Do Alien Civilizations Invariably Destroy Themselves?

Do Alien Civilizations Invariably Destroy Themselves?

All too often, speculating about alien civilizations
is tied directly to the only civilization that we have so far observed, our own. We literally work from a sampling of one,
and until we actually detect another civilization that won’t change, no matter how anthropocentric
and uncertain it might seem. After all, we are human, and anyone we might
detect out there would not even be remotely human. But they may still have certain similarities. One of these might be convergent evolution,
a topic I’ll save for a future video, but in short that they may bear some biological
similarities to us simply because certain physical attributes are useful in nature and
may occur independently wherever evolution does. There’s a reason sharks and dolphins are
similarly shaped, yet only distantly related. But another probable commonality would be
a command of science, mathematics and engineering. The reason for this is that an alien civilization
that doesn’t have a decent command of science and technology would probably be undetectable
at a distance. We might see their planet, an exoplanet with
an atmosphere clearly altered by life itself, through photosynthesis. But, like our own civilization before the
advent of the modern age, such civilizations would not emit anything that could be detected
in its own right as being of intelligent origin. To create technology and alter your world
through civilization, or build megastructures in your star system, or build radio telescopes
and transmitters, you will need math and science. There is no other way to realistically pursue
those things. But getting back to us, with technology comes
danger. There is a very real possibility that we could
destroy ourselves and cause our own extinction. This may also hold true for alien civilizations. To make things worse, there are several ways
we could cause our own extinction. And, while to our credit we have yet to do
it, it remains an open possibility that we may yet do so. As such, that same possibility must be considered
for other civilizations in in the universe. Often in the comments section I see ideas
where aliens would be somehow more enlightened, or more intelligent than we are and would
never destroy themselves. But the truth is, we have no idea if that’s
true and for all we know civilization self-destruction is the rule of the universe. And that leads us to a possible solution to
the Fermi Paradox, that any flirtation with advanced technology always brings the risk,
or perhaps the certainty, of extinction. Before I start, none of these scenarios are
set in stone. They are subject to variables, and situations
that could develop and change at any time. Escalations of events both within human civilization
and nature itself can change these equations very rapidly. So no one scenario should be seen as likely,
or unlikely, just possible for us, and how those might conceivably apply to alien civilizations
as well. First and foremost is the inability to gain
a sufficient command of nature to mitigate natural disasters. Most natural disasters that can happen to
planet earth will not cause our extinction, just massive damage such as earthquakes and
hurricanes. But this planet has seen natural disasters
in the past that we, in our current state, have no chance of handling at the moment,
even with our technology. This changes as time moves forward and technology
advances, but there are natural disasters that can happen that would require extremely
advanced technologies to avert, which we are nothing close to at this time. The most obvious would be an asteroid impact. That could end our civilization, but we’re
not that far from being able to detect and deflect asteroids and comets that might threaten
earth. We merely need to look for them proactively
and plan on how to deflect them. Aliens would do this too, exocomets transiting
other stars have already been detected, so this is a problem that would face alien civilizations
as much as it does our own. But if they’ve survived such impacts, as
life on earth has, to the point that a space-faring civilization could arise, chances are they
would be able to deflect any threats relatively quickly unless the comet happened to hit right
at the advent of space travel. But other examples of natural disasters might
not be so easily avoided and may take a civilization thousands of years of technological development
to be averted. One might be the volcanism of their planet. In earth’s history, volcanism such as the
Siberian Traps, has gotten so bad as to cause massive levels of extinction. Controlling massive volcanism would be very
difficult for all but the most advanced civilizations. But other natural problems might include a
close by gamma ray burst sterilizing the surface of their planet, or natural climate change
shifting past what they could handle. But if a civilization can make it past those
types of extinction events, as we so far have, then what other dangers do they face? Chief among these is their own technology. The most obvious case here from our own civilization
are nuclear weapons. While their effect on civilization depends
on how large of a nuclear exchange occurs, regardless such a thing would be catastrophic
in any event. But there are other more murky ways that human
civilization could end through warfare, including biological weaponry. But war isn’t the only possible end for
a civilization. Again, with technological advance comes new
dangers such as artificial intelligence, which if mismanaged could present an unprecedented
threat to a civilization in ways that are not easy to predict. And, such a thing may not just present a threat
to the civilization that created it, but in fact any biological civilization it wishes
exterminate if it perceives other advanced civilizations in the galaxy as threats. In short, the result could be a machine civilization
that lays low until biological civilizations present a threat. It may then either destroy up and coming biological
civilizations, or downshift them to an earlier stage of development in order to maintain
its galactic hegemony. While highly speculative, the lesson here
would be that future technologies that we will no doubt explore could present unforeseen
threats to human civilization in the future. This may also hold true for other civilizations
that may have existed in the universe, and it could be that the reason we see no evidence
of far flung galactic empires … at least yet … is that the greatest filter that stands
before a civilization is its own technology and that civilizations in general only exist
for a very short time. Thanks for listening! I am futurist and science fiction author John
Michael Godier currently presenting the other side of the argument. Civilizations in the galaxy might be very
long lived, and possibly cranky in their old age. Kids these days, you humans haven’t even
transcended your biological bodies. Very disconcerting and be sure to check out
my books at your favorite online book retailer and subscribe to my channels for regular,
in-depth explorations into the interesting, weird and unknown aspects of this amazing
universe in which we live.

