[ExI] Bad News for Fermi Paradox?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Fri Aug 11 14:22:45 UTC 2017

The implications of cosmic silence
August 11, 2017 by Bob Whitby



"I taught astronomy for 37 years," said Whitmire. "I used to tell my
students that by statistics, we have to be the dumbest guys in the
galaxy. After all we have only been technological for about 100 years
while other civilizations could be more technologically advanced than
us by millions or billions of years."

Recently, however, he's changed his mind. By applying a statistical
concept called the principle of mediocrity – the idea that in the
absence of any evidence to the contrary we should consider ourselves
typical, rather than atypical – Whitmire has concluded that instead of
lagging behind, our species may be average. That's not good news.

In a paper published Aug. 3 in the International Journal of
Astrobiology, Whitmire argues that if we are typical, it follows that
species such as ours go extinct soon after attaining technological
knowledge. (The paper is also available on Whitmire's website.)

By Whitmire's definition we became "technological" after the
industrial revolution and the invention of radio, or roughly 100 years
ago. According to the principle of mediocrity, a bell curve of the
ages of all extant technological civilizations in the universe would
put us in the middle 95 percent. In other words, technological
civilizations that last millions of years, or longer, would be highly
atypical. Since we are first, other typical technological
civilizations should also be first. The principle of mediocrity allows
no second acts. The implication is that once species become
technological, they flame out and take the biosphere with them.


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