Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, and what reflection it provides

Link post

While the ar­gu­ment was posted on LessWrong pre­vi­ously, now it has the neat form of a pa­per on arXive by An­ders Sand­berg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord

TL;DR ver­sion: the use of Drake-like equa­tions, with point es­ti­mates of highly un­cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters, is wrong. Ex­tant sci­en­tific knowl­edge cor­re­sponds to un­cer­tain­ties that span mul­ti­ple or­ders of mag­ni­tude.

When the statis­tics is done cor­rectly to rep­re­sent re­al­is­tic dis­tri­bu­tions of un­cer­tainty in the liter­a­ture, “peo­ple who take the views of most mem­bers of the re­search com­mu­nity se­ri­ously should as­cribe some­thing like a one in three chance to be­ing alone in the galaxy and so should not be greatly sur­prised by our lack of ev­i­dence of other civ­i­liza­tions. The prob­a­bil­ity of N <10^−10 (such that we are alone in the ob­serv­able uni­verse) is 10%. ”

From the con­clu­sions, when the pri­ors are up­dated

When we up­date this prior in light of the Fermi ob­ser­va­tion, we find a sub­stan­tial prob­a­bil­ity that we are alone in our galaxy, and per­haps even in our ob­serv­able uni­verse (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% re­spec­tively). ’