Magazine
Latest Issue

Speculations

Why have we not encountered intelligent extraterrestrial life? We used to assume that the aliens had blown themselves up. But perhaps they just got addicted to computer games

By Geoffrey Miller   March 2007

Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with other physicists. They argued that our galaxy holds 100bn stars, that intelligent life evolved quickly on earth and that therefore extraterrestrial intelligence must be common. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, “So where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is so common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s paradox.

The paradox has become ever more baffling. Over 150 extra-solar planets have been identified in the last few years, suggesting that life-hospitable planets orbit most stars. Paleontology shows that…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect