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The Great Filter

I've been thinking about the Fermi Paradox and the idea of the Great Filter. Basically, one of the questions being asked about life out there in the universe goes like this: If the universe is teeming with life, how come no-one has found us, and if they have, why don't they want to talk to us?

There are many interesting possible answers to this question, and one is the idea of the Great Filter. http://(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter) What this would basically mean is that as each species develops, there is always at least one event that is nearly impossible to get over, a point that prevents most species from further progress. It could have happened before. For example; maybe the point at which single cell life emerges is a much rarer phenomenon than we realise. We can't judge it because we don't know how often or how easily it happens off-Earth. All we know is that if that is a huge hurdle, we got over it.

But there is a possibility that we haven't reached the enormous barrier yet,that the Great Filter is ahead of us. Because we can't imagine any further need to physically evolve, it is presumed that the Filter must be an issue of technological advance, like space travel or something. If we can't learn how to travel through space, we can't just keep on expanding in numbers,and in human terms expansion is very much considered a win condition for the species. The idea would be that if no species out there ever managed space travel, this is the Great Filter, a single event that stops every civilisation from developing past a certain point.

I have not seen anywhere the theory that the Great Filter might be an issue of social evolution, based among other things, how we approach the use and replacement of finite resources. Brutal truth is, we may not be doing very well with that. The genius of the human race has been to adapt what there is to suit us, which lasts until what there is runs out, and then we use something else. We may have lost the ability to adapt ourselves to what we have, and to replenish it. This might lead to a brilliant sunset for a cherished pocket of the human race, while most of it - as well as every other conquered subset on the planet - dies in the dark. And then that tiny dreamcrowd dies too, simply because we wouldn't give up the idea that Strongest Chimpchild Eats First.It is not about basic human nature as some intractable force that we can't get past; we know that's rubbish, we just like it as an excuse, second only to blaming the gods for our decisions.

That may be the tragedy of the Great Filter, if it exists at all.Ironically, the Great Filter might not be due to a lack of technological advancement, but in a conscious refusal to advance in any other way alongside it. The drive that got us out of the mud may be keeping us out of the stars...

And maybe that's good for everyone out there, except us.



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