According to a new study, a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ may exist in the Milky Way galaxy, but most of them are likely extinct.
Researchers from the California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Santiago High School calculated the likelihood of e̳x̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ intelligence in our galaxy using an expanded version of the well-known Drake Equation.
The study looked at a number of factors that could have contributed to the formation of a habitable world and came to the conclusion that intelligent life could have begun around 8 billion years after our galaxy was created.
Any of these c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ could have been 13,000 light-years from the galactic center, or roughly 12,000 light-years closer than Earth, where humans first appeared 13.5 billion years after the Milky Way formed.
The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, looked into factors such as radiation, a pause in evolution, and intelligent life’s proclivity to self-annihilate, whether as a result of climate change, technological advancements, or conflict.
This suggests that any a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s̳ still alive are likely to be young, as self-annihilation will almost certainly occur after a long period of time.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of self-annihilation a priori,” the study said, “while there is no proof that intelligent life will inevitably annihilate itself.” “ Hoerner (1961) proposed, in a similar vein to Sagan and Shklovskii, that scientific and technological progress would eventually lead to total destruction 11 and biological degeneration (1966).
Many previous studies have claimed that human self-annihilation is highly likely in a variety of situations (e.g., Nick, 2002; Webb, 2011), including but not limited to war, climate change (Billings, 2018), and biotechnology advancement (Sotos, 2019).