My answer to the Fermi paradox
By GM Yasser Seirawan
We remind you: the Fermi Paradox is a thought experiment, conducted by
the physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950, that raises the question why, in spite
of overwhelming statistical odds for intelligent civilisations in our galaxy,
we have not encountered any alien artefacts or creatures. It is unreasonable
to believe that the 300 billion stars in the Milky Way have spawned less than
many thousands of civilisations, which will require just five to 50 million
years to colonize the entire galaxy. So if we are not the only life form (monumentally
unlikely) then hundreds of alien civilisations should have already visited
earth, a fact that should, of course, be immediately obvious to us. But this
is not the case. At the very least we should be receiving microwave communications
from them. But again this has not occurred.
My answer to the Fermi paradox is the simple and obvious one: advanced extraterrestrial
societies became virtual. They built expansive virtual worlds of astonishing
beauty and complexity. They learned to put their bodies in solar-powered machines
of cryonic states so that they could extend their life cycle and avoid injuries
as well as viruses. They created complex avatars of themselves in their virtual
worlds that were far more resilient than their own bodies.
The avatar selves didn't require food, drink or rest. If they wanted to hunt,
draw, read, write, create, build or explore every possible sensory pleasure,
all of these possibilities existed in their ever-expanding virtual worlds. Their
avatars could be a dolphin trolling ocean depths while chasing schools of sardines
or they could soar like eagles flying and nesting over scenic landscapes lasting
fifty years. Avatars could be a humble worker bee or an ant living for a few
days or a week.
Avatars were limited only by their imaginations. Dangerous beings could conquer
and rule in any virtual world they wanted. Loving beings could experience every
stage of pregnancy, if they wished, for as long as they wished. Beings could
have their avatars experience diseases and viruses long since conquered. Popular
programs included having their avatar bodies pierced with swords and other weaponry,
as well as being blown to small pieces and enjoy the sensory feedbacks of doing
it all over and over again. Beings who believed in deities could create gods
and angels from their own ancient mythologies while deterministic programs meant
they could debate the purpose and meaning of life for centuries without repetition.
Avatars could enjoy states of Samadhi for centuries.
Some beings defied their physical laws by multi-tasking, having numerous avatar
bodies performing in virtual worlds simultaneously. The impossibility of being
in two places at once became being in thirty worlds at once. In short, advanced
extraterrestrial societies turned internal instead of exploring the dangerous
external. The controlled microcosmic became more interesting than the unknown
Fermi wasn't to blame for not having the answer to his own paradox. The Internet
didn't exist in his day. Today we have massive multiple player games supporting
500,000 users at a time that are cartoon-like. A decade or two from now we will
look at the games of today and wonder how they were ever attractive at all.
Just as we now look at the simple game of "Pong" in bemusement. We
have only just started on our discovery as well as creation of virtual worlds.
Interfacing will be done without any physical connection rather through reading
patterns of brainwaves. Generations of technological advancements from now the
new virtual worlds of tomorrow will become so visceral and mimic reality in
ways that are so close we will wonder about reality. Indeed, new senses of heightened
awareness in virtual worlds will be created. In a strange feedback loop we won't
understand, we will become telepathic. In virtual worlds we will become gods.
To illustrate the powerful magnetic attraction of virtual worlds I'll point
out that recently a Korean couple was charged with ignoring their own baby while
pampering a virtual one.
Finally, "The Matrix" trilogy was a fun series which I highly recommend.
The Matrix got a lot of things right about our future, but missed the mark by
a really long shot.
Yasser Seirawan is the author of a new instructional DVD "My Best
Games" which Michael Jeffreys calls "the
chess DVD of the year." You can order it in our ChessBase
consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox
In this article Geoffrey Miller says: "I suggest a darker solution to
Fermi's Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens just get addicted to computer
games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're
too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't
need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just
as we are doing today."
