Why Alien Life Would be our Doom – The Great Filter
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Why Alien Life Would be our Doom – The Great Filter

October 25, 2019


Imagine NASA announced today
that they found aliens. Bacteria on Mars, weird alien fish
in the oceans of Europa, and also ancient alien ruins on Titan. Wouldn’t that be great? Well, no. It would be horrible news, devastating even. It could mean that the end of humanity
is almost certain and that it might be coming soon. Why? Why would the most exciting
discovery of our lifetime be bad? Let us imagine the development of life, from its inception to us today, as a flight of stairs. The first step is dead chemistry
that needs to assemble itself into self-replicating patterns,
stable and resilient, but also able to change and evolve. The second step is for our early life to
become more complex, able to build more complicated structures, and use the available energy
much more efficiently. On the next step, these cells combine
to become multicellular beings, enabling unbelievable variety
and further complexity. The step above sees the species
evolve big brains, enabling the use of tools, culture
and shared knowledge, which creates even higher complexity. The species can now become the
dominant lifeform on its planet, and change it according to its needs. First shy attempts to leave its
planet are happening. This is where we are now. It’s in the nature of life as we know it to reach out, to cover every
niche it can. And since planets have a limited
carrying capacity and lifespan, if a species wants to survive, it will look for more places
to spread to. So the steps above the current
ones seem logical: colonize your own solar system, then spread further to reach
other stars, to the possible final step:
becoming a galaxy-wide civilization. It’s very likely that this is a universal
principle for civilizations, no matter where they’re from. If a species is competitive and driven
enough to take control over its planet, they’ll probably not stop there. We know that there are up to 500 billion
planets in the Milky Way, at least 10 billion Earth-like planets. Many have been around billions
of years longer than Earth. But we’re observing zero
galactic civilizations. We should be able to see something… …but there’s nothing. Space seems
to be empty and dead. This means something is preventing living
things from climbing the staircase, beyond the step we’re on right now. …Something that makes becoming
a galactic civilization extremely hard, maybe impossible. This is the Great Filter. …A challenge or danger so
hard to overcome, that it eliminates almost every
species that encounters it. There are two scenarios: One means we are incredibly
special and lucky, the other one means we are doomed
and practically already dead. It depends on where the filter
is on our staircase: behind, or ahead of us? Scenario 1: Scenario 1:
The filter is behind us. We are the first. If the filter is behind us, that means that one of the steps we passed is almost impossible to take. Which step could it be? Is life ITSELF extremely rare? It’s very hard to make predictions
about how likely it is for life to emerge from dead things. There is no consensus. Some scientists think it develops everywhere
where the conditions are right; others think that Earth might
be the ONLY living place in the universe. Another candidate is the step
of complex animal cells. A very specific thing happened
on this step, and as far as we know, it happened
exactly once. A primitive hunter cell
swallowed another cell, but instead of devouring it,
the two cells formed a union. The bigger cell provided shelter, took care of interacting with the
environment and providing resources, while the smaller one used its
new home and free stuff, to focus on providing a lot of extra
energy for its host. With the abundant energy, the host cell
could grow more than before and build new and expensive things
to improve itself, while the guest became the
powerhouse of the cell. These cells make up every
animal on the planet. Maybe there are billions of bacteria-covered planets in the Milky Way, but not a single one, apart from us, has achieved our level of complexity. …or intelligence. We humans feel very smart and
