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Galactic Camouflage --"Advanced ET Civilizations May be Undetectable" (Today's Most Popular)




Evolutionary selection, acting on a cosmic scale, tends to extinguish species which conspicuously advertise themselves and their habitats,” according to Adrian Kent, Centre for Quantum Computation, University of Cambridge.

The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations. As Enrico Fermi asked if the Universe is conducive to intelligent life, “Where is everybody?”

An answer proposed by Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge and Perimeter Institute, is that extraterrestial life sufficiently advanced to be capable of interstellar travel or communication must be rare, since otherwise we would have seen evidence of it by now. This in turn is sometimes taken as indirect evidence for the improbability of life evolving at all in our universe.

“Intelligent species might reasonably worry about the possible dangers of self-advertisement and hence incline towards discretion” -- the “Undetectability Conjecture,” put forth by Beatriz Gato-Rivera, a theoretical physicist at the Instituto de Fisica Fundamental (previously Instituto de Matematicas y Fisica Fundamental) of the CSIC (Spanish Scientific Research Council) in Madrid.
According to Gato-Rivera, we may find ourselves in a universe in which there exist intelligent technological civilizations but they have chosen to be undetectable, camouflaging themselves mainly for security reasons (because advanced civilizations could also be aggressive).

“It often seems, Kent concludes, "to be implicitly assumed, and sometimes is explicitly argued, that colonising or otherwise exploiting the resources of other planets and other solar systems will solve our problems when the Earth’s resources can no longer sustain our consumption. It might perhaps be worth contemplating more seriously the possibility that there may be limits to the territory we can safely colonise and to the resources we can safely exploit, and to consider whether and how it might be possible to evolve towards a way of living that can be sustained (almost) indefinitely on the resources of (say) our solar system alone.”

In another take on the "Fermi Paradox," Stephen Hawking asks In his famous lecture on Life in the Universe: "What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy?"

If the argument about the time scale for the appearance of life on Earth is correct, Hawking says "there ought to be many other stars, whose planets have life on them. Some of these stellar systems could have formed 5 billion years before the Earth. So why is the galaxy not crawling with self-designing mechanical or biological life forms?"

Why hasn't the Earth been visited, and even colonized? Hawking asks. "I discount suggestions that UFO's contain beings from outer space. I think any visits by aliens, would be much more obvious, and probably also, much more unpleasant."

Hawking continues: "What is the explanation of why we have not been visited? One possibility is that the argument, about the appearance of life on Earth, is wrong. Maybe the probability of life spontaneously appearing is so low, that Earth is the only planet in the galaxy, or in the observable universe, in which it happened. Another possibility is that there was a reasonable probability of forming self reproducing systems, like cells, but that most of these forms of life did not evolve intelligence."

We are used to thinking of intelligent life, as an inevitable consequence of evolution, Hawking emphasized,  but it is more likely that evolution is a random process, with intelligence as only one of a large number of possible outcomes.

Intelligence, Hawking believes contrary to our human-centric existece, may not have any long-term survival value. In comparison the microbial world, will live on, even if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions.
Hawking's main insight is that intelligence was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution:  "It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life."

Another possibility is that there is a reasonable probability for life to form, and to evolve to intelligent beings, but at some point in their technological  development "the system becomes unstable, and the intelligent life destroys itself. This would be a very pessimistic conclusion. I very much hope it isn't true."

Hawkling prefers another possibility: that there are other forms of intelligent life out there, but that we have been overlooked. If we should pick up signals from alien civilizations, Hawking warns,"we should have to be wary of answering back, until we have evolved" a bit further. 

The Daily Galaxy via:


I prefer the same possibility as Stephen Hawking! Maybe we just haven't figured out how to spot advanced civilizations. After all, we haven't had the technology to detect planets for more than 15 or so years. We've just started looking at objects smaller than stars beyond our solar system, and we're finding new discoveries every day!

The idea of camouflaging a civilisation when they reach a certain level seems smart, but what happens to the signals emitted before that?

Say in future we earthlings come at that point, how do we keep the evil aliens next door from listening in to our 1950 TV broadcasts? Would seem a bit odd to the alien signals operators: first they hear us gearing up our civilisation, laugh at our petty media and joke about our Mars colony and then.. silence.

What happened? Did they blew up? Or gone stealth? If they're actively hostile they might even look for exactly this type of muting.

The Fermi paradox if you can call it that, when its only a theory. Is based on 1950's knowledge of the universe. Some things have changed since Fermi's time and yet the theory has not evolved at all. It makes 1 completely idiotic assumption after the other. Why haven't we detected radio broadcasts of alien reality shows? Why don't they contact us? They must not exist then i guess, is Fermi's main argument. It's moronic. If you look at the sheer number of opportunities for life (microbial) to arise. The probability of intelligent life eventually evolving must be at least part of the equation or we would not be here. Human beings love to think we are the pinnacle of life in the cosmos. That we are somehow very special and important to the universe. The fact is we could all die tomorrow and the universe would not even notice. We are a grain of sand on the beach, very small. Hawking himself is a prime example of life succeeding against all odds. He was told he would not live past a certain age. Yet he still lives in spite of overwhelming odds against it.

