This week, I addressed one of my favorite proposed resolutions to the Fermi Paradox. Known as the “Berserker Hypothesis” (or deadly probe scenario), this theory states that the reason we haven’t heard from any advanced civilizations is that advanced life is wiped out before long. The theory incorporates advanced concepts like John von Neumann’s “Universal Constructor” (aka. self-replicating probes, or von Neumann Probes) and Robin Hanson’s “Great Filter Hypothesis.”

Basically, the idea is that at some point in the future, advanced species will create self-replicating probes to explore the Universe. If just one of these species designed these probes to seek out and eliminate other species before they could become a threat, then this might explain the “Great Silence.” In another scenario, the probes suffered a malfunction and went “berserk,” consuming all matter in the Universe in a runaway manner (which included their creators).

This theory takes its name from the Berserker science fiction series by Fred Saberhagen and has been explored by countless science fiction series and franchises. Some examples include Greg Bear’s The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars, Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space series (aka. The Inhibitor Cycle), the Mass Effect series, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate, and the original Battlestar Galactica.

While the idea is science fiction gold, it is admittedly frightening when considered as a serious prospect. Luckily for all of us, various lines of research indicate that it is not a likely scenario. Check it out below:

Where to Listen:

2 thoughts on “Episode Thirty-One, “The Berserker Hypothesis,” of Stories from Space is now Live!

  1. I loved the Mass Effect games. Surprisingly hard Sci-Fi, considering they were video games.

    The Berserker hypothesis feels a little too much like a Sci-Fi trope for me to take it seriously. But the same could be said about the zoo hypothesis, which is my personal favorite solution to the Fermi paradox. So who am I to judge?

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