NASA has a theory as to why humans might be the only intelligent life in the universe

More and more astronomers are coming up with the idea that we are not alone in the universe. For them it is a matter of mathematics and humility. With potentially trillions of life-supporting planets out there, why should ours be the only one developing a high-tech civilization?

But if aliens do exist, we haven’t met them yet. (Probably.) Out of trillions of possibilities for life in the universe, you’d think we had meanwhile found signs of other intelligent life, right?

Now a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California is taking an old theory to explain it why. The “Great Filter” theory posits that other civilizations, possibly many, have existed throughout the history of the universe, but they all wiped themselves out before they had a chance to make contact with us.

What is even more frightening is that we are on the way to “filtering” ourselves out of existence as well, so to speak. In that sense, to understand why we didn’t meet Miscellaneous Civilizations – that is, what aliens may have done to destroy themselves – may hold the key to saving ours own Civilization.

“The key to humanity’s successful traversal of such a universal filter is … to identify these qualities within ourselves and neutralize them in advance,” wrote JPL astrophysicist Jonathan Jiang and his co-authors in a new study published Oct. 23 appeared online and was not yet equal – checked.

Not everyone in science believes in the idea of ​​the Big Filter. “It feels overly deterministic, as if the Great Filter is a law of physics or a single menacing force confronting every emerging technological civilization,” says Wade Roush, science lecturer and author of aliens, said The Daily Beast. “We have no direct evidence of such a force.”

But the effectiveness of the theory cannot be denied. The Great Filter was originally proposed in 1996 by Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University. It has since become a staple of sci-fi worldbuilding. And with good reason: it is dramatic. “The fact that our universe appears to be essentially dead suggests that it is very, very difficult for advanced, explosive, permanent life to arise,” Hanson wrote.

By “explosive” he refers to the possibility of a civilization that achieves cheap space travel and quickly colonizes many other planets. There is something – or many things – in Hanson’s theory that prevents intelligent life from thriving on its home planet, expanding to other planets, and surviving long enough to make contact with extraterrestrials like us.

At least one leading proponent of the search for extraterrestrial life has no objections to the theory. “I think it’s plausible,” Avi Loeb, a Harvard physicist, told The Daily Beast.

To understand the Great Filter, Jiang and his co-authors put humanity in the mirror. Whatever seems most likely to kill us could Also pose an existential threat to intelligent life on other planets, they suggested. They have compiled a short list of the greatest threats to the human species, all but one of which are entirely our own fault.

Sure, an asteroid could hit Earth with enough force to kill pretty much everything on the planet. We cannot necessarily prevent that. But so are the other civilization killers the JPL team thinks are likely self-inflicted. nuclear war. Pandemic. climate change. Runaway artificial intelligence.

Jiang’s team traces these existential risks to what they describe as ingrained dysfunction in intelligent beings like humans. “Malfunctions can quickly creep into the Great Filter,” the researchers wrote.

But dysfunction is not inevitable, Jiang and his co-authors pointed out. “The basis for many of our potential filters finds its roots in immaturity,” they wrote. We could come of age as a species, dismantle our nuclear weapons, switch to clean energy, contain the zoonotic viruses that cause the worst pandemics, and even develop better technologies to deflect planet-destroying asteroids.

All of these reforms require the cooperation of humanity, the JPL team wrote: “History has shown that competition within species and, more importantly, cooperation has taken us to the highest peaks of invention.” And yet we are prolonging ideas that seem to be the opposite of long-term sustainable growth. Racism, genocide, injustice, sabotage… the list is endless.”

With peace, love and understanding – and some major technological breakthroughs – we could survive our own self-destructive tendencies and defy the Great Filter. And if we can work together to overcome the filter, it is obvious other civilizations could also. Our own survival should give us hope that one day we will somehow meet the other survivors of the Great Filter.

Or maybe not. Hanson himself thinks that Jiang and co. have partially misunderstood the Big Filter and the possible solutions to it.

The global cooperation that Jiang and his company advocated as a means of our survival may be what ends up destroying us, Hanson told The Daily Beast. “They are clearly recommending more centralized control and governance of our civilization,” Hanson said. “But I actually see excessive governance centralization as the most likely contributor to our future Great Filter.”

The more we in Hanson’s conception decentralize, the more likely some of us are to survive and thrive. Imagine isolated settlers surviving a devastating pandemic, or private space explorers – your Jeff Bezoses and Elon Musks of the world – establishing off-world colonies on the Moon or Mars. Colonies that could exist even if calamity wiped out everyone on Earth.

Other critics consider the entire Great Filter theory to be nonsense. It’s possible we haven’t encountered aliens yet, not because they’re all dead, but because… well, we haven’t met her yet. The universe is huge. Even if there are billion They are almost certainly a long way from thriving extraterrestrial civilizations. It will take patience and a lot of searching to eventually find them.

“The Great Filter theory depends on the assumed observational outcome that there’s nobody out there,” Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, told The Daily Beast. “But this conclusion is far too hasty. We have just started the search.” NASA has a theory as to why humans might be the only intelligent life in the universe

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