The universe is so unfathomably vast, it’s hard to believe there is no other form of intelligent life programming its own supercomputer or flying a starship somewhere out there. Unless these life forms are already extinct.
Astrophysicist Daniel Whitmire has a radical theory on why we may actually be alone in a sea of stars. His recently published argument in the International Journal of Astrobiology uses the principle of mediocrity, a statistical concept that suggests we are no more than average if there is no opposing evidence. Meaning, if we can’t find something with a functioning brain billions of light-years away, it might mean that when taking the entire universe and everything that ever existed in it into account, we’re dumb as space rocks.
That would be because any species that reached the apex of technological advancement would have gone extinct.
Whitmire based his theory on observations that we are the first (and as far as we know, only) existing technological species on Earth—any other would have definitely left some really interesting artifacts behind—and also that we are also not so technologically advanced as we might think. He thinks of “technological” as defining any biological species with enough brain to develop tech and be capable of altering the planet. Which makes us about 100 years old as a technological species.
With all the smartphones and GPS and artificial intelligence we’ve come up with as we continue to soar into the 21st century, Whitmire thinks we still need to level up if we want to call ourselves advanced. We might as well be living in the Stone Age compared to the type of tech upgrades he thinks hypothetical extraterrestrials can achieve.
Then there’s the thing about dying out after we reach that level.
Typical technological civilizations shut down relatively soon after they rev up. Any such civilization that managed to last millions of years would be an anomaly. The principle of mediocrity implies that since we are the first tech-savvy civilization on Earth, alien versions of us on other planets must also be (or have been) first. There are no second chances here. When a typical species becomes technological, they will continue walking the tightrope of electrical wires until they burn themselves and the biosphere out. So under this theory, we should end up self-immolating in about 500 years.
"If we're not typical then my initial observation would be correct," said Whitmire. "We would be the dumbest guys in the galaxy by the numbers."
If that’s true, then being the stupidest species in the universe may actually save us.
(via Science Daily)