I have been thinking about the possibility of faster than light travel and aliens in my latest science fiction setting Universally Advanced. There are two reasons for that: First, I wanted to include some absurdly advanced technology that demonstrates just how insanely advanced the wise/advanced are. Secondly, I wanted to find a satisfying answer to the Fermi paradox in that setting.
Oops, I blew up the universe
In that process I’ve came up with some pretty absurd ideas involving creating tunnels of spacetime with increased speed of light, and the creation of private “parallel” universes. Following the logic of the fictional “physics” of those thought experiments I’ve come to the conclusion that any attempt to reprogram spacetime in a way that made those applications possible, even on a minuscule local scale, would result in the almost certain complete destruction of the universe as we know it. So, even if that kind of technology was possible, it would be insanely risky and ethically impermissible – though that’s not very reassuring given the possibility that someone could hold the whole universe hostage by threatening to use a device that almost certainly destroys it. Therefore it’s very reasonable to hope that such kind of technology is not possible at all.
Speculative stuff is too speculative
“Standard” ways of superluminal travel like wormholes or an Alcubierre drive using negative mass matter seem to be much preferable. At the same time, the existence of wormholes and matter with negative mass is still very speculative. The safest bet if probably that superluminal travel is not possible at all.
The one civilisation universe simulation (S1)
So far so boring. How can we resolve the Fermi paradox in the conventional default setting without FTL, time travel, artificial parallel universes, and crazy stuff like that? With the simulation hypothesis! The absence of any alien life can be explained by us being in a “one civilisation universe” simulation in which intelligent life is only allowed to arise on a single planet in the whole (simulated) universe. While that explanation is not extremely implausible, it’s still kinda contrived.
Emergence of spacefaring life is improbable, not
Are there more “natural” solutions to the Fermi paradox? A popular explanation seems to be that it’s astronomically unlikely that any species will ever reach the stage at which it can travel between the stars, or even send signals to other star systems. That might be possible, but it would imply that at least one of the steps necessary to get from dust to spacefaring intelligences is astronomically unlikely. Given what we know about evolution so far, that assumption can be considered to be rather odd and unconvincing.
The invisibility spell zoo (IZ)
What other options are there? Our planet might be something like a zoo for the other advanced intelligences in our galaxy. Why don’t we see them, though? It would seem rather contrived to assume that such advanced civilizations wouldn’t create any really obvious signs of their existence. And it wouldn’t seem to be reasonable for them to go through the necessary steps to hide themselves from us by refraining from doing things (stellar or galactic scale engineering) which would make themselves visible to us. There’s a more economic solution though: They could manipulate our minds in a way that makes them undetectable to us. So, to an unmanipulated mind it would be obvious that aliens exist, but their ubiquitious mind manipulation technology hides them from us reliably. Why? Perhaps because they prefer us living in the equivalent of a nature reserve, isolated from all the crazy influences of advanced aliens.
Now choose a repugnant conclusion
Personally, I find all other explanations of the Fermi paradox except for (S1) and (IZ) rather unconvincing or unlikely. Our universe is far too old and life friendly for aliens to be apparently absent for other reasons. In both cases we find ourselves as objects of curious interest of highly advanced observers. The most benign perspective is that we should feel honoured to be considered as sufficiently interesting. Ethical objections can be disarmed with something like “reparationism”.
Yeah, Star Trek was kinda right about the “Prime Directive”
So, what explanation would be “preferable”? Not that there would be a huge difference between both. I think that (IZ) is a little bit less contrived. It might be relatively natural for advanced civilizations to observe emerging civilisations in a way that lets them develop without much interference. After they reach a certain stage (system W?), the whole invisibility charade will be lifted and they will join the cosmic federation or something. If it happens to self-terminate before that stage, it will live on as entry in the galactic archives, which is better than nothing.
Anyway, that’s my solution of the Fermi paradox. Is it flawed? Are there better solutions? Do I get deleted by our alien overlords now, because I revealed their secret schemes?