I bet they are Camouflaged, they are hiding from our ignorance... Our disease, or war and negative attitudes...

I am sure they would come to us, if we actually used our brains, and worked together. We have some work to do people, but i still believe in Man. I think as soon as we make our world better, "The Universe" will then come knocking on earths door! :)

As usual, the simple answer is probably the correct one, i.e. "The Prime Directive"

An awful lot of observations can be posted about this speculation.........I'll expand on some I've derived from my study of the subject.

Evidence shows that the precursors of life are found throughout space........amino acids profiles are found in meteors and even in star would appear that with the laws of physics being the same throughout the universe, that they are conducive to the formation of carbon based life forms.......however, the long term success of natural selection through environmental variations to the level of intelligent life that is able to contemplate its origins..........that may be a very rare result of natural selection.......even here on Earth we've almost lost that evolution numerous times to celestial events of extinction......

That said.........I agree with Carl Sagan on this next point.........and that is, if intelligent life does appear elsewhere in the universe that is capable of manipulating its environment through tool making appendages.........then how many of those civilizations make it through the stage of self-destruction to advance to a higher order of exploration? we are on the infancy of our exploration beyond our planet and we've at the brink of destroying ourselves through so many issues we have now.....

But if that life gets past that adolescent stage of technology to survive and continue technological process it is very apparent that they would abandon their biological evolution to become trans biological (here on Earth we are already discussing the idea of leaving our human form to a trans human condition). So odds are any life capable of the advance technology of interstellar travel or even dimensional travel (whatever that might be) I doubt would have ignored such technology to extend their biological past into a digital life extension or even a path towards immortality.

In that case, who knows what would be defined as intelligence if it is post biological?.........and at that point, I doubt with such levels of technology they would be interested in seeing us as a commodity for resource consumption and/or species dominance...their ability to reach us would be the result of a technology so advanced they would have solved their energy and other sustainable environmental needs long ago.

But the fact that we don't find any signals out there when it is obvious that somewhere along in their development they would have replicated some form of electromagnetic communication as we currently do.....should have those signals reaching us by now......if not, then there may be no intelligent life within 100's of light years of us….meaning that intelligent life like ours may be very very rare indeed within the galaxy at least…… if not the rest of the universe.

I will side with Arthur C. Clark on this last observation…………whether we find life or not somewhere else in the universe……either result is equally profound and important for our understanding of our place in it.

A very good case can be made for the presumption that, whatever the time-scale, humankind will never encounter extra-terrestrial "intelligent" (I prefer the neologism "Imaginatory" ) life.

Simply because, should we manage to escape (or at least postpone) extinction, the next, non-biological, phase of "life" could well prohibit contacts of this kind between more primitive organisms such as we..

This kind of cosmic censorship provides one possible explanation for the Fermi paradox (See chapter 17 of my free e-book "Unusual Perspectives: An Escape From Tunnel Vision for an expansion on this)
And it is consistent with the pattern of autonomous evolution of technology that is so evident today.
Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent implementation of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet.It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly. You may have noticed that we are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the net.

We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.

The new cognitive entity that will almost certainly arise from this, and its descendants, may reasonably be expected to preclude extraplanetary contact between primitive biological organisms such as we.

Advanced civilizations are not hiding or indulging in camouflage because it is not necessary. The Earth has been broadcasting that life exists here for about 2.5 Billion years. In the not too distant future we will have the technology to find Earth sized planets and determine the composition their atmospheres. If we find oxygen then we find evidence of life. So, Adrian Kent, Stephen Hawking, Cambridge U and Perimeter Institute (Fiction is, of course, exempt) a bit of logic please. 2.5 Billion years? Unmolested? There are no hostile ETs. But should there be some sort of ET WEB, the viruses ain't gonna be pretty.

A point to consider: the digital radio modes in increasingly common use are difficult to distinguish from noise if you don't know the modulation, and in some cases a key. An advanced civilization may shift nearly all radio emissions to such modes, abandoning the analog modes readily identified as artificial.

The answer in my opinion is this, the reason we haven't detected any other intelligent signals is because we are the first, there are no other intelligent forms of life advanced enough to send them out yet, or maybe we are so late in development that the rest are gone and have been for billions of years. First or last either way it's a lonely place out there.

Thank you Kevin...finally a little logic. Also would we see the fires from advanced engines on their spaceships? Probably not. Space travel is so difficult that it just isn't happening yet anywhere. The problems involved with getting from one star to another are huge. Even if a civilization were doing it 1000 years ago and they are 2000 light years away we still wont see it for how long...yeah you do the math, its quite simple. So many intelligences are still climbing out of their primordial slime that we won't know them for another billion years or so.
Relax and let it unfold...the future I mean.....

