The discovery of a new exoplanet is becoming a frequent hyper press event, which never fails to provoke general excitement and speculation. Astronomers claim to have detected about 3,500 exoplanets in total so far, while guesses as to the number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy, which might support water-born, oxygen-driven life, range from 10 – 40 billion. The shadow of the Fermi Paradox – http://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/details/fermi-paradox – is looming larger than ever. The absence of other intelligent life out there would be a bold assumption to say the least, but where are they? Shouldn’t we be tripping over the remains of the failures, or dazzled by the might of the successes, or at least be the recipient of some coherent signals?
Surely we might hope to hear from a close neighbour – a civilisation at least as advanced as ours, perhaps a mere thousand light years away? That’s pretty close by galactic standards, only one hundredth of the Milky Way’s diameter.
A very narrow Window
But, a difficult conversation to start with, waiting 2,000 years for an answer. Even more difficult if you consider that our window of communications technology is barely a hundred years old. And, how much longer will that window stay open?
Perhaps we expect too much from them out there. If you consider the political climate in our world as it is today, do we really expect to progress safely through the next hundred years of exponential technology development?
Our particular advanced civilisation, for all its technical brilliance, has a rapidly expanding population, dwindling resources, self-induced global warming, horrible ethnic conflicts and declining political stability. The ambition and violence that created the world as we currently know it shows no sign of abating. Can we see this evolving into a serene and stable super-civilisation that satisfies the aspirations of all inhabitants?
Can Society change as fast as technology?
The pace of change of technology is exponential and far exceeds that of our natural evolutionary processes. How do exponential progressions end? A smooth transition to equilibrium? Hardly!
Perhaps that’s the way it is, when knowledge overtakes wisdom.
Is that why it’s so quiet out there?