Monday, June 10, 2013

Weird Solutions to the Fermi Paradox

Back in 2010, my co-edited (with Nick Gevers) anthology Is Anybody Out There? was published by DAW Books: stories each with a unique take on the Fermi paradox. And just what is the Fermi paradox, you may ask? Here's an excerpt from our pitch for the book:

Why is it that, in such a vast cosmos, with hundreds of billions of stars in this galaxy alone, and no doubt billions of Earth-like planets orbiting them, we have found no evidence of intelligent alien life? No evidence that aliens have ever visited Earth (other than discredited UFO mythology), no detectable signals in all our SETI searches with radio telescopes...

So it was with great interest that I happened upon an article on entitled "11 of the Weirdest Solutions to the Fermi Paradox." Though, when you think about them, they're not so weird after all -- especially in comparison to some of the stories in Is Anybody Out There?

I'll list the eleven points, with a very brief explanation; you'll need to read the io9 article, which I heartily recommend, for the details:

1. The Zoo Hypothesis: we're stuck inside some kind of celestial cage, and we're being watched.

2. Self-Imposed Quarantine: Extra-Terrestrial Intelligences (ETIs) may have collectively and independently decided to stay at home and not draw attention to themselves.

3. The Whack-a-Mole Hypothesis: ETIs are hovering over us with a giant hammer ready to smack it down should they suddenly not like what they see. Sort of like the Zoo Hypothesis, but not as friendly.

4. We're Made Out of Meat: Yum! Reminds me of The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man" (based on the story of the same name by Damon Knight).

5. The Simulation Hypothesis: we're living inside a computer simulation — and the simulation isn't generating any extraterrestrial companions for us.

6. Radio Silence: it's possible that ETIs are listening, but no one is transmitting.

7. All Aliens Are Homebodies: an advanced enough ETI could lose all galactic-scale ambitions.

8. We Can't Read the Signs: it's totally possible that the signs of ETIs are all around us, but we just can't see/understand/detect them.

9. They're All Hanging Out At the Edge of the Galaxy: we’re looking for ET in the wrong place — they've set up camp where it's super cool, at the outer rim of the Galaxy.

10. Directed Panspermia: we haven’t made contact with ETIs because we're the aliens, or at least, they're our ancestors.

11. The Phase Transition Hypothesis: the universe is still evolving and changing, and the conditions to support advanced intelligence have only recently fallen into place.

Most of these "weird" solutions, or theories, however, are nothing compared to what you will find in Is Anybody Out There? How about an alien that appears only once a year, and only visible at a certain time and place, because the alien is out of phase with our own reality? ("The Dark Man" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch) Or aliens who try to communicate via the hypertext in an online library database? ("Graffiti in the Library of Babel" by David Langford) Or, a dying astronaut, who insists he made alien contact during his time in space, but no one believes him -- well, maybe one does. ("Where Two or Three" by Sheila Finch) Aliens are among us, residing in the human brain. ("The Taste of Night" by Pat Cadigan)

These are just a taste (no pun intended) of the fifteen stories included in Is Anybody Out There? which has obviously sold well enough to justify a second printing -- not too shabby in the world of mass market paperback anthologies. I have a dedicated IAOT? page with links to all the blog posts, including the complete text to a half-dozen of the stories, including the four mentioned above.

No comments:

Post a Comment