11 Fermi’s Paradox Solutions That Will Make You Have An Existential Crisis

Where the heck are the aliens?

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Fermi's paradox is the contradiction between the high probability that alien civilizations exist and the lack of contact we've had with aliens. Here are 11 potential answers to Fermi’s paradox, some of which sound feasible, while others resemble big-budget sci-fi movie plots.

1. All advanced civilizations are listening for signals, not sending them.

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Imagine 10 people scattered across Earth several miles from one another. Each of them has a cell phone, but instead of dialing different combinations in the hopes of contacting one another, they just keep an eye on their respective phones, waiting for an incoming call.


Read more on this theory here.

2. Aliens are observing us like zoo animals.

Universal Pictures

Advanced beings are studying us from afar instead of interacting. There are many reasons why they might choose only to observe, whether it’s because they’re waiting for us to meet particular criteria as a civilization or they simply want to observe us in our natural habitat without knowledge of their existence.

Read more on this theory here.

3. Humans aren't searching correctly for signals from alien civilizations.

Paramount Pictures

Imagine trying to contact someone by making a phone call to a fax machine or sending a text to a landline. Aliens could be sending out signals right this very moment and we’re just not listening for them the right way.

Read more on this theory here.

4. Intelligent civilizations' life spans are so short (compared to the age of the universe) that they don't overlap.

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Reddit user matchstiq summed this theory up best: "The time span between when a civilization becomes capable of transmitting radio frequencies and when that civilization annihilates itself is so short that we seldom overlap."

Humans just discovered radio waves in the 1880s, so maybe we'll learn interstellar travel sooner than later and annihilate ourselves through war or some sort of technological accident shortly thereafter, leaving the next intelligent civilization to wonder where everyone's at.

Read more on this theory here.

5. We’re living in a simulation, so our reality is whatever the programmers decide it to be.

Warner Bros.

Perhaps some higher beings created a simulation and we're a part of it. Maybe this virtual reality was made for research purposes, or perhaps it's a simulated planetarium of sorts. Either way if the creators don't encode aliens into it, we'll never encounter 'em.

Read more on this theory here.

6. Other intelligent life exists, but it's very, very rare.

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Life can only happen under particular, improbable circumstances, so intelligent beings are out there, but they're so uncommon that it's extremely less likely we'll cross paths.

Read more on this theory here.

7. Or life is so rare that no other intelligent beings exist. It's just us.

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Somehow humans being in the universe alone isn’t any less disturbing than the other possibilities. It might not be as exciting other theories, yet it manages to be just as existentially troubling.


Read more on this theory here.

8. Aliens exist but they’ve made themselves undetectable.

20th Century Fox

Perhaps it's to avoid potential danger if they're discovered. Maybe there are vicious predators lurking throughout the universe and advanced beings don’t want to be found by them.

Read more on this theory here.

9. Advanced beings learned how to upload their consciousness to a simulated universe so they’re too busy enjoying that to spend time interstellar traveling.

Warner Bros.

As Kurzgesagt brilliantly explained, “Matrioshka brain” is a theoretical “megastructure surrounding a star.” It’d have enough computer power for an entire species to “upload their consciousness and exist in a simulated universe.” This would mean one could potentially experience “an eternity of pure ecstasies without ever being bored or sad.” If that type of technology has been achieved, aliens certainly won’t be cruising around space searching for others.

See more on this theory here and here.

10. Alien existence has already been confirmed, but the general public is unaware.

Matador Records / Gregory Crewdson

Plenty of folks claim to have seen or been abducted by aliens, but they’re not taken seriously. What if governments know of aliens but are withholding information from the masses? Surely there’s a concern that announcing their existence would lead to some sort of global hysteria, so maybe those atop the chain of command choose to keep aliens a secret.


Read more on this theory here.

11. Advanced beings are so far ahead of us that they see us as a primitive species.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson compared it to the way humans view chimps. He says humans and chimps share over 98% identical DNA, yet we’re significantly more intelligent than them. Humans create art and develop technology, but chimps can’t, despite only being a small percentage different. So what if there were aliens 1% different from us in the way that we are from chimps?

DeGrasse Tyson says “We’d be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence.” If an advanced alien species trying to have a conversation with humans would be like humans trying to have a conversation with a chimp, or a bird, or a worm, then that could explain why we haven’t encountered them.

See more on this theory here.