For a long time, I’ve wondered about the Great Filter in civilizations. Why do initial successful civilizations eventually fail? It also relates to the Fermi paradox: if there is any extraterrestrial civilization, why haven’t they contacted us by now?
All civilizations seem doomed to fail after their initial success; often for unknown reasons (eg, Cahokia, USA). I’ve wondered about causes like climate change, military conflict and pandemics. Recently, something else crossed my mind.
It could (well) be argued that the above mentioned factors (ie, climate change, military conflict, pandemics) are – partly or wholly – caused by humans, either knowingly or not knowingly. Any war is an obvious example.
For thousands of years, humans have built settlements near rivers and seas because that facilitates trade and transport. Many of these settlements are underwater now, following a post-glacial sea level rise of some 120 meters from c.13,000 BC – c.5,000 BC. Many cultures refer to this period as the Great Flood.
The impact of calamities (eg, fire, pandemics) is more severe in urban than in rural territories. Nevertheless, urbanisation has been ongoing for many thousands of years. Since several decades, we are even building megacities (10+ million inhabitants). Most likely, urbanisation is essential for an increase in our wealth, despite its disadvantages (eg, Jakarta).
Given the above, the Great Filter in civilizations (including the Fermi paradox) could have another explanation: stupidity of advanced lifeforms – either human or extraterrestrial.
Quite possibly, our collective stupidity is collateral damage from (extreme) individual selfishness (eg, greed). Please also see my blogs on competition vs cooperation. The above results in my updated diagram below.
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.