Is the universe really a “dark forest” stuffed with hostile aliens hiding?

Is the universe really a “dark forest” stuffed with hostile aliens hiding?
9 April 2024 J.W.H

Tony Milligan: We don’t have any reason to imagine that aliens have ever contacted Earth. Sure, there are conspiracy theories and a few slightly strange reports in regards to the damage done to cattle, but they aren’t credible. Physicist Enrico Fermi found this strange.

His formulation of the puzzle, proposed within the Fifties and now referred to as the “Fermi Paradox”, continues to be key to the seek for extraterrestrial life (Seti) and the transmission of messages by sending signals into space (Meti).

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and life is a minimum of 3.5 billion years old. The paradox is that, given the size of the universe, favorable conditions for all times have probably occurred many, again and again. Where is everybody? We have good reasons to imagine there should be life on the market somewhere, but nobody got here to make the decision.

This is the issue that Ye Wenjie's character struggles with in the primary episode of the Netflix series “3 Body Problem.” While working at a radio observatory, she eventually receives a message from a member of an alien civilization informing her that he’s a pacifist and insisting that she not reply to the message or Earth can be attacked.

The series will eventually offer an in depth, elegant solution to the Fermi Paradox, but we'll should wait for season two.

You also can read the second book in Cixin Liu's series, “The Dark Forest”. Without spoilers, the books' explanation goes like this: “The universe is a dark forest. Each civilization is an armed hunter that creeps through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing away the branches that block the path and trying to walk silently.

Ultimately, everyone is hiding from everyone else. The varying rates of technological progress prevent a permanent balance of power, leaving the fastest-growing civilizations in a position to destroy anyone else.

In this constantly threatening environment, those who play the game of survival best will survive the longest. We have joined a game that was going on before we arrived, and the strategy everyone has learned is to hide. No one who knows the game will be stupid enough to contact anyone – or reply to a message.

Liu presented what he calls “the worst of all possible universes,” continuing a trend in Chinese science fiction. He is not saying that our universe is a veritable dark forest in which a single survival strategy of silence and predation prevails everywhere, but that such a universe is possible and interesting.

Liu's dark forest theory is also credible enough to have reinforced a trend in Western scientific discussion away from concerns about mutual incomprehensibility toward concerns about imminent threat.

We see its potential impact in the First Contact Protocol, which was proposed in 2020 by eminent astrobiologists Kelly Smith and John Traphagan. “First of all, do nothing,” they conclude, because doing something may lead to disaster.

They argue that within the event of alien contact, Earth must be notified through a pre-arranged signal, slightly than anything improvised. We should avoid doing anything that may reveal details about who we’re. Defensive behavior would indicate our knowledge of the conflict, so it could not be an excellent idea. Return messages would reveal Earth's location – that's also a foul idea.

Again, Smith and Traphagan don’t imagine that the dark forest theory is correct. Benevolent aliens really could be on the market. The idea is just that first contact would involve high risk at a civilizational level.

This differs from the assumptions in much of Soviet-era Russian space literature, which suggested that advanced civilizations necessarily advanced beyond conflict and subsequently shared a collegial attitude. This not appears to be considered a reliable guide to contact protocols.

Misinterpretation of Darwin

The interesting thing is that the dark forest theory is sort of actually mistaken. Or a minimum of in our universe it's bad. It creates a scenario by which the Darwinian technique of natural selection, competition for survival, takes place.

Charles Darwin's description of competition for survival is evidence-based. In contrast, we’ve got absolutely no evidence of alien behavior or competition inside or amongst other civilizations.

This allows for speculation slightly than good science, even when we accept the concept natural selection may operate on the group level, at the extent of civilization.

Even if we assume that the universe actually functions in response to Darwinian evolution, this argument is questionable. No real forest is as dark as this one. These are noisy places where coevolution occurs.

Creatures evolve together, in interdependence, not alone. Parasites depend upon hosts, and flowers depend upon birds for pollination. Every creature within the forest is determined by insects. Mutual relationships result in unpleasant, brutal and short encounters, but additionally they take other forms. This is how forests work in our world.

Interestingly, Liu sees this interdependence as a counterpoint to the dark forest theory. The viewer and reader are repeatedly reminded that “nothing in nature exists alone” – a quote from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962). This is a text that tells us that worms might be our friends, not our enemies.

In Liu's story, that is used to elucidate why some people immediately defect to the alien side and why, despite all of the risks, the will to make contact is so strong. Ye Wenjie finally responds to the aliens' warning.

Carson's allusions don’t revive the old Russian concept that aliens could be advanced and subsequently sociable. However, they assist paint a more nuanced and realistic picture than the dark forest theory.

For this reason, the dark forest solution to the Fermi paradox just isn’t convincing. The proven fact that we cannot hear anyone may perhaps indicate that they’re too distant, or that we’re listening within the mistaken way, or that there isn’t any forest and nothing else to listen to.

Tony Milligan, Research Fellow within the Philosophy of Ethics, Cosmological Visionaries Project, King's College London

This article has been republished from Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read original article.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”