This week, I got into another favorite proposed resolution to the Fermi Paradox. In 2001, famed scientist and SF author Stephen Baxter wrote a paper titled “The Planetarium Hypothesis – A Resolution of the Fermi Paradox.” Addressing Fermi’s question, Baxter suggested that the reason humanity hasn’t heard from advanced civilizations is that the Universe (as we know it) is a simulation.
To put it another way, what we see when we look up at the night sky is a giant virtual reality “planetarium” built by an advanced species to give the illusion of an empty Universe. The purpose of this could be to keep humanity contained, possibly for its own good or that of other species (i.e., intelligent life is dangerous), or to keep less-advanced species from developing too quickly and becoming a threat.
Like the Berserker Hypothesis, the idea is science fiction gold but admittedly unlikely (phew!) Another problem is that the hypothesis is untestable. While Baxter and other scientists suggested ways this theory could be tested (based on the principles of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics), critics have pointed out that the laws of physics themselves could be part of the simulation.
Personally, I think that the laws of physics and the fact that they make space exploration so challenging is the most compelling evidence for the hypothesis. What better way is there to control the growth of a species than to set the physics model to “extra hard”? If I were an advanced civilization looking to keep a species in the dark, this is precisely what I’d do! Check it out below:
One thought on “Episode 37 of Stories from Space – “Where Are All the Aliens? The Planetarium Hypothesis” – is Now Live!”
Stephen was being provocative as always with that one. But what if it’s more a case of ETI’s keep us isolated so they can observe how we develop au naturale?