Have you ever wondered if we’re alone in the universe? If we aren’t, and life has been around for billions of years, why haven’t we heard from an alien race? That question is at the heart of Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart’s Fermi paradox — the seemingly high probability of intelligent alien lifeforms in space is contradicted by the lack of credible evidence that they have ever contacted humanity or visited the Earth.
Former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has put forth an intriguing explanation for the Fermi paradox. While appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast, Snowden suggested that encryption may be the reason that no one on Earth has discovered any alien transmissions.
“When you look at encrypted communications, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted,” explained Snowden. “You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication, at least in the theoretical sense, from random noise…So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society where all of their communications will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.”
“When we think about everything we’re hearing from our satellites, or everything they’re hearing from our civilization, if there are indeed aliens out there, all of their communications are encrypted by default,” continued Snowden. “So what we’re hearing — which is actually an alien television show or a phone call or a message between their planet and their own GPS constellation, whatever it happens to be — is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”
On the surface, Snowden’s theory is plausible. But it makes a lot of assumptions about alien life, including a cultural need for encryption, technological differences, and whether the hypothetical aliens would even have the desire to make contact with us. Collectively, humanity embraces its self-importance. Who’s to say that anyone else in the universe would agree with that assessment? We may never know for sure, one way or the other.
Nerdist readers, what do you think about Snowden’s theory? Submit your transmissions in our unencrypted comment section below!
HT: The Verge
Image Credit: HBO Films/Participant Media