Asteroid impacts the biggest threat to advanced life in the Milky Way
Hawking believes that one of the major factors in the possible scarcity
of intelligent life in our galaxy is the high probability of an asteroid
or comet colliding with inhabited planets. The general consensus amongst
scientists is that any comet or asteroid greater than 20 kilometers in diameter
that strikes the Earth will result in the complete annihilation of complex
life – animals and higher plants. The KT event which occurred 65 million
years ago and destroyed the dinosaurs, was the result of an asteroid (or
comet) six to ten miles in diameter hitting the Earth (the Yucatan region
of Mexico) at 25,000 miles an hour. The asteroid that hit Vredefort, South
Africa, dates back two billion years and has created an impact crater with
a radius of 190 km, making it the world’s greatest known single energy
release event known to science.
Through Earth's history such collisions occur, on the average every one
million year. If this figure is correct, it would mean that intelligent
life on Earth has developed only because of the lucky chance that there
have been no major collisions in the last 70 million years. Other planets
in the galaxy, Hawking believes, on which life has developed, may not have
had a long enough collision free period to evolve intelligent beings. Even
if life evolves somewhere in our galaxy, it will be utterly destroyed by
such an impact before it can reach the level of intelligence.
supernovas destroyers of life in the universe?
A massive white dwarf star in our galaxy may become a supernova several million
years from now, and could possibly destroy life on Earth. Many astronomers
believe that one of the plausible reasons we have yet to detect intelligent
life in the universe is due to the deadly effects of local supernova explosions
that wipe out all life in a given region of a galaxy. Certain rare stars,
type 11 stars, are core-collapse hypernova that generate deadly gamma ray
bursts (GRBs). These long burst objects release 1000 times the non-neutrino
energy than ordinary "core-collapse" supernovae.
A white dwarf star in the T Pyxidis system is known to be a recurrent nova,
undergoing thermonuclear eruptions around every 20 years. The most recent
were in 1967, 1944, 1920, 1902, and 1890 (astronomers do not know why the
there has been a longer than usual interval since the last nova eruption).
These explosions are the result of an increase of mass, as the dwarf siphons
off hydrogen-rich gases from its stellar companion. When the mass reaches
a certain limit a nova is triggered. If the mass builds up to the so-called
Chandrasekhar Limit the dwarf would become a Type 1a supernova. In this event
the dwarf would collapse and detonate a massive explosion resulting in its
total destruction. This type of supernova releases 10 million times the energy
of a nova.
More reader Feedback
Rafa Perez, Monterrey, USA
About your latest article "LHC goes online – chess grandmasters worried":
Okay, Friedel, I wasn't worried by the occurrence of a catastrophe produced
by a micro black hole in the LHC, but after reading your article and your solution
to the Fermi-Paradox, well I have to say that it really makes sense. Thank you
very much. On the other hand if there were any civilisation with the technology
to produce a LHC, they should also have been sending, unintentionally, and before
their disappearance, radio waves from their communications, and we haven't received
any of these. Maybe they're too far away, who knows?
Reply: The microwave bubble generated by our own civilisation, is now
about seventy light years in diameter. If we switch to fully digital close
circuit communication, e.g. with fiber optics and tight wireless beams, then
the bubble may end in less than a century and the Earth would revert to silence.
It is likely one has only one very short and highly unlikely opportunity to
detect microwave transmissions from other systems. The subject is wonderfully
explored in Carl Sagan's book Contact.
Rune Vik-Hansen (philosopher), Tromsø, Norway
I read your item on the LHC and the possible possibility for black holes etc.
