During the Manhattan Project, the world’s leading physicists often kicked back at the end of the day and, while enjoying a few libations, ruminated about the great unresolved issues of science. One such day the subject turned to extraterrestrial life, whereupon Enrico Fermi immediately exclaimed: “So? Where is everybody?”
Fermi already knew the math, i.e. there are 10^24 stars in the universe – equal to 10,000 stars and 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand. In our galaxy alone there are one billion Earth-like planets and likely 100,000 intelligent civilizations. Our galaxy is 10 billion years old and most of it can be reached via probes or radio waves in four million years and ET could have reached us 250 times over. Thus, Fermi’s Paradox: given the immense probability, why has no one communicated with us?
Explanations abound. Perhaps ET has been communicating but we don’t know how to listen. Maybe they don’t wish to communicate or their math is different. Scientists agree there are serious flaws with the above explanations as well as countless others that have been proffered. The two most likely answers to Fermi’s Paradox are: (1) life is incredibly more difficult to start, to evolve and to acquire technological prowess than assumed; and (2) advanced civilizations destroy themselves on short time scales.
Man’s capacity for destruction vastly outstrips his ability to govern himself. Nuclear weapons are in the hands of a megalomaniacal tyrant (North Korea), a murderous dictator (Russia), an unstable tribal state (Pakistan) and soon a theocracy that vows our destruction and embraces martyrdom (Iran). It is only a matter of time until terrorists acquire them – likely from one of the aforementioned sources. One low grade EMP bomb smuggled into the US on a container ship and launched via weather balloon could kill 300 million Americans – and we are doing little to address that threat.
It is altogether conceivable that the failure of mankind to understand and to heed the eternal lessons of Kipling’s poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings supplies the disturbing answer to Fermi’s Paradox. We may be technological wizards but we are political cretins and we are on a track to destroy ourselves on a short time scale.
Does any nation that consternates over transgender restrooms while ignoring hardening its electrical grid against EMP attack deserve to survive? Does any civilization that will spend $100 trillion to lower temperature .3 degrees in 80 years while ignoring immediate human needs deserve to endure? Does any country with a $20 trillion GDP that won’t buy backup generators for its electrical transmission facilities to recover from an EMP attack and to save millions of lives deserve to last?
We have kicked the can down the road until there is no road left. Clinton and Bush declined to deal with the nuclear threats while they still were manageable and Obama was in la-la land for eight years. It is wrong however to lay blame solely on politicians who respond to our priorities. America, and indeed all of humanity, is slouching toward an explanation to Fermi’s Paradox; unfortunately, it’s a disastrous one.
Next, MLLG begins an intermittent series about taxation in America.