The Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter

A ~6 minute video about the Fermi Paradox. Posted to YouTube by “Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell”

Simply stated, the Fermi Paradox asks the question, “Where Are All The Aliens?” The life-projecting equations we’ve discussed in class, such as the Drake and Seager Equations, all seem to suggest that thousands, millions, or billions of other forms of life should be out there in the universe. But if that’s the case, why haven’t we found them yet? The Great Filter is a potential solution to this paradox; it suggests that there is some obstacle standing in the way of life reaching out, colonizing, or coming into contact with the rest of the galaxy.

Where it gets interesting to me is the discussion of whether or not humans are past the Great Filter. A lot of the time, people seem to think humans are really special, so it would be easy to assume that we’re ‘the lucky ones,’ and are thus far the only living species that have overcome the Great Filter. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that the Great Filter lies ahead of us, and humans are hurtling headfirst into their own extinction. The Kurzgesagt (a mouthful, I know) video linked above, as well as a few others I will link to below discuss the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter in a simple, straightforward way using some cutesy visuals and calming background music. I think they provide an easy-to-swallow way of thinking about a looming existential problem.

The Great Filter is honestly a bit scary to think about, but it’s an important thing to consider all the same. Do you think we’re past the filter, or is it still something we’ll have to try and overcome in the future? If it does lie in front of us, will we be able to slip through and survive, or are we heading towards extinction?

Some other Kurzgesagt videos that may be worth checking out if the Fermi Paradox/Great Filter interests you: Fermi Paradox (2/2) and The Great Filter. Also, you could look into the text of the original ‘Great Filter’ essay, written by economist Robin Hanson.

2 thoughts on “The Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter

  1. Thinking about whether or not humans are past the Great Filter is definitely an interestingly significant existential issue very relevant to how we live today. It’s such an open-ended question, as we really have no basis to determine whether or not we’re past the threshold of being such an advanced civilization. The thing is, I feel as if we still have a lot of development to do as a civilization (especially in regard to exploring space around us and finding extraterrestrial life). However, as I said, we really don’t know how developed we are and how far we are from the advanced civilization threshold, so I can’t concretely argue one way or the other!


  2. Good post! Do you think we may be imposing too high of a constraint on finding non-Earth life in the universe by requiring it to be advanced?


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