941 The Great Filter

So, here I am, adding an intro to my blog about the chances of humanity surviving. It's prompted by a snippet of conversation between Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, from the Joe Rogan Experience ...

... Musk says, "I tried to convince people to slow down, to slow down AI, to regulate AI ... but nobody listened". He repeats the phrase, while Rogan keeps talking over him ... until Rogan says, "nobody listened?!" True, true. (OK, Obama listened.) Rogan also says, "you talking about AI really scares the hell out of me. You and Sam Harris." Hear, hear.

If this talk - if Elon Musk - doesn't blow your mind ... you're not alive. Same with Sam Harris ... you must listen to his TED talk below.

Go also to my blogs 942 and 943.

This blog - based on the videos Why Alien Life Would Be Our Doom and Where Are All The Aliens (below) by KURZGESAGT (this is their YouTube channel) - is about our chances of surviving into the future; the question is: What does the future hold for humanity? And this question is closely linked to another: Where are all the aliens? ... which is dealt with in the second video, about the Fermi Paradox (this video is full of interesting numbers; see also blog 893). The third video is by science fiction writer John Michael Godier, it is about some possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox ... JMG has a bunch of interesting videos; below is also a link to his video channel.

The videos are about the theory of the five filters, culminating in the "Great Filter" ... for us to survive into the future and to be able to go interstellar, we have to overcome this fifth, Great Filter. I wrote an essay about this story: THE FUTURE 2 in my book without a title, instead three definitions for the term en.light.en.ment

The first filter was passed billions of years ago, when single-cell-life came into being; single-cell-life probably exists on a myriad of planets in our galaxy, or indeed the wider universe. It is likely single-cell life-forms, which potentially can survive in sub-zero temperatures and for millions of years, get carried around the universe in asteroids; indeed, it is mooted that is how life was seeded on Earth; however, it is an enigma just exactly where and especially how life has begun in the very first place.

The second filter was overcome when those primordial living things merged and developed into higher-level, multi-cell organisms; again, this probably is not an uncommon occurrence in our galaxy ... at this stage we won't concern ourselves with the wider universe; the distances to other galaxies are so vast, inter-galactic travel is unlikely to be a reality ever (unless wormholes [a hypothetical connection between widely separated regions of space-time] come into the equation one far-off day).

With the third filter those life-forms need to evolve and grow into a multitude of sophisticated beings, on par with the animals in our world; there is no telling how much this has happened anywhere else other than here on Earth, but it is still quite likely it indeed has happened on many other planets.

Conquering the fourth filter is for one of those species to rise above the rest. They need to develop intelligence, dominate all other beings and exploit their planet’s resources … this is the phase humans are in. Again, it is likely civilizations have earlier been at that point in our galaxy, or elsewhere in the universe.

However, the fifth filter - the Great Filter - is the stage humans are facing and it is the filter that quite possibly will doom us, as it has before doomed every other culture ... it seems - indeed, it is clear, since we cannot find any traces of aliens - apparently no civilization in the past has been able to overcome it, even though we have been looking for interstellar alien life forms for decades with all the technology we could muster ... actually, just think: if a) this scenario is correct and there have been alien civilisations before us in our galaxy, and b) we ourselves will overcome the Great Filter and keep developing advanced technologies without destroying ourselves, we most likely will come across ancient alien ruins on future millennia-long interstellar journeys.

Anyway, pay attention now:

The reason why we are not observing any aliens is the fifth Great Filter: It causes human-like beings to self-destruct ... as they deplete the resources of their planet while developing advanced technologies and in the process push the limits too far. Besides falling victim to asteroid collisions, this fate has probably befallen any other culture that may have existed before us.

They could have caused irreversible, catastrophic climate change; built weapon systems that got out of hand or - most frighteningly - created bio-engineered entities and/or Artificial Intelligence (AI) that decided their creators hindered their progress, were redundant and therefore had to be terminated.