sophisticated with our crossword puzzles and romantic novels. But a big brain, is first and foremost, a very expensive evolutionary investment. They are fragile, they don’t help in a fistfight with a bear, they cost enormous amounts of energy, and despite them, it took modern humans, 200,000 years to get from sharp sticks
to civilization. Being smart does not mean you get
to win automatically. Maybe intelligence is just not so great, and we’re lucky that it worked out for us. Scenario 2: Scenario 2:
The filter is ahead of us. Plenty of others died already. A Great Filter before us is orders of magnitude more dangerous than anything we encountered so far. Even if a major disaster killed most of us or threw us back thousands of years, we would survive and recover. And if we can recover, even if it takes a million years, then it’s not a Great Filter, but just a roadblock to an eventual galactic civilization. On universal timescales, even millions of years are just the blink of an eye. If a Great Filter really lies before us, it has to be so dangerous, so purely devastating and powerful, that it has destroyed most, if not all, advanced civilizations in our galaxy over billions of years. A really daunting and depressing hypothesis is that once a species takes control over its planet, it’s already on the path to self-destruction. Technology is a good way to achieve that. It needs to be something that’s so obvious, that virtually everybody discovers it, and so dangerous, that its discovery leads almost universally to an existential disaster. A large-scale nuclear war, nanotechnology that gets out of control, genetic engineering of the perfect super bug, an experiment that lights the whole atmosphere on fire. It might be a super-intelligent AI that accidentally (or purposely) destroys its creators. Or things that we can’t even see coming right now. Or it’s way simpler: species competitive enough to take over their planet necessarily destroy it while competing with each other for resources. Maybe there are runaway chain reactions in every ecosystem that once set in motion, are not fixable. And so once a civilization is powerful enough to change the composition of its atmosphere, they make their planet uninhabitable 100% of the time. Let’s hope that that’s not the case. If the filter IS ahead of us, our odds are really bad. What we can hope for. THIS is why finding life beyond Earth would be horrible. The more common life is in the universe, and the more advanced and complex it is, the more likely it becomes that a filter is in front of us. Bacteria would be bad, small animals would be worse, intelligent life would be alarming. Ruins of ancient alien civilizations… would be horrible. The best case scenario for us right now is that Mars is sterile, that Europa’s oceans are devoid of life, and the vast arms of the Milky Way harbor only empty oceans hugging dead continents. …That there are billions of empty planets waiting to be discovered and to be filled up with life. Billions of new homes… waiting for us… to finally arrive. How likely is it that we’ll find life outside of Earth that is similar to us? Well, that depends on how many planets there are out there in their star’s Goldilocks Zone– the area around the star where water can be liquid. Because stars come in all sizes and configurations, this zone is different for every star system and requires a little bit of physics to figure out. If that sounds like fun to you, this quiz from Brilliant helps to break down the maths for exactly how this is calculated. Brilliant is a problem-solving website that teaches you to think like a scientist by guiding you through problems. They take concepts like these break them up, into bite-sized bits present clear thinking in each part, and then build back up to an interesting conclusion. If you visit brilliant.org/nutshell or click the link in the description, you can sign up for free and learn all kinds of things. And as a bonus for Kurzgesagt viewers, the first 688 people will also get 20% of their annual membership. And if you DO find life on other planets, it may be wise to leave them alone for a while.