Further down Frederic wrote about Fermi's Paradox, which, strictly speaking
is no paradox, but rather a confusion points of view. Frederic wrote: "So
if we are not the only life form (monumentally unlikely) then hundreds of alien
civilisations should have already visited earth, a fact that should, of course,
be immediately obvious to us. But this is not the case. At the very least we
should be receiving microwave communications from them. But again this has not
Why do we think other possible civilisations should visit us? This is OUR perspective,
probably due to narcissistic traits we tend to think we are the centre of the
universe, even when not, and therefore merit the attention of other possible
existences, and that all, and according to the thought experiment, technological
superior civilisations SHOULD come to visit US. However, this may not be the
case at all; THEIR perspective may be entirely opposite: "Hey, guys, you
see the planet over there? We SHOULD NOT, and I repeat, go there!" There
is no reason to think this thought would not have struck a technological superior
civilisation. We think we are worthy of other possible civilisations' visits,
whereas in reality, their perspective may be totally different. There is no
logical or apparent reasons as to why other possible civilisations should pay
us a visit. The whole "paradox" is founded on a confused point of
Reply: You are right, Rune, there is no logical or apparent reasons as
to why other possible civilisations should pay us a visit. But there is also
no logical or apparent reasons as to why they should not. If there are a thousand
civilisations in our galaxy, and just one percent of them see some reason
for conducting interstellar space exploration, then we should have ten alien
species crawling around the solar system. If there are ten thousand civilisations
amongst the 300 billion stars in the Milky Way, there we should have 100 alien
forms here on earth.
James A. Grange, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, Bangor University,
I really must protest at your recent article regarding the Large Hadron Collider
– such fear mongering in the press only serves to suppress the remarkable
achievements in science today. There is much naivety in the public domain regarding
the risks involved in the LHC experiment, compounded by fatuous media coverage.
The chances of a black hole forming – as Vera Spillner explained in your
article – are terribly small; the media would do well to highlight the
wonderful work being done at CERN and the advances in physics made possible
by this work. And why do we care what chess GMs think about the LHC? You report
that Teimour Radjabov is "quite concerned with the LHC"; if I want
his opinion on anything, it will be about the Kings Indian Defence, not theoretical
Paul Leyderman, Chicago, USA
I applaud your story on Large Hadron Collider reaching the energy of 7 trillion
electron volts (now I actually know what "TeV" stands for!). It was
thoroughly educational and entertaining. It contained great explanations of
scientific concepts, reactions from the worldwide physics community, pictures,
and illustrative videos, and it explored very interesting and thought-provoking
(even if somewhat controversial, such as the Friedel Conjecture for solving
the Fermi Paradox) connections to the topics as wide-ranging as the life on
other planets and environmentally-friendly scientifically-inspired art.
Naturally, you also emphasized how interested the leading grandmasters are
in the questions of particle physics and science in general. It's great to see
that they are well-rounded erudite individuals. As Magnus Carlsen said in his
to which you referred in another article, "Chess should not become an obsession.
Otherwise there's a danger that you will slide off into a parallel world, that
you lose your sense of reality, get lost in the infinite cosmos of the game.
You become crazy." If only Bobby Fischer had heeded this advice when he
was younger and spent his spare time in the company of bright and beautiful
ladies like Vera, Yisel and Aruna, . how much happier he would have been.
Please keep putting together enlightening stories that explore the connection
of chess to other areas of human endeavor, and keep doing it more often! I remember
that once by reading your article I learned a great deal about hippocampus and
the structure of the brain in general, and somehow that article was also in
the beginning of April. So what about other times?
Reply: Alright, Paul, let us continue with the following wonderfully
enlightening explanation of how we discover the laws of physics and the universe,
by Richard Feynman, who uses images that every chess player will easily comprehend.
Feynman on Physics and Chess
Physicist Richard Feynman explaining physics with the chess allegory
Richard Phillips Feynman, 1918–1988, won a Nobel Prize in 1965 for his
work on quantum electrodynamics and is known for his his work in quantum mechanics.
He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical
expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became
known as Feynman diagrams. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb
and was a member of the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger
disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited
with pioneering the field of quantum computing, and introducing the concept
of nano-technology (creation of devices at the molecular scale). During his
lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world.