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Sunday
Mar042018

RS 203 - Stephen Webb on “Where is Everybody? Solutions to the Fermi Paradox.”

Release date: March 4th, 2018

Stephen Webb

In 1950, the great physicist Enrico Fermi posed a question that people have been puzzling over ever since: Where is everybody? The universe has been around for billions of years, so why haven't we seen any signs of alien civilizations? This episode features physicist Stephen Webb, who describes some of the potential solutions to the puzzle. Stephen and Julia also discuss questions such as: What evidence have we gotten so far that helps us answer the Fermi problem? How do we estimate how rare/difficult it is for human-level intelligence to evolve? And why does it matter what the answer to Fermi's question is?

Stephen's Website

Stephen's Pick: "The Cosmic Zoo: Complex Life on Many Worlds"

Eternity in Six Hours by Stuart Armstrong and Anders Sandberg

Dissolving the Fermi Paradox by Anders Sandberg

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 

Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (12)

Maybe the aliens just don't like humans and have decided to hide themselves from us.
March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
Another possible sticking point is that other intelligent life may not have the chemical elements needed for complex technology on the surface of their planet. Even on Earth, our use of precious metals in electronics is probably contingent on meteorites enriching the crust in these elements during the Late Heavy Bombardment.

I especially enjoyed the bit toward the end of the podcast about multiplying probability distributions as a better way to frame the Drake Equation. I'll have to find that article.
March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStephenM
The Drake equation estimates the number of civilizations emitting signals, but what are the odds that those signals reach us when our civilization is capable of detecting them? Is it like neutrinos and gravitational waves that reach us all the time, and we just need the right sensor to detect them? Or did the ET signals reach us a million years ago and will reach us again in a million years?
March 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMax
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March 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercolor switch 2
Somewhere deep in the Amazon rainforest, a lost tribe is pondering what are the odds that there's intelligent life outside the forest.
Someone should draw a cartoon of it.
March 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMax
No mention of James Webb?
March 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlion
Will be recommending you and your articles to writing friends.Thank you for your generosity. This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing these details.
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March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStreet view
Perhaps civilization we do not know. UFO stories are everywhere
March 20, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbloxorz
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September 1, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteranju chauhan
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October 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOmegaindl
One solution I hear rarely discussed is that intelligence is a "lethal mutation". Perhaps more advanced intelligence can only evolve in predatory species. This intelligence will be limited because, at a critical point, the intelligence will result in the organisms creating their own environments, thus removing certain selection mechanisms that could drive further evolution - in so far as that would even be possible.

Intelligence and psychological differentials will be manifest in a species, and parasitic strategies will emerge where a small subset gets control of most of the planet's resources using techniques of population and information control. Given the limited, predatory psychology, catastrophic and existential risks will be unavoidable.

You can see this potential in how the human species deals with climate change and other global issues. Perhaps the collective intelligence needed to solve large problems created by the species itself is almost impossible to evolve. As such, intelligence is almost always self-destructive at a critical point that can't be naturally evolved through.
October 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEric Hiatt

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