In 1950, Enrico Fermi famously asked: “Where is everybody?” With humanity’s rise in technological progress, we could colonize the galaxy within a couple million years. If we apply the Cosmological Principle (We are not special) to our galaxy, the cosmos should be crawling with life. With over half a trillion planets in our galaxy and the notion that planetary societies are not rare, we should have run into a galactic civilization by now. Fermi wondered why we have no evidence fir life outside of Earth and offered his paradoxical idea. Fermi’s has at least ten solutions (see picture above), though they can be condensed into three broad categories:
- We are the only galactic civilization and alone in the universe
- Galactic civilizations are scattered about the galaxy, but no one has colonized it.
- Interstellar travel is more difficult than we anticipated and societies are bound to their solar system
- Human curiosity to explore is an uncommon trait
- Civilizations are unable to handle their technology and end up destroying themselves before they are able to colonize.
- There is a galactic civilization that has indeed colonized the galaxy but has not revealed itself to us.
Regardless of the solution, the paradox has two distinct outcomes: We are alone in the universe or there are other out there. Both of these answers are terrifying and hard for most people to accept. In a way, the next step relays on our future. Will we destroy our race and planet or will we rise above and take the first step in colonizing the galaxy?
Source: Cosmic Perspective: Chapter 24