Alien civilizations could be doomed to stagnate or collapse
As the late Douglas Adams wrote – “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” – and while this would certainly explain why we have yet to run into any other advanced civilizations, there could be an even more fundamental reason why, despite our best efforts, we have so far failed to find any evidence of intelligent extraterrestrials.
In a new study, researchers argue that space-faring civilizations may be ultimately doomed to either wipe themselves out or to stagnate, thus preventing their expansion across the stars.
The argument is based on the idea that as a space-faring civilization expands both in scale and in technological advancement, it reaches the point where its growth outstrips its demand for energy.
“Civilizations either collapse from burnout or redirect themselves to prioritizing homeostasis, a state where cosmic expansion is no longer a goal, making them difficult to detect remotely,” the study authors wrote.
“Either outcome – homeostatic awakening or civilization collapse – would be consistent with the observed absence of [galactic-wide] civilizations.”
The study was based on an analysis of the growth of cities here on Earth.
“We hypothesize that once a planetary civilization transitions into a state that can be described as one virtually connected global city, it will face an ‘asymptotic burnout,’ an ultimate crisis where the singularity-interval time scale becomes smaller than the time scale of innovation,” the authors wrote.