New research speculates why aliens have never visited Earth – and it could spell danger for mankind.
Researchers posit that alien civilizations could be doomed to either stagnate or die before they get the chance to visit Earth.
The quest for extraterrestrial life is one of the most fascinating parts of science – and also one of the most controversial.
In the past, the National Academy of Sciences (NSA) has said that communicating with other civilizations “is no longer something beyond our dreams but a natural event in the history of mankind that will perhaps occur in the lifetime of many of us.”
Still, then the question, famously posed by physicist Enrico Fermi, begs: Where is everybody?
In the hopes of answering this question, a new paper published on May 4 in the journal Royal Society Open Science claims that “civilizations either collapse from burnout or redirect themselves to prioritizing homeostasis, a state where cosmic expansion is no longer a goal, making them difficult to detect remotely.”
“Either outcome — homeostatic awakening or civilization collapse — would be consistent with the observed absence of [galactic-wide] civilizations.”
The team of researchers reached their hypothesis using the “‘superlinear” model as observed in cities.
When cities grow in size and energy consumption at the same rate as their population increases, this leads to crises called “singularities.”
This singularity point describes when “population and energy demand tend to infinity in a finite amount of time,” per the study’s authors.
In response, civilizations try to tackle this with more frequent innovations, however, this can cause “rapid crashes in growth, followed by an even more precipitous, potentially civilization-ending, collapse.”
“We hypothesize that once a planetary civilization transitions into a state that can be described as one virtually connected global city, it will face an ‘asymptotic burnout,’ an ultimate crisis where the singularity-interval time scale becomes smaller than the time scale of innovation,” they wrote.
Scientists would theoretically be able to detect these nearly decimated civilizations easiest as they would be expelling a tremendous amount of energy.
What could this research mean for Earth?
According to this theory, if Earth were to continue on a path of superlinear growth, it could mean the end of our civilization.
However, Earth is a great example of undergoing “homeostatic awakenings.”
This is when a civilization redirects its production away from “unbounded growth across the stars to one that prioritizes societal wellbeing, sustainable and equitable development, and harmony with their environment,” Live Science reports.
The study points specifically to mankind’s denuclearization of weapons of mass destruction as an example of this.
“While humanity has not yet removed the threat of nuclear annihilation, today it is somewhat diminished, and the global tally of nuclear warheads stands at less than 14,000,” the study said.
The study’s authors stressed that their hypothesis is not set in stone, and is designed to “provoke discussion, introspection and future work.”