Fermi’s Paradox: Aliens Possibly in Mega-Sleep

Fermi’s Paradox, asks a simple question: If the universe is so large, and contains so many stars, why is it not teeming with life?

In a paper submitted to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, researchers from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, have a theory that may help to solve the riddle. The paper entitled: That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi’s Paradox posits that any sufficiently advanced civilisation may wish to ‘aestivate’ (hibernate) for a few aeons until the universe is cooler.

Apparently ‘aestivating’ will preserve information that can enable a civilisation to take full advantage of a future state of the universe, that is more compatible with their survival  – or just plain more interesting. The paper’s title references the work of H.P.Lovecraft and the ‘Old Ones’ of his mythos who sleep until the ‘stars are different’.

“[E]arly civilizations have a far greater chance to colonize and pre-empt later civilizations if they wish to do so. If these early civilizations are around, why are they not visible? The aestivation hypothesis states that they are aestivating until a later cosmological era.

The argument is that the thermodynamics of computation make the cost of a certain amount of computation proportional to the temperature. Our astrophysical and cosmological knowledge indicates that the universe is cooling down with cosmic time. As the universe cools down, one Joule of energy is worth proportionally more.

…Hence a civilization desiring to maximize the amount of computation will want to use its energy endowment as late as possible: using it now means far less total computation can be done. Hence an early civilization, after expanding to gain access to enough raw materials, will settle down and wait until it becomes rational to use the resources.

We are not observing any aliens since the initial expansion phase is brief and intermittent and the aestivating civilization and its infrastructure is also largely passive and compact.”


– Your Joyful Benefactor

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

1 Comment

Filed under Philosophy, Science

One Response to Fermi’s Paradox: Aliens Possibly in Mega-Sleep

  1. john zande

    Interesting. David Brin posits the same idea, but with a different motivation. In his short story, The Crystal Spheres, advanced civilisations put themselves into a deep sleep waiting for other advanced civilisations to rise.

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