I am lying. This is a lexical paradox; If I really am lying, then I am telling the truth. But if I am am telling the truth, I am lying. You see the problem here. This isn’t “solvable” like some paradoxes, like Zeno’s Paradox.
In Zeno’s Paradox, Achilles is racing a tortoise, who has a head start of, say, 10 feet. This doesn’t seem to be any challenge at face value, until you consider the mathematic implications of the situation. To get to the tortoise, Achilles first must cut the distance in half, so he sets his sights on five feet ahead. However, once he reaches this mark, the tortoise has moved forward a foot. Well, Achilles cuts the distance in half again, moving to eight feet. The tortoise again has moved forward. Achilles can only continually cut the distance in half, and never catch up with the tortoise, like so:
This is preposterous, and everyone knows it. It is no feat at all to outrun a tortoise, so how can this be possible? This stumped mathematicians and philosophers alike for years, and it took until the invention (or discovery) of calculus to understand what was happening. The key to this “paradox” is simply that this equation is true:
Problem solved. For me, this solution provided me with such relief and satisfaction, as if logic was… logical again.
If only this were the only paradox. See, there are some paradoxes that don’t have these known solutions, and are thus like ending a song off key.
The Fermi Paradox is one of my favorites. It proposes that, based on four truths, we should have been visited by aliens long ago. These truths are:
- The universe is old
- The universe is huge, with many life-potential planets
- Some of these planets must have had civilizations on them
- The Milky Way can be traveled in just a few million years
If we accept these as true, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t have seen alien species by now. Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years, and we are already traveling out into space. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, along with many potentially life-sustaining planets. If a planet had three times as long to develop as earth, one could only imagine where they could be technologically.
Imagine where we will be in 1000 years as far as space travel goes. One can only imagine we will be soaring planet to planet with ease, as it’s only taken the last century to go from the first planes to private companies investing in space vacation technology.
That’s only 1000 years; now you can start to see the possibilities that other species on older planets have. That doesn’t even consider that these aliens could be much smarter than us to begin with.
So why haven’t we seen these aliens? Some may jump to the assumption that no life, no matter how advanced, could travel fast enough to explore the universe. Well according to the Kardashev Scale, and mathematicians Duncan Forgan and Arwen Nicholson from Edinburgh University, in just a few thousand years, us humans will be able to travel through space as one tenth the speed of light, moving across the milky way in just 10 million years. Through our discoveries of other possible life-sustaining planets near us, there is an infinitesimally low chance of an alien species not being close enough to us to have traveled here long ago.
Well, maybe we really are special here on Earth! No, that’s not likely. Frank Drake, through his own equation, estimated there could be anywhere between 1000 and 100 million extraterrestrial civilizations just in the milky way. We aren’t special.
We could be living in a simulation. Those who immediately reject this need to suspend their reality. Elon Musk explains that due to the rapid advances in technology, it is more than likely that some civilization has created hyper realistic (at least to us) simulations, and that those characters in the sim are us. This has been disputed by those that say the computing power needed to simulate the world around us would take more atoms than are in the universe. But what if our entire universe was simulated, and the beings simulating it are living in another larger reality capable of such “computers”? Conversely, what if you are the only real, fake person, meaning that what is in your direct line of sight is only what is being simulated, taking much less horsepower to simulate. This is all so hypothetical and abstract, but the fact that so much is unknown kind of explains how this Fermi Paradox is possible.
Maybe the aliens visited us so long ago, we are actually some sort of zoo to them. They allow us to grow and have our own beliefs, problems, history, wars, and love; and it is all just a test tube for alien research, watching us behind a one way mirror, studying our unexplainable motivations. This solution may have the least amount of problems.
It is important to realize that no matter what kind of reality we are really living in, it doesn’t make our experience more or less “real” to us. We are the only ones we know. If you only have your own reality to compare your being to, we are at the ceiling. And that’s fine for us.
I don’t think we will find the answer in the near future, so why bother worrying about it. All you can do right now is tip your cap to the aliens watching, and ignore every theory we’ve learned today; That’s the only way to keep your sanity.