Could we come into contact with complex organisms in the next 50 years?

Invited on a discussion forum, the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson answered a question: “Could we come into contact with complex organisms in the next 50 years? « . And this one could disappoint more than one.

Last weekend, the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who presents the Cosmos series broadcast on Netflix (among others) surprised everyone by intervening on Reddit in  » Ask Me Anything  » (Where  » Ask me anything you want in French), a section of the forum dedicated to questions/answers with a speaker. It was therefore not just any speaker who responded on this occasion.

 » I’m Neil deGrasse Tyson, your personal astrophysicist. « . If you don’t know the man, know that Neil deGrasse Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, also one of America’s most popular scientists, often considered the heir to Carl Sagan whom he venerates. An asteroid even bears his name: asteroid (13123) Tyson. He was an irresistible guest that the thousands of Internet users present on the forum did not stop questioning. One of them notably addressed the extraterrestrial question by asking him:

 » Could we come into contact with complex organisms in the next 50 years? “Unfortunately for those who were hoping for a contact, here is his answer:” No. I think they are (and we are) too far apart in space and probably also in time. By complex, I assume you are referring to non-single-celled life forms. Of life having legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It will depend on our ability to travel interstellar distances. And that will surely not happen in the next fifty years. Not at the speed things are going right now »

As you will have understood, the astrophysicist does not believe in it, pointing in particular to our ability to travel over very long distances. Let’s go back to the Fermi paradox: there are more than 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone. If even a small percentage of them orbit within their star’s habitable zone, the odds suggest extraterrestrial life could be present on millions of potential worlds (one intelligent, evolved life on tens of thousands).

Given these facts, the Fermi Paradox suggests that we would normally already have heard of an extraterrestrial civilization. However, it is not the case. Why ? Recent research conducted by the Australian National University in 2016 suggested that the reason we still haven’t found traces of extraterrestrial civilizations is because said civilizations are already dead or extinct.

Physicist Brian Cox also assumes that we will not be able to communicate with a civilization anytime soon since if it is sufficiently advanced, it would tend to self-destruct by creating ever more technologies to the detriment of a social policy that would have led this civilization to ruin.

Other astronomers support Neil deGrasse Tyson’s idea, arguing that because of the gigantic distances that separate us from other potential worlds, it would take at least 1,500 years before a civilization picks up the signals already sent by our planets. care before replying to us.

Others point to a policy similar to Star Trek’s Prime Directive which suggests that if civilizations exist, they deliberately avoid contact with other civilizations (namely, our own). Stephen Hawking suggests that any first contact could be fatal to humanity, comparing the situation to that experienced by indigenous populations in the Americas upon the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The latter were indeed subjected to a dominant culture which possessed a superior technology and a vision of the world which deemed them inferior.


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