Blog 8—A fictional explanation to the Fermi paradox

As we learned from our class, there are several possible explanations to the Fermi paradox. One of them is that the aliens are hiding from us. For this blog, I would like to share a fictional theory in the novel “The Three-Body Problem.” In this book, the author expands the idea that aliens are hiding to form a dramatic explanation to the ultimate answer of the Fermi paradox.

The name of the theory is “The Dark Forest.” For human beings, the universe is vast, but quiet, without the solid evidence of life. This is not because that aliens do not exist. For all civilizations, the entire universe is similar to a dark forest. Each civilization can be seen as a hunter with a gun. They move cautiously, for that they must ensure their existences are not revealed, and they must prepare for the encounter with another hunter.

When a civilization locates life on other worlds, its only option is to aim at them, and eliminate its counterparts. There is no such thing called friendly stellar communications. Based on this thought, the behavior of human beings sending signals into the deep space is same as committing suicide.

This theory is of course unverified, and it may sound too pessimistic in the first impression of many people. Nevertheless, it is not absurd. The author indeed offers further analysis that make this theory more reasonable. The absolute hostility is determined to occur when civilizations collide with each other, for mainly two reasons.

First, it is difficult for any one of them to figure out the incentive of the other. This results in an infinite chain of suspicion. Thus, the safest way is to always be the first one to shoot the gun. Second, and most importantly, civilizations experience “technological explosions” from time to time. An example of this is the development of our modern society in then recent two centuries. After a critical stimulation, the industrial revolution, we humans made progress much greater than our former generations did in the last thousands of years. Hence, it is dangerous to ignore a civilization which seems harmless in the first place, as it is unpredictable whether the harmless worm will experience a technological explosion to suddenly become a beast with fangs.

After reading those two reasons, how do you feel about the thought of “The Dark Forest”? At least for me personally, I do not consider it as nonsensical. Probably in the close future, the new discoveries about the signals of life may overthrow this theory completely, or they may increase the possibility for the theory to be close to the truth.

2 thoughts on “Blog 8—A fictional explanation to the Fermi paradox

  1. Oh wow, this dark forest was kind of a shock to read about! I’m a big believer in the benevolent (or at least neutral) galactic civilization therefore this scenario does indeed seem pessimistic to me but it could be!
    I’m not thinking that it would be all that practical though… If interstellar travel is hard, why would we go to shoot at people who might shoot back AND waste resources when really, resources are likely plentiful in the farther reaches of a planetary system (like the giant worlds or even the equivalents to Kuiper Belts and Oort Clouds)? Heck, an advanced civilization could mine ANYWHERE in our Solar System right now (besides Earth) and we couldn’t stop them… If interstellar travel is easy, then why go beat up on n00bs?
    So, I’m not sold on the dark forest theory, but I’m glad someone has talked about it! Thanks for the book information too!


  2. Thank you for posting about the book and theory! I just posted about the Fermi paradox and spent some time searching for other theories that I could discuss in my post, so I’m glad someone was able to find a source like this and shared it with everyone! I am definitely going to look into “The Three-Body Problem” and hope I can find an online version. Before reading the book, I’m on the same wavelength as you. I don’t think it’s completely nonsensical, and hope that we are able to discover life outside of Earth soon!


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