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‘Where is everybody?’ An empirical appraisal of occurrence, prevalence and sustainability of technological species in the Universe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2019

John-Oliver Engler*
Affiliation:
Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany
Henrik von Wehrden
Affiliation:
Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany
*
Author for correspondence: John-Oliver Engler, E-mail: engler@leuphana.de

Abstract

We use recent results from astrobiology, particularly the A-form of the Drake equation and combine it with data on the evolution of life on Earth to obtain a new assessment of the prevalence of technological species in our Universe. A species is technological if it is, in theory, capable of interstellar communication. We find that between seven and 300 technological species have likely arisen in the Milky Way until today, the current state of which however unknown. Assuming that we are currently alone in our Galaxy, we estimate that we would need to wait for roughly 26 million years for a 50% chance of another technological species to arise. By relating our results to the much-debated Fermi–Hart paradox, we discuss if and to what extent our results may help quantify the chances of humanity to manage the transition to a long-term sustainable path of existence.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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