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The Great Filter

Why don't we hear

from anybody? By,

Martha Adams

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The Great Filter. This term refers to a very serious question, immensely relevant to all of us, which as I write here has been turning up lately in some public discussions. The question seems remote and abstract; but in fact, it's important to our species, to all us humans past, present, and future, in a way that resembles the importance of Olbers Paradox to astronomers. In Enrico Fermi's words,

             If there are aliens, where are they?

Namely: our central star Sol orbits in the life zone of our local galaxy, along with some millions to billions of other stars with planets. The topic today of life on some of those other worlds has had several decades of close observation and study by some of our best minds. In the light of this work, it's not believable none of these developed intelligent life; by reasonable estimate, this galaxy has thousands to millions of planets inhabited by people not remarkably different from us. But to date, we've found no sign of them on our world; and SETI has found nobody out there. How can that be?

(Note: Recent research has established the age of our universe pretty securely. It is very near to 13.7 billion years. Thus intelligent beings have had time, several times over, to evolve near other stars, to develop a capacity for interstellar travel, and to visit our local system.)

Today, we don't know. The topical study area around this matter of other worlds and beings there is some centuries old, but lately it has become very large. It includes the study of planets and how they form; of life and its origins; of intelligence and its effects and consequences over racial time; of Einstein's limit and whether there may be a way to get around it; a raft of other science and philosophy topics. Facing such a complex challenge, what does one do who wants to work at it?

One looks for something central, for a logical key to it. And that's what Enrico Fermi provided when he said in an informal discussion in 1950, "If there are aliens, where are they?"

The core of it is, if there are aliens, however slowly they move through space, they have had astronomical time to come here and find our world. They would be in evidence today. Our satellite Luna is a good place to look for this evidence. Luna rotation being orbitally locked to Terra, Luna would be a fine place to observe Terra from. But there's no weather on Luna, so if someone was there within the past millions of years, their footprints and their structures would be there today.

But in fact, no reports of anything of the sort have been published. Some people make a lot of noise about this news being suppressed. They may say, for instance, that some "higher-ups" suppress such news because if the public heard it, the public would become terribly frightened. (This sounds very strange to me.) Or that certain "higher-ups" keep the information secret in order to enhance some sort of social or military power. (Well, that's certainly not unheard-of.) My belief is that most probably, we hear nothing on this topic of aliens, because there's nothing there to hear.

So why is that? Why nothing from SETI? Of course answers exist! We just don't know what they are yet.

However, we do have some reality based conjectures. One of these is that the people are out there on other worlds; their cultures are there; they are often as technological as us; but then they get interrupted and they vanish. The generic name among researchers working to guess whatever leads to this result is, the "Great Filter." What might such a Great Filter be?

We don't know today what this Great Filter might be; but if it exists, then it seems to be perfectly effective. (Thus when it works, that's too late for us to study it out and devise remedies.) For some ideas (and a whole new topic), link over to Wikipedia:


Down at the bottom of this Wiki page, see a list of "Hypothetical Future Disasters," where 'Hypothetical' serves in a rather odd way. Something on that list will certainly arrive sooner or later, and when it does, it won't be "hypothetical." Do observe this list is large in itself, and its items are large in their consequences. You probably can think of one or two additions to this list.

If you step away from this current 'Great Filter' topic for a moment, you can also view this list as an excellent set of compelling reasons to be thinking about us humans setting out off-Terra settlements right now, for who knows when one of these hypothetical events is going to turn real?

I think a Great Filter of such reliable and general effect as we seem to see, cannot be found in physics and math. It must rather, be something in my CEP topic area (which has a lot to do with why I put a CEP topic area here). I expect any reader here who follows current business and technical news can quickly guess candidates for it, fresh off the front pages of today's newspapers. (I am of course pointing to the corruptions and self-serving shenanigans among our World leaders.) Later on, I'll be adding some materials to Adra about this Great Filter effect.

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