With thousands of exoplanets confirmed to exist in our universe, the question of “why haven’t we detected alien or extraterrestrial life” still exists. To date, we as humans have yet to make contact with what we would consider alien life. Researchers have called this lack of extraterrestrial contact the “Great Silence.”
But, some researchers have a perfectly sound explanation for the silence. According to them, we may just be living in a “galactic zoo” that those same silent aliens are running, and they’re keeping silent in order to observe and research us humans – without interfering.
Sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not after understanding their explanation that comes almost 70 years after the Fermi Paradox, which explains the contradictions in the astronomy that helps explain it. Named for Enrico Fermi, who created the first nuclear reactor ever to exist – the Italian physicist who asked the world, “where is everybody?” in 1950. In summary, according to Forbes, the Fermi Paradox states:
“If extraterrestrial life and even intelligent alien civilizations are not just likely, but highly probable, then why have none of them been in contact with us? Are there biological or sociological explanations for this ‘Great Silence?'”
Which brings us to the “living in a galactic zoo” part of it all… The researchers working for the Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) group got together in Paris to discuss just this topic. Although there are dozens of theories as to why we have yet to make contact with aliens, that we’re living in an alien zoo, the theory that METI researchers discussed in Paris, is quite intriguing and makes sense in its own way.
First hypothesized in the 1970s, the “zoo hypothesis” as it’s known, speculated that while aliens exist, they may be so much more advanced than humans that they don’t want to interfere with our development.
If you think that sounds familiar, you probably watch Star Trek, which has what’s known as the “Prime Directive.” The Prime Directive states that until a civilization acquires or creates technology that gives them “warp speed” capabilities, they cannot interfere or introduce themselves to that civilization.
Written by John Ball in 1973, who did research for MIT, the zoo hypothesis paper stated:
“Extraterrestrial intelligent life may be almost ubiquitous … The apparent failure of such life to interact with us may be understood in terms of the hypothesis that they have set us aside as part of a wilderness area or zoo.”
Ball also asked what we, as humans, would have to do to make those “galactic zookeepers” introduce themselves to us.
Just like the Drake Equation, Fermi’s Paradox and the zoo hypothesis attempts to answer the same question. Posited by Dr. Frank Drake in 1961, the Drake Equation attempted to determine what it would take to find alien life in the universe.
And, while both equations are speculation, you could say they’re educated guesses of sorts. Especially considering just how many exoplanets NASA has found, along with the evidence of water on Mars, and Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. This combined with our recent knowledge that extremophiles exist — organisms that live in extreme environments on Earth, or without the sun’s energy – should lend hope that alien life does exist somewhere.
But whether we as humans exist in a zoo? More speculation, of course, although to see the greatest scientific minds of our time posting such ideas makes it seem not too far-fetched to believe.