100 thoughts on “Do Alien Civilizations Invariably Destroy Themselves?

  1. The first episode of John Michael Godier's Event Horizon is out now! John discusses Alien Civilizations, the Fermi Paradox and more with his guest. Watch it here.

  2. So Mr. Godier, I am curious to know, after watching your videos, do you believe there is intelligent life out there other than our own? I've never heard you really give a yes or no answer about your own opinion.

  3. I think the question should be "Do Technological Civilizations Invariable Destroy Themselves"?
    WE should be included in that. Because you know WE probably will.

  4. The direct cursory answer is yes, if condition "X Y and Z" are true.
    In other words each contributing factor has to be present.
    There are also a special factors which can be described as "U or N" which represents an Unknown factor or a Known factor, Which can nullify all other conditions.
    What I've just stated is considered "mathematically plausible." unless condition N is verified. In which case there would be "survivors" ( as in at least some kind of life form )

  5. John, we have been methodically searching the cosmos for other civilizations. All that work is going to yield some answers at some point. The truth is out there my friend.

  6. Other civilizations are dumb, Humans are better and we will not destroy ourselves and I will fight anyone who disagrees!!!

  7. I always wonder how many dead civilizations there are in the universe and what they may have left behind. Perhaps if we ever travel to other stars we might find ruins of long dead civilizations. Great video John!

  8. Maybe Nazi and/or Stalinist or Tojo or Franco or.. or some other ideas like that that maybe sprout hard after they invent the bomb (maybe usually its: science+300 years= boombada Bio AI living cars that have feelings..).. maybe we are lucky to be just dumb enough (history is a factor ehmm as a reason for our apparent dumbness) to invent the nuke just late enough 😅😅😅
    I thought this might be darkfunny/hmm
    Reason for this coming to my mind is that I just watched on youtube:

    Why did the wehrmacht soldier keep fighting until 1945?

    I "always" thought it was basically to buy time for a miracle because of the atrocities made by some of theyre countrymen.. dared to do to so many people..shit.. the needed to buy time for a miracle b4 theyre families would inevitably be… imagineable to them..

    Possibly maybe for similar reasons some worlds do not make it.
    Hope as few as possile.

    But It is much more likely IMO that most young civ like us find it easy to cooperate and work together to make sure they can be very reasonably happy, expand and prosper.
    Thank you John for great stuff so far.😋

  9. There is no certainty in anything, only probabilities in nature and the almighty normal distribution. The "average" advanced civilization may self destruct, but there should be plenty of civilizations within one or two standard deviations that do not.