As an aside, I'll insert a word or two on AI (following on from my intro): Many nations - probably the USA and China above all - are competing to develop Artificial Intelligence, the common wisdom is it will give the nation that reaches that goal first an advantage over all others. Robot use is in advanced stages in the production of vehicles, electronic goods like computers, smart phones etc., as well as weapons. If Artificial Intelligence is added to that mix, there's no telling what the effect will be. Think of Intelligent machines that can replicate and further advance themselves. One would think that as soon as AI is added to the production process it will be a small step for an AI entity to ponder just when humans will interfere and curb their capabilities ...

what will happen next?

There are at least four voices that warn to halt rampant development of AI until effective safeguards are agreed on by all ... in no particular order: Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Sam Harris and Stephen Hawking; in his book Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a chapter Will Artificial Intelligence Outsmart Us? ... says he “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it also may be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks ... I fear the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans ... that could develop a will of its own.”)

I blogged before on the subject, blog 819 ... short of going there, at least watch this TED talk by Sam Harris, I said in that blog: "This is fascinating stuff, watch this space, your children's life may depend on it."


So, either one of these scenarios - or a combination of all of them: Climate Change, War, Artificial Intelligence - may prevent humans’ survival, as it apparently has happened to all previous civilizations in our galaxy. Indeed, it seems they may have failed to control advanced developments such as nanotechnologies (a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter) which stymied further futuristic endeavours, like going interstellar and visiting other planets, such as Earth.

If - however - an advanced civilization managed to overcome the Great Filter and visits us, it potentially would be a catastrophe for humanity. It is likely the aliens - or even worse, an AI civilization that had replaced their human-like creators in another solar system of our galaxy - would aim to conquer our planet (just like we would want to conquer theirs) and use it to replenish their own resources … with fateful disregard for the wellbeing of the human species (and intelligent mechanical intergalactic travellers - whose existence is more likely to come to our attention than organic alien life-forms anyway - would be much more ruthless toward humans; remember, they already at least once killed off a civilisation of biological life-forms).

In any case, all this talk of aliens visiting is quite fanciful, what with the incredible distances in the galaxy - not to mention the universe - and simple physical limitations that need to be overcome; it is for that reason civilisations may well come and go without ever being found out by others ... the second video deals with that issue.


I would like this blog not to be read as a dooms-day scenario … rather it is a wake-up call to humanity - to our politicians, leaders and other influencers: Beware technology … do not let it get out of hand.

So, here I am, adding an afterword: The logical question now is: What can be done? There really is only one, very simple answer: The slogan the Liberals won the election with "Jobs 'n Growth" is wrong, wrong, wrong. Jobs will materialise anyway; jobs are lost and won, one industry succumbs, another rises ... the problem is unchecked Growth.

We always want new, better things. We forever expand our capacities for innovation and technology. Really, the only solution to the dilemma of our pending doom is to at least slow down, if not stop altogether. Stop developing new weapons systems, stop industries that cause climate change and above all, stop developing Artificial Intelligence.

Perhaps somewhere in our galaxy is a civilization that has not self-destructed. They are happily living a bucolic existence, providing food and shelter for the citizens without "striving for the stars”, as we do.

At one point in all these videos someone observes that as soon as humans ventured into the industrial revolution, human civilisation was doomed, because once begun, there was no stopping progress & growth; which means, it probably will be impossible to stop the wasteful exploration of Earth's resources and the destruction of our environment by way of unchecked anthropogenic climate change. (Essay)

That is perhaps the way it is with AI: We begun developing AI and it will be impossible to stop AI. And it will be impossible to stop AI replacing us. Just saying.


This is the thing: We - you and me and our leaders - don't have to concern ourselves with all this, since it will not happen in our time ... so why worry?! We can go back to sleep and leave it to future generations, who perhaps will find solutions to the dilemma. Anyway, maybe Musk & Harris are wrong, fingers crossed.

Why Alien Life would be our doom ...

... and Why we should NOT look for Aliens - The Dark Forest

Here is another video, it asks: Where are all the aliens? This is the Fermi Paradox.

Yet another Kurzgesagt video, about humans' prospects of space travels.


The video below is about possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox.


Three interesting videos by John Michael Godier; check out his YouTube channel: