A possible explanation to the Fermi Paradox can be found in energy economics. As a civilization progresses the cost of producing energy decreases which also reduces the cost of a world-ending event such as nuclear war. The pessimistic view is that civilizations eventually reach a point where they destroy themselves and therefore never make it to the point where they can achieve interplanetary communication or contact.
- Tyler Cowen mentions this in an interview with Steven Pinker who took the more optimistic viewpoint that violence is limited to the number of people who are willing to participate not the cost of energy.
- Energy consumption grows in lockstep with economic growth
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The Kardeshev scale measures the advancement of civilization based on energy consumption. It’s a useful way for thinking about where extraterrestrials might be but also where we are in the progress of human civilization.
We do not yet know what we have not discovered and trying to know the unknowable (prophesy) leads to pessimism. A Malthusian catastrophe ends up being wrong because it does not predict knowledge that resulted in efficiency of food production. Similarly the pessimism of energy economics is error laden because it can not predict what new discoveries we will make in social and political systems or new defenses.
An interstellar object that passed through our solar system in 2018. Researchers believe it to be solid chunk of hydrogen that was formed in a gas cloud 40MM years ago. However, if does not have the usual features of a comet (e.g. a coma) and it’s accelerating. An alternative explanation is that it’s extraterrestrial in origin.
There is a patch of the cosmos which is 300 million light years across with significantly fewer galaxies. Where a typical section of the same size would have 2000 galaxies, the Great Nothing has 20.
A ‘back of the napkin’ estimate that can be quite accurate. By estimating multiple variables somewhat accurately and both underestimating and overestimating, the variables tend to balance out and result in accuracy within an order of magnitude. This is usually enough to get a general idea of the problem and solution which is useful, similar to dimensional analysis like Big O Notation.