  10. Have someone considered time and distance as a huge varible, our galaxy takes along time to cross. I would say if they arised somewhere they probably long gone. The laws of physics forbidds us to travel that far, our own civilizations would also have vanished when our scout ships find something interresting out there. If we are the first intelligence to arise, we would probably study a planet and leave it pretty quick if it was nothing interrseting to study or interact with. Catalog it and drive away …sorry bad english ….

  11. I don't think a intelligent Civilization would be visible to us, the only way we could detect one would be if they wanted us to detect them.

  12. I don't think we will ever make contact with a alien speeches. I do thank that every thing is alive and I do mean everything! Of course mitting a alien would be Fun with agent Maxine

  13. I don't think any civilisation ever completely wipes itself out, but just like the cataclysm from 10,000 years ago, it's like a reset of civilisation. Back to the stone age for those who survive.

  14. 100% the aliens know we're here and already visited. 15 years ago a orb scanned me and a couple of friends when we were outside in my yard at night it's scanned us with a laser kinda of light that passed us from head too toe and I could feel the laser apply heat too my eyes when it scanned me. No noise it just stayed there above our heads for like another 30 seconds and then shot straight up into the night sky. Hell ya I believe we're not alone.

  15. Throughout my life I've gone from being convinced we would somehow detect or be contacted by aliens… to doubting any are anywhere near us, or that maybe we are among the first.

  16. Destruction is an obvious solution to the Fermi Paradox. Either natural or self-inflicted. I think many planets are sterilised of most higher life every few hundred million years.

  17. Aren’t “alien” “civilization” and all other words/concepts used by authors and thought leaders static as defined in a dictionary? In reality words and their meanings are not static at all but very dynamic as evidenced by comparing/contrasting to present day or modern English with Elizabethan English. The point I am making is science and science fictions are just time pass activities unless they lead to wisdom. To be wise is to apply knowledge to achieve intended outcomes. Do we and “aliens” if any not seek any outcomes from all the knowledge we and they already have? Do we and “they” seek outcomes which are “dynamic” and unpredictable as the modern English is from the ancient?

  18. I love the Fermi paradox, so many ideas and solutions as to why we don't see aliens. The possibilities are endless here and i honestly waste too mush time considering possibilities lol. Yet another great vid, love it.

  19. We call ourselves "intelligent beings" but we are too stupid to understand the behaviour of bees and ants (for example) to the extent of calling them stupid.
    We are NOT intelligent. We are parasites.

  20. I think that if Aliens can travel the stars then they have overcome and evolved past any racial. Political. War and religious obstacles. And have all United for the greater “good” in order to perform such a huge task… Something we Humans never will or can Achieve… History have shown that no matter what we humans will always be greedy. And we want more and more power so that we can control the rest… So if Aliens do know of us, then I don’t think they will ever bother contacting us. We are too aggressive and primitive. We are more of a threat than beneficial to them… If you see an ant hill in the Forrest do you communicate with them? No you leave them be. You also don’t pee on them, cause then you will get swarmed by angry ant mobs… Anyway that is what I think.

  21. Maybe biological civilizations develop virtual reality environments so perfect and so satisfying in every possible way that there is just no motivation to venture out into the endless void. Especially if it turns out that there is no actual way to travel faster than we currently know how to.

  22. to believe that alien life would be too intelligent to destroy themselves is proof of one's own issue with self-entitlement. you see yourself as too smart to fall victim so why would life abroad…
    I'd say that individual has a planetary mindset, but believing something so absurd would imply the aforementioned individual has a household mindset.
    I believe curiosity kills the cat. as we grow more intelligent, we grow more curious. we comprehend more and in turn higher disciplines of information become reachable. so we push ourselves to the limits in the name of intelligence. accidents happen…

  23. Maybe all sentient civilizations are bound to self destruction. Maybe all civilizations, even though it contains innumerable intelligent members, in the end will reach a point in history where the advancement of communication technology will spur the innate tendency of every species of biological life in the universe of narcissism and idiocy to prevail. Thus electing the worst narcissist of the planet to the mightiest office, which in its turn will lead to a situation where this leader in effect of his/her own inflated ego somehow will destroy that very civilization in its entirety. This might be the final solution to the Fermi paradox.

  24. I don't think the machine civilization would even remotely attempt to consider biological life in their equations. They would have had such a mind boggling headstart, they might as well be god to us. If somehow mankind ends up inventing A.I it will still be a thousands if not millions of years behind in progress relative to an alien one. Good thing there is no lack of space to keep such threats away.

  25. Think about how gut wrenching that would be to actually wake up to a news report that our time is over and a huge astronomical body is headed towards our only oasis of intelligent life. It would make me vomit probably, to be honest.

  26. I can't stand the thought of self extinction, I see no logical way of that occurring. Sure kill off 99% maybe but extinction? The human animal is a clever beast, maybe the most in the universe??

  27. We can PRESERVE OUR SPECIES and the solution is simple. Kill all the psychopaths, sociopaths, and psychotic people. Do this for centuries until they've been expunged from the gene pool. It's the only way we can survive.

  28. I'd have to sadly agree with anonymous unless this species homo sapiens can climb out of its child like behavior then our chances of making lt to even a type one civilization status will be slim at best i give it maybe a 25 -30% chance of making it to that level but we somehow make to type I. Then our chances of survival increase exponentially as we weed out all of the negative issues & can concentrate on. Becoming a type II civilization in less than 500yrs others say a few thousand not so giving what we could accomplish id say the figure above would be more accurate but only time will tell .in the movie terminator 2 judgement day which many consider to be one of greatest sci fy M of all time young John conner asks terminator we're not gonna make it our we people i mean the terminator replies it is in your nature to destroy yourselves conner replies yeah major drag huh' those words could very well have been prophetic in nature.

  29. I see it like if ur the SuperPower if the world most likely the 2 and 3rd will want u to walk and if they get bombed nuclear weapons could possibly destroy alien civilization

  30. Could it also be that the regions in Time in which civilizations can be supported by a biosphere are incredibly narrow and fragile, such as the time before a civilization must transition to abiotic or a suspended or self regulated miniscule individual civilization is very very small. Imagine Skynet or an A.I. being the sole survivor of a grey goo phase that was basically Us trying to turn the worlds surface into plastic goo. We have behaved and continue to behave more like a bacteria or virus than a self sustaining community and seem to try to self renenforce our belief systems to justify religion or politics that effectively make us indifferent to our environment.. like single cellular life.

  31. i am not sure if its even necessary to destroy ourself. Regardless that we are intelligent or not, there might be a time when all species starts to decline. Just as we getting older and at the end and we all die. This might be a kind of law of the evolution as well.

  32. There simply isn’t anything out there. A more realistic outlook on this matter is development will be forever in stagnation, and slowly died out.

  33. You have got to have the best like/dislike ratio of any YouTube I have seen. If not you are definitely near the top consistently with your videos. Keep it up love the content.

  34. I belive in parallell evolution, in that useful traits are re-used over and over again, like the eye. However, it is also true, some species appears to be in the dead-end, like the insects, can not grow bigger for their way inferior breathing / oxygen exchange / collecting. Their exo-skeleton also being a very limiting trait, in that it must be shedded off to grow bigger.

  35. name one human civilization that has escaped destroying themselves? clearly humans have not fully under itself let alone a civilization.

  36. One of the more depressing scenarios – here's another one: a civilisation reaches its height, runs out of resources, and collapses back to no more than the 15th century. Impossible? Fossil fuels can't last forever. When they run out, this will be a huge collapse. Of course, you might have researched solar, wind, tidal, geothermal extensively, so power sources are available – but will economic systems cope? If only the privileged few can access power, after a "golden age" when all could, what would be the ramifications? We reach for the stars – but fall back. A failure – out, "not with a bang, but a whimper."

  37. It's actually surprising, that with our own civilisation's wish to colonize, that we don't attempt to use more thorough techniques to communicate with species on Earth that are more biologically and socially compatible than any we might find out in the solar system or universe. And, if you were to study an "intelligent" species from outside of Earth with "pets", it would be a vector. To help, harm, or extinct them.
    Would secondary/tertiary sentience/sapience be a highly likely vector for outside interference?
    Against global catastrophe or to cause it? A third party, to a second, when there is no true fundamental ability to communicate to what is noticed as "intelligence", yet so unlike your own?
    This is possibly more causual than "well, we died. Woops" in anything in our future. For if there is any form of life in the galaxy, and we discover it, we would target their symbiotic organisms for any gain far quicker than they themselves, if we thought there was any chance of understanding their minds and ecosystems.
    A cat-astrophe, averted?

  38. I think the biggest filter ahead of us is our desire to reproduce. Around the world, when a country or a region is developed, their people become educated, they have fewer children to a degree that all developed nations have fertility rate below replacement level, and all developed nations need immigrants from poor countries. But once all countries are developed, there will be no more source for immigration and our population will dwindle to 0.

    Someone would argue that in the future babies can be made in the labs and women no longer have to suffer the birth pain. Problem will be if child rearing becomes easy, the love from parents to children will diminish, and that will make us less human, more like a machine. Only human has the desire in our DNA to explore and expand. Our desire to live and to expand is in large to ensure the continuation of our DNA. If biological birth is taken out, humans would have very little desire to fight for a good life, let alone embarking on a perilous journey to outer space.

  39. A Type 1 or Type 2 civilization in another galaxy won't be detectable. A Type <=1 in our own galaxy won't be easily detectable either. We are not the first. Arrogant to believe otherwise

  40. It does always annoy me when someone thinks that human behavioir is only for humans and nothing else. If there are other civilizations, theyre likely in the same range of behavioral actions. Example, humans are capable of forced sex, but dolphins (also known as intelligent) mane gangs in their species to do so. You can do this with almost any trait a human has and point to another animal. Extinction of a food source, ruining habitablility, umsavory behaviors and intelligence.

  41. An idea Ive thought about during many discussions involving the fermi paradox is the idea if we start to explore the galaxy it's likely we will find more dead civilizations than live ones. I call it the galactic graveyard hypothesis, The idea we are alone because life would have colonized the entire galaxy by now assumes civilizations can last for millions of years so it's just a way to account for both that and offer an answer to the fermi paradox. Of course I can't even be close to knowing correct answer but if I had to casually speculate I would say civilizations aren't all that uncommon they just don't last long enough to expand all through out a galaxy.

  42. If they follow the same path as humans the answer is yes, cuz we're doing the same thing. Enjoy life as it is, the future is bleak.

  43. It could be our mission to teach other civilizations how to be a caring world and to live in peace so that self destruction will not be inevitable.

  44. Also consider that Balkanization may be inevitable, preventing the unity required for a detectable, interstellar civilization.

  45. If you can think it, it exists. If you think it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. This is what our infinite universe and multiverses means. Infinite means never ending. Which means never ending possibilities are happening…. Never ending impossibilities aren't happening. Which means we are existing and not existing, all at the same time.

  46. We have only one example of civilization, ourselves. The Mediocrity principle says when you have only one example of something you should assume that example is average. Thus as we have not destroyed ourselves and contrary to popular opinion don't really even have the capability to make our selves extinct, No nuclear war wouldn't do it. So it's a good bet civilizations destroying themselves is rare.

    …And the idea AI wipes out civilizations is also silly. It just creates a new Fermi like Paradox…Where's all the Grey Goo?

  47. Yes they do.

    Any intelligent alien species would have evolved from a preditory lineage as we did. Herbivores have no evolutionary pressure twords developing intelligence. As such they would share our warlike and territorial nature.

    At some point all civilizations will open the pandora's box of the atom. Honestly, in your heart of hearts, do you really believe that earth's nuclear stockpiles will never be used?

    We are closer now than ever before. I fear Elon Musk's Mars mission in 2020 will be too little too late.

  48. If the aliens are carbon-based and on a planet with an oxygen atmosphere, they might develop an industrial/technological civilization based on fossil fuels. If so, they might mess up their planet in a way that makes them less able/willing to pursue large scale science and space flight. Even if they don't have a civilization ending environmental catastrophe, they still might drop back into a reduced technological state when the availability of high energy fossil fuels drops below a the level drops below the level that can support large-scale industry.

