Legend has it that during a mid-work lunch at Los Alamos national laboratory Enrico Fermi asked “So where is everybody” referring to extraterrestrial life.

The problem is simple. Given the size and the scale of the universe  it seems likely that life has evolved many times over. If life has evolved enough times then some of that life is likely to have become intelligent enough to leave the planet.

And, once it left the planet the exponential growth would leave us to suspect that this life would spread out across the universe. Indeed, that’s the future that many scientists envision for humanity.

However, what are the chances that we are the very first? And, if we are not the first, then well “Where is everybody?”

There are lots of attempts to answer this question but I don’t know if anyone has offered this:

Realizing that the growth of any life is inherently exponential and realizing that the resources of the universe are finite we should expect that in “the end” life will be constrained by resources and that one intelligent species will prosper only at the expense of the others.

Now, we are in a growth period where our technology is advancing so rapidly that resource constraints are actually falling away. We can do ever more with less. However, this is not forever. There is an ultimate limit to our ability to do this.

Practically its probably well below the theoretical limit but at the very least there is so lowest energy way to reorganize subatomic material. Once we have discovered this way, technological advance is no longer possible. We can transform anything in the universe to our liking, with no waste whatsoever.

However, there is only so much universe to be transformed and only so much usable energy with which to transform it. Thus there is an inherent struggle over whether the universe will be tuned to the needs of humanity or to the needs of our some other species.

Knowing this we can anticipate a struggle. Once, we hit the final constraint we will have to take more or the other species will have to take more. Knowing this we should strike before they do. Knowing that they should strike before we do. If we back the entire game up to the beginning then the first one to have the ability to destroy the other should take it.

Yet, we are not destroyed. We are reading and writing blog posts. This implies that no one has the ability to destroy us. Since we have the ability to destroy ourselves we should predict that no species with in weapons range of us has our level of technology.

What’s more this will be true for almost any species that can ask the question “Where is everybody” If you can ask the question you are intelligent and hence a threat. Yet, if you can ask the question you also haven’t been destroyed yet. Thus, if the very fact that you are able to ask the question should lead you to believe the answer will be “Not here . . . yet”

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