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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…

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