It is really all in the title.

For those less familiar, the Fermi Paradox broadly speaking asks the question "where is everybody". There's an equation with a lot of difficult to estimate parameters, which broadly speaking come down to this (simplification of the Drake equation):

(Lots stars in the universe) * (non-zero probability of habitable planets around each star) * (lots of time spanned) = It seems there really should be somebody out there.

There are, of course, plenty of hypotheses as to why we haven't seen/observed/detected any sign of intelligent life so far, ranging from "well we're unique deal with it" to "such life is so advanced and destroys everything it comes across, so it's a good thing it didn't happen".

The technological singularity (also called ASI, Artificial Super Intelligence) is basically the point where an AI is able to self-improve. Some think that if such AI sees the light of day, it may self-improve and not be bound by biological constraints of the brain, therefore achieve a level of intelligence we cannot even grasp (let alone achieve ourselves).

I certainly have my thoughts on the matter, but interested to see if there is already an hypothesis revolving around the link between the 2 out there (I never came across but could be). Or perhaps an hypothesis as to why this cannot be.

For references to those not familiar with the Fermi paradox


2 Answers 2


If the technological singularity always leads to the extinction of all intelligent life, then yes.

If the technological singularity always leads to intelligent life migrating into higher planes of existence that aren't accessible to us right now, then also yes.

Otherwise it is exactly the assumption of unbridled technological progress that makes the Fermi paradox perplexing. A post-singularity culture should have the ability to spread through the galaxy. If there are a lot of post-singularity cultures some of them should have spread through the galaxy. And if there are enough cultures that are spreading through the galaxy, we should notice them.


Fermi and SETI

Brilliant physicist and mathematician, Enrico Fermi, brought up more than one paradox in his published articles and many more in discussions and letters, but this question is probably referring to one for which an overview is given in Our Galaxy Should Be Teeming With Civilizations, But Where Are They?, By Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, 2018, SETI Institute.

Astronomer Sara Seager's proposed equation (building on the work of Frank Drake) is one of the favored equations today. It estimates the number of planets with detectable signs of intelligent life as the product of six factors.

  • Stars observed
  • Proportion of observed stars that are quiet
  • Average number of planets orbiting in habitable zones per star
  • Reciprocal proportion of planets that can be observed
  • Proportion of observable planets that have life
  • Proportion of planets with life that produce a detectable spectrum of gases indicative of technological evolution

Since there is no indication that artificial life, if it were to dominate earth, would stop industrial processes, there is no need to adjust Seager's equation.

Multiplicity or Singularity

The Singularity is conjecture without any logical proof. Conversely, there is no need for a proof that artificial creations will out compete humans in some respects. The proof is that some tasks that could once be accomplished by humans alone, such as mail sorting and chess, are now accomplished faster and with greater accuracy by artificial creations.

The trend has been that the number of things done better with software, control systems, and robotics increases and the number of things done better by humans has been decreased by that amount. Because of the vision of robots permeating science fiction and the actual long-term objectives of some contemporary corporations in this field of artificial workers and beings, this is now easy for most to accept.

The Singularity is an imagined point in time when computer software and hardware will, in tandem, attain the ability to reproduce itself in a way that produces improved reproductions. Even if only some of the attempts at improvement prove to be superior in intelligence, strength, intuition, or some other feature, artificial evolution may have been created.

The idea that such will happen

  • In exactly one way,
  • At exactly one point in time, and
  • Without any opposition or constraint

is part of the unproven conjecture. What has been offered as proof lacks mathematical rigor in a way that would have made Fermi frown, along with his contemporaries like John von Neumann and Oppenheimer. In fact, they would have wanted proof of completeness, that all human activity would be preempted by artificial equivalents, before any proof that it was to be singular in nature.

It May Have Already Occurred

Jaques Ellul, in his book Technological Society, proposes that what people today are trained to call The Singularity actually occurred hundreds of years ago, when the techniques applied by humans began to drive the behavior of society more strongly than the intentions of humans drove the direction of technology. His book is filled with a few hundred pages of examples where this tipping point has already been reached. It's remarkably convincing.

Back to Fermi and SETI

Whether the transition of control was in the past, in the future, or will never entirely complete, the impact on the Fermi paradox referenced is not significant, because the paradox is why no other intelligent life has radioed us in response to our SETI broadcasts.

Exponential Functions in the Real Universe

The most important question is whether the primary trait of intelligence is self-destruction, as some, like author of Sixth Extinction, Richard Leaky, believes. If this is the case, intelligent life is a pulse, not an ever increasing exponential curve. Ever increasing exponential curves don't actually ever occur in nature. In every other known phenomena that has an exponential growth period, it is ALWAYS followed by a decrease in acceleration ending in either a flat line or some form of chaotic vacillation.

Alternative Views of Origins

It is the work of Vladimir Vernadski that has the appearance of the higher wisdom than that of the media hound CEOs of Tesla, Google, and other large and powerful technology companies today. Buried in his book The Biosphere, he stated the possibility that evidence in star dust indicates that life may have always existed. Just as the big bang is a conjecture based on a long list of un-provable assumptions, so is the idea that life began.

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    $\begingroup$ The "Alternative Views of Origins" are interesting, but colour the rest of the answer (by including strong opinion, plus being less "mainstream" compared to the rest of the answer). They also don't address the Fermi Paradox at all - any form of panspermia begs the same question, and opinions of CEOs have no relevance either way. I suggest dropping that last section. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2018 at 8:51

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