The Great Filter is one of the possible answers to the Fermi Paradox. The Fermi Paradox is a theory that is constructed by Enrico Fermi, the brilliant Italian physicist, that also has the distinct accomplishment of creating the world’s first nuclear reactor and championing the Manhattan Project.
The Fermi Paradox is a paradoxical statement made by Enrico Fermi that states; If the universe is as big as we know it is, why hasn’t alien life made contact with human beings? One of the various answers to this question is The Great Filter.
The Great Filter theory was constructed and written by Robin Hanson,1 an economist teaching at George Mason University. Hanson states that each major evolutionary step taken by human beings is met with a barrier or a filter. These barriers prohibit us from going beyond our current evolutionary state and taking an evolutionary leap ahead. They are classified into the following nine filters or barriers:
- The right star system
- Reproductive molecules
- Single-cell life
- Complex single-cell life
- Sexual reproduction
- Multi-cell life
- Animals that use tools
- Where we are now
- Colonization explosion
The first barrier is finding the right building blocks of life within a star system. The other ensuing six barriers have made human beings what they are today. The eight barrier is where human beings as a civilization are currently at.
Human beings have thought to have cleared eight of the nine barriers mentioned above and are currently starring into what Robin Hanson calls ‘The Great Filter’. This is a seemingly insurmountable barrier to colonization explosion (Human population explosion throughout the galaxy)
How The Great Filter theory answers Fermi’s Paradox
Fermi’s Paradox asks the most basic of questions: “Are we alone in the universe?”
According to The Great Filter theory and further substantiated by the Drake Equation, our galaxy may already be harboring many intelligent alien beings. The only reason why none of them have made contact with human beings is because of The Great Filter.
Civilizations have been stuck at the insurmountable barrier between where human beings are right now and colonization explosion on a galactic level. If this barrier gets breached by us or by any other intelligent alien life form, we may make contact with other civilizations.
Can human beings cross The Great Filter?
Certain independent thinkers feel that human beings may have already crossed The Great Filter and are on their way to becoming a Type 3 civilization. Others believe that The Great Filter is ahead of us.
Assuming that it is ahead, let us see how human beings may surmount this challenge and break the barrier to colonization explosion.
- Self-replicating Von Neumann Probes
- Automated Terraforming Seeder Ship
Self-replicating Von Neumann Probes
The self-replicating Von Neumann probe is a theoretical nanobotic space probe that is designed for space exploration on a compounding and exponential scale.2 The Probe has 2 distinct roles:
- To multiply on an exponential scale and spread throughout the cosmos
- To find extra-terrestrial life within our galaxy
Both of these roles complement each other. A single Von Neumann probe can be programmed to go to a distant star system. Once the probe reaches its destination, it uses available resources like space dust, rocks and other materials to make copies of itself and shoot these copies across to other neighbouring star systems. The process will rinse and repeat for eternity. Thus a single Von Neumann Probe can multiply to thousands and soon even billions.
Once a probe has found a habitable environment, it can be programmed to terraform (more on this below). If the probe comes across an intelligent civilization, it can attempt to make contact. It can also be programmed to aid primitive civilizations on their evolutionary path.
The Von Neumann Probe may thus be called as an exponentially reproducing nanite technology that traverses through space with the goal of making contact with intelligent civilizations.
Automated Terra-forming Seeder Ship
An Automated Terra-forming Seeder Ship may theoretically be designed in such a way, that it can not only replicate exponentially like the Von Nuemann Probe but it can also carry genetic patterns of life forms. Once a seeder ship reaches a habitable / semi-habitable star system, it can terraform the environment to suite the life form that it’s carrying. Certain scientists are still contemplating the possibility that human life on Earth is a result of an Automated Terraforming Seeder Ship sent by our type 3 ancestors.
A Berserker is nothing but a destroyer of worlds. If human civilization is at the precipice of extinction and short on habitable exoplanets and star systems, Human beings can use Von Neumann Probes for
scouting, Berserkers for destroying other life-bearing worlds and seeder ships to distribute our genetic code across a terraformed new environment. Destruction of other life bearing worlds may be considered as a last resort by human kind to safeguard its own survival.
Although the above mentioned technologies are just theoretical in nature, they are the closest fathomable means through which human civilization may cross The Great Filter and rage on to becoming a Type 3 civilization.