If you’re like us, you’ve probably laid in bed at night wondering, “Where are all the aliens?” Radio astronomer Frank Drake once estimated that there are 10,000 advanced civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy alone. This calculation is known as the Drake equation. Carl Sagan upped the number to a million.
And these figures are based on carbon-based life forms that evolved on Earth-like planets. We’re not even counting alien races based upon arsenic, chlorine, sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorous or perhaps a compound we’ve never even encountered. In the novel Solaris, Stanislaw Lem presented an alien consciousness that was an entire oceanic planet. Stephen Hawking has speculated that there could be exotic forms of consciousness inside stars, or even black holes. Think outside the Milky Way, among the billions of other galaxies, how many different forms of alien consciousness there could be. It is truly mind-boggling.
But if there are so many alien civilizations out there, why haven’t we heard from them? This question is known as the Fermi paradox. In such a massive universe that is supposedly teeming with life, where is everybody? Yes, the distances are incomprehensibly vast, but thousands, perhaps millions of these civilizations have likely been evolving for aeons. Wouldn’t they have figured out some way to bypass this problem?
Futurists like Ray Kurzweil say they would as the result of a technological singularity. Intelligent civilizations such as ourselves, says Kurzweil, are destined to evolve into super-intelligent, possibly machine-based beings whose computational powers grow exponentially. After such a singularity, we would be able to harness the power of our own sun in order to accomplish interstellar feats only dreamed of in science fiction.
But if this form of evolution is inevitable, and if there are tens of thousands of advanced civilizations, why have we not detected any form of sentient communication or signal? If intelligent life in our universe is destined to transcend biological constraints and wield the power of suns and even galactic cores, why can we not see a single relic of its presence? Where are the Dyson spheres, exotic forms of energy and solar system-sized starships? If post-singularity beings are out there, as indeed they should be, saturating the universe with intelligence, why can’t we see the residue of their work, or even a trace of their existence? Again, the Fermi paradox rears its ugly head.
Some have speculated that the reason aliens are MIA is that they have chosen to be. After evolving to a certain state they have acquired the ability to live in virtual space indefinitely. This would be safer than the harsh constraints of physical matter.
But is it realistic to think that every single advanced alien civilization has chosen this path? Of the ones that have experienced the kind of technological singularity necessary to harness their own star power, at least a few of them should have cast off signals of some kind. Now scientists are saying that the search for Dyson spheres may be the next great search for SETI and alien hunters. But in the meantime, why the overwhelming silence?
An explanation that has rarely, if ever, been offered is that advanced, post-singularity alien consciousness actually encompasses most of the known universe by harnessing the power of dark matter. Dark matter and dark energy combined, which are said to comprise over 90% of the known universe, are barely understood at all. One thing we do know is that they are causing the universe to expand at an increasing rate.
Is it possible that dark matter is actually a form of computronium, a hypothetical, programmable substance that may be created by civilizations who are so technologically advanced that they can convert regular matter into computational power? Computronium could be used by a Kardeshev type III or IV civilization to essentially turn the universe into a giant conscious computer that can run simulations and replenish its own energy.
Perhaps the reason we don’t hear from any aliens is because the ones who would have the ability to communicate with us are wrapped up in far more important matters, like reshaping the universe, or perhaps creating a new one. After all, without intervention, someday all the stars will burn out. An intelligent civilization with the power of stars, galaxies, dark matter and black holes at their disposal would likely be figuring out how to transform the physical universe into a collective mind.