As stupid as we all too often seem to be as a civilization — particularly when you try and take the wide-angle lens, third person perspective — perhaps our path of self-destruction is not an uncommon one.
I remember hearing once that “intelligence is a failed mutation,” but I’ve come to disagree. There may be species infinitely far more intelligent than ourselves who aren’t in the appropriate environment and/or have failed to evolve the bodies necessary to manipulate their environment so as to develop a high-tech civilization. Dolphins or octopuses that developed on an ocean planet would have neither the right bodies or the right environment, for instance.
Perhaps when an intelligent species is in the appropriate environment and has evolved the biological technology necessary to manipulate the environment and build artificial high technology, however, they have a damned good chance of engaging in species suicide and potentially bringing most life on their home planet down with them. So perhaps one of the reasons for the Great Silence in the cosmos is that the Great Filter is ahead of us — that advanced, technological civilizations may be relatively common but have the tendency to kill their planet and therefore their high civilization before they migrate to space.
This might be inevitable, for instance, if such a civilization needs fossil fuels to achieve our heights of civilization and beyond. If so, perhaps all such civilizations also need to change course before the damage is irreversible and civilization collapses — and maybe intelligent species just aren’t that likely to change course. If they can migrate to space and become an interplanetary civilization, perhaps that helps to some degree, but unless those factions of the species are self-sufficient and need not rely on the home planet to sustain their existence, it wouldn’t help much at all.
And maybe climate change and ecological destruction isn’t the only element we share with fallen global civilizations across the universe. Maybe the kind of political divide we’re presently experiencing in the US and the general disagreement on what constitutes truth is not unique to this time, place and species but is instead a recurring theme across life-bearing worlds that have developed intelligent and capable creatures.
It’s a thought that’s been plaguing me lately, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel any better about our curcumstances.
In more ways that one, we may not be alone.