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Dark forest theory – contact with extraterrestrial civilizations

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The question of whether we are alone in the universe arises as soon as it has been scientifically proven that the Earth orbits the Sun, and that there are many others besides our planet.

By the 21st century, mankind had already learned to enter the hidden corners of the cosmos, to find distant exoplanets (similar to Earth), to observe nebulae and black holes. But we still cannot ( officially ) find traces of an intelligent life.

All the scientists have discovered so far are the microscopic remains of the most primitive organic matter in Earth’s meteorites. Are we alone in this huge cold world?

People try to find other civilizations by regularly sending radio signals to different parts of the Universe, but they don’t get answers. Or, if they receive something, they don’t understand what it is and whether it’s a message from an intelligent life, or just reflective signals from comets.

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According to the theory of Enrico Fermi (Fermi Paradox), presented in the 1950s, in many billions of years of the universe’s development, life could theoretically occur in many places, but if we have not seen them yet, then perhaps we are the only such civilization.

A decade later, astrophysicist Frank Drake, creates a special formula based on many parameters which calculated the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the galaxy. According to this formula, despite the fact that we do not see traces of these civilizations, there must be many of them.

Over the years, many theories have emerged that try to explain why all these civilizations do not come in contact with us, but rather, they are intentionally hidden from us.

One of the newest and most curious theories emerged in 2008 and bears the slightly ominous name “Dark Forest Theory.”

This theory is revealed in Liu Qixing’s science fiction novel of the same year. It is based on three claims:

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1) All living creatures strive to secure their own survival.

2) There is no way to know if an unfamiliar life form will be friendly or try to destroy you.

3) Without guarantees to obtain accurate information about the dangers of this life form, the best thing for surviving is to remain hidden for as long as possible or to deliver the first preemptive strike yourself.

From all this, it follows that if extraterrestrial civilizations are stubbornly silent and do not respond to any attempts at contact, then they probably adhere to the “stealth” condition or they entered the war (preemptive strike) and were destroyed by its consequences.

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Liu Cixin says:

“The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization, like an armed hunter, moves among the trees, carefully pushes its branches and tries not to make loud noises. This hunter tries to control himself and breathe as quietly as possible. The hunter must be careful because this forest is full of other hunters.

And if he encounters aliens, he will probably be attacked and killed, survival is the main thing. This is a picture of space civilization and it well explains the Fermi paradox. “

Cixin also explains that the resources of the universe are not infinite. Therefore, civilizations will try to conquer them earlier than others and destroy competitors. That is, any alien race for any other  alien race is a catastrophic threat.

Between their own representatives, these races can negotiate, as humans do on Earth. but with completely alien intelligent life forms, completely different rules are played, and the survival of the species is at stake.

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This theory is supported by science fiction writer David Brin, and many others. Moreover, if we take this theory to be true, then it turns out that humanity is at great risk by sending radio signals to space. It’s the same as in a dark forest full of dangers, to scream:

I’m here! Come all here!

The late Stephen Hawking also realized this danger and opposed attempts to seek contact with aliens, believing that this was essentially suicide. .

Maybe people are overly dramatic and vainly imagine extraterrestrial civilizations as ruthless predators?

However, if all these civilizations evolved in a way similar to humankind, which is very likely under similar chemical and biological conditions, then we must remember what the “civilized” people in our history did when they encountered less developed tribes.

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