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  1. If we find ruins of a alien civilization there is a good chance we can find the reason why they went out and prevent it from happening to us.
    My best though is we are a stimulation and they only bothered to create only one planet.

  2. Unfortunately if the universe is expanding then at some point the earth will eventually leave the goldilocks zone and become like mars void of life and uninhabitable

  3. All kinds of animals and organisms have learned to use tools. Some, different tools than we find useful. It's the boredom effect of increased knowledge. We are a bored species. We don't even know what we're progressing for.

  4. I would reconsider the scene were you put the white modern guy and the black primitive guy next to eachother. For obvious reasons

  5. Even if outside of earth there's some frigthening civilisations I would kind of prefer that to the universe being empty and cold forever. because even if there's some great dangers for humanity, even if we destoy ourselves, that means there's eventually going to be, you know, something else. and maybe not as bad as us.

  6. For all we know there could be civilzations in every single galaxy out there.. I mean the universe is so vast and the planets that we do know about probably only makes up far less than .01% of what’s out there.. The way I look at it is there could be life within 90% of the universe and we just wouldn’t know about it because the universe is just too big and keeps getting bigger.

  7. What if the assumption that all life seeks to go out and colonize other worlds is incorrect? What if we are the first 'intelligent' species to take our home planet (which was once perfectly balanced and which we evolved to live in perfect harmony with) for granted and destroy it in pursuit of amassing the technology and resources required to leave our home planet to acquire more planets which are evidently less habitable for human life? Is it not also logical that an intelligent species would recognize that it is perfectly evolved to its own home planet and realize that leaving to go to other planets which the species is not at all suited to live on and finding ways to survive there is a lot more work than simply staying and preserving their home planet? Maybe there is no great filter and we are simply the first species to have any desire to want to leave our paradise, for some reason, destroying it in the process.

  8. Please no more videos trying to explain the fermi paradox or drake equation. These are hypothetical not theoretical arguments and assumptions are too often treated like fact. And assumptions are all they have.
    We don't know how many stars have planets, we estimate based on less than a tenth of a tenth of a…etc. of actual known exoplanets.
    We don't know how many of those are in the habitable zone or what universally qualifies as habitable.
    Usually love the videos tho 😄👍👊

  9. This video employs some faulty logic. There could currently be many civilizations in our galaxy, with none of them attempting to travel to another planet because of the vast distances involved. So even though none of them has become a "galactic civilization", that does not mean that those civilizations are extinct.

  10. 4:52

    Kurtzgesagt: “but a big brain is first and foremost a very expensive evolutionary investment”

    Not to Markiplier

  11. The fundamental flaw in this hypothesis, I feel, is that it implies that intelligent life can only progress through toxic competitiveness.

    Why is the assumption that any alien race developed enough to travel the universe would do so simply for the purpose of colonisation and terraforming?

    Why do we render them incapable of simply being explorers or maybe even light bearers?

    Why do we assume that they would be driven by the same small minded urge to be superior rather than the big picture perspective of being able to realise that we're better when united?

    Would it not be a smarter thing to collaborate with alien life so that we could collectively build a fully habitable and sustainable galaxy for all of us rather than to wipe out or invade and suppress them just so we can establish superiority?

    If the alien race is smart enough to travel here, would they not be smart enough to ask themselves these questions?

  12. This kind of thinking is the same kind of thinking that starts wars… When someone is capable of destroying us, we assume that this is their intention and in an act of "defense" we choose to 1 up them and have more power but then they feel threatened and do the same thing.
    Then if someone does eventually make the first attack, it would simply be because someone was feeling insecure and wanted to have the last word.

  13. The filter is 100% behind us. The human mind can accomplish anything, as long as we are free. The Industrial Revolution was the last obstacle.

  14. Perhaps there isn't a great filter just great roadblocks when handled incorrectly will result in the figurative death of a planet (being uninhabitable) but if handled just enough to stumble by it will send you back from destruction etc but if you handle it amazingly well somehow you pass it

  15. I think the filter is behind us. The odds of intelligent life is just extremely rare, and possibly only a couple dozen per galaxy. Some species make it, some not.

  16. Doesn't make sense. You just decides that there is 1 single big filter. How about multiple different filters depending on different solar system conditions?

  17. I prefer to believe that life itself is excessively rare, and that there just isn't any near us, or old enough or lucky enough to go galaxy wide.

  18. Dude you can get laid with your voice but i dont think you can deliver you sound weak . like your Politics a voice that sounds nice is not a voice that is real can it kick your ass .

  19. This is wrong. What makes you think we have the capacity to even detect alien civilizations? Who says they ever started using radiowaves and didn't just immediately begin communicating with MM waves that don't leak out into space because of atmospheric moisture.. Who says they aren't using precise laser pulses that don't just randomly hit us because they're aimed only at the intended receiver? It's not a "filter" its just — either you develop a socialist planned economy on a world scale and abolition of nation-states, or anarchy in economic production between rival nation states for profit destroys you. Socialist civilizations will thrive, but civilizations that don't get born from their capitalist starter phase die in the womb. Our only filter is whether we overthrow capitalism in time.

  20. The existence of advanced civilizations does not necessarily mean that there is a big filter ahead of us. It could be that once we reached this step, there are no more filters to be overcome, apart from the odd meteorite impact or something. Perhaps at some point, civilization has figured out how to survive and progress without destroying itself (we're not there yet).

