The question “where is everyone?” is the crux of the Fermi Paradox. If life on Earth is not particularly special and unique, where are all the alien civilizations? Many explanations have been proposed to explain why we seem to be alone in the vast universe. None have been 100 percent convincing, and people continue to puzzle over a solution.
Russian physicist Alexander Berezin, from the National Research University of Electronic Technology (MIET), has another idea. He calls it the “First in, last out” solution of the Fermi Paradox. He suggests that once a civilization reaches the capabilities of spreading across the stars, it will inevitably wipe out all other civilizations.
The grim solution doesn’t hypothesize a necessarily evil alien race. Simply, they might not notice us, and their exponential expansion across the galaxy might be more important to them than what would happen to us.
"They simply won't notice, the same way a construction crew demolishes an anthill to build real estate because they lack incentive to protect it," he writes in the paper, which is available on pre-print and yet to be peer-reviewed.
While the picture he paints is quite grim, there’s an even less cheery aspect. He suggests that the reason we are still here is that we are not likely to be the ants. We are the future destroyers of countless civilizations.
"Assuming the hypothesis above is correct, what does it mean for our future? The only explanation is the invocation of the anthropic principle. We are the first to arrive at the [interstellar] stage. And, most likely, will be the last to leave," Berezin explained.
Berezin's solution for the paradox comes from several simplifications of assumptions. For example, our definition of life depends on seven parameters, but for Berezin, there’s only one that matters: growth. Growth is the push for expanding beyond the planet of origin, and if the push to expansion becomes the dominant force, it will trample any other existing life in the universe. Colonialism and capitalism are two historical example of such forces.
So, is this it? We need to either go out there and conquer or be destroyed? Well, Berezin hopes that he’s wrong. One other requirement of his solution is that life can only be found when very close rather than at a distance. So finding alien life before we are on the destruction path might just make us a decent civilization.