Are We Living In An Alien Zoo?

In February 2017 the billionaire founder of Space X and Tesla, Elon Musk, said, “If there are super intelligent aliens out there, they are probably already observing us” But to many, Musk’s comments were simply stating a truth that had been known for decades: that aliens inhabit the Earth, secretly observing mankind and calculating their next move

In 1973 MIT radio astronomer Dr John Ball published his paper “The Zoo Hypothesis” He theorised that advanced alien species were covertly observing life on Earth Ball claimed extraterrestrial species were avoiding Earth deliberately, writing “The only way that we can understand the apparent non-interaction between ‘them’ and us is to hypothesize that they are deliberately avoiding interaction and that they have set aside the area in which we live as a zoo The zoo hypothesis predicts that we shall never find them because they do not want to be found and they have the technological ability to insure this” The hypothesis claims that alien civilisations deliberately hide themselves from humans, so that Earthly life can evolve and develop organically

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Some believe this could be a solution to the Fermi Paradox, the mysterious conundrum described by physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1950s It notes that if sentient life exists elsewhere in the universe, probability dictates that our galaxy should be bursting with other civilisations Yet, we have never detected any signs that this is the case NASA planetary scientist Shawn Domagal-Goldman believes that if alien civilisations are aware of us, they may observe the damaging human “impact on global ecosystems… [particularly] global warming” They may then seek to obliterate us for destroying the environment

Nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman argues that this is just one of the reasons extraterrestrials may consider us “evil” The UFO expert says that there is no doubt aliens already walk among us undetected, hiding their identities so that they can monitor our behaviour Terrifyingly, Friedman says that their main goal is to prevent humanity from colonising space, stating “I think they are here to quarantine us, keep us from going out there” Amazingly, computer testing has supported this theory Astronomy Professor Duncan Forgan at the University of St Andrews conducted a simulated experiment to assess the plausibility of the zoo hypothesis

Forgan began with the assumption that all alien civilisations had jointly decided to avoid the Earth This is because for civilisations to cooperate, they must be relatively equal and not controlled by a hegemonic alien power This would require intergalactic communication, the speed of which would be compromised by the speed of light Importantly, civilisations would therefore need to have been around long enough for messages to travel between galaxies at great distance and limited speed Alien civilisations were randomly placed on a galactic map, while a computer programme calculated the likelihood of any two communicating and deciding to treat the Earth as a zoo

It calculated that, for the hypothesis to be a real possibility, a minimum of 500 civilisations were needed, that had existed for at least a million years Forgan concluded that while this scenario is unlikely, it is not impossible He believes that as human technology becomes more advanced, we may finally know the truth He wrote, “It may well still be the case that the Earth resides in a region of space occupied by a conservative clique bent on non-contactHowever, as our ability to detect unintentional signals from both living and dead civilizations increases, we should presumably be able to break the deadlock imposed in this scenario” However, while the zoo hypothesis cannot be disproved, there is no evidence that this is taking place Indeed, the closest that we have got to locating alien life in the universe came in a NASA announcement in April 2017 This revealed that its Cassini mission probe had discovered Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, contained the rare conditions that would allow life to flourish

Critically, while these chemical conditions may be fertile ground for extraterrestrial beings, there is no proof that they have yet supported life successfully It is also interesting that the essence of the zoo hypothesis existed long before Dr John Ball published his paper Many science fiction works feature storylines where sinister extraterrestrials are secretly observing humanity on Earth This includes Arthur C Clarke’s 1951 short story “The Sentinel”, and even Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, which follows a united federation of planets who agree on a prime directive to avoid interfering with less developed alien life

It is very possible that these creative ideas inspired the zoo hypothesis A number of alternative theories have been proposed to the Fermi Paradox Professor Brian Cox suggests that many alien civilisations have attempted to reach Earth, but have died or got lost on the journey Others, like philosophy Professor Nick Bostrom, Director of Oxford University Future Humanity Institute, believe we may already be under alien control He says that we may be living in a computer simulated reality, secretly controlled by extraterrestrial overlords

However, like the zoo hypothesis, these theories are purely abstract And, without hard evidence to support them, they cannot be proven The zoo hypothesis gives us an intriguing way to make sense of the complex universe we live in Strikingly, it is not impossible As mankind reaches a more advanced stage in its development, the truth may finally be unmasked

But for now, all we can do is play the waiting game

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