  21. As Neil Tyson has said, if an alien race finds us first it means they’re millennium more advanced than us, and will probably enslave us.

  22. That's a really bad analysis of the situation, in my humble opinion. It's human arrogance to presume we know why we haven't found other lifeform.

  23. My son raises the point that older galactic civilizations my not be paying attention to younger civilizations like our own or maybe they are hiding from us and waiting for us to get to a point in our technology where they will obliterate us with a giant superweapon. I personally hope they are nice.

  24. This… doesn't make any sense. Maybe this "filter" does exist, and it's very possible that we are facing it right now. But I don't see what the possibility of alien life has to do with it.

    It's not that I don't follow the explanation, it's just that the existence of alien life would only indicate that it is possible, and it might not even require liquid water. You also didn't consider what that would mean for us if it were a galactic civilization and had surpassed this supposed filter.

    Just because we haven't found a galactic civilization yet, doesn't mean it's not out there. There's a whole lot of speculation here on not a whole lot of actual evidence, so even if what you say is plausible, why should I believe you?

    TL;DR, not a very scientific video.

  25. Maybe there has been other life and be road block is whether or not a specified will expand and colonize other planets before they destroy there own

  26. Zombies will be the advanced civilization because they eat brains and big brains will keep them full of nourishment.

  27. do you believe people will buy your BS, no life in the universe, billion of planets, aliens is doom yess you want to keep human soul in the simulation to harvest their energy, keeping them disconnected from their I AM and conditioning the mass thinking we are alone and living in a fictional spinning ball existing only in their mind, keeping them to believe their are the human body and fearing any contact with all star races, we understand very clearly your agenda, its not workings anymore! we are awakening now, this simulation is not reality and you must teaching the truth now, stop and desist AI contamination

  28. לבעלי החיים המטונפים שלכם אין סיכוי נגד הטכנולוגיה שלנו, אך אנו נשאיר אתכם לבד עוד כמה מאות שנים כדי שנוכל לחטוף חברה מפותחת יותר. אם עדיין לא הרסת את עצמך

  29. I think of it like this…the universe is so large, that it is essentially a mathematical and physical impossibility to encounter any other intelligent life. I don’t think we’ll ever discover a way to travel even close the the speed of light, and I propose that no other intelligent beings will discover it either…it would simply defy the laws of physics. If that is true it would take an impractical amount of time/resources to travel far enough into space to get even close to other solar systems. (Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away). Assuming we could travel at the speed of light, which as far as we know, is not possible, it would still take us many years to reach the nearest star system. The risk of discovering nothing is surely enough to discourage any species from attempting such an ambitious endeavour.

  30. als ob alle außerirdischen feindseelig (ohne grund) wären…

    ohne/mit(gummi) /////// grund

    keine gründe für feindseeligkeit
    vater mutter tochter sohn
    roysandra (dywiann xyara)
    aber ist ja wohl doch von nem anderen 🙂

    ps: auch aliens sind lediglich auf den ursprung von allem geeicht
    also heißt
    wir wissen nicht wer gott ist der alles aus dem nichts erschuf

    einfach da gewesen ist keine plausible antwort

    denn alles muss erstmal seinen ursprung haben

    und ihr würdet es sehr stark bereuen wenn es ihm diesmal nicht ermöglicht wird und es dabei bleibt

    🙂

    wenigstens für ein jahr der beweis damit wir (mit got(t) ein wenig mehr freude auf dem ball einziehen lassen und ihr sogar neuerungen (final fantasy x) ist ein gutes beispiel
    bekämet

    nur der geist scheint nicht so ausgeprägt zu sein bei euch

  31. The great filter is both genetic diversity and 'Game theory'. Genetic diversity increases intraspecies competition preventing any altruism/ science and the self sacrifice necessary for bravery/ sceintific dedication. Game theory dooms the 'cheats' to constantly wage a deadly war against 'retaliators' and the enslavement of the 'suckers'.

  32. It seems like a lot of people in the comments think our world is on the verge of ending due to nuclear weapons. As a Political Studies graduate, these comments made me giggle.

    Please educate yourselves on the Cold War and MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

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