Study Finds Galaxy May Be Full Of Dead Alien Civilizations
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December 22, 2020: Article discusses how recent studies of the famous Drake Equation suggests that intelligent alien life may have first appeared in the Milky Way Galaxy over 5 billion years ago in regions about 13,000 lightyears from the black hole at the middle of our galaxy (the Earth and our Solar System are another 12,000 lightyears further out than that.

This isn't particularly shocking news, it's not like we discovered evidence of aliens or anything. It's basically just a bunch of big research labs did a lot of number-crunching to figure out (based on what we know of the composition of the universe and how life likely evolved here) how early intelligent life could have developed in various parts of our galaxy. This is just further mathematical support of the strangeness of Fermi's Paradox. If there's life out there, why haven't we found it yet?

This suggests that intelligent life may be self-annihilating, via nuclear war, climate change, genetic engineering mishap, or other disaster, which serves as The Great Filter. The researchers concluded that there's a good chance that many prior intelligent civilizations existed before ours on other planets, but extinguished themselves rather than survive to make their mark on the epic scale necessary for us to detect them.



Game and Story Use

  • Precursors, man. The galaxy was likely full of them. Kinda depressing when you think about how they're apparently all gone.
    • And one day, we may be the extinct Precursors found by some other species exploring our system.
      • So let's start building a stellar megastructure big enough for them to notice when they do eventually develop enough to invent the telescope! Maybe, if we're both lucky, some other species will evolve in time to spot us and send a "hello" on a very long delay.
  • Space Opera and softer sci-fi tend to envision huge multi-species galactic civilizations, or at least competing galactic empires for each of several different alien lifeforms. As this article points out, the formation of stars, planets, life, and intelligence are likely to be happening at extremely different time frames in different parts of the galaxy. So rather than everyone having roughly the same tech level, any species that does successfully spread beyond its own star system without wrecking itself is likely to be thousands, millions, or maybe even billions of years more advanced than other aliens it eventually meets.
    • If that first expanding species survived the Great Filter by way of intellectual or spiritual enlightenment, then they may take efforts to foster and uplift the primitive species they encounter, and spread the wealth. Yay! Happy fun friendly galaxy full of benevolent highly-evolved beings!
      • Unless they are so peaceful they don't realize the less evolved species they discover and try to befriend might secretly want to seize power from within once they've gained the secrets of the good guy's technological upgrades.
    • If instead that first successful species survived because of a hivemind that made in-species in-fighting unthinkable, or a draconian fascist government that tightly controlled access to any technology you might use to build a weapon of mass destruction, then you shouldn't expect them to be noble and welcoming. They'll probably see the native life of developing worlds as a resource to harness, a potential future rival to subjugate or outmaneuver, or an existential threat to destroy with prejudice. If they're out there gobbling up worlds, it's gonna be a short, hard life for the underdogs. Thousands (or more) years of technological advantage will be pretty hard to overcome when the folks with that advantage have no moral qualms about genocide or slavery, and the firepower to obliterate your entire planet.
  • Besides extinction, the other popular end game for species in sci-fi is, effectively, apotheosis - sometimes called ascension, transcendence or sublimation. Some of them more cynical setting creators hint that this is actually just a form of mass suicide.
  • Regression to some form of techno-primitivism would also create a civilisation which is undetectable from a distance.
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