I’ve always been passionate about science fiction. My love for films like Alien, Bladerunner and shows like Battlestar Galactica have transcended my early teenage years and have followed me into my mid-twenties. Science fiction is about looking forward, looking at the future of our species and what comes next. For good, or ill.
But lately, my love for science and science fiction has had me wondering about the nature of our universe and our place in it as a human race. Are we alone? Are we the only ones that inhabit a small rock orbiting the only, shining beacon of life in an otherwise dead expanse? Surely if there were any advanced civilizations, we’d know, right? This is a question that the Fermi Paradox begs to ask, and one that may have found a solution in the Dark Forest Hypothesis, which could leave some more frightened than reassured.
Firstly, What Is The Fermi Paradox?
So first off, what is the Fermi Paradox exactly? Named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi due to his conversations in 1950, over lunch with fellow physicists Edward Teller, Herbert York and Emil Konopinski. The trio were talking about possible UFO sightings and faster than light travel when the conversation turned to extraterrestrial life, or the lack thereof. The Fermi Paradox is a conflict between the clear lack of evidence of extraterrestrial life and various high estimates of their existence.
It’s a paradox that, to this day, has stopped intellectuals and enthusiasts alike in their tracks. Many explanations for the Fermi Paradox have been circulating public consciousness for the last half-century. Including suggestions that our lives might be like The Matrix, trapped in a simulation controlled by a more powerful being. Others have suggested that the expanse of infinite stars beyond our home system are really an illusion created by some greater power to keep us from knowing the truth. Others believe we’re being observed and studied by aliens not yet ready to reveal themselves, and there’s even the suggestion that alien life doesn’t exist, and we’re just alone in this vast universe. There is, however, one explanation that sets one’s hair standing on end and sends a chill up one’s spine. The Dark Forest Hypothesis.
What Is The Dark Forest Hypothesis?
The Dark Forest Explanation was first suggested in a Science Fiction series known as ‘The Three-Body Problem’ by Chinese author Liu Cixin. The explanation uses an expansive, dark forest as an allegory for our universe. That dark forest is filled with hunters prowling about in the dark, keeping themselves quiet. Scared to be the first one to reveal themselves. We as people of earth are like another hunter, but one that wanders the dark forest with a light calling out to the others. Desperately trying to find another hunter. However, when we shine our light and expose that hunter, we have no true understanding of the implications that might entail
What Are The Potential Implications Of Exposing Ourselves?
If the Dark Forest Hypothesis is correct, then we have no true understanding of the other alien culture hiding out there in the dark expanse. Maybe there’s one super-predator culture that seeks and destroys civilizations in hiding. maybe it’s only a matter of time before that culture turns its gaze onto Earth.
Maybe, due to the unique evolutionary situation, each alien civilization finds itself in, communicating our earth-centric ideas to other species will be impossible. Maybe communication across light-years is so impossible, that it’s a situation of eliminating us before we decide to eliminate them or vice versa. Maybe total annihilation of the other is the only viable method, and any hesitation is met with swift destruction by an extraterrestrial planet-destroying force.
So, what do you think? Are we all alone, are we just paranoid, or should we seriously consider the implications of exposing ourselves to another extraterrestrial civilization? The truth is, there’s no right answer and no strong evidence to suggest the existence of other sentient forms of alien life. In truth, we may actually just be alone. Only time will tell.