Oh yeah, all those civilizations saw that self-advertising and promoting oneself to other civilizations is obnoxious, so they banned it, in a similar fashion to the move by the royal family:
Who knows what those civilizations were doing in the time of boredom (not wanting to know anything about other civilizations)!!!


We have to prove right here on EARTH that we are capable to change our attitude to one another socially and economically!

Dark matter and dark energy. 90% of the universe is "camouflaged" from us. We just don't know what to look at.

They have already been here, if they have had enough interests, but I have my doubts. if we want to leave our sun system, they might bug spray us...

Peterh above is close to the right answer. We're assuming that radio waves will be picked up loud and clear hundreds if not thousands of light years out. This is not true. Radio waves will dissipate (and this depends on the strength of the signal). Radar waves, via the military, will travel the farthest, probably hundreds of light years, but even so, within a few hundred light years most of it will fade to noise. The galaxy could be filled with intelligent civilizations--and probably is. We're just too far off to pick up what's left of their radio signals (which is why, for a while, there was a SETI optical search going on).

We advertise ourselves so much, maybe something very dark is already coming our way. I would send it, and choke any nascent competition. I want my region of space clean and pristine!

Well if we split electrons into mass spin and charge, and throw the mass at a sun, and then react the charge of the split proton charge with the electron charge, then we collect the spin-neutronium alloy, and collect free electrons from coronal little suns such that big ones become negative charged and life extend. Then we have a neutronium mass/spin power an beam source and then comes how to deal with other life when we spot it. I mean bank manager probly kill a large number of worlds, and so not many get far, and they too probly export military product into space for the purposes of perimeter defence. I don't think EM waves of the kind we use are quite the pinnacle of comms. It's all an archaeological Truman show.

LOL, this intellectual miscreant has a lot of experience with self advertising civilizations.
This throw back regurgitation is the unimaginative, provincial fruit earth nation states agitating for real estate.
Seems that for any civilization being able to take advantage of growth real estate seems to be more than abundant. Brains, on the other hand, seem to be in short supply for some 'scientists'.
If you think of it, it makes sense. after all, they are only a few generations removed for chimps. Hehehe, what is a couple of million years on the galactic timescale :-)

The universe is pretty vast. Probably the nearest planet outside the solar system with living organisms are all marine life. The whole planet is covered with water and can’t make contact. Maybe they are just so far away and still cannot detect us even though they are more advance. They may have detected/observed us already, its just that they are not interested to let us know. Maybe before, the previous civilization, its just that they are no longer alive to tell us. these are just some of my theories.

Mary Ann

Wow, did you say a planet full of marines??

The Fermi 'paradox' is really not a paradox at all. Of course life is everywhere. Of course some of that life -- even if likely a tiny proportion -- will be intelligent.

There are a number of problems. First, we have already set our self-destruction in motion. The global warming is the biggest collective action challenge that the humanity has faced -- and is failing miserably. We are looking at the destruction of half of our biosphere. Even if we may survive as species, our civilisation will likely not.

Even if some civilisations would survive this stage of self-destruction, people are hugely over-estimating the reach of our radio signals. The radio signals we hear from out there come from huge, cosmic events. Our radio signals will be heard, at best, within a radius of perhaps a dozen or so light years. Not many chances of intelligent life occurring within that range.

Even if someone did hear our radio signals, the prospect of interstellar travel is hugely over-estimated. Even at fastest speeds achievable by some imagination, it would take hundreds of years to reach even the nearest star outside the solar system. No carbon-based organisms will survive for so long. And, if civilisations will have evolved into machines, why should they care?

Why don't the smart people of the world just collectively say "fuck it" when looking around at the stupidity found on this planet, join forces, and dedicate the rest of their lives to building a way off. A peaceful final solution. Use what we have, use up all the resources we need to, and leave those who do not believe in the idea behind to their own devices? There is much more out there to work with. This planet is about as significant as a piece of sand on a worm's ass compared to the rest of the universe. Let's build a massive, generational ship, beginning with the technology we already have, and leave. Begin with the basic technologies and understanding that we have now, upgrade as we go along down the road figuring things out (after we leave), and put this world behind us. If someone with the resources to simply begin the process was willing, I'd be in the front of the line to help. Ignore the bickering, ignore the politics, dedicate all available resources, and just leave it all behind to start a scientific society with a better gene pool to initialize the new society with. Please?

No AC, you will die a miserable death along with the rest of us right here.

-- James Ph.Kotsybar

Watch a fish foraging
on submerged, open shore,
investigating its environment.

If what attracts its curiosity
reveals camouflaged hostility,
it quickly swims away.

An alien intelligence engaged in exploration
might view Earth as poisonous and stinging,
and steer clear, leaving us alone.

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