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Aliens and the Great Filter

There’s a fascinating article at Technology Review, by Nick Bostrom (previously known for his speculation that we are living in a simulation), titled “Where Are They? Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing.” In the article, Bostrom argues that our failure (thus far) to find life on Mars might just be a good thing – because if life was prevalent throughout the cosmos, then the silence of ET civilisations suggests that the ‘Great Filter’ which stops civilisations from reaching a highly advanced stage might be ahead of us:

This would mean that some great improbability prevents almost all civilizations at our current stage of technological development from progressing to the point where they engage in large-scale space colonization. For example, it might be that any sufficiently advanced civilization discovers some technology — perhaps some very powerful weapons technology — that causes its extinction.

I don’t agree with some of the logic in the argument, but all in all it’s certainly a piece that gets you thinking – from issues to do with evolution and life’s beginnings, through to techniques of space colonisation. And Bostrom’s “Great Filter” is such an interesting topic, it may just become a catchphrase heard in many future dialogues about the possibility of alien life.

  1. Aliens
    Hi Greg,
    I think I covered this problem in this post a while back:

    Our Friends From Outer Space

    I argued that a stage would come when tech is so great that a species has to learn benevolence, or it will destroy itself.
    Hence, there is a way out of the problem raised here – a choice.

    I’m fanatical about moderation

    Anthony North

    1. re: Aliens
      Yes, according to the alleged ETs, Earth is quarantined until we learn to stop destroying our planet and each other.

      Any ships that do arrive must remain in stealth mode since they are bending the rules.

      There are some pollyannas that believe the “good ETs” from “The Federation” will step-in if we’re about to destroy ourselves with nukes (but even then they’d likely make it look like a malfunction rather than an obvious intervention)

      -Guided By Voices

      1. One rule:
        I’m beginning to wonder if there’s only one law that prohibits ETs from destroying other civilisations. They want to destroy us, but they’re prevented by the law they respect. So they’re hanging around, waiting for us to do ourselves in, but ET is getting increasingly frustrated with us for coming so close so many times. Hence the anal probes, and teasing us with ambiguous UFO sightings.

        ET, if you’re reading — we shouldn’t be too much longer. It’s not like we aren’t trying.

        By the way, I just read Nick Bostrom’s theory, and it’s so full of faulty logic (assumptions based on assumptions based on assumptions), I can’t take it seriously.

        1. you think…
          You think our planet is some kind of “video game” for those guys? Or maybe their cosmic version of Jerry Springer?

          It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
          It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

          Red Pill Junkie

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