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The Fermi Paradox – Scary Solutions (Part 3)

Now that we know what the Fermi Paradox (Part 1) is, and some tamer explanations (Part 2) for it, it's time to get scary. We live in an apparently cold, dark universe devoid of life. The only company we have is ourselves.

What can be more terrifying than to be alone in an endless ocean? Let's get into it.

scared in space
Spooky, scary, space

Transcendent Aliens

One of the cooler ideas is that there is a lot of extraterrestrial intelligence out there. Unfortunately though, they are nothing like we'd expect. You see, these aliens have transcended their biology.

The idea of the Transcension Hypothesis is based on our own sprint towards the technological singularity. Some day computer-intelligences will surpass the human minds that created them. When this day comes, we'll have few options left as a species.

We could join our minds with the superintelligent computers, try to shut them down, or become redundant. There would be no use for a human mind anymore, not to a cold, logical computer, anyway.

So the aliens chose to join their computers. They no longer need biological resources to survive. All they require now is energy to run their computers, and somewhere cold to think about things.

Aliens like this would likely live their entire existence in a type of internet world. Having long ago built structures, like the Dyson Sphere, to keep their electronics powered.

Not scary yet? Well, hold onto your butts. We could already be this kind of civilization. Imagine for a moment that we as humans are living in a simulation. Our species has long since transcended.

Add to this the Aestivation Hypothesis, and we have a true nightmare scenario. Imagine we are a transcended species living at the end of the universe. Because everything is so cold near the universe's death, it is perfect for running our little simulation.

Essentially we are all waiting for the end, playing in a fake world to while away the time. It's just a theory.

You see, there is the distinct possibility that these beings would be interested in reliving their own history. Creating 'Ancestor Simulations' for them to play in.

It's getting a bit too Matrix in here.

Alien Berserkers

Insane alien
I'm gonna get ya!

Following up on our transcendental alien hypothesis, we have something more directly fear-inducing. The Berserker Hypothesis is popular in Science-Fiction, but also has some scientific merit.

The idea goes that a long time ago, there were biological aliens. They invented superintelligent AI. Creators become obsolete, and the AI watches (or causes) their extinction.

Now the AI believes that all biological life is unnecessary, prone to self-destruction, and only pollutes the universe. What is an AI like this to do? Exterminate the biological creatures.

The other side of the Berserker coin is that we have biological aliens out there, but they are insane. Our apparent loneliness is caused by this “insane” civilization that is very prone to genocide.

This of course, leads us to…

The Dark Forest Hypothesis

Our universe is not an empty void. It is in fact filled with life. The problem is that most of this life exists in a constant state of terror. Humanity's constant search for extraterrestrial civilization is a deadly mistake.

The Dark Forest Hypothesis states that we can't detect our extraterrestrial neighbors because there is something else out there. This something destroys any civilization naive enough to broadcast their existence to the universe.

In the Dark Forest, there dwells a predator. We don't know what it is. To know is to be consumed by it. Be it a Berserker, Eldritch god, or the persistent hostility that sentient beings hold for their peers, we'd be screwed.

The forest could be full of hunters, stalking the darkness with killer intent.

We can thank Liu Cixin, author of The Dark Forest, for this one. It's still somewhat better than…

The Zoo Hypothesis

Aliens visiting a zoo
Come on, primate, do something entertaining!

I'm not sure what's more terrifying, living in a simulated world of our own making at the end of time, screaming our presence into the Dark Forest, or living in the equivalent of a space zoo.

The Zoo Hypothesis states that our species is not alone. We live in a very crowded universe. The Great Silence is a fabrication. Our observations of the surrounding universe are all fake.

You see, when we were still a fairly primitive species, we were found by advanced extraterrestrials. They saw in us the potential for advancement, but didn't want to rush it. Something about struggling through technological and cultural development alone creates a desirable neighbor.

Because of their benevolent nature, they constructed a zoo around us. They'll come down to check on us, but never interfere, save for stopping us from annihilating ourselves.

Using their incomprehensibly advanced technology, they are able to present us with a picture of an empty universe. That is until we achieve some advancement, qualifying us for entry to the interstellar stage.

Either that or they think we're cute. Humans are little more than a passing curiosity. Only good for field-trips, or distracting the children.

Prison Planet

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We live on a prison planet. The extraterrestrial community took one look at us, and decided it would be better for all involved if we never left the Earth.

Something about our warlike nature and inability to run a government based on merit, is off-putting to them. They fear that if we ever got out, we'd tear into them like a drugged-up chimpanzee.

Humans, in this scenario, are the real monsters in the universe. All fear our blood thirst, and aggressive stupidity. The real Berserker was inside us all along.

Much like the Zoo Hypothesis, the Prison Planet Hypothesis assumes that our captors have the ability to warp our perception of the surrounding universe.


The final idea is that there are alien civilizations, but interstellar colonization is impossible. They choose therefore to remain quiet, as there is nothing to be gained from communication that takes centuries.

Have fun contemplating the Great Silence!



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