In a number of posts I’ve said something like “we can do something to address the risks associated with climate change if we wish to do so” and regularly get challenged as to what I mean. All I really mean is that humans are an intelligent, rational species and so we should be able to understand the risks associated with climate change and should be able to determine some optimal manner in which to address these risks, while – of course – also considering all the other related issues. It is simply a trivial statement about us as a species and my intent isn’t to suggest that we will actually do so, or that it will be easy.
However, I can see a couple of reasons why this type of suggestion is challenged. It is possible that even though we – individually – can make intelligent and rational decisions, it is possible that – collectively – we can no longer really do so. Maybe society, or our civilisations, are now so complex that it is simply not possible to view things in such a simplistic way. What might seem obvious to a small group, is no longer obvious when dealing with a group that is much larger, and much more diverse. An alternative way to put this might be that there is no way to make decisions that would be regarded as the most rational by all involved.
Another problem that I can see is that by saying we can do this implies that there is some other we who might be observing us doing so. Another, intelligent, technologically advanced civilisation who might come along and ask “why did you do that?” If they don’t exist, then maybe framing it in this way doesn’t make sense? So, this is my rather convoluted way in which to introduce the topic of this post; the Fermi paradox. The point behind the Fermi paradox is that there are billions of stars in the galaxy that have ages similar to, or older than, the Sun. Many of these stars will probably have planets and, some, will probably be similar to the Earth and be capable of supporting life. If we aren’t special in some way, then we might expect some of these to host technologically advanced civilisations, capable of exploring the galaxy. If so, where are they?
Rather than explaining the various solutions to the Fermi paradox, I’ll just post the short video below (H/T Willard). In fact, I had been intending to make this post somewhat more light-hearted than some of my more recent posts. I don’t think I’ve quite achieved that, but maybe people could bear that in mind when commenting 🙂 .