Maybe Aliens Are Too Busy Mind-Hacking to Make First Contact

The Munich-based animation studio Kurz Gesagt takes a shot at solving the Fermi paradox.

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Jun 4 2015, 7:53pm

To paraphrase Douglas Adams: Space is big. Really big. Given that reality, it seems utterly preposterous that Earth might be the only planet, among the billions of worlds in our galaxy alone, to support life. But if the Milky Way is really teeming with all kinds of alien civilizations, then why haven't we ever encountered any of them?

That question is the central thrust of the Fermi paradox, which is explained in delightfully cartoonish detail in a two-part series from Kurz Gesagt—the second installment of which was just posted today.

This nonprofit animation studio is named after the German phrase for "in a nutshell," and they have quickly developed a devoted online fanbase with their info-rich science explainers. In this follow-up to their original Fermi paradox rundown, the creative team speculates about why contact with alien life has so far eluded us.

The narrator opens with the most obvious answer—space travel is intellectually challenging and life-threatening—but quickly moves on to a host of weirder and less intuitive possibilities. For example, the video suggests that advanced civilizations might eschew interstellar conquest in favor of creating uploading their minds into a "Matrioshka brain," a kind of theoretical megastructure that channels solar energy into unparalleled supercomputing ability.

"A computer of such computing power that an entire species could upload their consciousness and exist in a simulated universe," explains Kurz Gesagt. "Potentially one could experience an eternity of pure ecstasies without ever being bored or sad—the perfect life."

"If built around a red dwarf, this computer could be powered for up to 10 trillion years," the narrator adds. "Who would want to conquer the galaxy or make contact with other lifeforms if this were an option?"

It's a compelling question, enhanced by Kurz Gesagt's playful barrage of pop culture references and visual gags. Watch out for the adorable versions of Mass Effect's Reapers, for example, or the alien spaceship gauge that controls "liquid dinosaurs." Though humans haven't yet solved great cosmic mysteries like the Fermi paradox, this series makes it abundantly clear that joyfully riffing about it is a great way to pass the time until we do.