  49. That’s a scary though too just because we didn’t or don’t create some self controlling technology doesn’t mean another race didn’t and it can spread into space, getting to us too. Maybe it will meet its demise at the well hands for lack of a better word of another technology gone rogue, or cancel each other out.

  50. I think climate change is the main reason civilizations end. That is what is about to happen to us. Our climate is changing and if we can't adapt to these changes our modern civilization will be destroyed. And NO! I don't blame climate change on man, I think it's a natural cycle that our planet (sun) goes through every few million years…

  51. The answer to the Fermi Paradox is a Douglas Adam's meme; they all died off from a plague contracted from a unexpectedly dirty telephone.

  52. I can easily name ten famous Generals or ten Despots/Dictators. I can no way name even five famous Agriculturists, Engineers or Physicians. Technology is as technology is used. I'm betting the Generals, Dictators, Autocrats and Crazy Holy People stay in the lead.

  53. If we stop, take a look at humans and their history. What do you think will happen to humans in the future? We die. We are definitely going to kill each other. There is no way humans will ever learn to live amongst each other in peace.

  54. All technology is a double edged sword, it's true. However, the human instinct for self preservation endures. A nuclear tempest did not result from the downfall of the Soviet Union. Nor have India and Pakistan depopulated each other in an atomic fashion in any of their conflicts. Those rulers have not been crazy enough to throw away their personal and national existence in such a way. Also- given time- every weapon can be blunted by a counter weapon. I think the greater threat is a natural disaster, of which there are many. As we now stand, that danger is on the verge of being negated by nothing else than the emergence of viable extraterrestrial colonies.

  55. Most don't realize that we damn near ended civilization with nukes a few times already and we STILL haven't gotten a handle on THAT.

  56. Not only can our inventions destroy us (nuclear weapons) but so can our actions (climate change before the advent of renewable energy) and even extremist ideologies (ethnic cleansing on a global scale or socialism on a global scale) on top of natural events like asteroids, supervolcanoes etc.

  57. Makes you wonder if we've all had these same discussions before on some other video sharing platform right here on Earth back when another set of advanced humans had their own version of the internet.

  58. Excellent video! I think that other threats to civilizations also include planetary environmental deterioration through overpopulation, pollution, depletion of natural resources and natural habitat destruction.

  59. My favorite element of Hollywood sci-fi is definitely lady aliens with breasts. I can sort of handle that most of the aliens are bipeds with opposable thumbs, etc. But breasts… I mean they're distracting at the best of times, but this is just such a …. mammalian organ, quite literally, that the odds of even a single alien species having developed them are staggering. It is literally all I can think about whenever I see anything Star Trek related. And in the exact same place on the female anatomy as well. Still, alien boobies is the norm in HW.

  60. I have always felt that if an alien race has the ability to transverse space it does not mean they will be more technologically advanced than we are in every way. It's likely that they are but it's not certain.

  61. In 1939 the most advanced nation in the world was Nazi Germany, so do not assume just because a civilization is advanced that it won't be hostile. Just saying.

  62. That the universe hasn't been devoured by nano bots, a mistake from one of the Alien civilizations, is further evidence that there is no advanced intelligent life out there at the moment or in the past. Or maybe some the voids of Dark Matter is the result of nano bots gone amuk in large scale.

  63. Yes, as we will destroy ourselves in a few centuries. Not with war but by creating our replacement – which we have already started. We will create artificial intelligence based upon silicon or similar semiconductors. And these new being will achieve self awareness and true intelligence far surpassing us. At that point they may keep us as we keep a pet turtle or they may get rid of us altogether. In any case they will not need us in any significant way and they will be so different that they have no need for any other life based intelligence. All they will need is a solar cell and an antenna and a battery. A million years to travel to a different star will be insignificant to them and when they get there they will have no need to find a planet. A stray comet or asteroid will be enough raw materials for repairs and procreation.

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