The Fermi Paradox
There is a well-known argument
against this scenario, codified as the Fermi paradox. Despite the fact that there has been more
than enough time for a thorough colonization of the galaxy, we do not see
obvious evidence of alien presence nearby.
This might suggest that the starfields of the Milky Way have never been
pioneered by intelligent entities, either machine-like or metabolic, and humans
may be the smartest things in the galaxy.
In other words, the extraterrestrials are not here, and therefore not
there. But many suggestions for
reconciling the Fermi paradox have been offered, including several that would
allow for widespread dispersal of intelligence. For example, the colonizers might be cryptic. This idea may be particularly applicable to
machines, entities that could consist of individual, massive synthetic intelligences,
and not the hordes of little gray guys that are so often portrayed as our
galactic brethren. Another possibility
is that our part of the galaxy is relatively poor in both material and energy
resources, and consequently only infrequently traversed. In any case, absence of evidence is not
evidence of absence.
The point is this: even though
the evolution of intelligence may be rare, its presence in the galaxy may not
be. Intelligent biology, once it
reaches a level of technological sophistication comparable to our own, will be
able to disperse throughout nearby space.
This will protect it from extinction, either self-imposed or external,
and give it enough time to engineer intelligent progeny. These sentient machines could both spread out
and greatly outlive their biological creators.
The galaxy could be rife with long-lived, communicating devices, even if
intelligent protoplasm is both rare and fleeting.
In this way, even if Professor
DeVore is correct about natures indifference to producing intelligence, SETI
might still succeed.
Contributed by: Dr. Seth Shostak