothesis that no other civilization exists.
This papers defends a solution for the Fermi paradox that does not exclude the existence of many other ET civilizations. It states that an optimistic interpretation of the Drake equation does not collide with the Great Silence and that the Great Silence, indeed, stands for the existence of a large number of ET civilizations in the Universe.
Assuming an optimistic interpretation of the Drake equation, that many (thousands, millions, billions) other intelligent civilizations may exist in the universe, in our galaxy and in our near stellar neighborhood, we can assert the following theses:
Humans have developed science since Ancient Greece, for not more than 2300 years. Modern science, from Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein... has roughly 500 years. Nuclear and space exploration developments are 70 and 50 years old, respectively.
It is believed that the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. The age of the universe is estimated to be about 12-14 billion years.
If many other civilizations have emerged in other star systems since the beginning of the universe, each of these civilizations may have developed its own science.
As diverse and random as the emergence of those civilizations may have occurred in time since the beginning of the universe, the age of their scientific evolution is diverse. One can expect, for example, civilizations that, like ours, have few hundreds of Earth-years of scientific evolution and other that have millions or even billions of Earth-years of scientific evolution.
For the purpose of this paper, we can separate civilizations in 3 groups: those like our with "Kilo" years of scientific evolution, those with "Mega" years of scientific evolution, and those with "Giga" or more years of scientific evolution.
From our scientific experience, and with the help of Karl Popper's philosophy of science, we can say that the main contents created by science are: descriptions of problems, hypothetical solutions for those problems (theories) and critical appraisal of theories that leads to scientific advancement. This abstract content is the so-called world three of Karl Popper. Again with Popper, bypassing and refuting theories, even unconscious ones, that forbid the possibility of something, like the theory "no human can go to the moon", is what we know as technological developments.
These contents that eventually produce technological progress should be present in any scientific system created by intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations.
So, given the explained in the previous section, regarding the spatial and age diversity of ET civilizations, we can also expect that many ET civilization of the Mega or Giga group have already developed a very huge amount of (Popperian) scientific content and have already bypassed and refuted many once-considered "impossibilities" and created highly advanced technologies.
From our recent, still primitive, developments in communications, transport and interventions upon nature, we can easily assume that, among such bypassed impossibilities by ET technologies, there must be many in communications, transport and artificial intervention of a kind unimaginable for us now.
If there is a huge diversity of civilizations with different scientific histories and ages of scientific evolution, there should be many of the Giga (years) group.
Given that civilizations of the Giga group are likely to have developed unimaginable advanced-level of science and technology, it is also likely that those advancements applied to space communication, transport and intervention upon nature have created conditions for them to interact with other civilizations of the Giga, Mega and even of the Kilo group. Moreover, at least interactions of civilizations of the Giga group probably are balanced interactions among societies of similar, high-advanced technological and scientific achievements, which means that they are civilizations able to know each other and interact on a high-level of intellectual and material exchange. Civilizations of the Mega group are probably also able to know every other civilization and interact with the others easily.
So, we can assume that, given the existence of civilizations of the Giga and Mega group, at least, there is something like an integration of civilizations in many parts of the universe or even in the whole universe.
Given the abstract nature of the world three contents (of Karl Popper) of scientific problems, hypotheses and critical advancements, it is also very likely that information exchange among ET civilizations of the Giga and Mega group has created a huge scientific convergence of those civilizations. Advanced ET civilizations may have already shared their own knowledge and technology with many others and learned from many others, building a common set of Popperian world three objects (science).
It is easy for us to realize how such sharing would be facilitated. Any less advanced civilization (like ours) would be very interested in getting knowledge and technology from more advanced ones whenever such exchange is available. In this case, a convergence of scientific knowledge and technology would occur.
Groups of convergent advanced civilizations may have emerged throughout the universe, by such process of convergence, to the point that, when an isolated civilization begins integration, the flow of contact, information and material exchange to it may come from such more advanced, already-converged and organized groups.
If the flow of world three objects (science) from more advanced to less advanced civilizations is a natural process, and if many advanced ones have already converged forming organized groups, it is very likely that some management of such flow also exists. Indeed, there probably are established standards set forth for several aspects of the integration and convergence processes, including the integration of new civilizations.
Standards for integration of new civilizations into already-converged civilizations may be active, managed and controlled throughout the universe or the galaxies.
Do advanced, already-converged civilizations would simply allow every other new civilization to be integrated into their group? Yes, if integration was always a straightforward, smooth and harmonious process. No, if the opposite. And this opposite is the more probable scenario.
