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The Great Filter (Drake/Fermi)

The Great Filter (Drake/Fermi)

The Drake Equation provides us a means to predict how likely it is that intelligent civilizations may exist.

The L-Factor in the Drake Equation represents the length of an intelligent civilization. This is the most significant single factor in the equation.
The L-Factor Limits Contact With ET Aliens

The Length of a Civilization should be considered as the length of time during which an intelligent civilization is observable rather than a lifespan with an ending.

Singularity Theory May Explain Fermi Paradox
An exponential growth of intelligence (aka Singularity) is the most likely factor limiting the length of time during which an intelligent civilization is observable.

“The Great Filter” is the idea that some common but difficult obstacle filters the chances that intelligent civilizations are able to develop. This theory offers two primary branches: one that we have already successfully passed the filter event, but other life efforts did not, leaving us mostly alone – two that the filter event is still in front of us and might (or might not) eliminate our species at some point in the future. It is also logical to add that there might be many serious filtering events at different stages in the development of intelligent life.

In the history of our planet, it took 1.8 billion years for simple single cell organisms to evolve into more complex forms. This could be considered a filter event that we have passed.

A series of mass extinctions might be considered as filter events:

  • End Ordovician, 444 million years ago
  • Late Devonian, 375 million years ago
  • End Permian, 251 million years ago
  • End Triassic, 200 million years ago
  • End Cretaceous, 66 million years ago

The last event on this list, 66 million years ago was punctuated by the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs. While this event might be a filter failure for the dinosaurs (and other species), it also probably provided an opportunity later for our own evolution to succeed.

It should also be obvious that the development of weapons from nuclear science, bio-genetic science, and nanotechnology may provide future filtering events, as well as providing solutions to other future filters.

A filter event might also be a failure to develop advanced technology or some other factor, like advanced ethics, without which the result is stagnation and no more advancement. A stalling point like this might prevent our civilization from being able to detect and join other more advanced groups around us.

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