The Great Filter


Whoops… I left you hanging without solutions to the Fermi paradox. Hopefully you didn’t ruin the surprise by reading other websites (pfft, why would you want to read those when you have The Nexus to enjoy?).

The obvious solution to why we haven’t encountered any aliens is because there are no aliens. But concluding with only that is boring, so here is more information to spice up your life…

If there are no aliens, then why not? In the 1990s economist Robin Hanson proposed the concept of the ‘Great Filter’, suggesting that during the development of a civilisation, there is some sort of obstruction or hindrance which prevents the civilisation from developing any further, or which might wipe out the civilisation completely. But what form does this Great Filter take? To be honest with you… we have absolutely no clue.

A positive perspective says that we’re one of very few civilisations (if not the only) who have already surpassed the Great Filter. The Great Filter could be the difficulty for life to appear in the first place. This may explain why, even after extensive laboratory experiments, we have not been able to synthesise life. The Great Filter could also have been any difficult step in the evolution of humans, and although the odds were against us, we miraculously happened to surpass it. It’s nice to believe that we’re very special… but then again, mothers have told us the same thing as children.

A negative perspective says that the Great Filter is right ahead of us. This would explain why we haven’t encountered any aliens – because their development has been obstructed by the Great Filter. In this situation the Great Filter could be a massive step in technological advancement and most civilisations, if not all, are not able to make this step; or perhaps the Great Filter could be what we think is the ‘end of science’ where there is nothing else to discover or research. There could be a countless number of civilisations like ours scattered around the universe, yet powerless to mutually communicate in any way.

Even more bad news is that the Great Filter could potentially wipe out our civilisation. This could take the form of a nuclear war, for example; every civilisation may end up developing advanced weaponry which becomes the doom of the entire civilisation.

On that happy note, I leave you to ponder life.


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