How less advanced civilizations would deal with a great amount of new knowledge, technology and, consequently, power from the flow of scientific content from the advanced ones? Would they harm themselves, the space environment or even the group into which they are to be integrated? Would they know how to receive all such knowledge and proceed with an harmonious integration?
These are all moral problems that could be summed up in this one: Is the new civilization morally ready to have more power without causing harm (and even the need to be destroyed or repressed)?
The lessons from the nuclear age here on Earth are all around. Nuclear energy benefits billions of people, however, it killed thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many others died or suffer from radioactive accidents, and nuclear control is still a global concern. (Anecdotal reports of UFOs flying over and disrupting nuclear weapon sites, as if sending a warning message, may not be so anecdotal.)
This paper hypothesizes that isolated civilizations are put into artificial, coordinated isolation until they have enough moral maturity to be integrated into already-converged groups of civilizations. Unless a consistent culture of good moral principles and practices emerges in such civilizations, they would be kept in isolation for their own sake and for the safety of the galactic and universal environment and integration.
Slow, gradual moral development would develop in some isolated civilizations. These would be candidates for integration. Some others, however, would fail and indefinitely kept isolated (or would undergo self-destruction).
We live inside a Great Silence in a probably extensively populated and integrated universe. This means that integration is natural and the silence is unnatural, artificially created and maintained. It is probably the way under which underdeveloped civilizations like ours are kept until integration maturity is achieved.
Earth shows many evidences of moral underdevelopment. The misuse of nuclear technology, mentioned above, is just one of many examples. The following are some few others:
We still make war and practice violence against our own human siblings. We still inflict avoidable suffering to humans and other animals. We still steal, lie and fraud. We do not eliminate poverty and hunger, despite material conditions for that. We continue using technology to make objects of attack like bombs, guns and military vehicles, and not only for defense. We have dictatorships. We have more than necessarily rigid penal laws. Benefits from current science and technology are not distributed equally to people, some get more than they need, others never get anything. We still use technology products and byproducts to pollute and destroy the planetary environment. Collective managers, politicians, have privileges and often steal their people. We still consider material things more valuable than moral principles. An so on.
Moreover, if we are barely able to accept the diversity of beliefs, shapes, tastes and conditions among ourselves, how can we be ready to integrate a community of beings that almost certainly are much more diverse than we can imagine? How can we consider ourselves ready for the integration and scientific convergence with other civilizations, if the problems above remain unsolved in our current developmental stage? In the present time, we are clearly not ready for integration.
The integration immaturity of humankind, thus, explains the Great Silence imposed upon us.
If we want to be part of the interstellar community and benefit from the integration and convergence of universal scientific progress, we should make moral progress a priority.
We should work to lessen or eliminate the moral problems described above and the other cultural questionable moral practices to which we are used. I suppose that, for example, one of these practices is carnivorism (just to cite one example), since our good will to be vegetarian would easily avoid suffering of many individual animals. As another example, we should eliminate wars and politician-driven violence against individuals, including all forms of dictatorship. Similarly important is the protection of the environment against the harm from scientific progress and the distribution of such progress to all humans.
These developments, however, seem to need individual conversion from the heart, which is a process associated not only to formal education but also to family, friends, work colleagues and the societies as a whole. They are slow and gradual developments.
Nevertheless, if we do not make them, and if this hypothesis about the Fermi Paradox is correct, we will be forever kept inside this Great Silence. Many other still-isolated civilizations also may be, but many others have probably succeeded in getting out of it. It is up to us! We will not experience integration if we do not recognize that our present moral standards are poor and in need of progress.
Oliveira, F. (2013). Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox. Open Science Repository Astronomy, Online(open-access), e23050441.
Oliveira, Francisco. “Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox.” Open Science Repository Astronomy Online.open-access (2013): e23050441.
Oliveira, Francisco. “Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox.” Open Science Repository Astronomy Online, no. open-access (October 18, 2013): e23050441.
Oliveira, F., 2013. Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox. Open Science Repository Astronomy, Online(open-access), p.e23050441.
1. F. Oliveira, Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox, Open Sci. Repos. Astron. Online, e23050441 (2013).
1. Oliveira, F. Integration Immaturity: A Possible Solution of the Fermi Paradox. Open Sci. Repos. Astron. Online, e23050441 (2013).
Research registered in the DOI resolution system as: 10.7392/openaccess.23050441.